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Alternative agriculture

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Alternative agriculture a review and assessment of the literature
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Discussion paper
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Crosson, Pierre R.
Ekey, Janet
Resources for the Future -- Energy and Natural Resources Division
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Alternative agriculture -- Abstracts ( lcsh )
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Includes bibliographical references (p. 47-64).
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"November 1988."
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Discussion paper (Resources for the Future) ;
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by Pierre Crosson and Janet Ekey.

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Energy and
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Resources for the Future/Washington, D.C.




Discussion Paper ENR88-01
Alternative Agriculture: A Review and Assessment of the Literature
by
Pierre Crosson and Janet Ekey
Resources for the Future 1616 P Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20036
November 1988
01988 Resources for the Future. All rights reserved. No portion of this paper may be reproduced without permission of the authors.
Discussion papers are material circulated for information and di scussion. They have not undergone formal peer review as have RFF books and studies. Comments are welcome.
The research on which this study is based was funded by the U.S. Soil Conservation Service. However, the views expressed are soley those of the authors. The SCS has no responsibility for them.




Table of Contents
Introduction ....................................................... 1
Economics of Alternative and Conventional Agriculture .................5
Micro Comparisons ......................................... 5
Conclusion............................................. 18
Macro Comparisons........................................... 19
Conclusion. .. .. .......................... .*......27
Sustainability Comparisons ................................ 28
Erosion and soil productivity ...........................29
Conventional systems and soil biota ..................... 29
Reliance of fossil fuels ............................. 31
Conclusion............................................. 32
Environmental Characteristics of Alternative and Conventional
Agriculture .................................................... 32
Ground and Surface Water Quality .............................33
Pesticides ..................................... 33
Nutrients............................................... 37
Sediment ............................................... 39
Human Health Not Related to Water Quality .................... 40
Residues~on food....................................... 40
Health threats from handling pesticides ..................41
Animal Habitat .............................................. 41
Conclusion.................................................. 43
Thoughts on Implications for USDA Policies ..........................44
References................................................. 47
Annotated Bibliography............................................. 50




INTRODUCTION
"Alternative agriculture", "regenerative agriculture" and "Organic
farming" refer to similar but not identical sets of agricultural practices. The similarities are strong enough that for this discussion alternative agriculture can be taken to include the practices generally included under all three labels.
The most restrictive definition of alternative agriculture is that adopted by the Rodale organization (Harwood, 1984, p. 3):
"An organic system is one which is structured to minimize the
need for off-farm soil or plant-focused inputs. Because of
lack of information on the disruptive effect of synthetic
inputs, none are used. 'Natural' sources of inputs are used
with discretion."
By this definition alternative agriculture aims at self-sufficiency of the farm by minimizing the use of inputs obtained from off the farm and at elimination of "synthetic inputs", that is to say, chemical pesticides and inorganic fertilizers in crop production and growth regulators and other chemicals in animal production. Weeds, insects and diseases are managed through crop rotations, cultivation, and a variety of biological controls. Nutrients are provided by rotation of main crops with legumes and by return to the soil of crop residues, animal wastes, sewage sludge, and other forms of organic waste.
Other definitions are less strict in not setting complete selfsufficiency of the farm with respect to inputs as a goal and permitting some limited use of inorganic fertilizers where organic sources of nutrients are especially limited and of pesticides to deal with emergency outbreaks-of weed, disease or-insect damage. The U. S. Department of Agriculture's Report and Recommendations on Organic Farming (1980) gives a.useful statement of the less restrictive definition:




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Organic farming "... is a production system which avoids or
largely excludes the use of synthetically compounded
fertilizers, pesticides, growth regulators and livestock feed
additives. To the maximum extent feasible organic farming
systems rely upon crop rotations, crop residues, animal
manures, legumes, green manures, off-farm organic wastes,
mechanical cultivation, mineral bearing rocks and aspects of
biological pest control to maintain soil productivity and tilth, to supply plant nutrients, and to control insects,
weeds and other pests."
The literature reviewed for this report includes accounts of practices fitting both the strict and less strict definitions of alternative agriculture.
Advocates of alternative agriculture, e.g. the Rodale organization and the people supporting the Journal of Alternative Agriculture, argue that the system has significant environmental and other advantages over conventional agriculture, i.e. the system now followed by most crop nd animal producers in the United States. Why should the American society concern itself with this line of argument? The reason is that most of the benefits claimed for alternative agriculture, e.g. reduced damages to soil and water quality, will not be adequately reflected in the economic calculation of farmers. Consequently, if these benefits are real, the market system which fundamentally drives American agriculture will undervalue alternative agriculture relative to conventional agriculture, and American society will be poorer as a result. The argument for alternative agriculture thus raises a public policy issue, specifically for the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). If in fact alternative agriculture has the advantages its advocates claim for it, the USDA should encourage more widespread adoption of the system, the amount'of the encouragement depending on the strength of the advantages relative to those of the existing system.
In this report we draw on the literature described'in the references and in the annotated bibliography to assess the economic and environmental characteristics of alternative agriculture relative to conventional




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agriculture. The environmental characteristics we consider are air and water quality, the health of farmers and consumers as it is affected by pesticides, and animal habitat.
Many advocates of alternative agriculture claim advantages for the
system which go well beyond the characteristics we consider. "Alternatively" grown food is said by many to be more nutritious, and therefore more healthful than conventionally grown food. After a review of a number of studies, Oelhaf (1978) stated that although the evidence is not conclusive, "nutrient levels appear to be higher for organically raised vegetables, and perhaps in better balance" (p. 47). However, the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST, 1980) cited 6 studies in support of its conclusion that the claim for higher nutritive quality of organically grown food "1... has yet to be sustained experimentally. The available evidence, obtained from chemical analyses and animal feeding trials, indicates that the, nutritive value of organically grown and conventionally grown food is about the same" (p. 8).
Because the evidence bearing on the relative nutritive quality of alternatively grown food is inconclusive, we do not consider this issue further..
Alternative agriculture also is viewed by some as promoting social goals quite apart from the production of food. For example, Kaufman (1985), writing of Robert Rodale's concept of regenerative agriculture, states that widespread adoption of such a system would lead to "... the regeneration of 'metropolitan farms', creating not just a culture of food, but a new culture of rural living... Regenerative agriculture thus aims to integrate agronomic techniques with policies for rural revitalization..." (p. 220). In a wideranging discussion of alternative agriculture, Lockeretz (1986) refers to this aspect of alternative agriculture as a modern version of agricultural




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fundamentalism. He also notes that many advocates of alternative agriculture value it because it would promote greater regional self-sufficiency in food production, thus providing protection against possible disruptions in supply. Altieri (1985) hints at an even broader agenda: use of alternative agriculture as a vehicle for changing the existing "capital-intensive structure of agriculture" (p. 182).
We do not consider the relationship of alternative agriculture to these broader social goals of rural revitalization, regional self-sufficiency in
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food production, and restructuring of agriculture. These are complex issues.
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To treat them satisfactorily would require a much larger effort than could be
A
devoted to this report. By neglecting them we do not mean to imply that they
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are less important than the issues we discuss. And if subsequent analysis should show the claims for alternative agriculture along these lines to have merit, then the USDA would be obligated to take them seriously. But we cannot undertake that analysis here.
The rest of the report is in three parts. The first considers the
comparative economics of alternative and conventional agriculture, the second considers their respective environmental characteristics, and the third discusses some of the implications for USDA policies with respect to alternative agriculture.




5
ECONOMICS OF ALTERNATIVE AND CONVENTIONAL AGRICULTURE
Most of the discussion of the comparative economics of alternative agriculture deals with the short-term profitability of the system as it presently is practiced relative to that of conventional agriculture. We first consider that part of the literature under the heading micro comparisons. Relatively little attention has been given to the comparative economics of the system if it were to displace the conventional system nationwide. For USDA policies, however, this is a major issue. We discuss it under the heading macro comparisons. One of the main arguments made for alternative agriculture is that, unlike the conventional system, it is indefinitely sustainable because it is more protective of soil productivity and does not depend on exhaustible sources of energy. We consider this issue under the heading sustainability comparisons.
Micro Comparisons
In a series of papers, Lockeretz et al reported results of comparative studies of alternative and conventional farms in the Cornbelt (Lockeretz, et al 1976, 1978, 1980, 1981, 1984). The 1984 paper summarizes the principal results of the studies. In one of the studies 14 organic farms in Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota and Missouri were paired with nearby conventional farms of about the same size (minimum of 100 acres) and soil types. The organic farms were commercial producers of corn, both grain and silage, oats, wheat, hay and other field crops. No inorganic fertilizers or pesticides were used. Most of these farms also had some kind of livestock operation. With a few exceptions the farms had been managed organically for at least four years before the study. The 14 conventional farms produced the same




6
major crops as the organic farms and most of them combined crops with livestock.
Data were collected by questionnaire from each of the paired farms for the years 1974-1976.
Another study was done of 23 Cornbelt organic farms in 1977 and 19 of the same farms in 1978. The farms produced the same crops as the 14 paired farms and the same sorts of data were collected from them. However, in the second study the data for the organic farms were compared not with paired conventional farms but with averages for the counties in which the organic farms were located.
The combined results of the two studies shoved that averaged over the years 1974-1978 the organic farms had lower yields than the conventional farms, but they also had lower costs, reduced outlays for fertilizer and pesticides more than offsetting increased labor costs. The yield and cost data were averaged over all cropland, including that in rotation hay and pasture, soil improving crops and crop failure.
Because lower yields on the organic farms were offset by lower costs, net income per acre averaged over the five years was about the same for organic and conventional farms. However, in an analysis of these results, Madden (1987) notes that in 1974-1977 severe drought affected some parts of the study area. In 1978, when rainfall approximated the long-term average, per acre net income on the 19 organic farms averaged 13- percent less than the comparable county averages. Madden does not comment on the reasons for this. A possibility, however, is that organically farmed soils may have greater water holding capacity than conventionally farmed soils, giving organic farms relatively more favorable yields in dry years. Recall, however, that even in the droughty years of 1974-1977 average yields of organic farms were less than those of conventional farms.




7
Lockeretz et al (1984) do not discuss the reasons for the lower yields on organic farms. They state, however, that the organic farmers in their sample reported that weeds were one of the major problems they had to deal with. This could account for some of the differential. Some also could be accounted for by the fact that the organic farms had a greater proportion of their land in rotation hay and pasture, and in soil building crops.
Helmers et al (1986 compared two organic cropping systems with eleven
conventional systems in east-central Nebraska. The organic systems were in a corn-soybean-corn-oat/sweet clover rotation, as were two of the conventional systems. The other conventional systems were continuous corn, continuous soybeans, continuous grain sorghum, and rotations of these crops with each other. The two organic systems used no inorganic fertilizer and no herbicides or insecticides. The difference bet:een them was that in one manure was charged at the cost of applying it and in the other it was charged at the price of equivalent inorganic fertilizer.
The study covered the years 1978-1985. The yield and input data were collected from experimental plots managed by the University of Nebraska. Cost data were taken from USDA farm budget studies for the region and covered all purchased inputs, machinery operation, and labor (excluding "overhead" labor). Both input and crop prices were expressed in 1985 dollars. Net returns were calculated for each system for each year, and represent the returns to investment in land, machinery, overhead labor, and management.
Animal production was not included in any of the systems studied.
Helmers et al (1986) do not indicate the source of the manure used with the two organic systems.
The results of the study showed that over the 8 years considered, the corn-soybean rotation produced the highest average net returns per acre ($175.15). The return to the grain sorghum-soybean rotation was only




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slightly less ($172.15) and the third highest return was to continuous soybeans ($163.90). The return to the organic system in which manure was charged at application cost was $114.88. Charging manure at the cost of equivalent fertilizer gave net returns to this system of $92.84. Although these returns were substantially less than those received by the most profitable systems, the higher organic return ($114.88) compared favorably to the returns to the two conventional systems employing the same corn-soybeancorn-oat/sweet clover rotation.
The main reason for the low net returns of the organic systems relative to the corn-soybean, grain sorghum-soybean and continuous soybean systems were lower yields for corn and soybeans and the fact that the organic systems had part of their land in oats/sweet clover, a low value use.
Helmers et al also considered the stability of net returns to the
various systems, measured by the standard deviation of the returns over the 8 years. By this indicator, net returns of the two organic systems were more stable than all. but 2 of the 11 conventional systems.
For each system Helmers et al also counted the number of years in which net returns fell below $100 per acre. The organic systems did not compare well in this respect.
In conversation with one of the authors Helmers said that in eastcentral Nebraska most farmers use a corn-soybean rotation, which is consistent with the finding that over the 8 years studied this was the most profitable system.
James (1983) used a linear programming approach to compare the relative profitability of alternative and conventional farms in 3 locations in central, western and southern Iowa. Data were collected from a variety of sources and used to construct profiles of "representative" alternative and conventional farms in the three regions. The principal difference between




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the two types of farms was that the conventional farms had the option of purchasing nitrogen fertilizer, but the alternative farms did not. Neither type farm used pesticides.
James summed up his results as indicating that "... farming without
commercial nitrogen and chemicals is a viable alternative for some, if not many Iowa farms. It has particular comparative advantage where farms have a large part of their land in pasture" (p. 21). By "viable" James evidently means that net returns to alternative farming were positive in most of the cases of this system he considered. However, his results show that in no case were net returns to this system as high as those to conventional systems in which the option to purchase nitrogen fertilizer was taken.
Dabbert and Madden (1986) studied the economics of shifting from conventional to alternative agriculture. They used data for 1978-1982 collected by the Rodale Research Center to study a crop-livestock farm of about 300 acres located near Kutztown, Pennsylvania. Dabbert and Madden studied only the cropping system on this farm. No herbicides or insecticides were used on the farm and except for a small amount of starter fertilizer on corn, all nutrients were supplied by manure and a rotation which included legumes. Weeds were controlled by mechanical cultivation and rotation. About one-third of the land was in corn or soybeans, one-third in small grains (wheat, .barley, oats and rye) and one-thiird in hay (alfalfa or timothy/red clover). Yields for most of these crops were higher than county or state averages.
Dabbert and Madden cited the USDA (1980) report on organic farming, and other sources, as indicating that the shift from conventional to alternative agriculture frequently entails an initial yield penalty, but that after three or four years, yields are restored to their former level. Oelhaf (1978) also states that the shift from conventional to alternative systems generally




10
entails a yield penalty in the first few years, with subsequent recovery. However, he notes that after recovery yields under the alternative system still may be less than under the conventional system. Power and Doran (1984) came to the same conclusion as Oelhaf.
To reflect this possible yield effect, Dabbert and Madden assumed-that
in the first year after the shift yields would decline 30 percent followed by a return in linear fashion to the original level in three years.
They also studied the economic consequences of the shift on the assumption of no yield penalty.
Linear programming was used to study the profitability of the
alternative system relative to that of a conventional system farming the same land. On the assumption of profit maximization, the conventional system would have about 75 percent of the farmland in continuous corn and the rest would be in alfalfa. In the two alternative farming systems profit maximization would put the land in various rotations of wheat, soybeans, corn and alfalfa. The conventional system used pesticides and chemical fertilizers as needed to achieve profit maximization. The alternative farming systems used no pesticides (except in undefined emergencies) and nutrients were provided by purchased chicken manure and legumes in the crop rotation.
The analysis showed that when the shift to alternative agriculture
imposed no yield penalty net income in the first year of the shift fell 13 percent below net income of the conventional system, but then rose and within
5 years leveled off at 7 percent less than the conventional system. On the assumption of a 30 percent yield penalty in the first year of the shift, net income of the alternative system declined 43 percent relative to the conventional system, but then rose and leveled off at 7 percent less after 5 years.




Apart from the effects of the yield penalty, Dabbert and Madden do not explicitly discuss reasons for the decline in profitability of the alternative system. However, their account suggests that the main reason is the inclusion of less profitable crops (wheat and alfalfa) in the cropping pattern.
The studies reviewed here are not the only ones devoted to the
comparative micro economics of conventional and alternative farming systems, but in our judgment they are the most authoritative. (Other studies we examined are Berardi 1978; Harwood 1984; Poincelot 1986). With the important exception of the Lockeretz et al studies, they all shoved that the alternative farming systems were less profitable than the conventional systems with which they were compared. The Lockeretz et al finding of little difference in profitability may have reflected the unusually dry years in four of the five years studied. As noted above, in the more normal rainfall year of 1979, the conventional farms were more profitable.
In the studies reviewed the most obvious reason for the lower
profitability of the alternative systems was the yield penalty imposed by the fact that these systems necessarily include relatively large amounts of land in low value rotational uses, both to provide nutrients and to control pests. The studies are less clear about other causes of the yield penalty, but difficulties of controlling pests without pesticides is a likely factor. We already have noted that weed problems were a major concern of the organic farmers surveyed by Lockeretz et al (1984). The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST, 1980) cites a number of sources indicating that organic farmers name weed control as their number one problem (as it is of most conventional farmers according to CAST). CAST notes that one of the advantages of herbicides is that they permit the control of weeds in the crop row, something that cannot be done with tillage, and can be done by hand only




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at very high cost.
Fawcett (1983) discusses other advantages of herbicides relative to
tillage for weed control in field crops. He does not consider hand labor as an alternative, presumably because the costs of farm labor in the United States are too high to make that feasible. Herbicides permit earlier planting in the spring than generally would be possible if weeds were to be controlled by cultivation. The reason is that when soil temperatures are cool, as in early spring, many weeds grow faster than emerging corn and soybean plants. Herbicides permit control of these weeds.
Another advantage of herbicides is that they give easier control of weeds in the crop row, as noted in the CAST report. Fawcett (1983, p. 2) states that this permits higher seeding densities, hence higher crop yields. He stvs that weeds in the row probably can also be controlled with ". biolbgical farming, but it is going to be tougher" than controlling them with herbici:des.
I-awcett also asserts that herbicides give greater flexibility in the timinPz of cultivation. "Nearly all Iowa farmers still row cultivate... But they don't have to be in there in a very timely manner like we do when we eliminate the use of herbicides" (Fawcett, 1983, p. 2).
Finally, and perhaps most important, although Fawcett does not label it so, herbicides permit continuous cropping, that is to say they permit farmers to keep more of their land in relatively high value uses more of the time than would be possible in a rotational system for veed control.
The literature reviewed gives less attention to the economic effects of the ban on insecticides in alternative farming systems. Indeed we have found no discussion addressed specifically to these effects. An adverse indirect effect can be inferred, however, from the fact that insect control is one of the important reasons why alternative systems rotate land among various




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crops, some of which are of relatively low value.
The CAST report (1980) gives considerable weight to the banning in alternative systems of fungicides in production of some fruits and vegetables, including peaches, pears, apples, strawberries, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, eggplant, celery and squash. According to the report, foliar fungicidal sprays are the only feasible means of disease control for these plants. The inability of alternative farming systems to use these sprays, thus puts them at an economic disadvantage in the growing of these crops.
The CAST report also notes that pesticides make it possible to control disease and insect damage in fresh fruits and vegetables after harvest, making it possible to store and ship them over longer distances than is feasible for the same crops grown organically. The potential market for the conventionally grown crops, therefore, would be larger.
Whether the refusal of alternative farmers to use inorganic fertilizers contributes to their generally lower yields is uncertain. The literature we reviewed gives conflicting accounts of this. Power and Doran (1984) assert that information about the sources of nutrients in alternative-agriculture is limited, although there is agreement that the major sources are manure and crop residues. Harwood (1984) presents data from the Rodale farm in Kutztown, Pennsylvania which he asserts indicates that "the potential for meeting crop nitrogen needs from legumes in rotation has been grossly underestimated by American scientists" (p. 67). Harwood provides no support for this assertion, however. Corn yields on the Kutztown farm average about 30 percent above the state average according to Harwood even though the farm has been operating with "minimum inputs" for over 10 years.
The findings of Papendick et al (1987) support those of Harwood. They assert that on many organic farms legumes supply most if not all the nitrogen needed for the entire rotation. Any nitrogen deficit from this source




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generally can be compensated by the use of green manures, erosion control to
conserve soil nutrients, and recycling of crop residues, animal manures and
other organic wastes.
Olson et al (1982) estimated the yield effect of banning inorganic
fertilizers on field crops and found it to be substartially negative. They
assumed that yields in the 1940s reflected conditions of minimal use of
inorganic fertilizers and projected the increase of these yields to the 1970s on the assumption that the only factor in the yield increase was genetic improvement in plant cultivars. They then used these estimated yields in a comparison of the economics of conventional and alternative systems.
This seems a questionable procedure for estimating the yield- effect of substituting organic for inorganic sources of nutrients. It ignores all advances in knowledge of crop production since the 1940s except that embodied in improved plant cultivars. It also ignores the fact that much plant breeding after 1940 was aimed at providing fertilizer responsive cultivars to take advantage of the declining'real price of inorganic Eertilizer, particularly nitrogen. If organic sources of nitrogen had continued to be as cheap relative to inorganic nitrogen as they were in the 1940s, research on plant cultivars and farming practices generally would probably have given far more attention to developing techniques for using organic sources. In this case, present yields of alternative agriculture likely would compare much more favorably with yields of conventional agriculture than Olson et al estimated. Indeed, what is now called "alternative"? agriculture might be conventional agriculture.
It cannot be concluded from the literature we have reviewed that the substitution of organic for inorganic sources of nutrients contributes significantly to the yield difference between alternative and conventional systems.




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The finding of Lockeretz et al (1984) that variable costs of alternative agriculture are less than those of the conventional system is supported in the other studies reviewed. The main reason is the saving on purchases of inorganic fertilizer and pesticides. Lockeretz et al found that the
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alternative farmers used only slightly more labor than the convene tional farmers. Other studies, however, show rather significantly more labor with the alternative system (Oelhaf 1978; Poincelot 1986).
In some instances the economic disadvantages of alternatively grown
products is offset, at least partially, by their ability to command premium
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prices in specialty markets. There are many references to this in the
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literature we reviewed. The most complete account was given by Oelhaf
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(1978). He collected price information from wholesalers of alternatively
j
grown grains, soybeans, fruits and vegetables. Most of the wholesalers were in California and the northeast, although some were in the midwest. The results were variable, but they showed that in general, alternatively grown crops did in fact command premium prices. Oelhaf concluded that for grains the premium was about 10 percent. For fruits and vegetablesuit was 5-10 percent, although in California prices of some alternativelyrgrown commodities were less than those conventionally grown. In t~e northeast the price premium for alternatively grown fruits and vegetables was somewhat higher than in California.
Oelhaf's study was done in the mid-1970s. Whether the Rrice
differentials he found still exist was not revealed in the literature we reviewed.
The material reviewed strongly indicates that at the farm level and in years of normal rainfall alternative agriculture is less profitable than conventional agriculture. And this may sufficiently explain the failure of alternative agriculture to seriously challenge the conventional system in




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terms of the quantity of resources devoted to each. 1 Still economics may no t be all there is to it. Some farmers may be ignorant of the advantages of alternative agriculture, and others may have other non-economic reasons for not adopting it.
Blobaum (1983) did a study of barriers to adoption of organic farming methods, focusing on non-economic barriers. Indeed Blobaum concluded, mistakenly in our view, that economics was not a barrier. He surveyed 547 organic farmers in Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri and Nebraska, and received usable responses from 214. Almost three-quarters of these farmers
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had formerly farmed conventionally. Blobaum concluded that in their personal
A.
characteristics they were much like conventional farmers and motivated mainly
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by the same practical considerations. When asked to list obstacles to adoption of alternative farming systems the farmers surveyed most often named lack of information about practices, lack of marketing information, especially about the availability of markets offering premium prices for alternatively produced output, and the need for more research, particularly about weed control in alternative farming systems. Some also indicated that the supply of organic fertilizers and other inputs was a problem. About two1. Estimates of the number of farmers engaged in alternative agriculture vary. The USDA (1981) gave a number of 50,000 and in another report
(1980) estimated 11,200 by a strict definition and 24,000 by a broader
one. Harwood (1984) states that less than 60,000 of the subscribers to
the Rodale Organization's New Farm magazine describe themselves as
alternative farmers. In answer to a question from one of the authors,
Garth Youngberg, editor of the American Journal of Alternative
Agriculture, said no one knows how many American farmers have adopted the
system. Whatever the number, it is small relative to the total of some
2.5 million American farmers.




17
fifths of the correspondents did not use credit. The 60 percent who did indicated no special problems in getting it.
Despite Blobaum's dismissal of economics as a barrier, it is evident from the responses he received that it is. In fact, Blobaum himself concluded that problems of weed control were the major obstacle to conversion. Clearly, this is an economic problem.
Blobaum also recognized that better information about barriers to
conversion probably would be obtained by surveying conventional farmers who seriously considered switching to the alternative system, then decided not to; from farmers who made the shift from conventional to alternative systems, then shifted back again; or from farmers who originally employed the alternative system, then switched to conventional farming.
Blobaum did not consider the management requirements of alternative agriculture as a barrier to conversion nor was management prominently discussed in the literature on economics we reviewed. It seems clear, however, that alternative agriculture requires more management time and skill than conventional agriculture. In a discussion of some of the key characteristics of successful organic farmers Madden (1987) asserts that they are "superb managers" with complete knowledge of their farm operations. This is easy to believe. The elimination of inorganic fertilizers and pesticides means that the farmer must have enough understanding of the complex relationships among crops, weeds, insects, diseases, and determinants of soil fertility to suppress those things that threaten the crop and encourage those things that make it thrive. To manage his pest and nutrient problems the conventional farmer needs much less understanding of these relationships. The organic farmer must also be more careful about the timing of his operations, as Fawcett's (1983) discussion of the advantages of herbicides indicates. It is plausible also that he would have to devote more time




18
annually to management of his farm than the conventional farmer, although this was not discussed in the literature we reviewed.
The more demanding management requirements of alternative agriculture may be a barrier to its more widespread adoption. This is not to say that the average American farmer lacks the mental capacity to acquire the skills needed to successfully manage an organic farm. The success of farmers in managing the technological revolution which transformed American agriculture in the last 40 years is proof enough of their inherent capacity. But acquiring new management skills takes time, and time is a scarce resource for farmers, as it is for everyone else. Time spent in acquiring managerial skills and then applying them on the farm is time not available for other purposes. Many farmers work part-time off the farm. For them more on-farm work has an opportunity cost measured by lost off-farm income. More on-farm work also means less time available for recreation, for family life and other pursuits of value to the farmer.
Thus the time required to become a successful organic farmer likely is abar-rier to more widespread adoption of organic systems. Given the generally unfavorable economic returns to such systems, it should not be surprising if many farmers decline to invest the time needed to acquire the skills needed to manage them.
Conclusion. The literature reviewed leaves little doubt that at the farm level alternative agriculture generally is less profitable than conventional agriculture. This is not a surprising finding. If it were not so, alternative agriculture would already have displaced conventional agriculture, or be well on its way toward doing so, which it is not.
Alternative agriculture is less profitable because what it saves in
fertilizer and pesticide costs is not enough to compensate for the additional labor required and for the yield penalty it suffers relative to conventional




19
farming. The causes of the yield penalty are not entirely clear, but the requirement that main crops be rotated with relatively low value legumes appears important. Problems of controlling weeds without herbicides probably also contribute to the yield penalty. Our review does not indicate that the ban on insecticides in alternative farming systems adversely affects yields directly. However, there is a negative indirect effect since insect control is one of the reasons for the rotation which includes a low value crop. The literature consulted does not support the conclusion that nutrient deficiency contributes to the relatively unfavorable yields of alternative systems.
The use of fungicides and insecticides permits storage and long distance transport of fresh fruits and vegetables. The ban on the use of these materials may make the market for alternatively produced fruits and vegetables smaller than that for their conventionally produced competitors.
Many products of alternative systems received a price premium in the mid-1970s when Qelhaf (1978) studied them. Whether they still receive this premium cannot be determined from the literature reviewed. If they do, it clearly is not enough to overcome the relatively low profitability of alternative farming systems.
Macro Comparisons
What would the economics of alternative agriculture look like if the system were to wholly displace the existing system? The question has been little studied, and the few analyses that have been done have some serious deficiencies. Indeed, Madden (1987) goes so far as to say that at present there is no credible evidence about the economic consequences of a large scale shift to alternative agriculture. We agree that the evidence is weak but believe that nonetheless some tentative inferences can be extracted from it.




