In addition to the greater economic sustainability afforded by enterprise diversification, organic farmers are often able to reap market premiums for certified production. However, since many organic enterprises realize somewhat lower marketable yields, this has not always translated into higher profits or greater economic sustainability. As more and more organic growers enter the marketplace, it is likely that premiums will stabilize at modest levels and may vanish for some crops. Organic producers need to look well ahead and be aware of shifting trends.
As alluded to earlier, many U.S. organic farms perform well on many of the measurable indicators associated with sustainability, such as energy consumption and environmental protection. However, sustainability is an ideal, and the best that can be said is that current organic farms are closer to the ideal than most alternatives — certainly closer than comparable conventional farming operations.
The extent to which traditional organic agriculture philosophy influences the adoption of sustainable practices has only been touched upon. For example, during the Washington University studies of midwestern farms in the late 1970s, researchers observed that organic farmers had embraced conservation tillage technologies at a much faster rate than their conventional counterparts.(3) Conservation tillage was not and is not considered a traditional practice of organic farming, yet its ready adoption points to the dynamic nature of organic agriculture and offers clear evidence that the underlying philosophy of sustainability — strongly championed by Albert Howard — remains a vital part of organics. Given the option of a sustainable technology that fits the constraints of certified organic agriculture, it is natural for most organic farmers to choose it.
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