Agribusiness’ “problem” with organic

In this story from The Cap Times, Jim Goodman argues that “Corporate agribusiness has a problem with organic farmers because they haven’t yet figured out a way to totally bleed them like they have conventional farmers.”

They used to tell farmers "get big or get out". Maybe that's no longer a workable solution. More likely it's going to be, go organic and sell local or get out of farming.

But I think it’s more than that. It’s that organic agriculture and more specifically, farmers selling direct to consumers cutting out the middle man and the processing — as in raw milk — set a dangerous precedent. Dangerous that is, for the future of agribusiness’ sector dominance. The market share of these kind of farmers may be small… but it’s growing. And as more and more agribusiness farmers wake up to the fact that possibly the only farmers making money in today’s economy ARE those who sell local and sell direct… well, it doesn’t take a lot of smarts to see that organic farming offers a way out for corporate farmers who feel trapped in a sinking ship. Can a tipping point be far off, if things are allowed to continue the way they have been going.

“Why is conventional agriculture so wound up? Are they afraid of organic agriculture? What’s all the fuss about? After all, a recent study by the Lieberman Research Group showed that organic food sales account for only 3.5 percent of all food product sales in the U.S.

A column in the September 2009 Prairie Farmer leads me to believe that the author, a spokesperson for conventional agriculture, dislikes and even fears organic farming and its supporters.

The author admits to feeling self-satisfaction in knowing that organic farmers are suffering in a down economy. I doubt many people share her sentiments. Farmers generally have the attitude that “we are all in this together,” no matter what farming practices we use.

Still, Michael Pollan has conventional agriculture circling its wagons, Michelle Obama has an organic garden, and organic farmers are accused of riding the backs of conventional farmers.

To most conventional farmers, organic farming doesn’t even register. With agribusiness however, it’s another story. They’re not content with just 96.5 percent of the food system — they want it all.

Those who have their priorities confused need to figure out who their real enemies are.

Conventional farm milk prices have dropped by nearly 50 percent over the past year. Dean Foods controls 80 percent of the fluid milk market in some states and 40 percent of the market in the U.S. Their net profits more than doubled in the last year.

Conventional hog farmers have experienced losses for two straight years. Tyson, the second-largest food company in the U.S., controls 40 percent of the U.S. meat market. It reported a profitable third quarter for every segment of their business, including pork.

When the farm price for beef cattle dropped $0.08 per pound, consumers were paying $0.17 more per pound at the supermarket. Average retail beef processing margins across all companies increased 13 percent over 2008.

And guess what, none of that was caused by organic farmers.

Corporate agribusiness has a problem with organic farmers because they haven’t yet figured out a way to totally bleed them like they have conventional farmers. But as surely as corporate agriculture is working its way into the organic market, we suffer from its growing control.

While farm prices have trended downward for the past couple of years, food price decline has lagged far behind. As farm input costs have continued to climb, so have corporate profits….”

Read the whole story in the Cap Times

Thanks to the Salt Spring News for bringing this story to our attention.


Filed under News

4 responses to “Agribusiness’ “problem” with organic

  1. ned lud

    I am a former organic dairy farmer. I am a good person. No, I am not average and I’ve always resisted totalitarianism which makes me seem to some to be unruly. I was harmed by the policies and actions of Organic Valley, a so-called co-op taking my milk and selling it as their ‘organic’ products. I have related this harm done to me at other sites on the web. I also used to ask various people, I met, to help me overcome this harm. One of the persons I asked was Jim Goodman. He refused. I used to go on, a site that features a fair amount of ‘progressive’ agriculture material. I used to share my story there. I used to ask the writers of those articles to help me, to get involved. None would. They banned me from that site. What kind of country is this and what kind of people live here?

    After years of slave labor and constant economic duress, I have sold my cows, (whom I loved as some of you love your pets), and I all I feel now is pain and anger. You people, you, have made me a victim and now you are keeping me that way…

    I have asked many lawyers to consider my case, to take it pro bono and to recover a substantial monetary sum from Organic Valley and in doing so, to help me. I am still looking.

    I would not mind it, at all, if Amerika falls to ruin, total ruin. I only wish that I could live.

    No one cares.

  2. thebovine

    Ned, why don’t you link to some online presentation of your story. I’m sure our readers would be interested.

  3. thebovine

    Just put the whole URL in to the comment including the http:// and it comes out as a link on the blog.

  4. Pingback: Latest organic raw food news – The Organic Climber – Blogging about climbing, RAW foods …

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