20
Olson et al (1982) used a model of the U.S. agricultural economy to
estimate the economic consequences of using alternative agricultural systems to meet late 1970s levels of demand for farm output. No inorganic. fertilizers or pesticides were permitted in the alternative system. The results indicated that production would be much less than in the 1970s because sharply higher production costs and supply prices would greatly reduce amounts demanded, both domestically and for export, especially the latter. Net farm income, however, would rise because of the inelastic demand for farm output. American society as a whole would be economically worse off, but farmers would benefit from the shift. Foreigners likely would suffer short-run economic losses, but in the long run foreign agriculture would expand to replace the higher cost American output. Olson et al do not address the issue, but one can infer from their results that American consumers would seek to import more lower cost agricultural commodities from abroad. American farmers no doubt would seek trade legislation to block this.
The results (?f the Olson et al (1982) modeling exercise are largely determined by their assumption that the wholesale shift to alternative farming would exa, a large yield penalty. We already have indicated (p. 14, above) that we think the procedures by which the penalty was estimated are dubious. And the amount of the penalty--50 percent for corn, wheat and soybeans, 70 percent for other feed grains--is much larger than that found in the studies by Lockeretz et al (1984), Helmers et al (1986) and others in the literature we have reviewed. If the penalty were less than Olson et al assumed--say on thle order of 10-15 percent rather than 50 percent--then the cost, price and production consequences would be less unfavorable for alternative agriculture than the Olson et al results indicated.
The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (1980) also




21
considered the consequences of a complete shift to alternative agriculture. CAST estimated that the shift would reduce yields of most crops by 15-25 percent, partly because organic sources of nitrogen would be inadequate to support current yields and partly because of weed losses resulting from the ban on herbicides. CAST argues that to maintain production with a 15 to 25 percent yield reduction would require an increase in cropland of 18 to 33 percent if the land were of the same quality as land currently in production. If the additional land were of inferior quality, the increases in needed land would be greater than 18 and 33 percent.
Like Olson et al, CAST concluded that a wholesale shift to alternative agriculture would increase production costs, drive up supply prices, reduce amounts demanded, hence production, and make farmers as a group economically better off at the expense of the rest of American society, and perhaps also of foreigners. CAST also considered distributional effects among regions and farmers, and concluded that the corn, soybean, and cotton growing areas of the south and southeast would be relatively disadvantaged because organic systems for combatting the severe weed and insect problems in those regions would be less effective than in the midwest and other areas growing those crops. Regions having inadequate supplies of manure or where growing legumes is uneconomic, as in dryland wheat growing areas, also would be negatively affected. CAST also concluded that because the switch to alternative agriculture would require more cropland, erosion would increase. (But the amount of additional land would be less than the 18 to 33 percent previously noted because those numbers assumed maintenance of production at current levels. in fact, production would decline because of higher production costs and supply prices.)
Finally, land prices would rise, reflecting the increase in net farm income, and farm employment and wages would rise because of the relatively




22
labor intensive nature of alternative agriculture.
Qeihaf (1978) estimated the macro-economic consequences of producing 1974 output with alternative agricultural systems. Like Olson et al and CAST, he found that production costs would be higher and that more land and labor would be required. Qeihaf did not explore the consequences for exports, for the distribution of income among regions or farmers, or between farmers and consumers. However, one can infer that the consequences would be in the same direction as those found by Olson et al and CAST: exports would be reduced, regions and farmers especially dependent on pesticides and inorganic fertilizer would be disadvantaged, and farmers generally would gain economically relative to consumers. All of this follows from Oelhaf's finding that production costs would rise.
Although Oelhaf's conclusions are directionally the same as those of Olson et al and CAST, quantitatively they show less severe impacts of the shift to alternative agriculture. At least his estimate of the cost increase is less. He concluded that after the shift were completed, aggregate annual production costs would be higher by about 9 percent. (They would be up 10 and 15 percent for wheat and corn respectively, 5 percent for soybeans, 20 and 30 percent respectively for citrus and deciduous fruits [Oelhaf 1978, p. 229]). Taking account of the costs of transition (see above, p. 9) Oelhaf estimated the total cost of the shift at roughly 15 percent. Olson et al and CAST do not give specific estimates of the cost of the shift, but their cost increase estimates are driven in large part by their estimates of the yield penalty of alternative agriculture, and these estimates show a substantially higher penalty than that estimated by Qeihaf. It can be inferred, therefore, that Oelhaf's estimate of the cost increase is less than that of Olson et al and CAST.
The results of each of the three studies are critically affected by the




23
estimated yield penalty of alternative agriculture relative to conventional agriculture. All three studies agree that there would be a penalty, but they disagree considerably about the amount. We believe the literature we have reviewed supports an estimate closer to that of Oelhaf than to those of CAST and Olson et al. However, the evidence on this is thin, and we consider the issue still open.
A closely related issue about which more can be said concerns the
relationship between the conditions of supply of organic matter and wholesale adoption of alternative agriculture. The USDA (1978) estimated that the U.S. annually produces 856 million tons of organic wastes potentially available to agriculture. Fifty-four percent is crop residues (roots, chaff, stems-and leaves), 22 percent is animal manure, and the rest is sewage sludge and wastes from food processing, other industry, logging and wood processing, and municipal wastes other than sewage sludge. About 70 percent of crop residues currently are directly returned to the soil and 25 percent is fed to animals (Poincelot, 1986). Almost 90 percent of all farm animal waste also is returned to the soil.2 Much smaller amounts of the remaining 24 percent of organic wastes currently are returned to the soil, and the potential for increasing this contribution is small (Poincelot, 1986). For practical purposes, crop residues and animal wastes are the principal sources of organic wastes potentially available to agriculture.
Power and Doran (1984, p. 588) present data showing that the nitrogen
2. Poincelot (1986) indicates that 61 percent of animal wastes are excreted
in unconfined habitats, so all of this is returned to the land. He
states that 73 percent of the 39 percent excreted in confined habitats also is returned to the land. In total, therefore, 89 percent of all
farm animal wastes are currently returned to the land.




24
content of all organic wastes produced in the U.S. (apparently in the late 1970s) was 8.1 million tons, 62 percent of it in animal wastes and virtually all the rest in crop residues.. The nitrogen content of fertilizers used by farmers at that time was 9.1 million tons, most of which was applied to cropland. These numbers indicate that even if 100 percent of the nitrogen in crop residues and animal wastes could be made available to farmers on economical terms, it would not be enough to replace nitrogen fertilizers, unless the losses of nitrogen in waste material were substantially less than the losses of fertilizer nitrogen.
The last sentence raises two questions: could all the nitrogen content of crop and animal wastes be made economically available to farmers? And are the losses of nitrogen from wastes less than from -fertilizer?
Since 70 percent of crop residues already is returned directly to the soil, the nitrogen in this source already is available to and being used by farmers. The issue, therefore, is the economics of utilizing the nitrogen in animal wastes, which includes that in the 24 percent of crop residues fed to animals.
A major problem in making economical use of animal waste is that so much of it (61 percent) is excreted in unconfined habitats, most of it no doubt on range and pasture land, not on cropland where it is most needed. We have seen no estimates of the cost of collecting these wastes, but it surely would be high relative to the price of an equivalent amount of nitrogen in fertilizer.
Apart from collection costs, the costs of transporting nitrogen in
animal wastes is high because 75 to 90 percent of the waste is water (CAST, 1980, p. 13). This observation applies especially to that part of animal wastes excreted in unconfined habitats. It would apply also, however, to the 27 percent of confined animal wastes not now returned to the land. Since the




25
remaining 73 percent of tastes from confined animals already is returned to the land, the economics of doing that can be assumed to be favorable'.
The discussion suggests that the economics of collecting and
transporting the nitrogen in animal wastes not already being used by farmers are unfavorable. And they likely will remain so unless the price of nitrogen fertilizer rises substantially (but we cannot say how much) above present levels.
Losses of nitrogen in fertilizer are high, estimates typically running from 30 to 50 percent or more. The nitrogen, as nitrate, is leached to groundwater, carried away in runoff, and volatilized by denitrification. If the losses of nitrogen in animal wastes are, or could economically be made to be, less than this, then the economics of substituting animal wastes for fertilizer would be improved.
We have seen no studies of this issue. Ho':ever, losses of nitrogen in animal wastes may also be high. CAST (1980, p. 13) says that animal manure
it... must be carefully preserved and applied to realize
its maximum benefits. It is a highly perishable
commodity. The nitrogen and potassium are readily lost
by leaching, and nitrogen is lost also by ammonia
volatilization."
CAST cites the 1978 USDA study on use of organic wastes as indicating that 63 percent of the nitrogen in manure now returned to the land is lost to volatilization and leaching, and that at best this could be reduced to 45 percent. According to CAST (p. 13), this reduction in loss would increase the amount of nitrogen from collectible manure from about 9 percent to 12 percent of the amount now supplied in fertilizer.
It seems clear that the potential for increasing the supply of nitrogen (and other nutrients) by greater utilization of organic wastes is very limited.
The potential from naturally occurring nutrients in soil organic matter




26
also is quite limited. According to CAST (1980) most soils farmed in the United States today have less than half of their original endowment of organic matter. The main reason is that plowing the soil speeds microbial decomposition of humic material containing the organic matter. Humus and organic matter in the soil can be increased by return of crop residues and animal wastes, but as we already have concluded, most of these materials that can be economically incorporated in the soil already are.
The only source of organic material that has much promise for replacing nitrogen fertilizer on a significant scale over the next decade or so is leguminous crops. 3 This, of course, is what alternative agriculture proposes to do. Apart from whether these crops can produce enough nitrogen to replace that now available in fertilizer--an unsettled question in our' judgment--it is the necessity of including these crops in rotation with main crops which depresses the yield of the latter per acre of land in the rotation. And this yield penalty is a principal reason for the conclusion of all the studies we have considered that wholesale conversion to alternative agriculture would drive up the costs.of agricultural production, increase the amount of land in crops, and have unfavorable (except for farmers) macroeconomic consequences. It seems necessary to conclude that the inelasticity of supply of organic forms of nitrogen (and other nutrients) would impose higher economic costs of production on American agriculture should alternative agriculture be substituted wholesale for the conventional system.
3. Research on biological nitrogen fixation may in time enhance the ability
of leguminous crops to fix nitrogen and, in more time, teach corn and
other non-leguminous crops how to do this also. This would make
alternative agriculture more attractive economically, although the
research is not-being done for that reason.




27
Conclusion. The three studies we reviewed of the macro-economic
consequences of wholesale adoption of alternative agriculture agreed that production costs would rise and set off a variety of other unfavorable economic consequences, except for farmers as a group. The studies disagreed, however, about the severity of the cost increase and the related consequences, Oelhaf (1978) estimating a smaller increase than Olson et al (1982) and CAST (1980). An important reason for Oelhaf's lower estimate is that he expects alternative agriculture to impose a lower yield penalty. Our reading of the literature suggests that Oelhaf's estimate of the penalty is
A
closer to the mark than the estimates of CAST and, especially, Olson et al.
A
The inelasticity of supply of organic sources of nitrogen, and other nutrients, might contribute to the yield penalty, although this is unclear. Even without a nutrient deficiency yield effect, however, wholesale substitution of organic sources for fertilizer almost-surely would tend to sharply increase nutrient costs, with a consequent increase in total production costs. The three studies agreed that conversion to alternative agriculture would increase the amount of land devoted to production. At the time the studies were done there was a general expectation that over the coming several decades demand for cropland would rise, even without a shift to alternative agriculture (e.g. Crosson and Brubaker, 1982). Under those circumstances,. the additional demand for cropland implied by such a shift would appear troublesome, both because of increased upward pressure on land price's and because of the likelihood that the additional land would be more erosive. The CAST report did in fact express these concerns.
Current thinking, however, is that over the next 50 years the demand for cropland will decline, perhaps sharply, as the growth of crop yields outpaces the growth of crop demand (USDA, 1987). These yield projections do not reflect a large scale shift to alternative agriculture. If such a shift were




28
to occur, the decline in demand for cropland likely would be less than USDA (1987) now projects. Nonetheless, in a period of strong land-saving technological change, such as now seems in prospect, the land-using aspect of alternative agriculture would appear less threatening--perhaps not threatening at all--than it would if the trend-of technology generally was land-using.
On balance, we conclude that a wholesale shift to alternative
agriculture under current conditions would have unfavorable macro-economic
A
consequences, but that these probably would be closer to those estimated by
A
Oelhaf than to those by Olson et al and CAST. The fact that alternative
A
agriculture would tend to hold more land in crop production than the
A
conventional system does not appear particularly troublesome, given present expectations about the long-term growth of demand for crops and for technological change in agriculture.
Sustainability Comparisons
We assume that the USDA has to be concerned about the long-term
sustainability of American agriculture. More specifically, we assume that the USDA accepts responsibility for fostering an agricultural system which will indefinitely meet rising domestic and foreign demand for food and fiber at constant or declining real economic and environmental costs of production. This is our definition of a sustainable system.
A principal tenet of the alternative agriculture movement is that the current agricultural system of the U.S. is not sustainable in this sense. The charge is based on three arguments: (1) the existing system generates enough erosion to seriously threaten the long-term productivity of the soil;
(2) the existing system's heavy use of inorganic fertilizer and pesticides destroys useful biota in the soil, again posing a threat to the soil's long-




29
term productivity; (3) the existing system relies heavily on fossil fuel sources of energy which in time will be exhausted.
Erosion and soil productivity. The available evidence does not support the argument that present levels of erosion in the United States pose a serious threat to the long-term sustainability of the nation's agriculture. The relevant evidence is from studies of long-term effects of erosion on soil productivity done with the Productivity Index (PI) model, the Erosion Productivity Impact Calculator (EPIC) model and with regression analysis at Resources for the Future (RFF). The studies are discussed and their results presented in Crosson (1986). Suffice it to say here that the studies agree in showing that continuation of present rates of cropland erosion for 100 years would reduce crop yields at the end of the period by at most 5-10 percent from what they otherwise would be. If technological advance increases yields over that period at only one-half the annual rate experienced over the last 40 years, the negative yield effect of erosion would be offset several times over.
If the USDA (1987) is right in expecting the amount of land in crops to decline over the next 50 years, erosion will decline also, probably proportionately more than the decline in cropland since production would tend to concentrate on less erosive land. In this case, the long-term threat of erosion to soil productivity would be even less than presently estimated by PI, EPIC and RFF.
Conventional systems and soil biota. Although the alternative
agriculture movement severely indicts the conventional system for its destructive effects on soil biota, documented evidence of this is hard to find. At least we have found little of it in our literature review. Oelhaf (1978, p. 33), an advocate of alternative agriculture, asserts that inorganic fertilizer may adversely affect "soil life" in various ways, but his




30
subsequent discussion says nothing about "soil life." Instead he describes how heavy use of nitrogen fertilizer can increase soil acidity, with adverse yield effects, but notes that this is easily corrected by liming. He also asserts that on a heavy clay soil continuous cropping, made possible by substitution of inorganic fertilizer for organic sources, can cause drainage problems and build up of a subsurface hardpan. He then points out, however, that subsoiling equipment to break up such hardpans and improve drainage are available at "modest expense." Whatever these problems, they do not seem to involve soil biota nor do they appear to be a threat to long-term sustainability.
Poincelot (1986, p. 117) asserts that there is a "direct relationship" between organic matter in the soil and the population and distribution of beneficial soil biota. This relationship is generally accepted in the literature we have reviewed. It also is generally accepted that with soil, climate, and other relevant conditions the same, organic farmers typically achieve higher organic content in their soils than conventional farmers do (Oelhaf, 1978, p. 25). It would follow that the soils of organic farmers typically would be richer in soil biota than the soils of conventional farmers. However it is not clear that the difference raises an issue of long-term sustainability. It is extensively documented (Crosson and Stout, 1983) that badly eroded, biota impoverished soils can be restored to rich fertility over a period of some years by adoption of management techniques-such as those of alternative agriculture--which build soil organic matter. The process takes time and involves some expense, but it is not rare. Consequently, where conventional agriculture severely reduces soil organic matter and related biota--which it may but does not necessarily do--the losses need not be permanent. If economic conditions favor it, the soils can be restored. No sustainability issue arises.




31
Reliance on fossil fuels. The nitrogen fertilizer used in the United
States is produced from natural gas, and most pesticides are petroleum based. Since petroleum and natural gas are exhaustible resources, they will someday become more expensive than they are now, and eventually their price will become so high as to exclude them from any but the most high value uses. Their continued use by the existing agricultural system would be inconsistent with our definition of long-term sustainability.
The point-of course is-true. The question is its relevance. That
fossil fuels will someday become much more expensive than they are now does not mean that we should now stop using them, or even curtail their present rates of use. The issue is one of timing. So long as the cost of fossil f uels, taking account of the future opportunity cost of the resource, is less than the cost of the alternatives, then it is in the social interest to use fossil fuels. 4 As the supply of them is used up, and their cost rises, it will be in the social interest at some point to switch to cheaper energy sources. It also will be in the social interest to invest in research to develop those cheaper sources so that they are available when costs of fossil fuels begin a long-term rise. In agriculture renewable sources of energy, such as those used in alternative agriculture, almost surely will become economically more important. In a sense, therefore, one can argue that to maintain the sustainability of American agriculture into the indefinite
4. This statement is true if the social costs of fossil fuels and of
alternatives are understood to include environmental costs as well as
economic costs. In fact, current patterns of fossil fuel use do not
fully reflect environmental costs e.g. those that might result from the
"greenhouse effect." Conventional agriculture, however, uses little
coal, the worst environmental sinner among the fossil fuels.




32
future, a shift from the present system to something like the alternative agriculture system will eventually be necessary. But, for reasons already given, "eventually" is rnot now.
Conclusion. The argument that American agriculture should shift to the alternative system over the near term because the existing system is not sustainable does not hold up. Soil erosion under the existing system is not a serious threat to long-term productivity. The existing system may reduce soil biota, in some cases severely, relative to alternative agriculture, but there is no evidence that the damage is permanent. Finally, the dependence of the existing system on exhaustible energy sources implies that the system must eventually be abandoned for one--such as alternative agriculture--which relies mainly on renewable energy sources. But "eventually" may lie far in the future. The relative prices of exhaustible and renewable energy sources clearly indicate that "eventually" is not now.
ENVIRONMENTAL CHARACTERISTICS OF ALTERNATIVE AND CONVENTIONAL AGRICULTURE
our judgment that a wholesale shift to alternative agriculture would
have adverse economic effects on the country is an argument against promoting such a shift. If, however, alternative agriculture offers environmental benefits greater than those of the conventional system, this must temper the judgment against alternative agriculture on economic grounds. Ve here discuss the relative environmental benefits and costs of alternative and conventional agriculture, focusing on ground and surface water quality, on human health not related to water quality, and on a variety of costs and benefits associated with animal habitat.




33
Ground and Surface Water Quality
Some quality problems are distinctive between ground and surface water, e.g. concern about pesticides and nitrates in well water, but ground and surface water are so closely related hydrologically that many quality problems are common to both. Accordingly we discuss them together in this section.
Pesticides. Chemical pesticides are almost completely a product of conventional agriculture. Even loosely practiced alternative agriculture makes scant use of them relative to conventional agriculture. To the extent that pesticides pose water quality problems, therefore, conventional agriculture is the culprit, and alternative agriculture offers potential for eliminating the problems.
Hallberg (1987) reports that studies of effects of pesticides on
groundwater quality from routine use are few compared to those of nitrates. He says, however, that this is beginning to change, citing a study by Cohen et al (1986) showing that at least 17 pesticides have been found in groundwater in 23 states as a result of routine agricultural use. The largest number of pesticides were found in California, New lFork and Iowa, but this*is because these states engage in closer monitoring than others (Hallberg, 1987). As monitoring increases in other states *he number of pesticides found is expected to increase (Hallberg, 1987).
The concentrations of pesticides in groundwater resulting from routine agricultural use are low, ranging in most cases from 0.1 to,,1.0 milligrams per liter (Hallberg, 1987). Hallberg cites evidence suggesting that the concentrations may be increasing, but this evidently is quite uncertain. However, some increase seems likely given the increasing use of herbicides. (Insecticide use is declining.)
In some places where suppliers of pesticides mix or rinse them,




34
groundwater concentrations are much higher than the numbers cited above, high enough to cause the closing of both public and private wells in several states (Hallberg, 1987).
Most of the pesticides found in groundwater get there by leaching
through the soil. However, in areas with karst-carbonate aquifer terrains these contaminants can enter groundwater directly through sinkholes and related features, producing much higher concentrations than those resulting from leaching (Hallberg, 1987). Hallberg reports that although these karstcarbonate aquifers sometimes are viewed as-special cases, they in fact underlie extensive areas of agricultural land throughout the U.S.
Nielsen and Lee (1987) analyzed the potential for pollution of
groundwater by 38 pesticides recommended for inclusion in an EPA survey (underway as of this writing) of pesticides in groundwater. Combining information about county level rates of use of these pesticides with other information about their tendency to leach to groundwater and the "leachability" of soils in areas where they are used, Nielsen and Lee ranked counties by their potential for groundwater contamination by these pesticides. They found 361 counties judged to have high contamination potential because rates of pesticide use are high and soil conditions favorable for leaching. Another 757 counties have medium potential, either because pesticide use is high or soil conditions are favorable for leaching.
The high potential counties are mostly in the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal plains stretching from New Jersey through Florida to southern Alabama. Most of the rest are in Kentucky and in scattered locations in the Lake States of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota (Nielsen and Lee, 1987, p. 8). Somewhat surprisingly, almost no Cornbelt counties and no counties in the Northern and Southern Plains have high contamination potential.
Nielsen and Lee do not discuss the reasons for the regional distribution




35
of high potential counties. We cannot be sure, but our guess is that the main reason is differences in leachability of soils. Rates of pesticide use in many Cornbelt counties are at least as high as rates in the Atlantic and gulf coastal plains, but the sandy soils characteristic of the latter regions are more "leachable" than Cornbelt soils.
The counties with medium potential for groundwater contamination are
mostly in the Cornbelt, including eastern Nebraska, in the Lake States and in scattered areas of the northeast and upper south.
Nielsen and Lee estimate that 12.6 million people live in the counties with high or medium potential for pesticide contamination of groundwater. Another 5.1 million people live in counties where pesticides and nitrates together create high or medium contamination potential.
Note that Nielsen and Lee identify counties with potential for
pesticides in groundwater. They explicitly do not say that groundwater in these counties in fact contains pesticides. As indicated above, information about this is quite limited, which is the reason for the previously mentioned EPA survey.
Information about pesticide concentrations in surface water evidently is even more sca ce than that about groundwater. Where they occur, however, the surface water concentrations tend to be higher than in groundwater. The reason is that only highly soluble pesticides leach to groundwater, while less soluble species can be carried to surface water by runoff and, in some cases, sediment (Hallberg, 1987). Subsurface flow also' can carry pesticides in groundwater to surface water.
For some people the presence of any amount of pesticides in ground or surface water is sufficient evidence of a serious problem justifying public action to remove the offending material, and to prevent its further use. The USDA and other agencies concerned with use of pesticides, however, should




36
not, and in fact do not, take this extreme position. As the title of a recent b ok suggests, The Dose Makes the Poison (Ottoboni, 1984), meaning that not all concentrations of pesticides are equally threatening and some may not e threatening at all. Clark et al (1985) write that pesticide concentr tions in fish have declined significantly since the most persistent species such as DDT and dieldrin were banned by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In most fish, the concentrations nov are within limits the EPA considers safe for human consumption. Clark et al go on to say that mutagenic, carcinogenic, and teratogenic effects of pesticides have been documented only in cases of relatively high exposure, such as may occur in occupational situations. Occurrences of high pesticide concentrations in water supplies appear to be fairly infrequent and localized, and by the time water reaches a customer tap, pesticide concentrations are seldom, if ever, at levels thought to produce health effects. However, caution is needed in interpreting these findings because, as Clark et al note, much remains unknown about long-term health effects of even very small concentrations of pesticides, nor is much known about synergistic effects among various pesticides and between pesticides and other substances.
This discussion suggests that if one word can be used to describe the current situation about pesticides and water quality it is uncertainty: uncertainty about the concentrations of these materials in ground and surface water and uncertainty about the significance of the concentrations for human, animal and plant health. Because of the uncertainty it is impossible to judge to what extent alternative agriculture's rejection of pesticides would generate water quality benefits to offset the higher economic costs of these systems relative to conventional agriculture. However, some offset seems likely.
In thinking about this it is important to keep in mind that alternative




37
agriculture is not the only alternative available for reducing environmental damages of pesticides. Integrated pest management (IPM) also has this potential, and IPM is consistent with conventional agriculture. Indeed, it was developed within and now is employed in the context of conventional agriculture, particularly in the production of cotton. Since IPM, at least JPM as practiced by most cotton farmers, does not necessarily eliminate the use of pesticides, it is not an acceptable practice in pure forms of alternative agriculture.
Despite this, and the uncertainty about the effect of alternative
agriculture in reducing pesticide damages to water quality, we believe these effects should be given some weight as an offset to the economic disadvantages of alternative agriculture. We cannot judge how great the weight should be, although we doubt that it is high. But it probably is positive.
Nutrients. Nitrogen and phosphorus in runoff and carried by sediment contribute to eutrophication of surface water bodies, and nitrogen in the nitrate form is leached to groundwater, where it may pose a threat to human and animal health. It is not clear that alternative agriculture has an advantage relative to conventional agriculture in reducing nitrate damages to water quality. Oelhaf (1978, p. 34) states that "Heavy manuring causes the same nitrate problems as heavy chemical applications." And CAST (1980) asserts that the nitrate in fertilizer is more readily available to the crop than that in manure or leguminous crops. Consequently, the amount of the nutrient remaining in the soil after harvest is greater with these sources, suggesting that they may contribute more to nitrate pollution than inorganic nitrogen fertilizer. Poincelot (1986) and Papendick et al (1987) also emphasize that mismanagement of manure and other organic wastes-can result in the same problems of nitrate pollution as with inorganic fertilizers.




38
Thus the potential for nitrate damage to water quality appears to be about the same for alternative and conventional agricultural systems. Whether the two systems differ in fact in the amount of damage appears to be unknown. Papendick et al (1987, p. 23) assert (without substantiating evidence) that "organic farmers appear to be able to control availability and release of nitrogen through various techniques of soil management." (Note that this contradicts the CAST [1980] assertion cited above about differences in nitrate availability to the plant.) However, Papendick et al (1987, p. 23) then go on to state that
"... there are little or no hard data available on
leaching loss of nitrates on organic farms. Lack of such
data make it difficult to quantitatively assess the
impact of nitrates in groundwater that could occur on a
macroscale with a shift to organic practices."
We conclude that present evidence does not indicate benefits of
alternative agriculture in reduced nitrate pollution of ground and surface water that would tend to offset the economic disadvantages of the system.
On sloping, erosive soils alternative agriculture generally will produce much less erosion than conventional agriculture. Since much of the phosphorus delivered to surface water is carried by sediment, the erosionreducing characteristics of alternative agriculture ought to give the system a potential advarvtage relative to conventional agriculture in reducing eutrophication of lakes and reservoirs where phosphorus is the limiting nutrient. Whether in fact alternative agriculture has this advantage is not clear in the literature we have reviewed. We believe it plausible, however, to credit alternative agriculture with some positive effect in this respect. We cannot judge, however, how important this effect might be as an offset to the economic disadvantages of the system. We would need information about the amount of eutrophication damage, the contribution of agricultural sources of phosphorus to it, and the effect of alternative agriculture in reducing




39
the damage. None of this information exists, at least not in the form needed to make such a judgment.
Sediment. Estimates of Clark et al (1985), expressed in 1985 prices
(Crosson, 1986), indicate that sediment damage to surface water quality costs the nation $4 billion to $16 billion annually. Clark et al estimate that cropland erosion is responsible for about one-third of this damage. The
erosion-reducing characteristics of alternative agriculture on sloping, erosive land ought to give it a clear advantage over conventional agriculture in reducing these damages. This is subject to the caveat that th( relationship between reduction in erosion on the land and the reduction in
A
sediment damage downstream often is unclear (Crosson, 1986). Nonetheless, we believe that alternative agriculture has a clear advantage over conventional agriculture with respect to sediment damage to water quality.
However, alternative agriculture is not the only system with this
advantage. On sloping, erosive land, conservation tillage--defined as any tillage system which leaves at least 30 percent of the previous crop residue on the soil surface after spring planting--reduces erosion 50-90 percent relative to conventional tillage (Crosson, 1981). However, conservation tillage as typically practiced does not qualify as alternative agriculture* because it relies on herbicides at least as much as, and often more than, conventional tillage. Conservation tillage is used on roughly one-third of the nation's cropland, far more than is in alternative agriculture. The reason is that conservation tillage is more economically competitive than alternative agriculture with conventional agriculture. Thus, conservation tillage appears to offer a more economical alternative for reducing sediment damage than alternative agriculture. However, the benefits of conservation tillage in reduced sediment damage could be bought at the price of increased herbicide damage, a price alternative agriculture does not have to pay.




40
Human Health Not Related to Water Quality
Two issues are treated in this connection: threats to human health from pesticide residues on food and from the handling of pesticides in the course of applying them.
,Residues on food. The EPA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) share responsibility for regulating pesticide residues on food, the EPA deaLing with unprocessed commodities and FDA with those which are processed. The ,two agencies are occasionally criticized for laxness in discharging their respective responsibilities. However, our review of the literature turned up little documented evidence that pesticide residues on food are in fact a seripus threat to human health. The CAST report (1980) cites a study by the National Research Council showing that in the U.S. per capita consumption of pesticide residues in or on food was about 40 milligrams, over half of it being pesticides no longer in use at that time. The aggregate acute toxicity of these residues was roughly equivalent to the acute toxicity of one aspirin or one cup of coffee. However, the CAST report notes that longer term effects of chronic exposure to such small amounts of pesticides had not been satisfactorily resolved by the available scientific evidence.
A later report by the National Research Council (1987), addressed the longer term risk of pesticide residues on food, specifically the risk of cancer. The report concluded that the residues increase the expected lifetime risk of cancer for the average American by 0.4 percent. That is, over a 70 year life an individual has a 25 percent chance of contracting cancer, apart from cancers resulting from pesticide residues on food. The residues, according to the NRC report, would increase the probability of cancer to 25.1 percent, an increase of .4 percent. The report indicates that the procedures to derive this estimate were more likely to overstate




41
than to understate the increased cancer risk.
We conclude that adoption of alternative agriculture would do little to reduce threats of acute toxicity,.or cancer, of pesticide residues on or in food because these threats already are small.
Health threats from handling pesticides. Pimentel et al (1980)
estimated deaths from pesticides by accident, homicide and suicide to have been several hundred per year in the 1970s. They estimated illnesses from pesticide poisoning in the tens of thousands. These numbers are subject to considerable error, as Pimentel et al recognize, because state reporting of the necessary data is sometimes spotty, and the data about accidents is inherently difficult to collect. Nonetheless, there appears to be little doubt that the human and economic cost of pesticide poisoning of farmers, their families and their hired workers is significant. In our judgment the fact that alternative agriculture would drastically reduce if not eliminate this cost is its most important environmental advantage related to conventional agriculture.
Animal Habitat
The literature we reviewed gives contradictory evidence on the effects of conventional and alternative agriculture for animal habitat. Writing about the south (the-eleven states of the Confederacy plus Kentucky and parts of Oklahoma), Healy (1985, p. 225) states that
"On balance, the land-use changes that have taken place in the South since about 1935 have probably improved carrying
capacity for many game species by creating a more diverse
local habitat. Field abandonment, more frequent timber
harvest, and the change from cotton to soybeans, for
example, have done more help than harm. Even activities such as establishment of pine plantations and clearing of
hardwood forests, which are generally undesirable in their
habitat effects, did not for a long time have much impact
on game."
Healy clearly is talking about more than crop production. However, the




42
period of which he writes encompasses that in which crop production in the south shifted to the high energy and chemical based system we now call conventional agriculture. Healy's conclusion is that this shift was accompanied by favorable changes in habitat of game animals.
Cacek (1985) considers effects of conventional agriculture from the mid1950s to the mid-1970s on wildlife habitat in 12 midwestern states and comes to a much less favorable conclusion than Healy did with respect to the south. Cacek cites a study indicating that from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s wildlife populations in these states declined 40 to 80 percent, pheasant in Ohio being particularly hard hit. Cacek attributes these declines to transformation of crop production in this period, particularly the dramatic increase in use of agricultural chemicals, a decrease in crop diversity, increases in the size of machinery and fields, and the reduction in acreage in set-aside programs.
Cacek goes on to recount the advantages of alternative agriculture in improving animal habitat, particularly by providing nesting places for birds and avoiding the danger of pesticide poisoning.
The USDA (1987) projects a decline of tens of millions of acres in crops over the next 50 years. Much of this land will shift to a variety of urban and other non-agricultural uses, almost surely with unfavorable habitat consequences. However, habitat on the land which shifts out of crops but remains in agriculture should improve. What the net habitat effect of these changes in land use would be is not clear from the information provided in USDA (1987).
A large scale shift to alternative agriculture almost certainly would result in more and better animal habitat than the USDA projections imply. Not only would the shift of land out of agriculture be less than in the USDA projections, habitat on all land devoted to crop production would be




43
improved, if Cacek (1985) is right about the relative habitat benefits of alternative agriculture.
We believe this is a strong argument for the social value of alternative agriculture relative to conventional agriculture. Healy's work (1985) and that of various authors in Decker and Goff (1987) indicate that many people in the United States place a high value on wildlife, both as hunters and as "nonconsumptive users", e.g.*bird watchers. With continued growth in population, income and leisure over the next 50 years, demand for these various uses of wildlife is sure to grow, probably quite substantially. The benefits of alternative agriculture relative to those of conventional agriculture in providing wildlife habitat could be expected to grow correspondingly.
Conclusion
By eliminating the use of pesticides, alternative agriculture probably would give some positive benefit in improved walter quality relative to conventional agriculture. Not much more than this can confidently be said because the uncertainties about the concentrations of pesticides in ground and surface water and about the environmental significance of the concentrations are so great. Moreover, IPM, which does not qualify as alternative agriculture, may be more cost-effective in reducing pesticide damage to water quality than alternative agriculture.
The evidence suggests little difference between alternative agriculture and conventional agriculture with respect to nitrate pollution of ground and surface water. However, because alternative agriculture reduces erosion on sloping and more erosive land, it probably has some advantage in reducing phosphorus deliveries to lakes and reservoirs. The information available is insufficient to judge how important this advantage might be.
The erosion reduction advantage might be significant, however, in




44
reducing sediment damage because evidence suggests these damages now amount to billions of dollars each year.
The threat to human health of pesticide residues in food evidently is small. Consequently the health benefits of eliminating these residues by shifting to alternative agriculture would be small. However, the shift likely would yield substantial benefits in reduced deaths and illnesses stemming from application of pesticides.
By holding more land in agriculture than would occur wi -th conventional agriculture, and providing a more diverse habitat on that land, alternative systems likely would yield considerably greater benefits in improved animal habitat than the conventional system.
We are unable to judge the extent to which these environmental benefits of alternative agriculture would offset its economic disadvantages. However, we believe the offset probably is large enough--particularly that stemming from reduced pesticide deaths and illnesses and from habitat improvement--for the USDA to give thought to how it might stimulate farmer interest in alternative systems. We present some thoughts on this in the next section.
THOUGHTS ON IMPLICATIONS FOR USDA POLICIES
For at least the last 40 or 50 years, agricultural research in the
United States has been aimed at developing systems of increasing economic productivity. Systems which offered gains in environmental benefits only at some sacrifice of economic productivity were relatively neglected. Consequently our conclusion that alternative agriculture suffers a significant economic disadvantage relative to conventional agriculture is not surprising. However, our finding that alternative agriculture conveys environmental benefits relative to conventional agriculture suggests that the USDA should begin to give more attention to development of alternative




45
agriculture than it has heretofore.
Given the present economic disadvantage of alternative agriculture, USDA policies to encourage a large scale shift to alternative systems over the next decade or so could not be justified. We think, however, that a policy to put more resources into research on the comparative economic and environmental characteristics of alternative and conventional agriculture deserves serious consideration by USDA. With respect to economics, research on the causes of the yield penalty alternative agriculture now suffers should have high priority. Weed control with substantially reduced use, if not elimination, of herbicides should be the primary initial target. We do not believe the aim of the research should necessarily be elimination of all herbicide use. The objective should be a system which is more competitive economically with the conventional system while significantly less dependent on herbicides. "Significantly less dependent" does not necessarily imply zero use, although it may. If this research succeeds, farmers will have increasing economic incentive to adopt alternative agriculture, and the system will spread. Farmers will gain economically, and society generally will reap gains in environmental improvement.
With respect to environmental characteristics, the USDA should support collection and analysis of data on pesticide use and consequences for environmental quality. Since other federal agencies, e.g.-. the EPA, also have responsibilities in this area, we do not seek to specify what the role of the USDA: should be. However, we believe an initiating rather than a reactive posture would be appropriate for USDA, given its responsibilities for the overall health of the nation's agriculture.
The animal habitat benefits of alternative agriculture relative to conventional agriculture also deserve additional research attention. Analytical techniques have been developed to estimate unpriced benefits of




46
this general sort, but the techniques have not been brought systematically to bear on study of the relative habitat benefits of the two contending agricultural systems. If we are right in thinking that alternative agriculture is particularly favored in this respect, and that growing future demand for wildlife services will strengthen that advantage even more, then the payoff to research along this line should be high, both to the USDA in pursuit of its mission and to the nation's interest in best use of its resources.




47
REFERENCES
Altieri, M. 1985. "Diversification of Agricultural Landscapes--A Vital
Element for Pest Control in Sustainable Agriculture," in T. Edens, C.
Fridgen, and S. Battenfield (eds.), Sustainable Agriculture and
Integrated Farming Systems, Michigan State University Press, East
Lansing.
Berardi, G.M. 1978. "Organic and Conventional Wheat Production: Examination
of Energy and Economics," Agro-Ecosystems 4:367-376.
Cacek, T. 1985. "Impacts of Organic Farming and Reduced Tillage on Fish and
Wildlife", in Sustainable Agriculture and Integrated Farming Systems,
Thomas C. Edens, Cynthia Fridgen, and Susan L. Battenfield, (eds.),
Michigan State University Press, East Lansing.
Clark II, E., J. Haverkamp and W. Chapman. 1985. Eroding Soils: the OffFarm Impacts, The Conservation Foundation, Washington, D.c.
Cohen, S., C. Eiden and M. Lorber. 1986. "Monitoring Ground Water for
Pesticides," in W. Garner et al (eds.), Evaluation of Pesticides in
Ground Water, American Chemical Society Symposium Series 315.
Council for Agricultural Science and Technology. 1980. Organic and
Conventional Farming Compared, report no. 84, Ames, Iowa.
Crosson, P. 1986. "Soil Erosion and Policy Issues," in T. Phipps, P.
Crosson, and K. Price (eds.), Agriculture and the Environment, Resources
for the Future, Washington, D.C.
Crosson, P. and A. Stout. 1983. Productivity Effects of Cropland Erosion in
the United States, Resources for the Future, Washington, D.C.
Crosson, P. 1981. Conventional Tillage and Conservation Tillage: A
Comparative Assessment, Soil Conservation Society of America, Ankeny,
Iowa.
Decker, D. and G. Goff. 1987. Valuing Wildlife: Economic and Social
Perspectives. Westview Press, Boulder and London.
Hallberg, George R. 1987. "Agricultural Chemicals in Ground Water: Extent
and Implications", American Journal of Alternative Agriculture, vol. II,
no. 1, Winter.
Hallberg, George R. 1986. "Agrichemicals and Water Quality," paper prepared
for the Board on Agriculture, National Research Council, for a Colloquium on Agrichemical Management to Protect Water Quality,
Washington, D.c., March.
Harwood, R. 1984. "Organic Farming Research at the Rodale Research Center,"
Organic Farming: Current Technology and Its Role in a Sustainable
Agriculture, ASA, CSSA, SSSA, Madison, Wisconsin.
Healy, R. 1987. Competition for Land in the American South, The
Conservation Foundation, Washington, D.C.




48
Helmers, Glenn A., Joseph Atwood, and Michael R. Langemeier. 1984.
"Economics of Alternative Crop Rotations for East-central Nebraska -- A Preliminary Analysis," Department of Agricultural Economics Staff Paper
No. 14-1984, University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
James, Sidney C. 1983. "Economic Consequences of Biological Farming," in
Proceedings of the Management Alternatives for Biological Farming
Workshop, Robert B. Dahlgren, (ed), Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit,
Iowa State University, Ames.
James, S.C. 1982. "Economics of Biological Farming," in R.B. Dahlgren (ed.)
Proceedings, Midwest Agricultural Interface with Fish and Wildlife Resources Workshop, Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, Iowa State
University, Ames.
Judy, Robert D., Jr., et al. 1984. 1982 National Fisheries Survey. Vol. I,
Technical Report: Initial Findings, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services,
Washington, D.C., FWS/OBS-84/06.
Kaufman, M. 1985. "The Pastoral Ideal and Sustainable Agriculture," in T.
Edens, C. Fridgen, and S. Battenfield (eds.) Sustainable Agriculture and
Integrated Farming Systems, Michigan State University Press, East
Lansing.
Koepf, H.H. 1973. "Organic Management Reduces Nitrate Leaching,"
Biodynamics 108:20-30.
Lockeretz, William. 1986. "Alternative Agriculture," in New Directions for
Agriculture and Agricultural Research: Neglected Dimensions and Emerging
Alternatives, Kenneth A. Dahlberg, (ed.), Rowman & Allanheld, Totowa,
New Jersey.
Lockeretz, William, et al. 1984. "Comparison of Organic and Conventional
Farming in the Corn Belt," in D.F. Bezdicek, et al, (eds.), Organic
Farming: Current Technology and Its Role in a Sustainable Agriculture,
ASA, CSSA, SSSA, Madison, Wisconsin.
Lockeretz, William, et al. 1981. "Organic Farming in the Corn Belt,"
Science, 211:540-547.
Lockeretz, W. 1980. "Maize Yields and Soil Nutrient Levels With and Without
Pesticides and Standard Commercial Fertilizers," Agronomy Journal
72:65-72.
Lockeretz, William, et al. 1978.. "Field Crop Production on Organic Farms in
the Midwest," Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, vol. 33, no. 3,
May-June.
Madden, Patrick. 1987. "Economic Evaluation of Alternative Farming
Practices and Systems", unpublished draft.
National Research Council. 1987. Regulating Pesticides in Food, National
Academy of Sciences, Washington, D. C..
Nielsen, E. and L. Lee. 1987. The Magnitude and Costs of Groundwater
Contamination from Agricultural Chemicals, U.S. Department of
Agriculture, AER no. 576, Washington, D.C.




49
Oelhaf, Robert C. 1978. Organic Agriculture, Allanheld, Osmun & Co.,
Montclair, New Jersey.
Ottoboni, M. 1984. The Dose Makes the Poison, Vicente Books, Berkeley,
California.
Pimentel, D., et al. 1980. "Environmental and Social Costs of Pesticides: A
Preliminary Assessment," OIKOS, vol. 34, no. 2.
Poincelot, Raymond P. 1986. Toward a More Sustainable Agriculture, AVI
Publishing, Westport, Connecticut, 241 pages.
Power, J.F., and J.W. Doran. 1984. "Nitrogen Use in Organic Farming,"
Nitrogen in Crop Production, American Society of Agronomy, Madison,
Wisconsin.
Roberts, K.J., P.F. Warnken, and K.C. Schneeberger. 1979. "The Economics of
Organic Crop Production in the Western Corn Belt," Agricultural
Economics Paper #1979-6, University of Missouri, Columbia.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1987. The Second RCA Appraisal: Review
Draft, Washington, D.C.
1978. Improving Soils with Organic Wastes, Office of the
Secretary, Washington, D.C.
USDA Study Team on Organic Farming. 1980. Report and Recommendations on
Organic Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.,
620-220-3641.
Youngberg, Garth. 1980. "Organic Farming: A Look at Opportunities and
Obstacles," Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, vol. 35, no. 6,
Nov.-Dec.




50
ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY
Altieri, Miguel A., James Davis, and Kate Burroughs. 1983. "Some
Agroecological and Socio-economic Features of Organic Farming in California. A Preliminary Study," in Biological Agriculture and
Horticulture, vol 1.
Abstract: A survey involving a written questionnaire to 120 organic farmers and direct interviews with selected farmers was conducted to
provide a preliminary assessment of the state of organic farming in
California. A case study was made of.apple production systems where some of the organic systems appeared to. be economically viable. The
lower yields of organic apples were offset by reduced input costs. It
is concluded that expansion of organic agriculture in California is
limited mainly by socio-economic factors.
The authors draw the following conclusions from the survey:
1. Organic farming is practiced by a minority of farmers in
California. However, an increasing number of farmers are combining
conventional and organic methods.
2. Some of the surveyed organic apple systems seemed to be economically
viable operations. The lower yields associated with organic
technologies were apparently offset by reduced input costs.
3. The main limitations to the expansion of organic agriculture in
California are associated with socio-economic factors such as
marketing, public acceptance, legislation and the lack of a local
infrastructure that can provide credit, appropriate technology,
information and resources to organic growers.
Blobaum, Roger. 1983. "Barriers to Conversion to Organic Farming Practices
in the Midwestern United States," in Environmentally Sound Agriculture,
William Lockeretz (ed.), Praeger, New York.
The relatively small number of conventional farmers who have converted
to organic practices suggests that there are serious barriers to conversion. This study examines eight potential barriers, using
information on how they are perceived by organic farmers who overcame them. Of the 133 respondents Z6% identified the main factor in their
switch from conventional to organic methods as the influence of a friend
or relative.
Potential barriers to conversion identified were:
1. lack of easy access to reliable organic farming information
2. inability to get research done on problem areas (e.g. weed control)
3. difficulty obtaining special market information
4. market structure problems (e.g., small orders, long delays in getting
paid, confusing certification standards, etc.)
5. logistics and other problems related to products supplied by organic
fertilizer companies
6. weed control problems (research needed)




7. landlord discrimination (not a serious barrier)
8. credit discrimination (does not appear to be a serious barrier)
Oelhaf (1978) examined the economic implications of a hypothetical largescale shift to organic methods and concluded that the resources needed to
expand organic farming appeared to be available.
Cites USDA 1980 as the first national study, which concluded that
research and educational programs should be developed and implemented to
address the needs and problems of organic farmers and to enhance the
success of conventional farmers who want to shift toward organic farming.
Buttel, Frederick H., et al. 1986. "Reduced-input Agricultural Systems:
Rationale and Prospects," American Journal of Alternative Agriculture,
vol. 1, no. 2, Spring.
Appear to argue for alternative agricultural practices to reduce erosion
and run-off of chemicals and sediments to protect water resources.
Conclude that:
a) reduced input agricultural systems improve productivity by reducing
the use of input, rather than by increasing output;
b) farmers adopt nonchemical practices not for philosophical,
religious, or ideological reasons, but to solve a particular production
or animal or human health problem; and,
c) comparative studies favorable to reduced-input agriculture have a key limitation, i.e. they generally fail to recognize that macro-level
consequences cannot be accurately inferred from micro-level data.
V
According to the authors there has been no competent, comprehensive
research on macro-implications of reduced-impact practices using
reasonable assumptions.
Cacek, Terry, and Linda L. Langner. 1986. "The Economic Imp:ications of
Organic Farming," American Journal of Alternative Agriculture, vol. 1,
no. 1, Vinter.
Organic farming can compete economically with conventional farming in
the Corn Belt and the semi-arid Northwest -- and established organic
farmers are less vulnerable to natural and economic ris EFthan
conventional farmers because their systems are more diver:sified.
On a national scale, conversion to organic farming would reduce federal costs for supporting commodity prices, reduce depletion of fossil fuels, reduce the social costs associated with erosion, improve fish & wildlife
habitats, and insure productivity of land for future generations, but
would have an undesirable impact on the balance of trade.




52
Cacek, Terry. 1984. "Organic Farming: The Other Conservation Farming
System," Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, vol. 39, no. 6,
Nov.-Dec.
Compares 'organic farming' with 'conservation tillage' and then looks at
both related to 'conventional farming.'
concludes that organic farming (uses USDA 1980 definition) systems produce conservation benefits extending to soils, water, nutrients,
energy and wildlife, and are economically and agronomically competitive
with conventional and conservation tillage systems.
Coleman, Eliot. 1985. "Toward a New McDonald's Farm," in Sustainable
Agriculture and Integrated Farming Systems, Thomas C. Edens, Cynthia Fridgen, and Susan L. Battenfield, (eds.), Michigan State University
Press, East Lansing.
A
The major difference between "organic" (biologically based) and modern
Chemically based) production is the basis on which the two systems
operate, in particular -- organic agriculture deals with information
Input rather than product input solutions to the dynamics of food
production. The author attempts to "package" the complexity of an
organic system so that farmers can adopt this way of farming, stressing
the need for management ability with this system.
In a non-herbicide system, cultivation is the key. The author tries to
avoid cultivating as much as possible by transplanting, which gets the
plant ahead of the weeds.
Coleman, Eliot V. 1983. "Impediments to Adoption of an Ecological System of
Agriculture," in Agriculture, Change, and Human Values, R. Haynes and R.
Lanier (eds.), University of Florida, Gainesville, vol. 2.
Poses the question as to why there has not been more rapid adoption of
some of the alternative production technologies recommended in the
widely distributed USDA (1980) Report and Recommendations on Organic
Farming, and suggests the following.
Identifies as the key impediment to the adoption of an ecological system
of agriculture the dichotomy that exists between a symptm treatment
mentality, so much a part of our everyday existencean a cause
correction approach inherent in an ecological system of agriculture.
Our reliance on a symptom treatment approach leaves us without an
alternative if our palliatives prove inadequate, while a cause
correction approach emphasizes the well-being of the plant and requires
a major shift in attitude. (Points to extensive published literature
which documents the potential for controlling pest problems through
attention to the growing conditions and nutrient status of the plant.)
Philosophical and psychological impediments, such as our deep-seated
prejudice to understanding and cooperating with nature, are more
substantive and harder to change than the impediments that follow.




53
Definitional (Vhat are we talking about?)
Organic agriculture is often presented as a lifestyle, ignoring its
scientific aspects; often presented in negative terms ("don't use this")
or in terms of substitution ("use this instead of that"). The issue
instead is the long-range physical and environmental stability of our
food production system.
Attitudinal (inertia and misunderstanding)
This includes the human inclination to embrace the familiar as well as a
negative reaction to the naive, sectarian, and sometimes accusatory
manner in which so many alternative ideas have been presented.
The distortions of the chemical-organic controversy have kept farmers
from realizing that low-input systems offer potential options which do
not exist in the present system. This conclusion is based on the
author's interaction with a large farmer's organization when invited to
speak on the benefits of alternative agriculture. Perception on the
part of the group was that organic farming was a dangerous revolutionary movement which advocated (1) banning all pesticides, and (2) breaking up
large farms into small farms and giving them to the poor.
Scientific (resistance to change)
The scientific community may feel that their lives lose value if the system they have developed is scrapped. There is a need to recognize
the invaluable resource of experienced scientists, interest them in the potential of a different approach, and encourage their participation in
fine-tuning the emerging ecological agricultural systems.
Economic
Those with a vested interest in the status quo (e.g. manufacturers and
purveyors of chemicals) are not going to voluntarily abandon this field
and lay down their sales force in favor of an ecological agriculture.
It may be to their advantage, however, to explore the needs of
ecological farmers, such as access to improved data on soil tests, plant
tissue analysis, crop rotation programs, etc., and begin to provide
these new inputs.
Council for Agricultural'Science and Technology. 1980. "Comparison of
Conventional and Organic Farming Published," Journal of Soil and Water
Conservation, Vol. 35, No. 6, Nov.-Dec.
Differed from USDA on the probable results of a move toward organic
farming. Concludes that widespread adoption would cause an increase in
soil erosion since more acres of marginal land would need to be
cultivated to meet total crop production needs.




54
Dabbert, Stephan and Patrick Madden. 1986. "The Transition to Organic
Agriculture: A Multi-year Simulation Model of a Pennsylvania Farm,"
American Journal of Alternative Agriculture, vol. 1, no. 3, Summer.
A farm's profits during the transition from chemical-intensive to
organic farming methods are determined by a combination of five kinds of
effects: rotation adjustment, biological transition, price, learning,
and a perennial effect.
Transition can cause severe short-term financial losses, but the
magnitude of these losses (compared to established organic farming or a continued conventional operation) can vary widely under different yield
reduction scenarios.
Soil erosion was not limited in this study -- the conventional option earns a 7.3% higher profit while incurring nearly twice as much soil
erosion as the established organic option.
Darby, Gerald M. 1985. "Conservation Tillage: An Important, Adaptable Tool
for Soil and Vater Conservation," in El-Swaify, et al (eds.), Soil
Erosion and Conservation, Soil Conservation Society of America.
Concludes that conservation tillage reduces soil erosion and increases
water infiltration, generally with yields comparable to those under
conventional tillage. Some types of CT rely on herbicides rather than
tillage for weed control. Well-managed CT systems generally improve
soil fertility.
Domanico, Jean L., Patrick Madden, and Earl J. Partenheimer. 1986. "Income
Effects of Limiting Soil Erosion Under Organic, Conventional, and Notill Systems in Eastern Pennsylvania," American Journal of Alternative
Agriculture, vol. 1, no. 2, Spring.
Without constraints on soil erosion, no-till was the most profitable,
then conventional, followed closely by the organic option. At low
levels of soil erosion, no-till remained the most profitable and the
economic advantage of conventional over organic diminished as soil
erosion was constrained. Below 5 tons per acre of soil erosion, the
organic system became more profitable than the conventional system.
Edens, Thomas C. 1985. "Toward a Sustainable Agriculture," in Sustainable
Agriculture and Integrated Farming Systems, Thomas C. Edens, Cynthia Fridgen, and Susan L. Battenfield, (eds.), Michigan State University
Press, East Lansing.
Feels that our greatest concern, both nationally and globally, must be
to avoid evolving an agricultural system that can be sustained only with
large inputs of exhaustible resources.




55
Freudenberger, C. Dean. 1986.. "Value and Ethical Dimensions of Alternative
Agricultural Approaches: In Quest of a Regenerative and Just
Agriculture," in New Directions for Agriculture and Agricultural
Research: Neglected Dimensions and Emerging Alternatives, Kenneth A.
Dahlberg, (ed.), Rowman & Allanheld, Totowa, New Jersey.
Considers the possibility of evolving a set of values capable of
promoting a sustainable (regenerative) agriculture. Seeks to clarify
the ethical and value issues and choices which must be considered in the
selection of national agricultural research goals.
As a working definition, uses "alternative approaches to agriculture" to
mean -- "the multitude of significant efforts evolving across this
nation, as well as internationally, which seek to reduce, either
completely or partially,, dependence upon petro-chemicals (a depleting
and non-renewable resource); to reduce the negative environmental impact
of current approaches; and to promote a freedom from the fear about
family, rural community, and financial stress which is so much a part of
U.S. agriculture, and world agriculture, today."
Points out that the idea of a regenerative and just agriculture is not a
throw-back to some kind of a counter-cultural or utopian "Walden Pond"
mentality, but an idea consistent with emerging scientific and ethical
understandings of our ecological, technological, and social worlds.
Stresses the need for an interdisciplinary approach to problem-solving
within an ecological framework. The challenge is for humans to maintain the integrity of the biotic community while maintaining the productivity
of the resource base for agriculture itself.
Gebhardt, Maurice R., et al. 1985. "Conservation Tillage," in Science, vol.
230, no. 4726, 8 November.
Notes potential trade-off between sediment reduction and contaminants
from fertilizers and pesticides.
Gliessman, Stephen R. 1985. "Economic and Ecological Factors in Designing and Managing Sustainable Agroecosystems," in Sustainable Agriculture and
Integrated Farming Systems, Thomas C. Edens, Cynthia Fridgen, and Susan
L. Battenfield, (eds.), Michigan State University Press, East Lansing.
Stresses lessons to be learned from "traditional" farmers, such as
multiple cropping or polyculture plantings. Advantages: higher yields,
net gain in nitrogen, reduced pest damage and lower cost of pest control. Weeds are often at a disadvantage in polycultures, and
intercropping often suppresses weed growth. When herbicides are not
used, it is important to either minimize the space between crop plants
or else occupy that space with a plant (crop or non-crop) that will not
interfere with crop development.




56
Hallberg, George R. 1986. "From Hoes to Herbicides-Agriculture and
Groundwater Quality," Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, 41:6,
Nov.-Dec.
Many agricultural water quality problems are the result of
inefficiencies in chemical use. Agricultural chemical contaminants in
groundwater of foremost concern are nitrates and pesticides.
Re: nitrates, the focus of attention with respect to groundwater must be
nitrogen fertilizer since it is the greatest nitrogen input, the most controllable input, and the one farmers pay for. Estimates that only
about 20% of the nitrogen needed could be supplied naturally even under
BMPs.
Compared with nitrogen, pesticide losses in groundwater and surface
waters are quite low, usually less than 5% (about the same amount of
active ingredient that actually reaches target pests), i.e. there is no
clear economic incentive to reduce inputs.
There is legitimate concern about the effects of conservation tillage.
In reducing run-off many studies show that infiltration and leaching of
chemicals into groundwater may increase.
Harmon, W.L., et al. 1985. "No-Till Technology: Impacts on Farm Income,
Energy Use and Groundwater Depletion in the Plains," Western Journal of
Agricultural Economics, vol. 10 (1), July.
Abstract: Rapidly rising fuel costs for irrigation and tillage,
combined with groundwater depletion, confront producers in the Great
Plains. Maintaining profits while production costs escalate and water
levels decline emphasizes the need to increase water and energy use
efficiency. A linear programming analysis for a ten-year period
comparing conventional tillage practices with no-till practices based on an irrigated wheat/no-till feedgrain/fallow crop rotation indicates notill increases both water and energy use efficiency. Returns to land,
management0 and risks are substantially higher using no-till practices.
Weed control with no-till is accomplished through application of twice
the amount of herbicides applied under conventional tillage.
-V
Harwood, Richard R. 1984. "Organic Farming Research at the Rodale Research
Center," (rganic Farming: Current Technology and Its Role in a
Sustainable Agriculture, ASA, CSSA, SSSA, Madison, Wisconsin.
Notes the decline in yields during the process of conversion from
conventional to organic practices -- it takes 3-5 years to obtain yield
potential #ith organic culture commensurate with that of conventional
practice.,
Gives the cost comparison between an organic operation and the average
costs for Pennsylvania using the same market price for corn.




57
Helmers, Glenn A., Michael R. Langemeier, and Joseph Atwood. 1986. "An
Economic Analysis of Alternative Cropping Systems for East-central
Nebraska," American Journal of Alternative Agriculture, vol. 1, no. 4,
Fall.
In this study of 13 cropping systems analyzed with respect to
profitability and risk, row crop rotations had substantially higher returns than continuously grown row crops. Except in comparison to
continuous soybeans, all rotation alternatives had returns that were
less variable than those of a continuous crop.
Although the study did not address concerns over macro adjustments
resulting from wider acceptance of regenerative agriculture, in the
authors' opinion it is economically viable.
Koepf, Herbert H. 1985. "Integrating Animals into a Production System," in
Sustainable Agriculture and Integrated Farming Systems, Thomas C. Edens,
Cynthia Fridgen, and Susan L. Battenfield, (eds.), Michigan State
University Press, East Lansing.
Argues that decentralized, farm-based, animal husbandry is necessary for
lasting soil fertility for small and large farms. "Accumulated" or
"tedium-term" fertility is crucial, i.e. the combined carryover effects of mutually interdependent plant and animal production -- shows changes
in 5-10 year intervals and similar periods of time are needed to exhaust
it.
Re: nitrate contamination of groundwater -- caused by intensive farming
and not by the manure heap. Properly applied manure and composted
manure will reduce nitrate leaching (Koepf 1973).
Koskinen, William C., and Chester G. Mc~horfer. 1986. "Weed Control in
Conservation Tillage," Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, vol. 41,
no. 6, Nov.-Dec.
The acceptance of conservation tillage by producers depends on the
availability of herbicides that provide suitable weed control. Crop
residues may significantly alter herbicide performance, especially over
a period of several years and cause ecological shifts that introduce new
weeds and ultimately make weed control more difficult and expensive,
Troublesome weeds can be controlled, but new problems require a higher
level of management for profitable row-crop production.
Fuel and labor costs are usually less with CT, but savings are sometimes
offset by increased herbicide costs.
CT has the potential for increased groundwater contamination compared
with conventional tillage because of increased soil moisture and
increased infiltration rates (which can result in greater leaching of
solutes).




58
Lasley, Paul and Gordon Bultena. 1986. "Farmers' Opinions About Third-wave
Technologies," American Journal of Alternative Agriculture, vol. 1, no.
3, Summer.
Recent data gathered from Iowa farmers provide evidence of growing
support for alternative agricultural methods, i.e. many are concerned
about environmental problems resulting from current farm practices, are
supportive of boosting research on organic farming methods, and feel
strongly that agricultural diversification is needed.
Little, Charles E. 1987. Green Fields Forever, The Conservation Tillage
Revolution in America, Island Press, Washington, D.C.
From Chapter 7, pp. 99-122, "Beyond the Mongongo Tree" (on the
emvironmental implications of conservation tillage):
"The ecological principle of conservation tillage would be to capitalize
on, rather than eliminate the natural properties of the soil, which, if 'conserved', can be beneficial in growing crops: structural integrity, porosity, tilth, fertility, and resistance to infestations of pests and
diseases."
Little defines conservation tillage (CT) as a practice which reduces
erosion and agricultural run-off by leaving [crop] residues on the
surface of the ground.
He concludes that the trade-off of herbicides for reduced erosion and
run-off is considered a good one, in terms of environmental quality, by
most farmers, university ag.. experts, and USDA.
Two issues -- nonpoint source pollution and erosion.
Re: erosion -- there are economic benefits to CT -- cites Edwin H.
Clark, Conservation Foundation, estimates that cropland erosion costs
$2.2 billion per year.
Re: effects of CT on nonpoint source pollution -- cites an EPA-funded study of the Lake Erie drainage basin which showed that adoption of CT practices could significantly reduce phosphorus run-off, and that the environmental trade-off would be a good one, ie.- phosphorus delivery from run-off could be reduced by 2 lbs/acre with only slightly higher
levels of herbicide required to control weed growth in corn and soybean
fields compared with conservation tillage.
Cites Maureen Hinkle, Audobon -- agrees that erosion could be abated
through CT, but concerned about the possibility of substantial increase
of the "pesticide load" -- residue on the surface tends to reduce runoff of chemicals to a lesser degree than run-off of silt, since many chemicals are water soluble; and pesticides not running off get into
groundwater.
Cites Donna Fletcher, EPA task force on appearance of new herbicides in
groundwater -- not just a matter of pounds, but the staggering number of




59
reactive combinations these chemicals make with the soil and with each
other in terms of toxicity for humans
Cites David Schertz, SCS -- notion that CT increases pesticide use is a
fallacy -- there is an increase in early years, but year-by-year the
weed problem gets less and less (in part because weed seeds are no
longer turned up by plowing).
Improvements in techniques can also reduce herbicide use, e.g. ridge
till.
Cites Robert Papendick, Washington State -- No-till is not necessarily tied to increased use of pesticides; that may be the fact today, but it need not be tomorrow; working on rotations involving new cover crops to
control pests.
Cites Barney Volak, Rodale Research Center, Kutztown, PA -- they are
testing alternatives to herbicides in CT, eg. crop rotations, biological
predator controls, crop competition to control weeds, etc.
Lockeretz, William and Patrick Madden. 1987. "Midwestern Organic Farming: A
Ten-year Follow-up," American Journal of Alternative Agriculture, vol.
II, no. 2, Spring.
Abstract. A survey was mailed to 174 Midwestern organic farmers
originally studied in 1977. We obtained information on 133 of this
group, 96 of whom are still farming at the same location, although 12 no
longer use organic methods. Fifty-eight currently active farmers
returned a detailed questionnaire that covered their perceptions of the
advantages and disadvantages of organic farming, some of their
practices, and their financial status. Most farmers who employed
organic farming methods stated they did so out of concern for the health
of themselves, their families, and their livestock. Compared to ten years ago, philosophical or religious considerations were frequently
mentioned as an advantage of organic farming. In contrast, some
agronomic and management disadvantages of organic farming were mentioned
more often. The farmers now are more tolerant, in principle, of some
chemicals not generally accepted in organic farming, but regular use of
soluble fertilizers and synthetic pesticides has not increased
appreciably. The farmers reported little change in the institutional
and social environment for organic agriculture, including available markets, information sources, and the attitudes of their neighbors.
Lockeretz, W., et al. 1976. "Organic and Conventional Crop Production in
the Corn Belt: A Comparison of Economic Performance and Energy Use for Selected Farms," Center for the Biology of Natural Systems, Washington
University, St. Louis.
This was a five-year study of organic farming begun in 1974. Per Madden
(1987) 8 of the original 16 farmers who were contacted in 1986 were
still farming, 7 organically and 1 using the full spectrum of chemicals.




60
Madden, Patrick. 1987. "Can Sustainable Agriculture be Profitable?",
Environment, vol. 29, no. 4, May.
Alternative agricultural farming styles include -- organic,
regenerative, biodynamic, natural, biological, and ecological. Uses
'sustainable' and 'regenerative' synonymously.
Regenerative -- farming systems in which an abundance of safe and
nutritious food and fiber is produced using farming methods that are
ecologically harmless, sustainable, and profitable. Following a
transitional phase, chemical insecticides are replaced by reliance on natural biological controls to the maximum extent feasible; renewable
sources of soil nutrients are largely or totally substituted for
chemical fertilizers. Differs from the USDA 1980 definition of
"organic" by adding recognition of the importance of profitability.
Methods of conservation tillage relying on routine applications of
herbicides would not qualify as regenerative.
Draws on two studies:
Washington University, St. Louis, 1974-86, Lockeretz et al, Corn Belt
Seven of the .8 remaining farmers (of the original 16 studied) are still
farming organically. Those who have prospered since 1974 were
considered at the time of the study to be the most capable managers.
Penn State, Univ. Park, 1981-86, Madden, with Rodale
Conclusions:
1. Farmers who produce fresh fruits and vegetables organically usually
(but not universally) incur higher costs per unit of output and
must charge higher prices (eg. garlic producer who pays more for
labor to control weeds than he would pay for herbicides)
2. Not all organic/regenerative farmers rely on premium prices (gives
examples, eg. an 800-acre nonirrigated wheat farm in Washington,
and a 32-cow dairy farm in Pennsylvania where the net farm income
is double the average of comparable DHIA farms due primarily-to
reduced input costs)
3. Three characteristics of successful regenerative farms are superb
management; complete knowledge of the farm and what's grown; and a
reverence for life that motivates them to find safe and harmless
ways to produce food.
4. In organic farming -a. the yield sacrifice is frequently offset by cost reductions
b. management is more challenging




61
Olson, Kent D., James Langley, and Earl 0. Heady. 1982. "Widespread
Adoption of Organic Farming Practices: Estimated Impacts on U.S.
Agriculture," Journal of Soil and Vater Conservation, vol. 37, no. 1,
January-February.
According to a national, interregional linear programming model, widespread adoption of organic farming methods in the United States would
increase national net farm income and satisfy domestic demand for
agricultural products. However, consumer food costs would increase,
export levels would decline, regional shifts in production would occur,
and the large reserve of potential crop production would disappear.
Papendick, Robert I., Lloyd F. Elliott, and Robert B. Dahlgren. 1986.
"Environmental Consequences of Modern Production Agriculture: How Can Alternative Agriculture Address These Concerns?" American Journal of
Alternative Agriculture, vol. 1, no. 1, Vinter.
Alternative farming practices, in most cases, will reduce soil loss
below the soil loss tolerance value (through cultural practices, such as
crop rotation and mulch tillage).. Reduced or non-use of manufactured
chemicals greatly reduces environmental hazards.
Risch, Stephen J. 1983. "Alternatives to Pesticides: Impediments to Faster
Development and Implementation," in Agr. culture, Change, and Human
Values, R. Haynes and R. Lanier (eds.), University of Florida,
Gainesville, vol. 2.
.Explores three different issues: (1) the cost-effectiveness of
alternative pest control strategies versus chemical techniques, (2) the impact of political economy on research and development of pest control
techniques, and (3) the impact of social structure and philosophical
framework on the implementation of pest control technologies.
The author concludes that while alternatives to chemicals have been
shown to be cost-effective and to yield few environmental and social
externalities, he agrees that some pest problems, at least in the short
run, must be handled with chemical pesticides. But Risch points out
that the number and nature of the cases that are inherently not amenable
to alternative solutions cannot be known due to institutional
constraints on research and development and implementation.
Thomas, Grant W. 1985. "Environmental Significance of Minimum Tillage,"
invited paper, Agricultural Chemicals of the Future symposium May 16-19,
1983, Beltsville, Maryland, Rovman and Allanheld: Totowa, New Jersey.
Abstract: Conservation tillage reduces erosion and conserves-some water
usually lost by evaporation. Its effect on runoff is variable, but at
least there is no more runoff, on the average. More herbicides are used
as tillage is reduced, but most of these are bound on soil particles.
If erosion is reduced, then herbicide loss is reduced as well. The same
is true for phosphorus and for total nitrogen, but not for inorganic
nitrogen. Nitrate suffers a perceptibly greater loss with reduced




62
tillage, especially through leaching in late spring-early summer.
Placement of fertilizers near the soil surface, as with no-tillage, can result in higher concentrations of nutrients in sediments, but sediment
losses are reduced so much that the effect is not important. An
additional environmental advantage of reduced tillage is the marginal energy savings, which is important on a farm but not a national level.
An environmental disadvantage is the fostering of resistant weed
species, which require more exotic herbicides to combat them.
U.S. Congress. 1983. Appropriate Technology: Research in Alternative
Agriculture Systems, Hearing before the Subcommittee on Natural
Resources, Agriculture Research and the Environment of the House
Committee on Science and Technology, September 30, 1982, 97th Congress,
2nd session, USGPO Washington, D.C., No. 162.
Testimony by Dr. Richard Harwood of Rodale Research Center -Looking at whole farms and whole farming systems, there are 30-40,000
farmers in the U.S. who call themselves "organic" (using the broad USDA
definition), who are minimizing inputs.
Mentions collaborative study with Penn State [see Madden 1987] -demographically these organic farms have approximately rhe same size and
the same variability in types of enterprise as agriculture in general.
There are 2,000-acre organic farms and 50-acre organic farms. On the
West Coast they tend to be non-livestock, specialty crop-oriented while in the Midwest to northeast they tend toward integrated crop-livestock.
But they are characteristically management intensive (illustrated by the
difference between IPM, which requires careful monitoring, and weekly
spraying according to a formula).
Economically -a. management, labor and perhaps machinery costs are somewhat higher,
but the cash input costs are considerably lower;
b. total cost of production is somewhat lower
c. yields vary from about the same [as conventional] to some 10Z less,
but there are also individual examples where yields are as much as
20-30% above those of neighboring farms.
The most significant characteristic [of organic farms] is the drastic
reduction in inputs which comes about by structuring the farm to get particular kinds of interactions (e.g., certain crop combinations in
well-defined, scheduled rotations).
Re: the transition to organic farming -- when you stop using intensive
inputs on a field with a long-term history of conventional use, the
stoppage is extremely disruptive; it takes 3-5 years to restore a field
after heavy use of conventional fertilizers and pesticides.




63
U.S. Congress. 1982. Organic Farming Act of 1982, Hearing Before the
Subcommittee on Forests, Family Farms, and Energy of the House Committee an Agriculture, June 10, 1982, 97th Congress, 2nd session on H.R. 5618,
U.S. GPO, Washington, D.C.
H.R. 5618 -- bill to require the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a
network of volunteers to assist in making available information and
advice on organic agriculture for family farms and other agricultural
enterprises, and to establish pilot projects to carry out research and
education activities involving organic farming, with special emphasis on
family farms.
Per USDA's report on organic agriculture (1980): major problems
confronting farmers and our agriculture system include -- (1) increasing costs and uncertain availability of energy and chemical fertilizers; (2)
excessive soil erosion, loss of soil, organic matter, and a resultant
decline in soil production and tilth; (3) degradation of the
environment, including hazards to human and animal health from 14eavy pesticide use; (4) demise of the family farm and localized marketing
systems. Indications are that even a partial shift to low-energy
agricultural systems, including the use of more organic firming
techniques, would alleviate many of these problems. A
Per Dr. Terry B. Kinney, ARS, USDA studies relating to the economic and
marketing aspects of organic farming show -* lower production costs
* although the legume-based crop rotations on most organic farms do
reduce acreage available for cash crops (eg. corn and soybeans) the
net farm income is quite often comparable to the net income of
conventional farms
# soil erosion benefits through use of grass, legume and small grain
crops in rotation systems
* emphasis on tillage methods that keep crop residues and organic
matter near the soil surface, which helps reduce erosion, opening up
the soil to infiltration
# ,organic agriculture contributes to reductions in soil erosion, plant
nutrient and pesticide run-off, and the leaching of these materials
into groundwater
* organic soil fertility management through the use of animal and
green manures, cover crops, crop rotations, etc. results in less
susceptibility to loss through run-off than other fertilizer methods
* re: uncertainty of petroleum supplies -- largely self-sustaining
nutrient recycling systems typical of organic agriculture enhance
long-term sustainability of the system
* major obstacles to widespread adoption of organic farming methods
revolve around the issue of farm policy and structure, and the financial and entrepreneurial situations of individual farmers




64
Rep. Daschle -- research emphasis has been on conventional farming
Kiny-- in FY 82 funding for research related to organic farming was under
$1 million. USDA has a couple hundred scientists in the chemical field;
one person half-time (Youngberg) answering inquiries into organic
farming.
Garth Young-berg (then USDA organic farming coordinator) on conclusions drawn
in USDA 1980 report on organic farming:
* organic farming can be practiced on a relatively large-scale farm
*(i.e. 600-800 acres)
#' modern organic farming is quite different from the agricultural
system of the 1920s and 30s; it is not a regression to an earlier or
More primitive form of agriculture
#A there is a wide spectrum of practices and ideologies within
"organic" agriculture (some 30,000 to 40,000 farms in the U.S.); not
A all organic farmers are 'purists'
Per Youngberg, organic farming is a total system, involving crop
rotations, fertility, and a total management approach -- stresses the
lack of information (e.g. Extension Service materials) on organic
practices
Congressman Weaver, chairman of the subcommittee -- stresses that it is not
andsholdnot be a fight, chemical vs. organic -- the emphasis should
be on techniques that work. Notes the lack of commercial sponsorship
for organic farming techniques.
Daniel Colacicco, ERS economist -- with increase in organic farming most of
the nitrogen would have to come from legumes due to the unavailability
of organic wastes; less capital is required for organic agriculture
Ppendick, as chair of the USDA Study Team (1980) his main responsibility was
to look at the impact of organic farming on erosion control and
environmental pollution. Found good soil erosion control resulting in
reduced sediment and pesticide run-off. Also found that organic farming is conservative in the use of chemical fertilizers and that the kinds of
materials used are less subject to leaching.
Re: conservation tillage -- given present technologies, no-till is not
an option for organic farmers since it requires more pesticides to
control weeds, insects, and even diseases.




RESOURCES FOR THE FUTURE
DISCUSSION PAPERS
August 1989
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ENR88-O1 ALTERNATIVE AGRICULTURE: A REVIEW AND ASSESSMENT OF THE LITERATURE.
Pierre Crosson and Janet Ekey (1988) $5.00
ENR88-02 WATER RESOURCES: STATUS, TRENDS, AND POLICY NEEDS. Kenneth D. Frederick (1988) $5.00
ENR88-03 IMPROVING PERFORMANCE OF WHOLESALE ELECTRIC GENERATION MARKETS. Michael A.
Toman and Joel Darmstadter (1988) $5.00
ENR88-04 ANALYZING U.S. OIL AND GAS EXPLORATION: A JOINT-PRODUCTS RATIONAL EXPECTATIONS FRAMEWORK. Margaret A. Walls (1988) $5.00
ENR89-01 CHANGES IN ELECTRICITY MARKETS AND IMPLICATIONS FOR GENERATION TECHNOLOGIES. Hadi Dowlatabadi and Michael Toman (1989) $5.00
ENR89-02 MANAGEMENT OF WATERSHEDS FOR AUGMENTED WATER YIELDS--PLUMAS NATIONAL FOREST. John V. Krutilla, Michael Bowes, and Thomas B. Stockton (1989) $5.00
ENR89-03 TEMPORAL AGGREGATION IN FORPLAN LINEAR PROGRAMS. Michael D. Bowes (1989) $5.00
ENR89-04 LAUNCH VOUCHERS FOR SPACE SCIENCE RESEARCH. Molly K. Macauley (1989) $5.00
ENR89-05 POLICY OPTIONS FOR ADAPTATION TO CLIMATE CHANGE. Norman J. Rosenberg,
Pierre Crosson, William E. Easterling III, Kennneth Frederick, and Roger
Sedjo (1989) $5.00
ENR89-06 WILL NUCLEAR POWER RECOVER IN A GREENHOUSE? John F. Ahearne (1989) $5.00
ENR89-07 ETHANOL FUEL AND NON-MARKET BENEFITS: IS A SUBSIDY JUSTIFIED? Margaret A.
Walls, Alan J. Krupnick, and Michael A. Toman (1989) $5.00
Energy and Materials
D-0821 A NONCOOPERATIVE EQUILIBRIUM FOR STATE DEPENDENT SUPERGAMES. Michael A.
Toman (Rev. 1986) $5.00
D-082S WHAT CAUSES OIL PRICE SHOCKS? Douglas R. Bohi (1983) $5.00




D-082V GEOGRAPHIC VARIATION IN FUEL FLEXIBILITY: IMPLICATIONS FOR THE REGIONAL
INCIDENCE OF OIL SUPPLY DISRUPTIONS. Molly K. Macauley (1984) $5.00
D-110 ECONOMIC ANALYSIS OF NONRENEWABLE RESOURCE SUPPLY: AN OVERVIEW. Michael
A. Toman (Rev. 1985) $5.00
D-113 COMMON PROPERTY RESOURCE EXTERNALITIES AND ENTRY DETERRENCE. Michael A.
Toman (1983) $5.00
EM85-01 THE SITE VALUE OF LOCATIONS IN THE GEOSTATIONARY ARC. Molly K. Macauley (1985) $5.00
EM85-02 THE WELFARE COST OF REGULATORY POLICY GOVERNING THE GEOSTATIONARY ARC.
Molly K. Macauley (1985) $5.00
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EM86-04 AN ECONOMICS PERSPECTIVE OF THE 21st CENTURY SPACE STATION. Molly K.
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EM86-05 (REV.) DESIGNING RATES FOR NEW CONDITIONS IN GAS DISTRIBUTION MARKETS.
Michael A. Toman (1989) $5.00
EM87-01 THE TRANSITION TO COMMERCIAL ENERGY IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES: A CASE STUDY OF HOUSEHOLDS IN INDIAN CITIES. Molly K. Macauley (1987) $5.00
EM87-02 (REV.) MARKET-BASED REGULALTION OF NATURAL GAS PIPELINES. Dan Alger and Michael A. Toman (1988) $5.00
EM87-03 PETROLEUM SUPPLY MODELING IN A DYNAMIC OPTIMIZATION FRAMEWORK:
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EM87-04 A COMPARISON OF NUCLEAR POWER REGULATION IN CANADA AND THE UNITED STATES.
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EM87-05 HOW NATURAL IS MONOPOLY? The Case of Bypass in Natural Gas Distribution
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EM88-01 FEDERAL COAL LEASING: AN ANALYSIS OF THE ECONOMIC ISSUES. Richard L.
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EM88-02, WHY FEDERAL RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT FAILS. John F. Ahearne (1988) $5.00
EM88-03 (REV.) DYNAMIC FIRM BEHAVIOR AND REGIONAL DEADWEIGHT LOSSES FROM A U.S.
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D-096 DISCRETE TIME OPTIMAL CONTROL ALGORITHM FOR ANALYSIS OF LONG-RUN TIMBER
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2




