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Published December 20, 2013, 03:34 PM

Rosmann: Organic farming is here to stay

Last week I reported predictions about what the next few years hold for agriculture, derived from the plenary addresses of several experts at the Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health conference Nov. 19 in Ames, Iowa.

By: Mike Rosmann, INFORUM

Last week I reported predictions about what the next few years hold for agriculture, derived from the plenary addresses of several experts at the Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health conference Nov. 19 in Ames, Iowa.

Today I offer my comments about what the nearby future looks like for agriculture. My opinions are those of a behavior specialist, health care researcher and provider, previous farmer but still a farm owner, and an interested observer.

Agricultural producers like progress but dislike change. Iowa State University rural sociologist and economist Mike Duffy described progress of agricultural producers as adopting new technology, becoming bigger operators and integrating vertically. Change, he said, involves living with increasing government regulations, blaming environmentalists and policy makers, and becoming stressed about these matters.

Agricultural producers are in the third era of uncommon prosperity since the last century began, Duffy noted. Prosperity doesn’t mean the end of stress.

Large farm operators are looking for legal ways to protect their wealth, such as placing farmland into trusts. The agriculture economy is entering an era of retraction, but the “correction” won’t be as drastic as the Great Depression or the Farm Crisis of the 1980s.

I agree with Duffy and the other experts about what lies ahead for agriculture. Here are several of my own perspectives.

We are moving toward two primary methods of farming.

One method involves increasing reliance on technological advances and specializing in one or two products. This method is sometimes called the industrial or conventional approach to agriculture.

The other primary method of farming involves organic production of agricultural goods, reliance on fewer purchased inputs while undertaking production of diverse foods and other outputs. This method is sometimes called the sustainable or alternative approach to agriculture.

Farming organically is a trend that is here to stay. In 2007, the sustainable approach to farming in the U.S. comprised less than 1 percent of farmers who operated even less farmland (0.3 percent), according to the Census of Agriculture.

Worldwide, the amount of land invested in organic farming has increased threefold since 1999, according to a Jan. 17, 2013, report by the Worldwatch Institute. Worldwatch says organic farming in the U.S. is the fastest growing agricultural method in terms of practitioners and sales.

In 2011, expenditures of organic foods were $31.5 billion, which was about five percent of total food expenditures. In the nearby future, some organic producers will equal their conventional-farming competitors in size.

Consumer demand is the main factor driving the increase in organic food production in the U.S. and the world. Although advocates of conventional farming sometimes contend that organic methods will not yield sufficient food, I look for organic farmers to embrace what they deem as acceptable technological advances to maximize production.

These include using robots to assist with crop cultivation instead of using herbicides to control weeds, and robotic animal milking devices to conduct large dairy operations while enhancing cleanliness and other healthful practices.

Organic farmers are already ahead of conventional farmers in the use of some technological advances, such as relying on electronic social media devices to market their products. Likely, this trend will continue because organic producers desire direct connections with consumers.


The future of agriculture looks to be positive and interesting. What do you think the future holds for agriculture? Please share your thoughts with me.

Rosmann is a Harlan, Iowna, psychologist and farmer. To contact him, visit www.agbehavioralhealth.com.

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