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Study Debunks Organic Farming Misconceptions

November 28, 2007

Ames, IA - Even though more bushels come out of each acre of Iowa's organic farms every year, the perception is that organic yields are smaller those produced by conventional farming. A recent study concludes just the opposite.

After nine years of field comparisons, the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University has found that organic farming produces greater yields, increased profitability and steadily improved soil quality over conventional practices. Zack Baker with the Organic Farming Research Foundation says this information should make it easier for organic farming to get a fair shake in the new Farm Bill.

In the past, Baker says, despite the clear benefits that organic agriculture provides it has failed to receive anywhere near the support that conventional agriculture enjoys from federal farm legislation. In some cases, current policies actually discourage organic production. He says this study should change that.

"Organic production should be at least on a par with the treatment that conventional agriculture gets in the new Farm Bill."

He says one area where increased funding would make a big difference is in research.

"The biggest thing we hear from farmers is that there's a lack of knowledge about how to actually do successful organic farming, so we want to see increased money for organic research."

Another way organic farmers are shortchanged is with crop insurance, Baker says. Based on the fallacy that organic is inherently more risky than conventional production, organic farmers must pay a 5 percent surcharge on their premiums. But Baker says the ISU study found organic production to be actually less susceptible to risk from weather extremes, due to better soil quality and water regulation.

More information comparing organic and conventional farming practices is available at extension.agron.iastate.edu.

Dick Layman/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - IA