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3




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4




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Alan J. Krupnick, and Eric F. Wood (1989) $2.25
QE89-16 THE SOCIAL COSTS OF CHRONIC HEART AND LUNG DISEASE. Maureen L. Cropper and Alan J. Krupnick (1989) $2.25
QE89-17 THE ECONOMIC ANALYSIS OF AGRICULTURAL CHEMICAL REGULATION: THE CASE OF PHENOXY HERBICIDES AND WHEAT. Leonard P. Gianessi, Raymond J. Kopp, and
Cynthia A. Puffer (1989) $2.25
QE89-18 NOTES ON SYSTEMS OF FRONTIER FACTOR DEMAND EQUATIONS. Raymond J. Kopp and John Mullahy (1989) $2.25
OE89-19 WEIGHTED LEAST SQUARES ESTIMATION OF THE LINEAR PROBABILITY MODEL, REVISITED. John Mullahy (1989) $2.25
QE89-20 THE EFFECTS OF UNCERTAINTY ON POLICY INSTRUMENTS: THE CASE OF ELECTRICITY SUPPLY AND ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATIONS. Hadi Dowlatabadi and Winston
Harrington (1989) $2.25
THE NATIONAL CENTER FOR FOOD AND AGICULTURAL POLICY
RR87-O1 AGRICULTURAL TRADE MODEL COMPARISON: A LOOK AT AGRICULTURAL MARKETS IN THE
YEAR 2000 WITH AND WITHOUT TRADE LIBERALIZATION. Rachel Nugent Sarko
(1986) $5.00
RR87-02 MEASURING THE COMPONENTS OF AGGREGATE PRODUCTIVITY GROWTH IN U.S.
AGRICULTURE. Susan M. Capalbo (1986) $3.00
FAP87-02 PROMOTING INCREASED EFFICIENCY OF FEDERAL WATER USE THROUGH VOLUNTARY WATER
TRANSFER. Richard W. Wahl (1987) $3.00
FAP88-02 HARMONIZING HEALTH AND SANITARY STANDARDS IN THE GATT: PROPOSALS AND
ISSUES. Carol S. Kramer (1988) $3.00
FAP89-01 REFLECTIONS FROM THE PAST, CHALLENGES FOR THE FUTURE: AN EXAMINATION OF
U.S. AGRICULTURAL POLICY GOALS. Kristen Allen (1988) $3.00
FAP89-02 A MARKET ALTERNATIVE TO FARM PRICE SUPPORT PROGRAMS: FULL PARTICIPATION
MARKETS IN CONTRACTS FOR FUTURE DELIVERY. James D. Shaffer (1989) $3.00
FAP89-03 ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AND AGRICULTURAL SUPPORT: ARE TRADE-OFFS
NECESSARY? Katherine Reichelderfer (1989) $3.00
5




FAP89-04 THE CONSUMER'S STAKE IN FOOD POLICY: THE UNITED STATES AND THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITY. Carol S. Kramer and Barbara J. Elliott (1989) $3.00
FAP89-05 TEN TRUTHS ABOUT SUPPLY CONTROL. Thomas W. Hertel (1989) $3.00
CENTER FOR RISK MANAGEMENT
CRM 88-01 REGULATION AND RISK ANALYSIS OF HAZARDOUS MATERIALS TRANSPORTATION ROUTES.
John C. Allen and Theodore S. Glickman (1988) Free
CRM 88-02 AIR POLLUTION, CIGARETTE SMOKING, AND THE PRODUCTION OF RESPIRATORY HEALTH.
John Mullahy and Paul R. Portney (Revised 1989) Free
CRM 89-01 ESTIMATING "ENVIRONMENTAL" CARCINOGENESIS: A COMPARISON OF DIVERGENT
APPROACHES. Michael Gough (1988) Free
CRM 89-02 URBAN AIR QUALITY AND CHRONIC RESPIRATORY DISEASE. Paul R. Portney and
John Mullahy (1988) Free
CRM 89-03 THE NET BENEFITS OF INCENTIVE-BASED REGULATION: THE CASE OF ENVIRONMENTAL
STANDARD-SETTING IN THE REAL WORLD. Wallace E. Oates, Paul R. Portney and
Albert M. McGartland (1988) Free
CRM 89-04 PROTECTIVE ACTION DECISION-MAKING IN TOXIC VAPOR CLOUD EMERGENCIES.
Theodore S. Glickman and Alyce M. Ujihara. (1988) Free
CRM 89-05 ECONOMICS AND THE RATIONAL MANAGEMENT OF RISK. A. Myrick Freeman III and
Paul R. Portney (1989) Free
CRM 89-06 FLAMMABLE LIQUID TRANSPORTATION RISKS: A CASE STUDY OF TANK TRUCKS ON URBAN
ROADS. Theodore S. Glickman (1989) Free
6




Full Text

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Table of Contents Introduction ....................................................... 1 Economics of Alternative and Conventional Agriculture .................5 Micro Comparisons ......................................... 5 Conclusion............................................. 18 Macro Comparisons........................................... 19 Conclusion. .. ... .......................... .*......27 Sustainability Comparisons ................................ 28 Erosion and soil productivity ...........................29 Conventional systems and soil biota ..................... 29 Reliance of fossil fuels ............................. 31 Conclusion............................................. 32 Environmental Characteristics of Alternative and Conventional Agriculture .................................................... 32 Ground and Surface Water Quality .............................33 Pesticides ..................................... 33 Nutrients............................................... 37 Sediment ............................................... 39 Human Health Not Related to Water Quality .................... 40 Residues~on food....................................... 40 Health threats from handling pesticides ..................41 Animal Habitat .............................................. 41 Conclusion.................................................. 43 Thoughts on Implications for USDA Policies ..........................44 References................................................. 47 Annotated Bibliography............................................. 50



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20 Olson et al (1982) used a model of the U.S. agricultural economy to estimate the economic consequences of using alternative agricultural systems to meet late 1970s levels of demand for farm output. No inorganic. fertilizers or pesticides were permitted in the alternative system. The results indicated that production would be much less than in the 1970s because sharply higher production costs and supply prices would greatly reduce amounts demanded, both domestically and for export, especially the latter. Net farm income, however, would rise because of the inelastic demand for farm output. American society as a whole would be economically worse off, but farmers would benefit from the shift. Foreigners likely would suffer short-run economic losses, but in the long run foreign agriculture would expand to replace the higher cost American output. Olson et al do not address the issue, but one can infer from their results that American consumers would seek to import more lower cost agricultural commodities from abroad. American farmers no doubt would seek trade legislation to block this. The results (?f the Olson et al (1982) modeling exercise are largely determined by their assumption that the wholesale shift to alternative farming would exa, a large yield penalty. We already have indicated (p. 14, above) that we think the procedures by which the penalty was estimated are dubious. And the amount of the penalty--50 percent for corn, wheat and soybeans, 70 percent for other feed grains--is much larger than that found in the studies by Lockeretz et al (1984), Helmers et al (1986) and others in the literature we have reviewed. If the penalty were less than Olson et al assumed--say on thle order of 10-15 percent rather than 50 percent--then the cost, price and production consequences would be less unfavorable for alternative agriculture than the Olson et al results indicated. The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (1980) also



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0E88-05 TEMPORAL AND SPATIAL CONTROL OF AMBIENT OZONE. Alan J. Krupnick (1988) $2.25 QE88-06 MOMENT-BASED TESTS FOR POISSON AND RELATED COUNT DATA MODELS. John Mullahy (1988) $2.25 0E88-07 MOMENT-BASED TESTS FOR SELECTIVITY BIAS. John Mullahy (1988) $2.25 QE88-08 POLICIES FOR THE MITIGATION OF ACID RAIN: A CRITIQUE OF EVALUATION TECHNIQUES. Hadi Dowlatabadi and Winston Harrington (1988) $2.25 QE88-09 ACID DEPOSITION: SCIENCE AND POLICY. Winston Harrington (1988) $2.25 QE88-10 THE HEALTH AND AGRICULTURAL BENEFITS OF REDUCTIONS IN AMBIENT OZONE IN THE UNITED STATES. Alan J. Krupnick and Raymond J. Kopp (1988) $2.25 QE88-11 NATURAL RESOURCE ECONOMICS. Allen V. Kneese (1988) $2.25 QE88-12 ENVIRONMENTAL STRESS AND POLITICAL CONFLICTS: SALINITY IN THE COLORADO RIVER. Allen V. Kneese (1988) $2.25 QE88-13 EFFICIENCY PROPERTIES OF SOURCE CONTROL POLICIES FOR AIR POLLUTION CONTROL: AN EMPIRICAL APPLICATION TO THE LOWER DELAWARE VALLEY. Walter 0. Spofford, Jr. (1988) $2.25 QE89-O1 AMBIENT OZONE AND ACUTE HEALTH EFFECTS: EVIDENCE FROM DAILY DATA. Alan J. Krupnick, Winston Harrington, and Bart Ostro (1988) $2.25 QE89-02 MARKET SEGMENTATION AND VALUING AMENITIES WITH HEDONIC MODELS: THE CASE OF HAZARDOUS WASTE SITES. R. Gregory Michaels and V. Kerry Smith (1988) $2.25 QE89-03 TRAVEL COST RECREATION DEMAND METHODS: THEORY AND IMPLEMENTATION. V. Kerry Smith (1988) $2.25 QE89-04 VALUING ENVIRONMENTAL RESOURCES UNDER ALTERNATIVE MANAGEMENT REGIMES. A. Myrick Freeman, III (1988) $2.25 QE89-05 SIGNALS OR NOISE? EXPLAINING THE VARIATION IN RECREATION BENEFIT ESTIMATES. V. Kerry Smith and Yoshiaki Kaoru (1988) $2.25 QE89-06 ALCOHOLISM AND HUMAN CAPITAL. John Mullahy and Jody L. Sindelar (1989) $2.25 QE89-07 TRADABLE NUTRIENT PERMITS AND THE CHESAPEAKE BAY COMPACT. Alan J. Krupnick (1989) $2.25 QE89-08 VALUING INDIVIDUALS' CHANGES IN RISK: A GENERAL TREATMENT. A. Myrick Freeman (1989) $2.25 QE89-09 BENEFIT ESTIMATION GOES TO COURT: THE CASE OF NATURAL RESOURCE DAMAGE ASSESSMENTS. Raymond J. Kopp and V. Kerry Smith (1989) $2.25 QE89-10 MOMENT-BASED ESTIMATION AND TESTING OF STOCHASTIC FRONTIER MODELS. Raymond J. Kopp and John Mullahy (1989) $2.25 QE89-11 THE SOCIAL COST OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY REGULATIONS: A GENERAL EQUILIBRIUM ANALYSIS. Michael Hazilla and Raymond J. Kopp (1989) $2.25 4



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21 considered the consequences of a complete shift to alternative agriculture. CAST estimated that the shift would reduce yields of most crops by 15-25 percent, partly because organic sources of nitrogen would be inadequate to support current yields and partly because of weed losses resulting from the ban on herbicides. CAST argues that to maintain production with a 15 to 25 percent yield reduction would require an increase in cropland of 18 to 33 percent if the land were of the same quality as land currently in production. If the additional land were of inferior quality, the increases in needed land would be greater than 18 and 33 percent. Like Olson et al, CAST concluded that a wholesale shift to alternative agriculture would increase production costs, drive up supply prices, reduce amounts demanded, hence production, and make farmers as a group economically better off at the expense of the rest of American society, and perhaps also of foreigners. CAST also considered distributional effects among regions and farmers, and concluded that the corn, soybean, and cotton growing areas of the south and southeast would be relatively disadvantaged because organic systems for combatting the severe weed and insect problems in those regions would be less effective than in the midwest and other areas growing those crops. Regions having inadequate supplies of manure or where growing legumes is uneconomic, as in dryland wheat growing areas, also would be negatively affected. CAST also concluded that because the switch to alternative agriculture would require more cropland, erosion would increase. (But the amount of additional land would be less than the 18 to 33 percent previously noted because those numbers assumed maintenance of production at current levels. in fact, production would decline because of higher production costs and supply prices.) Finally, land prices would rise, reflecting the increase in net farm income, and farm employment and wages would rise because of the relatively



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64 Rep. Daschle -research emphasis has been on conventional farming Kiny-in FY 82 funding for research related to organic farming was under $1 million. USDA has a couple hundred scientists in the chemical field; one person half-time (Youngberg) answering inquiries into organic farming. Garth Young-berg (then USDA organic farming coordinator) on conclusions drawn in USDA 1980 report on organic farming: organic farming can be practiced on a relatively large-scale farm *(i.e. 600-800 acres) #' modern organic farming is quite different from the agricultural system of the 1920s and 30s; it is not a regression to an earlier or More primitive form of agriculture #A there is a wide spectrum of practices and ideologies within "organic" agriculture (some 30,000 to 40,000 farms in the U.S.); not A all organic farmers are 'purists' Per Youngberg, organic farming is a total system, involving crop rotations, fertility, and a total management approach -stresses the lack of information (e.g. Extension Service materials) on organic practices Congressman Weaver, chairman of the subcommittee -stresses that it is not andsholdnot be a fight, chemical vs. organic -the emphasis should be on techniques that work. Notes the lack of commercial sponsorship for organic farming techniques. Daniel Colacicco, ERS economist -with increase in organic farming most of the nitrogen would have to come from legumes due to the unavailability of organic wastes; less capital is required for organic agriculture Ppendick, as chair of the USDA Study Team (1980) his main responsibility was to look at the impact of organic farming on erosion control and environmental pollution. Found good soil erosion control resulting in reduced sediment and pesticide run-off. Also found that organic farming is conservative in the use of chemical fertilizers and that the kinds of materials used are less subject to leaching. Re: conservation tillage -given present technologies, no-till is not an option for organic farmers since it requires more pesticides to control weeds, insects, and even diseases.



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18 annually to management of his farm than the conventional farmer, although this was not discussed in the literature we reviewed. The more demanding management requirements of alternative agriculture may be a barrier to its more widespread adoption. This is not to say that the average American farmer lacks the mental capacity to acquire the skills needed to successfully manage an organic farm. The success of farmers in managing the technological revolution which transformed American agriculture in the last 40 years is proof enough of their inherent capacity. But acquiring new management skills takes time, and time is a scarce resource for farmers, as it is for everyone else. Time spent in acquiring managerial skills and then applying them on the farm is time not available for other purposes. Many farmers work part-time off the farm. For them more on-farm work has an opportunity cost measured by lost off-farm income. More on-farm work also means less time available for recreation, for family life and other pursuits of value to the farmer. Thus the time required to become a successful organic farmer likely is abar-rier to more widespread adoption of organic systems. Given the generally unfavorable economic returns to such systems, it should not be surprising if many farmers decline to invest the time needed to acquire the skills needed to manage them. Conclusion. The literature reviewed leaves little doubt that at the farm level alternative agriculture generally is less profitable than conventional agriculture. This is not a surprising finding. If it were not so, alternative agriculture would already have displaced conventional agriculture, or be well on its way toward doing so, which it is not. Alternative agriculture is less profitable because what it saves in fertilizer and pesticide costs is not enough to compensate for the additional labor required and for the yield penalty it suffers relative to conventional



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23 estimated yield penalty of alternative agriculture relative to conventional agriculture. All three studies agree that there would be a penalty, but they disagree considerably about the amount. We believe the literature we have reviewed supports an estimate closer to that of Oelhaf than to those of CAST and Olson et al. However, the evidence on this is thin, and we consider the issue still open. A closely related issue about which more can be said concerns the relationship between the conditions of supply of organic matter and wholesale adoption of alternative agriculture. The USDA (1978) estimated that the U.S. annually produces 856 million tons of organic wastes potentially available to agriculture. Fifty-four percent is crop residues (roots, chaff, stems-and leaves), 22 percent is animal manure, and the rest is sewage sludge and wastes from food processing, other industry, logging and wood processing, and municipal wastes other than sewage sludge. About 70 percent of crop residues currently are directly returned to the soil and 25 percent is fed to animals (Poincelot, 1986). Almost 90 percent of all farm animal waste also is returned to the soil.2 Much smaller amounts of the remaining 24 percent of organic wastes currently are returned to the soil, and the potential for increasing this contribution is small (Poincelot, 1986). For practical purposes, crop residues and animal wastes are the principal sources of organic wastes potentially available to agriculture. Power and Doran (1984, p. 588) present data showing that the nitrogen 2. Poincelot (1986) indicates that 61 percent of animal wastes are excreted in unconfined habitats, so all of this is returned to the land. He states that 73 percent of the 39 percent excreted in confined habitats also is returned to the land. In total, therefore, 89 percent of all farm animal wastes are currently returned to the land.



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52 Cacek, Terry. 1984. "Organic Farming: The Other Conservation Farming System," Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, vol. 39, no. 6, Nov.-Dec. Compares 'organic farming' with 'conservation tillage' and then looks at both related to 'conventional farming.' concludes that organic farming (uses USDA 1980 definition) systems produce conservation benefits extending to soils, water, nutrients, energy and wildlife, and are economically and agronomically competitive with conventional and conservation tillage systems. Coleman, Eliot. 1985. "Toward a New McDonald's Farm," in Sustainable Agriculture and Integrated Farming Systems, Thomas C. Edens, Cynthia Fridgen, and Susan L. Battenfield, (eds.), Michigan State University Press, East Lansing. A The major difference between "organic" (biologically based) and modern Chemically based) production is the basis on which the two systems operate, in particular -organic agriculture deals with information Input rather than product input solutions to the dynamics of food production. The author attempts to "package" the complexity of an organic system so that farmers can adopt this way of farming, stressing the need for management ability with this system. In a non-herbicide system, cultivation is the key. The author tries to avoid cultivating as much as possible by transplanting, which gets the plant ahead of the weeds. Coleman, Eliot V. 1983. "Impediments to Adoption of an Ecological System of Agriculture," in Agriculture, Change, and Human Values, R. Haynes and R. Lanier (eds.), University of Florida, Gainesville, vol. 2. Poses the question as to why there has not been more rapid adoption of some of the alternative production technologies recommended in the widely distributed USDA (1980) Report and Recommendations on Organic Farming, and suggests the following. Identifies as the key impediment to the adoption of an ecological system of agriculture the dichotomy that exists between a symptm treatment mentality, so much a part of our everyday existencean a cause correction approach inherent in an ecological system of agriculture. Our reliance on a symptom treatment approach leaves us without an alternative if our palliatives prove inadequate, while a cause correction approach emphasizes the well-being of the plant and requires a major shift in attitude. (Points to extensive published literature which documents the potential for controlling pest problems through attention to the growing conditions and nutrient status of the plant.) Philosophical and psychological impediments, such as our deep-seated prejudice to understanding and cooperating with nature, are more substantive and harder to change than the impediments that follow.



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Apart from the effects of the yield penalty, Dabbert and Madden do not explicitly discuss reasons for the decline in profitability of the alternative system. However, their account suggests that the main reason is the inclusion of less profitable crops (wheat and alfalfa) in the cropping pattern. The studies reviewed here are not the only ones devoted to the comparative micro economics of conventional and alternative farming systems, but in our judgment they are the most authoritative. (Other studies we examined are Berardi 1978; Harwood 1984; Poincelot 1986). With the important exception of the Lockeretz et al studies, they all shoved that the alternative farming systems were less profitable than the conventional systems with which they were compared. The Lockeretz et al finding of little difference in profitability may have reflected the unusually dry years in four of the five years studied. As noted above, in the more normal rainfall year of 1979, the conventional farms were more profitable. In the studies reviewed the most obvious reason for the lower profitability of the alternative systems was the yield penalty imposed by the fact that these systems necessarily include relatively large amounts of land in low value rotational uses, both to provide nutrients and to control pests. The studies are less clear about other causes of the yield penalty, but difficulties of controlling pests without pesticides is a likely factor. We already have noted that weed problems were a major concern of the organic farmers surveyed by Lockeretz et al (1984). The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST, 1980) cites a number of sources indicating that organic farmers name weed control as their number one problem (as it is of most conventional farmers according to CAST). CAST notes that one of the advantages of herbicides is that they permit the control of weeds in the crop row, something that cannot be done with tillage, and can be done by hand only



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7 Lockeretz et al (1984) do not discuss the reasons for the lower yields on organic farms. They state, however, that the organic farmers in their sample reported that weeds were one of the major problems they had to deal with. This could account for some of the differential. Some also could be accounted for by the fact that the organic farms had a greater proportion of their land in rotation hay and pasture, and in soil building crops. Helmers et al (1986 compared two organic cropping systems with eleven conventional systems in east-central Nebraska. The organic systems were in a corn-soybean-corn-oat/sweet clover rotation, as were two of the conventional systems. The other conventional systems were continuous corn, continuous soybeans, continuous grain sorghum, and rotations of these crops with each other. The two organic systems used no inorganic fertilizer and no herbicides or insecticides. The difference bet:een them was that in one manure was charged at the cost of applying it and in the other it was charged at the price of equivalent inorganic fertilizer. The study covered the years 1978-1985. The yield and input data were collected from experimental plots managed by the University of Nebraska. Cost data were taken from USDA farm budget studies for the region and covered all purchased inputs, machinery operation, and labor (excluding "overhead" labor). Both input and crop prices were expressed in 1985 dollars. Net returns were calculated for each system for each year, and represent the returns to investment in land, machinery, overhead labor, and management. Animal production was not included in any of the systems studied. Helmers et al (1986) do not indicate the source of the manure used with the two organic systems. The results of the study showed that over the 8 years considered, the corn-soybean rotation produced the highest average net returns per acre ($175.15). The return to the grain sorghum-soybean rotation was only



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17 fifths of the correspondents did not use credit. The 60 percent who did indicated no special problems in getting it. Despite Blobaum's dismissal of economics as a barrier, it is evident from the responses he received that it is. In fact, Blobaum himself concluded that problems of weed control were the major obstacle to conversion. Clearly, this is an economic problem. Blobaum also recognized that better information about barriers to conversion probably would be obtained by surveying conventional farmers who seriously considered switching to the alternative system, then decided not to; from farmers who made the shift from conventional to alternative systems, then shifted back again; or from farmers who originally employed the alternative system, then switched to conventional farming. Blobaum did not consider the management requirements of alternative agriculture as a barrier to conversion nor was management prominently discussed in the literature on economics we reviewed. It seems clear, however, that alternative agriculture requires more management time and skill than conventional agriculture. In a discussion of some of the key characteristics of successful organic farmers Madden (1987) asserts that they are "superb managers" with complete knowledge of their farm operations. This is easy to believe. The elimination of inorganic fertilizers and pesticides means that the farmer must have enough understanding of the complex relationships among crops, weeds, insects, diseases, and determinants of soil fertility to suppress those things that threaten the crop and encourage those things that make it thrive. To manage his pest and nutrient problems the conventional farmer needs much less understanding of these relationships. The organic farmer must also be more careful about the timing of his operations, as Fawcett's (1983) discussion of the advantages of herbicides indicates. It is plausible also that he would have to devote more time



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32 future, a shift from the present system to something like the alternative agriculture system will eventually be necessary. But, for reasons already given, "eventually" is rnot now. Conclusion. The argument that American agriculture should shift to the alternative system over the near term because the existing system is not sustainable does not hold up. Soil erosion under the existing system is not a serious threat to long-term productivity. The existing system may reduce soil biota, in some cases severely, relative to alternative agriculture, but there is no evidence that the damage is permanent. Finally, the dependence of the existing system on exhaustible energy sources implies that the system must eventually be abandoned for one--such as alternative agriculture--which relies mainly on renewable energy sources. But "eventually" may lie far in the future. The relative prices of exhaustible and renewable energy sources clearly indicate that "eventually" is not now. ENVIRONMENTAL CHARACTERISTICS OF ALTERNATIVE AND CONVENTIONAL AGRICULTURE our judgment that a wholesale shift to alternative agriculture would have adverse economic effects on the country is an argument against promoting such a shift. If, however, alternative agriculture offers environmental benefits greater than those of the conventional system, this must temper the judgment against alternative agriculture on economic grounds. Ve here discuss the relative environmental benefits and costs of alternative and conventional agriculture, focusing on ground and surface water quality, on human health not related to water quality, and on a variety of costs and benefits associated with animal habitat.



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24 content of all organic wastes produced in the U.S. (apparently in the late 1970s) was 8.1 million tons, 62 percent of it in animal wastes and virtually all the rest in crop residues.. The nitrogen content of fertilizers used by farmers at that time was 9.1 million tons, most of which was applied to cropland. These numbers indicate that even if 100 percent of the nitrogen in crop residues and animal wastes could be made available to farmers on economical terms, it would not be enough to replace nitrogen fertilizers, unless the losses of nitrogen in waste material were substantially less than the losses of fertilizer nitrogen. The last sentence raises two questions: could all the nitrogen content of crop and animal wastes be made economically available to farmers? And are the losses of nitrogen from wastes less than from -fertilizer? Since 70 percent of crop residues already is returned directly to the soil, the nitrogen in this source already is available to and being used by farmers. The issue, therefore, is the economics of utilizing the nitrogen in animal wastes, which includes that in the 24 percent of crop residues fed to animals. A major problem in making economical use of animal waste is that so much of it (61 percent) is excreted in unconfined habitats, most of it no doubt on range and pasture land, not on cropland where it is most needed. We have seen no estimates of the cost of collecting these wastes, but it surely would be high relative to the price of an equivalent amount of nitrogen in fertilizer. Apart from collection costs, the costs of transporting nitrogen in animal wastes is high because 75 to 90 percent of the waste is water (CAST, 1980, p. 13). This observation applies especially to that part of animal wastes excreted in unconfined habitats. It would apply also, however, to the 27 percent of confined animal wastes not now returned to the land. Since the



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47 REFERENCES Altieri, M. 1985. "Diversification of Agricultural Landscapes--A Vital Element for Pest Control in Sustainable Agriculture," in T. Edens, C. Fridgen, and S. Battenfield (eds.), Sustainable Agriculture and Integrated Farming Systems, Michigan State University Press, East Lansing. Berardi, G.M. 1978. "Organic and Conventional Wheat Production: Examination of Energy and Economics," Agro-Ecosystems 4:367-376. Cacek, T. 1985. "Impacts of Organic Farming and Reduced Tillage on Fish and Wildlife", in Sustainable Agriculture and Integrated Farming Systems, Thomas C. Edens, Cynthia Fridgen, and Susan L. Battenfield, (eds.), Michigan State University Press, East Lansing. Clark II, E., J. Haverkamp and W. Chapman. 1985. Eroding Soils: the OffFarm Impacts, The Conservation Foundation, Washington, D.c. Cohen, S., C. Eiden and M. Lorber. 1986. "Monitoring Ground Water for Pesticides," in W. Garner et al (eds.), Evaluation of Pesticides in Ground Water, American Chemical Society Symposium Series 315. Council for Agricultural Science and Technology. 1980. Organic and Conventional Farming Compared, report no. 84, Ames, Iowa. Crosson, P. 1986. "Soil Erosion and Policy Issues," in T. Phipps, P. Crosson, and K. Price (eds.), Agriculture and the Environment, Resources for the Future, Washington, D.C. Crosson, P. and A. Stout. 1983. Productivity Effects of Cropland Erosion in the United States, Resources for the Future, Washington, D.C. Crosson, P. 1981. Conventional Tillage and Conservation Tillage: A Comparative Assessment, Soil Conservation Society of America, Ankeny, Iowa. Decker, D. and G. Goff. 1987. Valuing Wildlife: Economic and Social Perspectives. Westview Press, Boulder and London. Hallberg, George R. 1987. "Agricultural Chemicals in Ground Water: Extent and Implications", American Journal of Alternative Agriculture, vol. II, no. 1, Winter. Hallberg, George R. 1986. "Agrichemicals and Water Quality," paper prepared for the Board on Agriculture, National Research Council, for a Colloquium on Agrichemical Management to Protect Water Quality, Washington, D.c., March. Harwood, R. 1984. "Organic Farming Research at the Rodale Research Center," Organic Farming: Current Technology and Its Role in a Sustainable Agriculture, ASA, CSSA, SSSA, Madison, Wisconsin. Healy, R. 1987. Competition for Land in the American South, The Conservation Foundation, Washington, D.C.



