Since World War II, U.S. agriculture has reduced production costs by substituting petrochemicals for labor. Adverse impacts from chemical intensive agriculture include increased pest levels, groundwater and surface water contamination, soil erosion, and concerns about harmful levels of pesticide residues. Sustainable farming programs such as integrated crop management (ICM) and organic farming encourage farmers to use systems that reduce the adverse impacts of chemical agriculture. However, before farmers adopt an alternative system, they must determine that economic benefits from the alternative farming activities exceed the costs incurred. Unfortunately, relatively few studies have compared the cost of organic crop production with conventional production systems. Results of these studies are mixed. In some studies, organic systems are more profitable than conventional systems with organic price premiums, but are not economically viable without price premiums. In one long-term study, the organic system was more profitable than a conventional one if the cost of family labor was ignored, but less profitable if it was included. In some studies, net returns were higher for ICM than for conventional or organic systems, but in others, they were higher. Results also vary on a crop by crop basis.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Alternative agriculture
- Costs and returns
- Organic agriculture