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DAVID KRUSE

By Staff | May 4, 2012

The organic produce industry has been doing extremely well. After all, this is America where salesmanship can be turned into profits.

People buy things all the time they didn’t know that they needed or wanted until they were skillfully marketed to them. People want healthy, nutritious, safe food and the organic industry has convinced consumers to pay more, a lot more, for the perception that organic food is superior to conventionally produced food.

“Find a niche and fill it” is the marketing mantra to success.

The organic food industry has been doing that. One of the first things they had to do is identify their product to consumers and the USDA assisted with organic certification. The next was to cultivate the mindset that organic food was better to enough consumers to make organic production commercially viable. The evidence is that they just had to convince 4 percent of consumers to pay more for food as that is the percentage of total food sales that are organic overall.

Now, 12 percent of fruits and vegetables are organic as are 6 percent of dairy products. Organic producers have to get paid more as often their costs are higher. Progressive Farmer magazine wrote that it takes the same amount of time to manage 425 acres of organics as it does 2,200 acres of conventional crops.

While that could be interpreted as organics being an inefficient production system, the way it was described to me by one organic producer is that he could not acquire 2,200 acres, so the only way that he could make it on a 425 acre farm was to go organic. That was a good point.

Organic farms can produce $200 acre more revenue than conventional farms, but it takes a period of years to transition to become certified. There are more production risks too as organic producers are a bit like parents that won’t allow their children the full benefit of the medical profession.

If a crop becomes sick they have fewer approved treatments to heal them. Organics is a niche market for a reason. It is a good thing that organic production is hard or more farmers would do it and supply would be too burdensome.

I like entrepreneurs who are creative and that aspect is attractive about the organics industry, but I just don’t buy into the basic argument that they are providing any additional value to the consumer for what they are selling.

They haven’t convinced me that there is any evidence that organic food is any more environmental, healthy, nutritious or safer than conventionally produced food.

The late Dr. Norman Borlaug saved more people on the planet than any other individual in human history and he too didn’t buy into the premise of organic superiority.

He was antithetic over organic versus conventional food production saying that we need it all. It takes more land to produce the same amount of food with organic production as yield potential is reduced in organic production relative to conventional food.

As land is a finite resource we must utilize it in the most efficient productive manner and that means organics come in second.

We will produce more food to feed the most people at the lowest possible cost with conventional production. That was Borlaug’s goal in life. That is the mission of agriculture.

Now if the 4 percent want to pay more for what is in scientific definition, the same food and nutrition so that they can meet some needed sense of what they feel is politically correct, so be it. It is a free country.

Some other marketing guru said that there is a sucker born every minute. That is the market pool that the organic industry fishes into for its customers.

I use some organic practices that I think make commercial sense. Manure is organic. That replaces all but commercial nitrogen fertilizer in our operation. I rotate crops.

Where our approach differs most is that I use genetically modified organism seed to reduce fuel, chemicals and pesticides.

We do minimum tillage that saves soil and with no mechanical cultivation … that saves soil and fuel.

Higher yields reduce the inputs per bushel so that it could be argued that organic practices added to the conventional production tool box, combines the best of both worlds as the most sustainable production system.

My biggest contention with the organic industry is its rejection of biotechnology, specifically GMO seed. There is nothing inorganic about genes. They could not be more organic … so if a plant defends itself from pests with natural toxins, that is an organic plant defense.

How those genes are derived is irrelevant. Again, Norman Borlaug said so.

The organic industry is entitled to its opinions, but not to their own science. If an organic food company wants to label its product as non-GMO they have that right if they can certify that but there is no reason for the government to require it at an unnecessary cost to the public with no benefit to the public.

An organic farmer said that growers needed this labeling to “advance their industry.”

What he meant was that they needed to require GMO labeling to advance the deception that first of all there is some risk from GMO food and next that they can profit from perpetrating their fraud that non-GMO organic food is safer so they can charge more for it.

This is a subtle, but transparent, effort to advance the commercial deception that the organic food industry is thriving on.

David Kruse is president of CommStock Investments Inc., author and producer of The CommStock Report, an ag commentary and market analysis available daily by radio and by subscription on DTN/FarmDayta and the Internet.

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