Agriculture uses 3 times as much potable water as all other forms of human consumption, COMBINED. A full 80% of the water we use in the US is for agriculture. Organic agriculture uses 30%-50% less water than conventional ag. Agriculture also consumes more oil than any other activity except for driving. 400 gallons of oil per year per citizen is consumed for our food. Only 20% of that is from seed to harvest. The rest is in transportation.
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Someone emailed me about this article skeptical about the numbers I was quoting. You can fact check here, but his question was that if Organic ag was so much more water and energy efficient why was it more expensive? Great question.
So, the #1 contributing factor to higher Organic prices, according to market research by NMI, is supply and demand. There's simply not enough to go around. And supply can't respond quickly to demand because it takes 3 years for farmers to get certified Organic. Also I mentioned that most agriculture land gets special water rates so water savings are not substantial. Further, energy efficiency can easily be offset by increased labor costs. We still haven't figured out how to tell a machine to only pick weeds and not the crops.
But to me something to always keep in mind is that Organic farmers actually have agriculture expertise and knowledge which has been eroding from conventional farming. Just go see King Corn to see how a conventional commodities farmer lives. They plant and spray and wait. Maybe spray some more. Organic farmers have to constantly monitor their crops. They have to react quickly to pests and disease or risk losing their whole crop. Without easy chemical fixes, farming can be quite a daunting task. Organic farmers put up with it out of love for the planet and for us. Nothing sounds more fulfilling to me. I used to think I was way too lazy to be a farmer. Joel Salatin (of Polyface Farms and the hero of Ominvore's Dilema) came to speak to TOFGA this year and completely mesmerized me. He made me want to be a farmer and I hope someday I can be.