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13 crops, some of which are of relatively low value. The CAST report (1980) gives considerable weight to the banning in alternative systems of fungicides in production of some fruits and vegetables, including peaches, pears, apples, strawberries, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, eggplant, celery and squash. According to the report, foliar fungicidal sprays are the only feasible means of disease control for these plants. The inability of alternative farming systems to use these sprays, thus puts them at an economic disadvantage in the growing of these crops. The CAST report also notes that pesticides make it possible to control disease and insect damage in fresh fruits and vegetables after harvest, making it possible to store and ship them over longer distances than is feasible for the same crops grown organically. The potential market for the conventionally grown crops, therefore, would be larger. Whether the refusal of alternative farmers to use inorganic fertilizers contributes to their generally lower yields is uncertain. The literature we reviewed gives conflicting accounts of this. Power and Doran (1984) assert that information about the sources of nutrients in alternative-agriculture is limited, although there is agreement that the major sources are manure and crop residues. Harwood (1984) presents data from the Rodale farm in Kutztown, Pennsylvania which he asserts indicates that "the potential for meeting crop nitrogen needs from legumes in rotation has been grossly underestimated by American scientists" (p. 67). Harwood provides no support for this assertion, however. Corn yields on the Kutztown farm average about 30 percent above the state average according to Harwood even though the farm has been operating with "minimum inputs" for over 10 years. The findings of Papendick et al (1987) support those of Harwood. They assert that on many organic farms legumes supply most if not all the nitrogen needed for the entire rotation. Any nitrogen deficit from this source



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6 major crops as the organic farms and most of them combined crops with livestock. Data were collected by questionnaire from each of the paired farms for the years 1974-1976. Another study was done of 23 Cornbelt organic farms in 1977 and 19 of the same farms in 1978. The farms produced the same crops as the 14 paired farms and the same sorts of data were collected from them. However, in the second study the data for the organic farms were compared not with paired conventional farms but with averages for the counties in which the organic farms were located. The combined results of the two studies shoved that averaged over the years 1974-1978 the organic farms had lower yields than the conventional farms, but they also had lower costs, reduced outlays for fertilizer and pesticides more than offsetting increased labor costs. The yield and cost data were averaged over all cropland, including that in rotation hay and pasture, soil improving crops and crop failure. Because lower yields on the organic farms were offset by lower costs, net income per acre averaged over the five years was about the same for organic and conventional farms. However, in an analysis of these results, Madden (1987) notes that in 1974-1977 severe drought affected some parts of the study area. In 1978, when rainfall approximated the long-term average, per acre net income on the 19 organic farms averaged 13percent less than the comparable county averages. Madden does not comment on the reasons for this. A possibility, however, is that organically farmed soils may have greater water holding capacity than conventionally farmed soils, giving organic farms relatively more favorable yields in dry years. Recall, however, that even in the droughty years of 1974-1977 average yields of organic farms were less than those of conventional farms.



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35 of high potential counties. We cannot be sure, but our guess is that the main reason is differences in leachability of soils. Rates of pesticide use in many Cornbelt counties are at least as high as rates in the Atlantic and gulf coastal plains, but the sandy soils characteristic of the latter regions are more "leachable" than Cornbelt soils. The counties with medium potential for groundwater contamination are mostly in the Cornbelt, including eastern Nebraska, in the Lake States and in scattered areas of the northeast and upper south. Nielsen and Lee estimate that 12.6 million people live in the counties with high or medium potential for pesticide contamination of groundwater. Another 5.1 million people live in counties where pesticides and nitrates together create high or medium contamination potential. Note that Nielsen and Lee identify counties with potential for pesticides in groundwater. They explicitly do not say that groundwater in these counties in fact contains pesticides. As indicated above, information about this is quite limited, which is the reason for the previously mentioned EPA survey. Information about pesticide concentrations in surface water evidently is even more sca ce than that about groundwater. Where they occur, however, the surface water concentrations tend to be higher than in groundwater. The reason is that only highly soluble pesticides leach to groundwater, while less soluble species can be carried to surface water by runoff and, in some cases, sediment (Hallberg, 1987). Subsurface flow also' can carry pesticides in groundwater to surface water. For some people the presence of any amount of pesticides in ground or surface water is sufficient evidence of a serious problem justifying public action to remove the offending material, and to prevent its further use. The USDA and other agencies concerned with use of pesticides, however, should



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8 slightly less ($172.15) and the third highest return was to continuous soybeans ($163.90). The return to the organic system in which manure was charged at application cost was $114.88. Charging manure at the cost of equivalent fertilizer gave net returns to this system of $92.84. Although these returns were substantially less than those received by the most profitable systems, the higher organic return ($114.88) compared favorably to the returns to the two conventional systems employing the same corn-soybeancorn-oat/sweet clover rotation. The main reason for the low net returns of the organic systems relative to the corn-soybean, grain sorghum-soybean and continuous soybean systems were lower yields for corn and soybeans and the fact that the organic systems had part of their land in oats/sweet clover, a low value use. Helmers et al also considered the stability of net returns to the various systems, measured by the standard deviation of the returns over the 8 years. By this indicator, net returns of the two organic systems were more stable than all. but 2 of the 11 conventional systems. For each system Helmers et al also counted the number of years in which net returns fell below $100 per acre. The organic systems did not compare well in this respect. In conversation with one of the authors Helmers said that in eastcentral Nebraska most farmers use a corn-soybean rotation, which is consistent with the finding that over the 8 years studied this was the most profitable system. James (1983) used a linear programming approach to compare the relative profitability of alternative and conventional farms in 3 locations in central, western and southern Iowa. Data were collected from a variety of sources and used to construct profiles of "representative" alternative and conventional farms in the three regions. The principal difference between



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9 the two types of farms was that the conventional farms had the option of purchasing nitrogen fertilizer, but the alternative farms did not. Neither type farm used pesticides. James summed up his results as indicating that "... farming without commercial nitrogen and chemicals is a viable alternative for some, if not many Iowa farms. It has particular comparative advantage where farms have a large part of their land in pasture" (p. 21). By "viable" James evidently means that net returns to alternative farming were positive in most of the cases of this system he considered. However, his results show that in no case were net returns to this system as high as those to conventional systems in which the option to purchase nitrogen fertilizer was taken. Dabbert and Madden (1986) studied the economics of shifting from conventional to alternative agriculture. They used data for 1978-1982 collected by the Rodale Research Center to study a crop-livestock farm of about 300 acres located near Kutztown, Pennsylvania. Dabbert and Madden studied only the cropping system on this farm. No herbicides or insecticides were used on the farm and except for a small amount of starter fertilizer on corn, all nutrients were supplied by manure and a rotation which included legumes. Weeds were controlled by mechanical cultivation and rotation. About one-third of the land was in corn or soybeans, one-third in small grains (wheat, .barley, oats and rye) and one-thiird in hay (alfalfa or timothy/red clover). Yields for most of these crops were higher than county or state averages. Dabbert and Madden cited the USDA (1980) report on organic farming, and other sources, as indicating that the shift from conventional to alternative agriculture frequently entails an initial yield penalty, but that after three or four years, yields are restored to their former level. Oelhaf (1978) also states that the shift from conventional to alternative systems generally



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36 not, and in fact do not, take this extreme position. As the title of a recent b ok suggests, The Dose Makes the Poison (Ottoboni, 1984), meaning that not all concentrations of pesticides are equally threatening and some may not e threatening at all. Clark et al (1985) write that pesticide concentr tions in fish have declined significantly since the most persistent species such as DDT and dieldrin were banned by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In most fish, the concentrations nov are within limits the EPA considers safe for human consumption. Clark et al go on to say that mutagenic, carcinogenic, and teratogenic effects of pesticides have been documented only in cases of relatively high exposure, such as may occur in occupational situations. Occurrences of high pesticide concentrations in water supplies appear to be fairly infrequent and localized, and by the time water reaches a customer tap, pesticide concentrations are seldom, if ever, at levels thought to produce health effects. However, caution is needed in interpreting these findings because, as Clark et al note, much remains unknown about long-term health effects of even very small concentrations of pesticides, nor is much known about synergistic effects among various pesticides and between pesticides and other substances. This discussion suggests that if one word can be used to describe the current situation about pesticides and water quality it is uncertainty: uncertainty about the concentrations of these materials in ground and surface water and uncertainty about the significance of the concentrations for human, animal and plant health. Because of the uncertainty it is impossible to judge to what extent alternative agriculture's rejection of pesticides would generate water quality benefits to offset the higher economic costs of these systems relative to conventional agriculture. However, some offset seems likely. In thinking about this it is important to keep in mind that alternative



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D-117 PROCEEDINGS OF A WORKSHOP ON FOREST POLICY EDUCATION sponsored by the Forest Economics and Policy Program of Resources for the Future with the Lincoln Institute for Land Policy and the Society of American Foresters (1984) Free RR85-04 SHELTER IN AMERICA: COSTS, SUPPLY CONSTRAINTS, AND THE ROLE OF FORESTS. Marion Clawson (1985) $15.00 RR86-04 A PRIMER ON CLIMATIC CHANGE: MECHANISMS, TRENDS AND PROJECTIONS. Norman J. Rosenberg (1986) $3.00 RR88-01 PUBLIC FORESTS IN NEW ZEALAND AND IN THE UNITED STATES. Marion Clawson (1988) $3.00 RR88-02 WESTERN WATER ALLOCATION INSTITUTIONS AND CLIMATE CHANGE. Kenneth D. Frederick and Allen V. Kneese (1988) $3.00 QUALITY OF THE ENVIRONMENT DIVISION QE87-02 PLANT-LEVEL PRODUCTIVITY 1972-81: MEASUREMENT USING A LARGE PANEL OF MANUFACTURING ESTABLISHMENTS. Michael Hazilla and Raymond J. Kopp (1986) $2.25 QE87-03 ESTABLISHMENT-LEVEL DATA FOR ECONOMETRIC, ENGINEERING, AND POLICY ANALYSIS: PHASE I. Michael Hazilla and Raymond J. Kopp (1987) $2.25 QE87-05 BENEFIT ESTIMATION AND ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY: SETTING THE NAAQS FOR PHOTOCHEMICAL OXIDANTS. Alan J. Krupnick (1986) $2.25 QE87-06 EVALUATING THE VALIDITY OF CONTINGENT VALUATION STUDIES. Robert C. Mitchell and Richard T. Carson (1987) $2.25 QE87-07 HOW FAR ALONG THE LEARNING CURVE IS THE CONTINGENT VALUATION METHOD? Robert C. Mitchell and Richard T. Carson (1987) $2.25 QE87-08 ON THE CHOICE OF FUNCTIONAL FORM FOR HEDONIC PRICE FUNCTIONS. Maureen L. Cropper, Leland B. Deck, and Kenneth E. McConnell (1987) $2.25 QE87-09 USE OF TRIAZINE HERBICIDES IN THE CHESAPEAKE BAY REGION AND THE LOCAL FARM INCOME CONSEQUENCES OF RESTRICTING THEIR USE. Leonard P. Gianessi, Raymond J. Kopp, Peter Kuch, Cynthia Puffer, and Robert Torla (1987) $2.25 OE87-10 AGRICULTURAL POLICY AND THE BENEFITS OF OZONE CONTROL. Raymond J. Kopp and Alan J. Krupnick (1987) $2.25 QE87-11 THE ALLEN-UZAWA ELASTICITIES OF SUBSTITUTION ARE DOMINATED BY THE MORISHIMA ELASTICITIES: A THEORETICAL AND EMPIRICAL COMPARISON. R. Robert Russell, Raymond J. Kopp, Michael Hazilla, and Charles Blackorby (1987) $2.25 QE87-12 REDUCING BAY NUTRIENTS: AN ECONOMIC PERSPECTIVE. Alan J. Krupnick (1987) $2.25 QE88-02 ENFORCEMENT LEVERAGE WHEN PENALTIES ARE RESTRICTED. Winston Harrington (1988) $2.25 OE88-04 ECONOMICS AND NUTRIENT REDUCTIONS IN THE CHESAPEAKE BAY. Alan J. Krupnick (1988) $2.25 3



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44 reducing sediment damage because evidence suggests these damages now amount to billions of dollars each year. The threat to human health of pesticide residues in food evidently is small. Consequently the health benefits of eliminating these residues by shifting to alternative agriculture would be small. However, the shift likely would yield substantial benefits in reduced deaths and illnesses stemming from application of pesticides. By holding more land in agriculture than would occur wi -th conventional agriculture, and providing a more diverse habitat on that land, alternative systems likely would yield considerably greater benefits in improved animal habitat than the conventional system. We are unable to judge the extent to which these environmental benefits of alternative agriculture would offset its economic disadvantages. However, we believe the offset probably is large enough--particularly that stemming from reduced pesticide deaths and illnesses and from habitat improvement--for the USDA to give thought to how it might stimulate farmer interest in alternative systems. We present some thoughts on this in the next section. THOUGHTS ON IMPLICATIONS FOR USDA POLICIES For at least the last 40 or 50 years, agricultural research in the United States has been aimed at developing systems of increasing economic productivity. Systems which offered gains in environmental benefits only at some sacrifice of economic productivity were relatively neglected. Consequently our conclusion that alternative agriculture suffers a significant economic disadvantage relative to conventional agriculture is not surprising. However, our finding that alternative agriculture conveys environmental benefits relative to conventional agriculture suggests that the USDA should begin to give more attention to development of alternative



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INTRODUCTION "Alternative agriculture", "regenerative agriculture" and "Organic farming" refer to similar but not identical sets of agricultural practices. The similarities are strong enough that for this discussion alternative agriculture can be taken to include the practices generally included under all three labels. The most restrictive definition of alternative agriculture is that adopted by the Rodale organization (Harwood, 1984, p. 3): "An organic system is one which is structured to minimize the need for off-farm soil or plant-focused inputs. Because of lack of information on the disruptive effect of synthetic inputs, none are used. 'Natural' sources of inputs are used with discretion." By this definition alternative agriculture aims at self-sufficiency of the farm by minimizing the use of inputs obtained from off the farm and at elimination of "synthetic inputs", that is to say, chemical pesticides and inorganic fertilizers in crop production and growth regulators and other chemicals in animal production. Weeds, insects and diseases are managed through crop rotations, cultivation, and a variety of biological controls. Nutrients are provided by rotation of main crops with legumes and by return to the soil of crop residues, animal wastes, sewage sludge, and other forms of organic waste. Other definitions are less strict in not setting complete selfsufficiency of the farm with respect to inputs as a goal and permitting some limited use of inorganic fertilizers where organic sources of nutrients are especially limited and of pesticides to deal with emergency outbreaks-of weed, disease or-insect damage. The U. S. Department of Agriculture's Report and Recommendations on Organic Farming (1980) gives a.useful statement of the less restrictive definition:



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46 this general sort, but the techniques have not been brought systematically to bear on study of the relative habitat benefits of the two contending agricultural systems. If we are right in thinking that alternative agriculture is particularly favored in this respect, and that growing future demand for wildlife services will strengthen that advantage even more, then the payoff to research along this line should be high, both to the USDA in pursuit of its mission and to the nation's interest in best use of its resources.



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25 remaining 73 percent of tastes from confined animals already is returned to the land, the economics of doing that can be assumed to be favorable'. The discussion suggests that the economics of collecting and transporting the nitrogen in animal wastes not already being used by farmers are unfavorable. And they likely will remain so unless the price of nitrogen fertilizer rises substantially (but we cannot say how much) above present levels. Losses of nitrogen in fertilizer are high, estimates typically running from 30 to 50 percent or more. The nitrogen, as nitrate, is leached to groundwater, carried away in runoff, and volatilized by denitrification. If the losses of nitrogen in animal wastes are, or could economically be made to be, less than this, then the economics of substituting animal wastes for fertilizer would be improved. We have seen no studies of this issue. Ho':ever, losses of nitrogen in animal wastes may also be high. CAST (1980, p. 13) says that animal manure it... must be carefully preserved and applied to realize its maximum benefits. It is a highly perishable commodity. The nitrogen and potassium are readily lost by leaching, and nitrogen is lost also by ammonia volatilization." CAST cites the 1978 USDA study on use of organic wastes as indicating that 63 percent of the nitrogen in manure now returned to the land is lost to volatilization and leaching, and that at best this could be reduced to 45 percent. According to CAST (p. 13), this reduction in loss would increase the amount of nitrogen from collectible manure from about 9 percent to 12 percent of the amount now supplied in fertilizer. It seems clear that the potential for increasing the supply of nitrogen (and other nutrients) by greater utilization of organic wastes is very limited. The potential from naturally occurring nutrients in soil organic matter



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57 Helmers, Glenn A., Michael R. Langemeier, and Joseph Atwood. 1986. "An Economic Analysis of Alternative Cropping Systems for East-central Nebraska," American Journal of Alternative Agriculture, vol. 1, no. 4, Fall. In this study of 13 cropping systems analyzed with respect to profitability and risk, row crop rotations had substantially higher returns than continuously grown row crops. Except in comparison to continuous soybeans, all rotation alternatives had returns that were less variable than those of a continuous crop. Although the study did not address concerns over macro adjustments resulting from wider acceptance of regenerative agriculture, in the authors' opinion it is economically viable. Koepf, Herbert H. 1985. "Integrating Animals into a Production System," in Sustainable Agriculture and Integrated Farming Systems, Thomas C. Edens, Cynthia Fridgen, and Susan L. Battenfield, (eds.), Michigan State University Press, East Lansing. Argues that decentralized, farm-based, animal husbandry is necessary for lasting soil fertility for small and large farms. "Accumulated" or "tedium-term" fertility is crucial, i.e. the combined carryover effects of mutually interdependent plant and animal production -shows changes in 5-10 year intervals and similar periods of time are needed to exhaust it. Re: nitrate contamination of groundwater -caused by intensive farming and not by the manure heap. Properly applied manure and composted manure will reduce nitrate leaching (Koepf 1973). Koskinen, William C., and Chester G. Mc~horfer. 1986. "Weed Control in Conservation Tillage," Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, vol. 41, no. 6, Nov.-Dec. The acceptance of conservation tillage by producers depends on the availability of herbicides that provide suitable weed control. Crop residues may significantly alter herbicide performance, especially over a period of several years and cause ecological shifts that introduce new weeds and ultimately make weed control more difficult and expensive, Troublesome weeds can be controlled, but new problems require a higher level of management for profitable row-crop production. Fuel and labor costs are usually less with CT, but savings are sometimes offset by increased herbicide costs. CT has the potential for increased groundwater contamination compared with conventional tillage because of increased soil moisture and increased infiltration rates (which can result in greater leaching of solutes).



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61 Olson, Kent D., James Langley, and Earl 0. Heady. 1982. "Widespread Adoption of Organic Farming Practices: Estimated Impacts on U.S. Agriculture," Journal of Soil and Vater Conservation, vol. 37, no. 1, January-February. According to a national, interregional linear programming model, widespread adoption of organic farming methods in the United States would increase national net farm income and satisfy domestic demand for agricultural products. However, consumer food costs would increase, export levels would decline, regional shifts in production would occur, and the large reserve of potential crop production would disappear. Papendick, Robert I., Lloyd F. Elliott, and Robert B. Dahlgren. 1986. "Environmental Consequences of Modern Production Agriculture: How Can Alternative Agriculture Address These Concerns?" American Journal of Alternative Agriculture, vol. 1, no. 1, Vinter. Alternative farming practices, in most cases, will reduce soil loss below the soil loss tolerance value (through cultural practices, such as crop rotation and mulch tillage).. Reduced or non-use of manufactured chemicals greatly reduces environmental hazards. Risch, Stephen J. 1983. "Alternatives to Pesticides: Impediments to Faster Development and Implementation," in Agr. culture, Change, and Human Values, R. Haynes and R. Lanier (eds.), University of Florida, Gainesville, vol. 2. .Explores three different issues: (1) the cost-effectiveness of alternative pest control strategies versus chemical techniques, (2) the impact of political economy on research and development of pest control techniques, and (3) the impact of social structure and philosophical framework on the implementation of pest control technologies. The author concludes that while alternatives to chemicals have been shown to be cost-effective and to yield few environmental and social externalities, he agrees that some pest problems, at least in the short run, must be handled with chemical pesticides. But Risch points out that the number and nature of the cases that are inherently not amenable to alternative solutions cannot be known due to institutional constraints on research and development and implementation. Thomas, Grant W. 1985. "Environmental Significance of Minimum Tillage," invited paper, Agricultural Chemicals of the Future symposium May 16-19, 1983, Beltsville, Maryland, Rovman and Allanheld: Totowa, New Jersey. Abstract: Conservation tillage reduces erosion and conserves-some water usually lost by evaporation. Its effect on runoff is variable, but at least there is no more runoff, on the average. More herbicides are used as tillage is reduced, but most of these are bound on soil particles. If erosion is reduced, then herbicide loss is reduced as well. The same is true for phosphorus and for total nitrogen, but not for inorganic nitrogen. Nitrate suffers a perceptibly greater loss with reduced



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42 period of which he writes encompasses that in which crop production in the south shifted to the high energy and chemical based system we now call conventional agriculture. Healy's conclusion is that this shift was accompanied by favorable changes in habitat of game animals. Cacek (1985) considers effects of conventional agriculture from the mid1950s to the mid-1970s on wildlife habitat in 12 midwestern states and comes to a much less favorable conclusion than Healy did with respect to the south. Cacek cites a study indicating that from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s wildlife populations in these states declined 40 to 80 percent, pheasant in Ohio being particularly hard hit. Cacek attributes these declines to transformation of crop production in this period, particularly the dramatic increase in use of agricultural chemicals, a decrease in crop diversity, increases in the size of machinery and fields, and the reduction in acreage in set-aside programs. Cacek goes on to recount the advantages of alternative agriculture in improving animal habitat, particularly by providing nesting places for birds and avoiding the danger of pesticide poisoning. The USDA (1987) projects a decline of tens of millions of acres in crops over the next 50 years. Much of this land will shift to a variety of urban and other non-agricultural uses, almost surely with unfavorable habitat consequences. However, habitat on the land which shifts out of crops but remains in agriculture should improve. What the net habitat effect of these changes in land use would be is not clear from the information provided in USDA (1987). A large scale shift to alternative agriculture almost certainly would result in more and better animal habitat than the USDA projections imply. Not only would the shift of land out of agriculture be less than in the USDA projections, habitat on all land devoted to crop production would be



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7. landlord discrimination (not a serious barrier) 8. credit discrimination (does not appear to be a serious barrier) Oelhaf (1978) examined the economic implications of a hypothetical largescale shift to organic methods and concluded that the resources needed to expand organic farming appeared to be available. Cites USDA 1980 as the first national study, which concluded that research and educational programs should be developed and implemented to address the needs and problems of organic farmers and to enhance the success of conventional farmers who want to shift toward organic farming. Buttel, Frederick H., et al. 1986. "Reduced-input Agricultural Systems: Rationale and Prospects," American Journal of Alternative Agriculture, vol. 1, no. 2, Spring. Appear to argue for alternative agricultural practices to reduce erosion and run-off of chemicals and sediments to protect water resources. Conclude that: a) reduced input agricultural systems improve productivity by reducing the use of input, rather than by increasing output; b) farmers adopt nonchemical practices not for philosophical, religious, or ideological reasons, but to solve a particular production or animal or human health problem; and, c) comparative studies favorable to reduced-input agriculture have a key limitation, i.e. they generally fail to recognize that macro-level consequences cannot be accurately inferred from micro-level data. V According to the authors there has been no competent, comprehensive research on macro-implications of reduced-impact practices using reasonable assumptions. Cacek, Terry, and Linda L. Langner. 1986. "The Economic Imp:ications of Organic Farming," American Journal of Alternative Agriculture, vol. 1, no. 1, Vinter. Organic farming can compete economically with conventional farming in the Corn Belt and the semi-arid Northwest -and established organic farmers are less vulnerable to natural and economic ris EFthan conventional farmers because their systems are more diver:sified. On a national scale, conversion to organic farming would reduce federal costs for supporting commodity prices, reduce depletion of fossil fuels, reduce the social costs associated with erosion, improve fish & wildlife habitats, and insure productivity of land for future generations, but would have an undesirable impact on the balance of trade.



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48 Helmers, Glenn A., Joseph Atwood, and Michael R. Langemeier. 1984. "Economics of Alternative Crop Rotations for East-central Nebraska -A Preliminary Analysis," Department of Agricultural Economics Staff Paper No. 14-1984, University of Nebraska, Lincoln. James, Sidney C. 1983. "Economic Consequences of Biological Farming," in Proceedings of the Management Alternatives for Biological Farming Workshop, Robert B. Dahlgren, (ed), Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, Iowa State University, Ames. James, S.C. 1982. "Economics of Biological Farming," in R.B. Dahlgren (ed.) Proceedings, Midwest Agricultural Interface with Fish and Wildlife Resources Workshop, Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, Iowa State University, Ames. Judy, Robert D., Jr., et al. 1984. 1982 National Fisheries Survey. Vol. I, Technical Report: Initial Findings, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, Washington, D.C., FWS/OBS-84/06. Kaufman, M. 1985. "The Pastoral Ideal and Sustainable Agriculture," in T. Edens, C. Fridgen, and S. Battenfield (eds.) Sustainable Agriculture and Integrated Farming Systems, Michigan State University Press, East Lansing. Koepf, H.H. 1973. "Organic Management Reduces Nitrate Leaching," Biodynamics 108:20-30. Lockeretz, William. 1986. "Alternative Agriculture," in New Directions for Agriculture and Agricultural Research: Neglected Dimensions and Emerging Alternatives, Kenneth A. Dahlberg, (ed.), Rowman & Allanheld, Totowa, New Jersey. Lockeretz, William, et al. 1984. "Comparison of Organic and Conventional Farming in the Corn Belt," in D.F. Bezdicek, et al, (eds.), Organic Farming: Current Technology and Its Role in a Sustainable Agriculture, ASA, CSSA, SSSA, Madison, Wisconsin. Lockeretz, William, et al. 1981. "Organic Farming in the Corn Belt," Science, 211:540-547. Lockeretz, W. 1980. "Maize Yields and Soil Nutrient Levels With and Without Pesticides and Standard Commercial Fertilizers," Agronomy Journal 72:65-72. Lockeretz, William, et al. 1978.. "Field Crop Production on Organic Farms in the Midwest," Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, vol. 33, no. 3, May-June. Madden, Patrick. 1987. "Economic Evaluation of Alternative Farming Practices and Systems", unpublished draft. National Research Council. 1987. Regulating Pesticides in Food, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D. C.. Nielsen, E. and L. Lee. 1987. The Magnitude and Costs of Groundwater Contamination from Agricultural Chemicals, U.S. Department of Agriculture, AER no. 576, Washington, D.C.



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22 labor intensive nature of alternative agriculture. Qeihaf (1978) estimated the macro-economic consequences of producing 1974 output with alternative agricultural systems. Like Olson et al and CAST, he found that production costs would be higher and that more land and labor would be required. Qeihaf did not explore the consequences for exports, for the distribution of income among regions or farmers, or between farmers and consumers. However, one can infer that the consequences would be in the same direction as those found by Olson et al and CAST: exports would be reduced, regions and farmers especially dependent on pesticides and inorganic fertilizer would be disadvantaged, and farmers generally would gain economically relative to consumers. All of this follows from Oelhaf's finding that production costs would rise. Although Oelhaf's conclusions are directionally the same as those of Olson et al and CAST, quantitatively they show less severe impacts of the shift to alternative agriculture. At least his estimate of the cost increase is less. He concluded that after the shift were completed, aggregate annual production costs would be higher by about 9 percent. (They would be up 10 and 15 percent for wheat and corn respectively, 5 percent for soybeans, 20 and 30 percent respectively for citrus and deciduous fruits [Oelhaf 1978, p. 229]). Taking account of the costs of transition (see above, p. 9) Oelhaf estimated the total cost of the shift at roughly 15 percent. Olson et al and CAST do not give specific estimates of the cost of the shift, but their cost increase estimates are driven in large part by their estimates of the yield penalty of alternative agriculture, and these estimates show a substantially higher penalty than that estimated by Qeihaf. It can be inferred, therefore, that Oelhaf's estimate of the cost increase is less than that of Olson et al and CAST. The results of each of the three studies are critically affected by the



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29 term productivity; (3) the existing system relies heavily on fossil fuel sources of energy which in time will be exhausted. Erosion and soil productivity. The available evidence does not support the argument that present levels of erosion in the United States pose a serious threat to the long-term sustainability of the nation's agriculture. The relevant evidence is from studies of long-term effects of erosion on soil productivity done with the Productivity Index (PI) model, the Erosion Productivity Impact Calculator (EPIC) model and with regression analysis at Resources for the Future (RFF). The studies are discussed and their results presented in Crosson (1986). Suffice it to say here that the studies agree in showing that continuation of present rates of cropland erosion for 100 years would reduce crop yields at the end of the period by at most 5-10 percent from what they otherwise would be. If technological advance increases yields over that period at only one-half the annual rate experienced over the last 40 years, the negative yield effect of erosion would be offset several times over. If the USDA (1987) is right in expecting the amount of land in crops to decline over the next 50 years, erosion will decline also, probably proportionately more than the decline in cropland since production would tend to concentrate on less erosive land. In this case, the long-term threat of erosion to soil productivity would be even less than presently estimated by PI, EPIC and RFF. Conventional systems and soil biota. Although the alternative agriculture movement severely indicts the conventional system for its destructive effects on soil biota, documented evidence of this is hard to find. At least we have found little of it in our literature review. Oelhaf (1978, p. 33), an advocate of alternative agriculture, asserts that inorganic fertilizer may adversely affect "soil life" in various ways, but his



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Discussion Paper ENR88-01 Alternative Agriculture: A Review and Assessment of the Literature by Pierre Crosson and Janet Ekey Resources for the Future 1616 P Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20036 November 1988 01988 Resources for the Future. All rights reserved. No portion of this paper may be reproduced without permission of the authors. Discussion papers are material circulated for information and di scussion. They have not undergone formal peer review as have RFF books and studies. Comments are welcome. The research on which this study is based was funded by the U.S. Soil Conservation Service. However, the views expressed are soley those of the authors. The SCS has no responsibility for them.



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39 the damage. None of this information exists, at least not in the form needed to make such a judgment. Sediment. Estimates of Clark et al (1985), expressed in 1985 prices (Crosson, 1986), indicate that sediment damage to surface water quality costs the nation $4 billion to $16 billion annually. Clark et al estimate that cropland erosion is responsible for about one-third of this damage. The erosion-reducing characteristics of alternative agriculture on sloping, erosive land ought to give it a clear advantage over conventional agriculture in reducing these damages. This is subject to the caveat that th( relationship between reduction in erosion on the land and the reduction in A sediment damage downstream often is unclear (Crosson, 1986). Nonetheless, we believe that alternative agriculture has a clear advantage over conventional agriculture with respect to sediment damage to water quality. However, alternative agriculture is not the only system with this advantage. On sloping, erosive land, conservation tillage--defined as any tillage system which leaves at least 30 percent of the previous crop residue on the soil surface after spring planting--reduces erosion 50-90 percent relative to conventional tillage (Crosson, 1981). However, conservation tillage as typically practiced does not qualify as alternative agriculture* because it relies on herbicides at least as much as, and often more than, conventional tillage. Conservation tillage is used on roughly one-third of the nation's cropland, far more than is in alternative agriculture. The reason is that conservation tillage is more economically competitive than alternative agriculture with conventional agriculture. Thus, conservation tillage appears to offer a more economical alternative for reducing sediment damage than alternative agriculture. However, the benefits of conservation tillage in reduced sediment damage could be bought at the price of increased herbicide damage, a price alternative agriculture does not have to pay.



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38 Thus the potential for nitrate damage to water quality appears to be about the same for alternative and conventional agricultural systems. Whether the two systems differ in fact in the amount of damage appears to be unknown. Papendick et al (1987, p. 23) assert (without substantiating evidence) that "organic farmers appear to be able to control availability and release of nitrogen through various techniques of soil management." (Note that this contradicts the CAST [1980] assertion cited above about differences in nitrate availability to the plant.) However, Papendick et al (1987, p. 23) then go on to state that "... there are little or no hard data available on leaching loss of nitrates on organic farms. Lack of such data make it difficult to quantitatively assess the impact of nitrates in groundwater that could occur on a macroscale with a shift to organic practices." We conclude that present evidence does not indicate benefits of alternative agriculture in reduced nitrate pollution of ground and surface water that would tend to offset the economic disadvantages of the system. On sloping, erosive soils alternative agriculture generally will produce much less erosion than conventional agriculture. Since much of the phosphorus delivered to surface water is carried by sediment, the erosionreducing characteristics of alternative agriculture ought to give the system a potential advarvtage relative to conventional agriculture in reducing eutrophication of lakes and reservoirs where phosphorus is the limiting nutrient. Whether in fact alternative agriculture has this advantage is not clear in the literature we have reviewed. We believe it plausible, however, to credit alternative agriculture with some positive effect in this respect. We cannot judge, however, how important this effect might be as an offset to the economic disadvantages of the system. We would need information about the amount of eutrophication damage, the contribution of agricultural sources of phosphorus to it, and the effect of alternative agriculture in reducing



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19 farming. The causes of the yield penalty are not entirely clear, but the requirement that main crops be rotated with relatively low value legumes appears important. Problems of controlling weeds without herbicides probably also contribute to the yield penalty. Our review does not indicate that the ban on insecticides in alternative farming systems adversely affects yields directly. However, there is a negative indirect effect since insect control is one of the reasons for the rotation which includes a low value crop. The literature consulted does not support the conclusion that nutrient deficiency contributes to the relatively unfavorable yields of alternative systems. The use of fungicides and insecticides permits storage and long distance transport of fresh fruits and vegetables. The ban on the use of these materials may make the market for alternatively produced fruits and vegetables smaller than that for their conventionally produced competitors. Many products of alternative systems received a price premium in the mid-1970s when Qelhaf (1978) studied them. Whether they still receive this premium cannot be determined from the literature reviewed. If they do, it clearly is not enough to overcome the relatively low profitability of alternative farming systems. Macro Comparisons What would the economics of alternative agriculture look like if the system were to wholly displace the existing system? The question has been little studied, and the few analyses that have been done have some serious deficiencies. Indeed, Madden (1987) goes so far as to say that at present there is no credible evidence about the economic consequences of a large scale shift to alternative agriculture. We agree that the evidence is weak but believe that nonetheless some tentative inferences can be extracted from it.



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50 ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY Altieri, Miguel A., James Davis, and Kate Burroughs. 1983. "Some Agroecological and Socio-economic Features of Organic Farming in California. A Preliminary Study," in Biological Agriculture and Horticulture, vol 1. Abstract: A survey involving a written questionnaire to 120 organic farmers and direct interviews with selected farmers was conducted to provide a preliminary assessment of the state of organic farming in California. A case study was made of.apple production systems where some of the organic systems appeared to. be economically viable. The lower yields of organic apples were offset by reduced input costs. It is concluded that expansion of organic agriculture in California is limited mainly by socio-economic factors. The authors draw the following conclusions from the survey: 1. Organic farming is practiced by a minority of farmers in California. However, an increasing number of farmers are combining conventional and organic methods. 2. Some of the surveyed organic apple systems seemed to be economically viable operations. The lower yields associated with organic technologies were apparently offset by reduced input costs. 3. The main limitations to the expansion of organic agriculture in California are associated with socio-economic factors such as marketing, public acceptance, legislation and the lack of a local infrastructure that can provide credit, appropriate technology, information and resources to organic growers. Blobaum, Roger. 1983. "Barriers to Conversion to Organic Farming Practices in the Midwestern United States," in Environmentally Sound Agriculture, William Lockeretz (ed.), Praeger, New York. The relatively small number of conventional farmers who have converted to organic practices suggests that there are serious barriers to conversion. This study examines eight potential barriers, using information on how they are perceived by organic farmers who overcame them. Of the 133 respondents Z6% identified the main factor in their switch from conventional to organic methods as the influence of a friend or relative. Potential barriers to conversion identified were: 1. lack of easy access to reliable organic farming information 2. inability to get research done on problem areas (e.g. weed control) 3. difficulty obtaining special market information 4. market structure problems (e.g., small orders, long delays in getting paid, confusing certification standards, etc.) 5. logistics and other problems related to products supplied by organic fertilizer companies 6. weed control problems (research needed)



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40 Human Health Not Related to Water Quality Two issues are treated in this connection: threats to human health from pesticide residues on food and from the handling of pesticides in the course of applying them. ,Residues on food. The EPA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) share responsibility for regulating pesticide residues on food, the EPA deaLing with unprocessed commodities and FDA with those which are processed. The ,two agencies are occasionally criticized for laxness in discharging their respective responsibilities. However, our review of the literature turned up little documented evidence that pesticide residues on food are in fact a seripus threat to human health. The CAST report (1980) cites a study by the National Research Council showing that in the U.S. per capita consumption of pesticide residues in or on food was about 40 milligrams, over half of it being pesticides no longer in use at that time. The aggregate acute toxicity of these residues was roughly equivalent to the acute toxicity of one aspirin or one cup of coffee. However, the CAST report notes that longer term effects of chronic exposure to such small amounts of pesticides had not been satisfactorily resolved by the available scientific evidence. A later report by the National Research Council (1987), addressed the longer term risk of pesticide residues on food, specifically the risk of cancer. The report concluded that the residues increase the expected lifetime risk of cancer for the average American by 0.4 percent. That is, over a 70 year life an individual has a 25 percent chance of contracting cancer, apart from cancers resulting from pesticide residues on food. The residues, according to the NRC report, would increase the probability of cancer to 25.1 percent, an increase of .4 percent. The report indicates that the procedures to derive this estimate were more likely to overstate



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31 Reliance on fossil fuels. The nitrogen fertilizer used in the United States is produced from natural gas, and most pesticides are petroleum based. Since petroleum and natural gas are exhaustible resources, they will someday become more expensive than they are now, and eventually their price will become so high as to exclude them from any but the most high value uses. Their continued use by the existing agricultural system would be inconsistent with our definition of long-term sustainability. The point-of course is-true. The question is its relevance. That fossil fuels will someday become much more expensive than they are now does not mean that we should now stop using them, or even curtail their present rates of use. The issue is one of timing. So long as the cost of fossil f uels, taking account of the future opportunity cost of the resource, is less than the cost of the alternatives, then it is in the social interest to use fossil fuels. 4 As the supply of them is used up, and their cost rises, it will be in the social interest at some point to switch to cheaper energy sources. It also will be in the social interest to invest in research to develop those cheaper sources so that they are available when costs of fossil fuels begin a long-term rise. In agriculture renewable sources of energy, such as those used in alternative agriculture, almost surely will become economically more important. In a sense, therefore, one can argue that to maintain the sustainability of American agriculture into the indefinite 4. This statement is true if the social costs of fossil fuels and of alternatives are understood to include environmental costs as well as economic costs. In fact, current patterns of fossil fuel use do not fully reflect environmental costs e.g. those that might result from the "greenhouse effect." Conventional agriculture, however, uses little coal, the worst environmental sinner among the fossil fuels.



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5 ECONOMICS OF ALTERNATIVE AND CONVENTIONAL AGRICULTURE Most of the discussion of the comparative economics of alternative agriculture deals with the short-term profitability of the system as it presently is practiced relative to that of conventional agriculture. We first consider that part of the literature under the heading micro comparisons. Relatively little attention has been given to the comparative economics of the system if it were to displace the conventional system nationwide. For USDA policies, however, this is a major issue. We discuss it under the heading macro comparisons. One of the main arguments made for alternative agriculture is that, unlike the conventional system, it is indefinitely sustainable because it is more protective of soil productivity and does not depend on exhaustible sources of energy. We consider this issue under the heading sustainability comparisons. Micro Comparisons In a series of papers, Lockeretz et al reported results of comparative studies of alternative and conventional farms in the Cornbelt (Lockeretz, et al 1976, 1978, 1980, 1981, 1984). The 1984 paper summarizes the principal results of the studies. In one of the studies 14 organic farms in Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota and Missouri were paired with nearby conventional farms of about the same size (minimum of 100 acres) and soil types. The organic farms were commercial producers of corn, both grain and silage, oats, wheat, hay and other field crops. No inorganic fertilizers or pesticides were used. Most of these farms also had some kind of livestock operation. With a few exceptions the farms had been managed organically for at least four years before the study. The 14 conventional farms produced the same



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55 Freudenberger, C. Dean. 1986.. "Value and Ethical Dimensions of Alternative Agricultural Approaches: In Quest of a Regenerative and Just Agriculture," in New Directions for Agriculture and Agricultural Research: Neglected Dimensions and Emerging Alternatives, Kenneth A. Dahlberg, (ed.), Rowman & Allanheld, Totowa, New Jersey. Considers the possibility of evolving a set of values capable of promoting a sustainable (regenerative) agriculture. Seeks to clarify the ethical and value issues and choices which must be considered in the selection of national agricultural research goals. As a working definition, uses "alternative approaches to agriculture" to mean -"the multitude of significant efforts evolving across this nation, as well as internationally, which seek to reduce, either completely or partially,, dependence upon petro-chemicals (a depleting and non-renewable resource); to reduce the negative environmental impact of current approaches; and to promote a freedom from the fear about family, rural community, and financial stress which is so much a part of U.S. agriculture, and world agriculture, today." Points out that the idea of a regenerative and just agriculture is not a throw-back to some kind of a counter-cultural or utopian "Walden Pond" mentality, but an idea consistent with emerging scientific and ethical understandings of our ecological, technological, and social worlds. Stresses the need for an interdisciplinary approach to problem-solving within an ecological framework. The challenge is for humans to maintain the integrity of the biotic community while maintaining the productivity of the resource base for agriculture itself. Gebhardt, Maurice R., et al. 1985. "Conservation Tillage," in Science, vol. 230, no. 4726, 8 November. Notes potential trade-off between sediment reduction and contaminants from fertilizers and pesticides. Gliessman, Stephen R. 1985. "Economic and Ecological Factors in Designing and Managing Sustainable Agroecosystems," in Sustainable Agriculture and Integrated Farming Systems, Thomas C. Edens, Cynthia Fridgen, and Susan L. Battenfield, (eds.), Michigan State University Press, East Lansing. Stresses lessons to be learned from "traditional" farmers, such as multiple cropping or polyculture plantings. Advantages: higher yields, net gain in nitrogen, reduced pest damage and lower cost of pest control. Weeds are often at a disadvantage in polycultures, and intercropping often suppresses weed growth. When herbicides are not used, it is important to either minimize the space between crop plants or else occupy that space with a plant (crop or non-crop) that will not interfere with crop development.



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62 tillage, especially through leaching in late spring-early summer. Placement of fertilizers near the soil surface, as with no-tillage, can result in higher concentrations of nutrients in sediments, but sediment losses are reduced so much that the effect is not important. An additional environmental advantage of reduced tillage is the marginal energy savings, which is important on a farm but not a national level. An environmental disadvantage is the fostering of resistant weed species, which require more exotic herbicides to combat them. U.S. Congress. 1983. Appropriate Technology: Research in Alternative Agriculture Systems, Hearing before the Subcommittee on Natural Resources, Agriculture Research and the Environment of the House Committee on Science and Technology, September 30, 1982, 97th Congress, 2nd session, USGPO Washington, D.C., No. 162. Testimony by Dr. Richard Harwood of Rodale Research Center -Looking at whole farms and whole farming systems, there are 30-40,000 farmers in the U.S. who call themselves "organic" (using the broad USDA definition), who are minimizing inputs. Mentions collaborative study with Penn State [see Madden 1987] -demographically these organic farms have approximately rhe same size and the same variability in types of enterprise as agriculture in general. There are 2,000-acre organic farms and 50-acre organic farms. On the West Coast they tend to be non-livestock, specialty crop-oriented while in the Midwest to northeast they tend toward integrated crop-livestock. But they are characteristically management intensive (illustrated by the difference between IPM, which requires careful monitoring, and weekly spraying according to a formula). Economically -a. management, labor and perhaps machinery costs are somewhat higher, but the cash input costs are considerably lower; b. total cost of production is somewhat lower c. yields vary from about the same [as conventional] to some 10Z less, but there are also individual examples where yields are as much as 20-30% above those of neighboring farms. The most significant characteristic [of organic farms] is the drastic reduction in inputs which comes about by structuring the farm to get particular kinds of interactions (e.g., certain crop combinations in well-defined, scheduled rotations). Re: the transition to organic farming -when you stop using intensive inputs on a field with a long-term history of conventional use, the stoppage is extremely disruptive; it takes 3-5 years to restore a field after heavy use of conventional fertilizers and pesticides.



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3 agriculture. The environmental characteristics we consider are air and water quality, the health of farmers and consumers as it is affected by pesticides, and animal habitat. Many advocates of alternative agriculture claim advantages for the system which go well beyond the characteristics we consider. "Alternatively" grown food is said by many to be more nutritious, and therefore more healthful than conventionally grown food. After a review of a number of studies, Oelhaf (1978) stated that although the evidence is not conclusive, "nutrient levels appear to be higher for organically raised vegetables, and perhaps in better balance" (p. 47). However, the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST, 1980) cited 6 studies in support of its conclusion that the claim for higher nutritive quality of organically grown food "1... has yet to be sustained experimentally. The available evidence, obtained from chemical analyses and animal feeding trials, indicates that the, nutritive value of organically grown and conventionally grown food is about the same" (p. 8). Because the evidence bearing on the relative nutritive quality of alternatively grown food is inconclusive, we do not consider this issue further.. Alternative agriculture also is viewed by some as promoting social goals quite apart from the production of food. For example, Kaufman (1985), writing of Robert Rodale's concept of regenerative agriculture, states that widespread adoption of such a system would lead to "... the regeneration of 'metropolitan farms', creating not just a culture of food, but a new culture of rural living... Regenerative agriculture thus aims to integrate agronomic techniques with policies for rural revitalization..." (p. 220). In a wideranging discussion of alternative agriculture, Lockeretz (1986) refers to this aspect of alternative agriculture as a modern version of agricultural



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30 subsequent discussion says nothing about "soil life." Instead he describes how heavy use of nitrogen fertilizer can increase soil acidity, with adverse yield effects, but notes that this is easily corrected by liming. He also asserts that on a heavy clay soil continuous cropping, made possible by substitution of inorganic fertilizer for organic sources, can cause drainage problems and build up of a subsurface hardpan. He then points out, however, that subsoiling equipment to break up such hardpans and improve drainage are available at "modest expense." Whatever these problems, they do not seem to involve soil biota nor do they appear to be a threat to long-term sustainability. Poincelot (1986, p. 117) asserts that there is a "direct relationship" between organic matter in the soil and the population and distribution of beneficial soil biota. This relationship is generally accepted in the literature we have reviewed. It also is generally accepted that with soil, climate, and other relevant conditions the same, organic farmers typically achieve higher organic content in their soils than conventional farmers do (Oelhaf, 1978, p. 25). It would follow that the soils of organic farmers typically would be richer in soil biota than the soils of conventional farmers. However it is not clear that the difference raises an issue of long-term sustainability. It is extensively documented (Crosson and Stout, 1983) that badly eroded, biota impoverished soils can be restored to rich fertility over a period of some years by adoption of management techniques-such as those of alternative agriculture--which build soil organic matter. The process takes time and involves some expense, but it is not rare. Consequently, where conventional agriculture severely reduces soil organic matter and related biota--which it may but does not necessarily do--the losses need not be permanent. If economic conditions favor it, the soils can be restored. No sustainability issue arises.



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14 generally can be compensated by the use of green manures, erosion control to conserve soil nutrients, and recycling of crop residues, animal manures and other organic wastes. Olson et al (1982) estimated the yield effect of banning inorganic fertilizers on field crops and found it to be substartially negative. They assumed that yields in the 1940s reflected conditions of minimal use of inorganic fertilizers and projected the increase of these yields to the 1970s on the assumption that the only factor in the yield increase was genetic improvement in plant cultivars. They then used these estimated yields in a comparison of the economics of conventional and alternative systems. This seems a questionable procedure for estimating the yieldeffect of substituting organic for inorganic sources of nutrients. It ignores all advances in knowledge of crop production since the 1940s except that embodied in improved plant cultivars. It also ignores the fact that much plant breeding after 1940 was aimed at providing fertilizer responsive cultivars to take advantage of the declining'real price of inorganic Eertilizer, particularly nitrogen. If organic sources of nitrogen had continued to be as cheap relative to inorganic nitrogen as they were in the 1940s, research on plant cultivars and farming practices generally would probably have given far more attention to developing techniques for using organic sources. In this case, present yields of alternative agriculture likely would compare much more favorably with yields of conventional agriculture than Olson et al estimated. Indeed, what is now called "alternative"? agriculture might be conventional agriculture. It cannot be concluded from the literature we have reviewed that the substitution of organic for inorganic sources of nutrients contributes .significantly to the yield difference between alternative and conventional systems.



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54 Dabbert, Stephan and Patrick Madden. 1986. "The Transition to Organic Agriculture: A Multi-year Simulation Model of a Pennsylvania Farm," American Journal of Alternative Agriculture, vol. 1, no. 3, Summer. A farm's profits during the transition from chemical-intensive to organic farming methods are determined by a combination of five kinds of effects: rotation adjustment, biological transition, price, learning, and a perennial effect. Transition can cause severe short-term financial losses, but the magnitude of these losses (compared to established organic farming or a continued conventional operation) can vary widely under different yield reduction scenarios. Soil erosion was not limited in this study -the conventional option earns a 7.3% higher profit while incurring nearly twice as much soil erosion as the established organic option. Darby, Gerald M. 1985. "Conservation Tillage: An Important, Adaptable Tool for Soil and Vater Conservation," in El-Swaify, et al (eds.), Soil Erosion and Conservation, Soil Conservation Society of America. Concludes that conservation tillage reduces soil erosion and increases water infiltration, generally with yields comparable to those under conventional tillage. Some types of CT rely on herbicides rather than tillage for weed control. Well-managed CT systems generally improve soil fertility. Domanico, Jean L., Patrick Madden, and Earl J. Partenheimer. 1986. "Income Effects of Limiting Soil Erosion Under Organic, Conventional, and Notill Systems in Eastern Pennsylvania," American Journal of Alternative Agriculture, vol. 1, no. 2, Spring. Without constraints on soil erosion, no-till was the most profitable, then conventional, followed closely by the organic option. At low levels of soil erosion, no-till remained the most profitable and the economic advantage of conventional over organic diminished as soil erosion was constrained. Below 5 tons per acre of soil erosion, the organic system became more profitable than the conventional system. Edens, Thomas C. 1985. "Toward a Sustainable Agriculture," in Sustainable Agriculture and Integrated Farming Systems, Thomas C. Edens, Cynthia Fridgen, and Susan L. Battenfield, (eds.), Michigan State University Press, East Lansing. Feels that our greatest concern, both nationally and globally, must be to avoid evolving an agricultural system that can be sustained only with large inputs of exhaustible resources.



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37 agriculture is not the only alternative available for reducing environmental damages of pesticides. Integrated pest management (IPM) also has this potential, and IPM is consistent with conventional agriculture. Indeed, it was developed within and now is employed in the context of conventional agriculture, particularly in the production of cotton. Since IPM, at least JPM as practiced by most cotton farmers, does not necessarily eliminate the use of pesticides, it is not an acceptable practice in pure forms of alternative agriculture. Despite this, and the uncertainty about the effect of alternative agriculture in reducing pesticide damages to water quality, we believe these effects should be given some weight as an offset to the economic disadvantages of alternative agriculture. We cannot judge how great the weight should be, although we doubt that it is high. But it probably is positive. Nutrients. Nitrogen and phosphorus in runoff and carried by sediment contribute to eutrophication of surface water bodies, and nitrogen in the nitrate form is leached to groundwater, where it may pose a threat to human and animal health. It is not clear that alternative agriculture has an advantage relative to conventional agriculture in reducing nitrate damages to water quality. Oelhaf (1978, p. 34) states that "Heavy manuring causes the same nitrate problems as heavy chemical applications." And CAST (1980) asserts that the nitrate in fertilizer is more readily available to the crop than that in manure or leguminous crops. Consequently, the amount of the nutrient remaining in the soil after harvest is greater with these sources, suggesting that they may contribute more to nitrate pollution than inorganic nitrogen fertilizer. Poincelot (1986) and Papendick et al (1987) also emphasize that mismanagement of manure and other organic wastes-can result in the same problems of nitrate pollution as with inorganic fertilizers.



