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The Power and Potential of Organic Farming

Go into any grocery store or Walmart and you will find shelves that are full of USDA Certified Organic food of many types. The demand for organic food has exploded in the last several years and I believe this trend will only continue. In 2017 around 40% of the organic corn and 70% of organic soybeans were imported into the United States and were mainly used for feed in the production of organic meat, eggs and dairy products. Some of this grain is imported from countries that have questionable organic certification practices. Certified organic grain is selling for one and a half to three times higher a bushel than conventional grown grain. Because U. S. Farmers are not growing enough acres of organic corn and soybeans to meet the current demand, there is a good opportunity for farmers and landowners to transition into organic farming with the potential for very profitable returns.

What does the label USDA Certified Organic mean? Basically, it is food grown free of synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, dyes, antibiotics and GMO (genetically modified organisms) seeds and must not be processed using industrial solvents or irradiation. But there is more to the label than that. To become USDA Certified Organic, crops/feed/forage must be grown in land that has been free of these products for at least three years. Certification requires that farms practice sustainability with diverse crop rotations, growing cover crops and legumes to protect soil from erosion and increase soil fertility and biodiversity. USDA Certification requires that a certification company be hired by the farmer/landowner to inspect the farm and farm records every year to ensure the integrity of the organic crops.

I have been an accredited professional farm manager for over 30 years and have a bachelor’s degree in agronomy from the University of Illinois. In the past I believed high crop yields could only be achieved by applying large amounts of commercial fertilizer and pesticides. I operate an organic consulting business and manage several organic farms and have observed that by growing a rotation of crops such as wheat, oats, corn, soybeans, rye and clover, the cycle of weeds, insect pest and disease are greatly reduced without the use of pesticides. I have heard the comment by experienced organic farmers that the more pesticides you use the more pests there will be on the farm.

I am amazed and find it very powerful to observe soil fertility, tilth, drainage, microbial and yields being improved through diverse crop rotations and growing green manure and cover crops and at the same time using far less inputs than conventional farming. I also believe growing grain organically reduces soil erosion, nutrient runoff into rivers and lakes and increases biodiversity on the farm. If synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are not applied to grow the crops, maybe the food produced from organic farms have less toxins and just taste better. Why not put the odds in your favor and eat USDA Certified Organic food? If you have questions or have an interest in organic farming, feel free to contact me.