FAO suggested that “Organic agriculture is a unique production management system which promotes and enhances agro-ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity, and this is accomplished by using on-farm agronomic, biological and mechanical methods in exclusion of all synthetic off-farm inputs”.
Need of organic farming
With the increase in population our compulsion would be not only to stabilize agricultural production but to increase it further in sustainable manner. The scientists have realized that the ‘Green Revolution’ with high input use has reached a plateau and is now sustained with diminishing return of falling dividends. Thus, a natural balance needs to be maintained at all cost for existence of life and property. The obvious choice for that would be more relevant in the present era, when these agrochemicals which are produced from fossil fuel and are not renewable and are diminishing in availability. It may also cost heavily on our foreign exchange in future.
The key characteristics of organic farming include
- Protecting the long term fertility of soils by maintaining organic matter levels, encouraging soil biological activity, and careful mechanical intervention
- Providing crop nutrients indirectly using relatively insoluble nutrient sources which are made available to the plant by the action of soil micro-organisms
- Nitrogen self-sufficiency through the use of legumes and biological nitrogen fixation, as well as effective recycling of organic materials including crop residues and livestock manures
- Weed, disease and pest control relying primarily on crop rotations, natural predators, diversity, organic manuring, resistant varieties and limited (preferably minimal) thermal, biological and chemical intervention
- The extensive management of livestock, paying full regard to their evolutionary adaptations, behavioural needs and animal welfare issues with respect to nutrition, housing, health, breeding and rearing
- Careful attention to the impact of the farming system on the wider environment and the conservation of wildlife and natural habitats
The collaboration between farmers and a brand might prove to be a reverse-engineered fix the organic market needs to address a fundamental gap: Consumer demand for organic food is growing steadily, but the percentage of organic farmland in the U.S. is only inching up. Brands like Annie’s are stepping up to usher in a swifter transition.
The U.S. organic food market surpassed $45 billion in sales in 2017, according to the Organic Trade Association, a six percent increase over the prior year and more than double the sales a decade ago. Organic acreage in the U.S. increased by 20 percent between 2011 and 2018, according to Mercaris, and now totals over 5 million acres of land, but that amounts to less than one percent of the country’s total farmland.
With demand outpacing domestic supply, the country imported more than $2 billion in organic food last year, and likely significantly more—USDA tracks only 40 imported foods.
Organic corn is at the top of that list, with imports jumping more than 200 percent in 2015, according to USDA; the vast majority of that is to feed animals raised for organic meat or dairy operations.
“We’re an exporter to the world of conventional corn, conventional wheat, and conventional soy, but we’re an importer of organic corn, wheat, and soy,” says Eric Jackson, CEO of Pipeline Foods, an organic supply chain company. The country does a little better with produce, but organic still represents just a fraction of the fruit- and vegetable-growing cropland nationwide.
Most fundamental are that organic farming requires different equipment and other costly up-front investments—and it requires more labor, mainly to tackle weeds. USDA organic certification also requires crop rotation, which limits the crops farmers can produce in a given year, whereas a conventional producer can select a crop that appears to be most profitable that year and plant it.
The country’s agricultural infrastructure—grain storage facilities and transportation networks—is designed for conventional crops; organic farmers need to tap into a different market structure.