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15 The finding of Lockeretz et al (1984) that variable costs of alternative agriculture are less than those of the conventional system is supported in the other studies reviewed. The main reason is the saving on purchases of inorganic fertilizer and pesticides. Lockeretz et al found that the J alternative farmers used only slightly more labor than the convene tional farmers. Other studies, however, show rather significantly more labor with the alternative system (Oelhaf 1978; Poincelot 1986). In some instances the economic disadvantages of alternatively grown products is offset, at least partially, by their ability to command premium A prices in specialty markets. There are many references to this in the A literature we reviewed. The most complete account was given by Oelhaf A (1978). He collected price information from wholesalers of alternatively j grown grains, soybeans, fruits and vegetables. Most of the wholesalers were in California and the northeast, although some were in the midwest. The results were variable, but they showed that in general, alternatively grown crops did in fact command premium prices. Oelhaf concluded that for grains the premium was about 10 percent. For fruits and vegetablesuit was 5-10 percent, although in California prices of some alternativelyrgrown commodities were less than those conventionally grown. In t~e northeast the price premium for alternatively grown fruits and vegetables was somewhat higher than in California. Oelhaf's study was done in the mid-1970s. Whether the Rrice differentials he found still exist was not revealed in the literature we reviewed. The material reviewed strongly indicates that at the farm level and in years of normal rainfall alternative agriculture is less profitable than conventional agriculture. And this may sufficiently explain the failure of alternative agriculture to seriously challenge the conventional system in



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34 groundwater concentrations are much higher than the numbers cited above, high enough to cause the closing of both public and private wells in several states (Hallberg, 1987). Most of the pesticides found in groundwater get there by leaching through the soil. However, in areas with karst-carbonate aquifer terrains these contaminants can enter groundwater directly through sinkholes and related features, producing much higher concentrations than those resulting from leaching (Hallberg, 1987). Hallberg reports that although these karstcarbonate aquifers sometimes are viewed as-special cases, they in fact underlie extensive areas of agricultural land throughout the U.S. Nielsen and Lee (1987) analyzed the potential for pollution of groundwater by 38 pesticides recommended for inclusion in an EPA survey (underway as of this writing) of pesticides in groundwater. Combining information about county level rates of use of these pesticides with other information about their tendency to leach to groundwater and the "leachability" of soils in areas where they are used, Nielsen and Lee ranked counties by their potential for groundwater contamination by these pesticides. They found 361 counties judged to have high contamination potential because rates of pesticide use are high and soil conditions favorable for leaching. Another 757 counties have medium potential, either because pesticide use is high or soil conditions are favorable for leaching. The high potential counties are mostly in the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal plains stretching from New Jersey through Florida to southern Alabama. Most of the rest are in Kentucky and in scattered locations in the Lake States of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota (Nielsen and Lee, 1987, p. 8). Somewhat surprisingly, almost no Cornbelt counties and no counties in the Northern and Southern Plains have high contamination potential. Nielsen and Lee do not discuss the reasons for the regional distribution



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60 Madden, Patrick. 1987. "Can Sustainable Agriculture be Profitable?", Environment, vol. 29, no. 4, May. Alternative agricultural farming styles include -organic, regenerative, biodynamic, natural, biological, and ecological. Uses 'sustainable' and 'regenerative' synonymously. Regenerative -farming systems in which an abundance of safe and nutritious food and fiber is produced using farming methods that are ecologically harmless, sustainable, and profitable. Following a transitional phase, chemical insecticides are replaced by reliance on natural biological controls to the maximum extent feasible; renewable sources of soil nutrients are largely or totally substituted for chemical fertilizers. Differs from the USDA 1980 definition of "organic" by adding recognition of the importance of profitability. Methods of conservation tillage relying on routine applications of herbicides would not qualify as regenerative. Draws on two studies: Washington University, St. Louis, 1974-86, Lockeretz et al, Corn Belt Seven of the .8 remaining farmers (of the original 16 studied) are still farming organically. Those who have prospered since 1974 were considered at the time of the study to be the most capable managers. Penn State, Univ. Park, 1981-86, Madden, with Rodale Conclusions: 1. Farmers who produce fresh fruits and vegetables organically usually (but not universally) incur higher costs per unit of output and must charge higher prices (eg. garlic producer who pays more for labor to control weeds than he would pay for herbicides) 2. Not all organic/regenerative farmers rely on premium prices (gives examples, eg. an 800-acre nonirrigated wheat farm in Washington, and a 32-cow dairy farm in Pennsylvania where the net farm income is double the average of comparable DHIA farms due primarily-to reduced input costs) 3. Three characteristics of successful regenerative farms are superb management; complete knowledge of the farm and what's grown; and a reverence for life that motivates them to find safe and harmless ways to produce food. 4. In organic farming -a. the yield sacrifice is frequently offset by cost reductions b. management is more challenging



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41 than to understate the increased cancer risk. We conclude that adoption of alternative agriculture would do little to reduce threats of acute toxicity,.or cancer, of pesticide residues on or in food because these threats already are small. Health threats from handling pesticides. Pimentel et al (1980) estimated deaths from pesticides by accident, homicide and suicide to have been several hundred per year in the 1970s. They estimated illnesses from pesticide poisoning in the tens of thousands. These numbers are subject to considerable error, as Pimentel et al recognize, because state reporting of the necessary data is sometimes spotty, and the data about accidents is inherently difficult to collect. Nonetheless, there appears to be little doubt that the human and economic cost of pesticide poisoning of farmers, their families and their hired workers is significant. In our judgment the fact that alternative agriculture would drastically reduce if not eliminate this cost is its most important environmental advantage related to conventional agriculture. Animal Habitat The literature we reviewed gives contradictory evidence on the effects of conventional and alternative agriculture for animal habitat. Writing about the south (the-eleven states of the Confederacy plus Kentucky and parts of Oklahoma), Healy (1985, p. 225) states that "On balance, the land-use changes that have taken place in the South since about 1935 have probably improved carrying capacity for many game species by creating a more diverse local habitat. Field abandonment, more frequent timber harvest, and the change from cotton to soybeans, for example, have done more help than harm. Even activities such as establishment of pine plantations and clearing of hardwood forests, which are generally undesirable in their habitat effects, did not for a long time have much impact on game." Healy clearly is talking about more than crop production. However, the



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59 reactive combinations these chemicals make with the soil and with each other in terms of toxicity for humans Cites David Schertz, SCS -notion that CT increases pesticide use is a fallacy -there is an increase in early years, but year-by-year the weed problem gets less and less (in part because weed seeds are no longer turned up by plowing). Improvements in techniques can also reduce herbicide use, e.g. ridge till. Cites Robert Papendick, Washington State -No-till is not necessarily tied to increased use of pesticides; that may be the fact today, but it need not be tomorrow; working on rotations involving new cover crops to control pests. Cites Barney Volak, Rodale Research Center, Kutztown, PA -they are testing alternatives to herbicides in CT, eg. crop rotations, biological predator controls, crop competition to control weeds, etc. Lockeretz, William and Patrick Madden. 1987. "Midwestern Organic Farming: A Ten-year Follow-up," American Journal of Alternative Agriculture, vol. II, no. 2, Spring. Abstract. A survey was mailed to 174 Midwestern organic farmers originally studied in 1977. We obtained information on 133 of this group, 96 of whom are still farming at the same location, although 12 no longer use organic methods. Fifty-eight currently active farmers returned a detailed questionnaire that covered their perceptions of the advantages and disadvantages of organic farming, some of their practices, and their financial status. Most farmers who employed organic farming methods stated they did so out of concern for the health of themselves, their families, and their livestock. Compared to ten years ago, philosophical or religious considerations were frequently mentioned as an advantage of organic farming. In contrast, some agronomic and management disadvantages of organic farming were mentioned more often. The farmers now are more tolerant, in principle, of some chemicals not generally accepted in organic farming, but regular use of soluble fertilizers and synthetic pesticides has not increased appreciably. The farmers reported little change in the institutional and social environment for organic agriculture, including available markets, information sources, and the attitudes of their neighbors. Lockeretz, W., et al. 1976. "Organic and Conventional Crop Production in the Corn Belt: A Comparison of Economic Performance and Energy Use for Selected Farms," Center for the Biology of Natural Systems, Washington University, St. Louis. This was a five-year study of organic farming begun in 1974. Per Madden (1987) 8 of the original 16 farmers who were contacted in 1986 were still farming, 7 organically and 1 using the full spectrum of chemicals.



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43 improved, if Cacek (1985) is right about the relative habitat benefits of alternative agriculture. We believe this is a strong argument for the social value of alternative agriculture relative to conventional agriculture. Healy's work (1985) and that of various authors in Decker and Goff (1987) indicate that many people in the United States place a high value on wildlife, both as hunters and as "nonconsumptive users", e.g.*bird watchers. With continued growth in population, income and leisure over the next 50 years, demand for these various uses of wildlife is sure to grow, probably quite substantially. The benefits of alternative agriculture relative to those of conventional agriculture in providing wildlife habitat could be expected to grow correspondingly. Conclusion By eliminating the use of pesticides, alternative agriculture probably would give some positive benefit in improved walter quality relative to conventional agriculture. Not much more than this can confidently be said because the uncertainties about the concentrations of pesticides in ground and surface water and about the environmental significance of the concentrations are so great. Moreover, IPM, which does not qualify as alternative agriculture, may be more cost-effective in reducing pesticide damage to water quality than alternative agriculture. The evidence suggests little difference between alternative agriculture and conventional agriculture with respect to nitrate pollution of ground and surface water. However, because alternative agriculture reduces erosion on sloping and more erosive land, it probably has some advantage in reducing phosphorus deliveries to lakes and reservoirs. The information available is insufficient to judge how important this advantage might be. The erosion reduction advantage might be significant, however, in



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QE89-12 PUBLIC CHOICES AND PRIVATE RISKS: THE ROLE OF ECONOMIC ANALYSIS. V. Kerry Smith (1989) $2.25 QE89-13 BENEFIT-COST ANALYSIS OF POLICIES TOWARD RISK. A. Myrick Freeman III (1989) $2.25 QE89-14 MEASURING WELFARE VALUES OF PRODUCTIVITY CHANGES. A. Myrick Freeman III and Winston Harrington (1989) $2.25 QE89-15 UNCERTAINTIES IN ESTIMATES OF THE COSTS AND BENEFITS OF GROUNDWATER REMEDIATION: RESULTS OF A COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS. Walter 0. Spofford, Jr., Alan J. Krupnick, and Eric F. Wood (1989) $2.25 QE89-16 THE SOCIAL COSTS OF CHRONIC HEART AND LUNG DISEASE. Maureen L. Cropper and Alan J. Krupnick (1989) $2.25 QE89-17 THE ECONOMIC ANALYSIS OF AGRICULTURAL CHEMICAL REGULATION: THE CASE OF PHENOXY HERBICIDES AND WHEAT. Leonard P. Gianessi, Raymond J. Kopp, and Cynthia A. Puffer (1989) $2.25 QE89-18 NOTES ON SYSTEMS OF FRONTIER FACTOR DEMAND EQUATIONS. Raymond J. Kopp and John Mullahy (1989) $2.25 OE89-19 WEIGHTED LEAST SQUARES ESTIMATION OF THE LINEAR PROBABILITY MODEL, REVISITED. John Mullahy (1989) $2.25 QE89-20 THE EFFECTS OF UNCERTAINTY ON POLICY INSTRUMENTS: THE CASE OF ELECTRICITY SUPPLY AND ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATIONS. Hadi Dowlatabadi and Winston Harrington (1989) $2.25 THE NATIONAL CENTER FOR FOOD AND AGICULTURAL POLICY RR87-O1 AGRICULTURAL TRADE MODEL COMPARISON: A LOOK AT AGRICULTURAL MARKETS IN THE YEAR 2000 WITH AND WITHOUT TRADE LIBERALIZATION. Rachel Nugent Sarko (1986) $5.00 RR87-02 MEASURING THE COMPONENTS OF AGGREGATE PRODUCTIVITY GROWTH IN U.S. AGRICULTURE. Susan M. Capalbo (1986) $3.00 FAP87-02 PROMOTING INCREASED EFFICIENCY OF FEDERAL WATER USE THROUGH VOLUNTARY WATER TRANSFER. Richard W. Wahl (1987) $3.00 FAP88-02 HARMONIZING HEALTH AND SANITARY STANDARDS IN THE GATT: PROPOSALS AND ISSUES. Carol S. Kramer (1988) $3.00 FAP89-01 REFLECTIONS FROM THE PAST, CHALLENGES FOR THE FUTURE: AN EXAMINATION OF U.S. AGRICULTURAL POLICY GOALS. Kristen Allen (1988) $3.00 FAP89-02 A MARKET ALTERNATIVE TO FARM PRICE SUPPORT PROGRAMS: FULL PARTICIPATION MARKETS IN CONTRACTS FOR FUTURE DELIVERY. James D. Shaffer (1989) $3.00 FAP89-03 ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AND AGRICULTURAL SUPPORT: ARE TRADE-OFFS NECESSARY? Katherine Reichelderfer (1989) $3.00 5



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45 agriculture than it has heretofore. Given the present economic disadvantage of alternative agriculture, USDA policies to encourage a large scale shift to alternative systems over the next decade or so could not be justified. We think, however, that a policy to put more resources into research on the comparative economic and environmental characteristics of alternative and conventional agriculture deserves serious consideration by USDA. With respect to economics, research on the causes of the yield penalty alternative agriculture now suffers should have high priority. Weed control with substantially reduced use, if not elimination, of herbicides should be the primary initial target. We do not believe the aim of the research should necessarily be elimination of all herbicide use. The objective should be a system which is more competitive economically with the conventional system while significantly less dependent on herbicides. "Significantly less dependent" does not necessarily imply zero use, although it may. If this research succeeds, farmers will have increasing economic incentive to adopt alternative agriculture, and the system will spread. Farmers will gain economically, and society generally will reap gains in environmental improvement. With respect to environmental characteristics, the USDA should support collection and analysis of data on pesticide use and consequences for environmental quality. Since other federal agencies, e.g.-. the EPA, also have responsibilities in this area, we do not seek to specify what the role of the USDA: should be. However, we believe an initiating rather than a reactive posture would be appropriate for USDA, given its responsibilities for the overall health of the nation's agriculture. The animal habitat benefits of alternative agriculture relative to conventional agriculture also deserve additional research attention. Analytical techniques have been developed to estimate unpriced benefits of



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D-082V GEOGRAPHIC VARIATION IN FUEL FLEXIBILITY: IMPLICATIONS FOR THE REGIONAL INCIDENCE OF OIL SUPPLY DISRUPTIONS. Molly K. Macauley (1984) $5.00 D-110 ECONOMIC ANALYSIS OF NONRENEWABLE RESOURCE SUPPLY: AN OVERVIEW. Michael A. Toman (Rev. 1985) $5.00 D-113 COMMON PROPERTY RESOURCE EXTERNALITIES AND ENTRY DETERRENCE. Michael A. Toman (1983) $5.00 EM85-01 THE SITE VALUE OF LOCATIONS IN THE GEOSTATIONARY ARC. Molly K. Macauley (1985) $5.00 EM85-02 THE WELFARE COST OF REGULATORY POLICY GOVERNING THE GEOSTATIONARY ARC. Molly K. Macauley (1985) $5.00 EM85-03 IMPLEMENTING AN AUCTION: STEPS TOWARD IMPROVED ALLOCATION OF THE GEOSTATIONARY ARC. Molly K. Macauley (1985) $5.00 EM86-O1 OUT OF SPACE? REGULATION AND TECHNICAL CHANGE IN COMMUNICATIONS SATELLITES. Molly K. Macauley (1986) $5.00 EM86-04 AN ECONOMICS PERSPECTIVE OF THE 21st CENTURY SPACE STATION. Molly K. Macauley (1986) $5.00 EM86-05 (REV.) DESIGNING RATES FOR NEW CONDITIONS IN GAS DISTRIBUTION MARKETS. Michael A. Toman (1989) $5.00 EM87-01 THE TRANSITION TO COMMERCIAL ENERGY IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES: A CASE STUDY OF HOUSEHOLDS IN INDIAN CITIES. Molly K. Macauley (1987) $5.00 EM87-02 (REV.) MARKET-BASED REGULALTION OF NATURAL GAS PIPELINES. Dan Alger and Michael A. Toman (1988) $5.00 EM87-03 PETROLEUM SUPPLY MODELING IN A DYNAMIC OPTIMIZATION FRAMEWORK: FORECASTING THE EFFECTS OF THE 1986 OIL PRICE DECLINE. Margaret A. Walls (1987) $5.00 EM87-04 A COMPARISON OF NUCLEAR POWER REGULATION IN CANADA AND THE UNITED STATES. John F. Ahearne (1987) $5.00 EM87-05 HOW NATURAL IS MONOPOLY? The Case of Bypass in Natural Gas Distribution Markets. Harry G. Broadman and Joseph P. Kalt (1987) $5.00 EM88-01 FEDERAL COAL LEASING: AN ANALYSIS OF THE ECONOMIC ISSUES. Richard L. Gordon (1988) $5.00 EM88-02, WHY FEDERAL RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT FAILS. John F. Ahearne (1988) $5.00 EM88-03 (REV.) DYNAMIC FIRM BEHAVIOR AND REGIONAL DEADWEIGHT LOSSES FROM A U.S. OIL IMPORT FEE. Margaret A. Walls (1989) $5.00 Renewable Resources D-096 DISCRETE TIME OPTIMAL CONTROL ALGORITHM FOR ANALYSIS OF LONG-RUN TIMBER SUPPLY. Kenneth Lyon and Roger Sedjo (1982) Free 2



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63 U.S. Congress. 1982. Organic Farming Act of 1982, Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Forests, Family Farms, and Energy of the House Committee an Agriculture, June 10, 1982, 97th Congress, 2nd session on H.R. 5618, U.S. GPO, Washington, D.C. H.R. 5618 -bill to require the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a network of volunteers to assist in making available information and advice on organic agriculture for family farms and other agricultural enterprises, and to establish pilot projects to carry out research and education activities involving organic farming, with special emphasis on family farms. Per USDA's report on organic agriculture (1980): major problems confronting farmers and our agriculture system include -(1) increasing costs and uncertain availability of energy and chemical fertilizers; (2) excessive soil erosion, loss of soil, organic matter, and a resultant decline in soil production and tilth; (3) degradation of the environment, including hazards to human and animal health from 14eavy pesticide use; (4) demise of the family farm and localized marketing systems. Indications are that even a partial shift to low-energy agricultural systems, including the use of more organic firming techniques, would alleviate many of these problems. A Per Dr. Terry B. Kinney, ARS, USDA studies relating to the economic and marketing aspects of organic farming show -* lower production costs although the legume-based crop rotations on most organic farms do reduce acreage available for cash crops (eg. corn and soybeans) the net farm income is quite often comparable to the net income of conventional farms # soil erosion benefits through use of grass, legume and small grain crops in rotation systems emphasis on tillage methods that keep crop residues and organic matter near the soil surface, which helps reduce erosion, opening up the soil to infiltration # ,organic agriculture contributes to reductions in soil erosion, plant nutrient and pesticide run-off, and the leaching of these materials into groundwater organic soil fertility management through the use of animal and green manures, cover crops, crop rotations, etc. results in less susceptibility to loss through run-off than other fertilizer methods re: uncertainty of petroleum supplies -largely self-sustaining nutrient recycling systems typical of organic agriculture enhance long-term sustainability of the system major obstacles to widespread adoption of organic farming methods revolve around the issue of farm policy and structure, and the financial and entrepreneurial situations of individual farmers



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FAP89-04 THE CONSUMER'S STAKE IN FOOD POLICY: THE UNITED STATES AND THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITY. Carol S. Kramer and Barbara J. Elliott (1989) $3.00 FAP89-05 TEN TRUTHS ABOUT SUPPLY CONTROL. Thomas W. Hertel (1989) $3.00 CENTER FOR RISK MANAGEMENT CRM 88-01 REGULATION AND RISK ANALYSIS OF HAZARDOUS MATERIALS TRANSPORTATION ROUTES. John C. Allen and Theodore S. Glickman (1988) Free CRM 88-02 AIR POLLUTION, CIGARETTE SMOKING, AND THE PRODUCTION OF RESPIRATORY HEALTH. John Mullahy and Paul R. Portney (Revised 1989) Free CRM 89-01 ESTIMATING "ENVIRONMENTAL" CARCINOGENESIS: A COMPARISON OF DIVERGENT APPROACHES. Michael Gough (1988) Free CRM 89-02 URBAN AIR QUALITY AND CHRONIC RESPIRATORY DISEASE. Paul R. Portney and John Mullahy (1988) Free CRM 89-03 THE NET BENEFITS OF INCENTIVE-BASED REGULATION: THE CASE OF ENVIRONMENTAL STANDARD-SETTING IN THE REAL WORLD. Wallace E. Oates, Paul R. Portney and Albert M. McGartland (1988) Free CRM 89-04 PROTECTIVE ACTION DECISION-MAKING IN TOXIC VAPOR CLOUD EMERGENCIES. Theodore S. Glickman and Alyce M. Ujihara. (1988) Free CRM 89-05 ECONOMICS AND THE RATIONAL MANAGEMENT OF RISK. A. Myrick Freeman III and Paul R. Portney (1989) Free CRM 89-06 FLAMMABLE LIQUID TRANSPORTATION RISKS: A CASE STUDY OF TANK TRUCKS ON URBAN ROADS. Theodore S. Glickman (1989) Free 6



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28 to occur, the decline in demand for cropland likely would be less than USDA (1987) now projects. Nonetheless, in a period of strong land-saving technological change, such as now seems in prospect, the land-using aspect of alternative agriculture would appear less threatening--perhaps not threatening at all--than it would if the trend-of technology generally was land-using. On balance, we conclude that a wholesale shift to alternative agriculture under current conditions would have unfavorable macro-economic A consequences, but that these probably would be closer to those estimated by A Oelhaf than to those by Olson et al and CAST. The fact that alternative A agriculture would tend to hold more land in crop production than the A conventional system does not appear particularly troublesome, given present expectations about the long-term growth of demand for crops and for technological change in agriculture. Sustainability Comparisons We assume that the USDA has to be concerned about the long-term sustainability of American agriculture. More specifically, we assume that the USDA accepts responsibility for fostering an agricultural system which will indefinitely meet rising domestic and foreign demand for food and fiber at constant or declining real economic and environmental costs of production. This is our definition of a sustainable system. A principal tenet of the alternative agriculture movement is that the current agricultural system of the U.S. is not sustainable in this sense. The charge is based on three arguments: (1) the existing system generates enough erosion to seriously threaten the long-term productivity of the soil; (2) the existing system's heavy use of inorganic fertilizer and pesticides destroys useful biota in the soil, again posing a threat to the soil's long-



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10 entails a yield penalty in the first few years, with subsequent recovery. However, he notes that after recovery yields under the alternative system still may be less than under the conventional system. Power and Doran (1984) came to the same conclusion as Oelhaf. To reflect this possible yield effect, Dabbert and Madden assumed-that in the first year after the shift yields would decline 30 percent followed by a return in linear fashion to the original level in three years. They also studied the economic consequences of the shift on the assumption of no yield penalty. Linear programming was used to study the profitability of the alternative system relative to that of a conventional system farming the same land. On the assumption of profit maximization, the conventional system would have about 75 percent of the farmland in continuous corn and the rest would be in alfalfa. In the two alternative farming systems profit maximization would put the land in various rotations of wheat, soybeans, corn and alfalfa. The conventional system used pesticides and chemical fertilizers as needed to achieve profit maximization. The alternative farming systems used no pesticides (except in undefined emergencies) and nutrients were provided by purchased chicken manure and legumes in the crop rotation. The analysis showed that when the shift to alternative agriculture imposed no yield penalty net income in the first year of the shift fell 13 percent below net income of the conventional system, but then rose and within 5 years leveled off at 7 percent less than the conventional system. On the assumption of a 30 percent yield penalty in the first year of the shift, net income of the alternative system declined 43 percent relative to the conventional system, but then rose and leveled off at 7 percent less after 5 years.



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Energy and Natural Resources Division Resources for the Future/Washington, D.C.



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16 terms of the quantity of resources devoted to each. 1 Still economics may no t be all there is to it. Some farmers may be ignorant of the advantages of alternative agriculture, and others may have other non-economic reasons for not adopting it. Blobaum (1983) did a study of barriers to adoption of organic farming methods, focusing on non-economic barriers. Indeed Blobaum concluded, mistakenly in our view, that economics was not a barrier. He surveyed 547 organic farmers in Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri and Nebraska, and received usable responses from 214. Almost three-quarters of these farmers A had formerly farmed conventionally. Blobaum concluded that in their personal A. characteristics they were much like conventional farmers and motivated mainly A by the same practical considerations. When asked to list obstacles to adoption of alternative farming systems the farmers surveyed most often named lack of information about practices, lack of marketing information, especially about the availability of markets offering premium prices for alternatively produced output, and the need for more research, particularly about weed control in alternative farming systems. Some also indicated that the supply of organic fertilizers and other inputs was a problem. About two1. Estimates of the number of farmers engaged in alternative agriculture vary. The USDA (1981) gave a number of 50,000 and in another report (1980) estimated 11,200 by a strict definition and 24,000 by a broader one. Harwood (1984) states that less than 60,000 of the subscribers to the Rodale Organization's New Farm magazine describe themselves as alternative farmers. In answer to a question from one of the authors, Garth Youngberg, editor of the American Journal of Alternative Agriculture, said no one knows how many American farmers have adopted the system. Whatever the number, it is small relative to the total of some 2.5 million American farmers.



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RESOURCES FOR THE FUTURE DISCUSSION PAPERS August 1989 The following RFF discussion papers are currently in print. The cost of each is indicated. Prepamt is reuired for discussion papers for which there is a charge. Checks should be made out to Resources for the Future. Orders should be addressed to Publications and Communication, Resources for the Future, 1616 P Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036. ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES DIVISION ENR88-O1 ALTERNATIVE AGRICULTURE: A REVIEW AND ASSESSMENT OF THE LITERATURE. Pierre Crosson and Janet Ekey (1988) $5.00 ENR88-02 WATER RESOURCES: STATUS, TRENDS, AND POLICY NEEDS. Kenneth D. Frederick (1988) $5.00 ENR88-03 IMPROVING PERFORMANCE OF WHOLESALE ELECTRIC GENERATION MARKETS. Michael A. Toman and Joel Darmstadter (1988) $5.00 ENR88-04 ANALYZING U.S. OIL AND GAS EXPLORATION: A JOINT-PRODUCTS RATIONAL EXPECTATIONS FRAMEWORK. Margaret A. Walls (1988) $5.00 ENR89-01 CHANGES IN ELECTRICITY MARKETS AND IMPLICATIONS FOR GENERATION TECHNOLOGIES. Hadi Dowlatabadi and Michael Toman (1989) $5.00 ENR89-02 MANAGEMENT OF WATERSHEDS FOR AUGMENTED WATER YIELDS--PLUMAS NATIONAL FOREST. John V. Krutilla, Michael Bowes, and Thomas B. Stockton (1989) $5.00 ENR89-03 TEMPORAL AGGREGATION IN FORPLAN LINEAR PROGRAMS. Michael D. Bowes (1989) $5.00 ENR89-04 LAUNCH VOUCHERS FOR SPACE SCIENCE RESEARCH. