With the demand for organically grown produce increasing and the prices for it soaring, traditional farmers are taking a new look at organic farming practices.
In the case of organic soybeans, for example, farmers can get more than three times the standard market price by growing organic varieties.
David Petritz, assistant director of the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service, says the acceptance of organic farming is a dramatic change in agriculture. "Traditional producers now have more than a passing interest in organic farming," he says. "This isn't something they scoff at any longer. Every day, more and more traditional farmers are looking into whether they should convert part of their operation to certified organic.
To be sure, the organic movement is still small potatoes down on the farm. Of the estimated 60,000 farms in Indiana, for example, only 60 have been certified as organic.
But as organic farming gains acceptance, experts predict that the demand for chemical-free land may drive up the price of uncultivated land being released from the USDA's Conservation Reserve Program. The land is in demand because for crops to be certified as organic, the land they are grown on must be chemical-free for three years.
The experts also see increased niche opportunities for farmers. "For example, some farmers have become interested in on-farm grain processing, and organic farming may make these kinds of operations profitable," Petritz says.
Because of increased opportunities, conventional farmers are considering how organic farming might fit into their operation. "The real entrepreneurial farmers are looking at it and saying, 'Maybe I can make some money at that,'" Petritz says. "They're saying, 'If I do it now I can get a two-year edge on the other guys to figure out how to make this work.'"
Organic foods, in the most simple definition, are crops grown without the use of synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. Organic meat or milk is produced using organic feed and without the use of synthetic hormones.
CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE --> Written by: Steve Tally
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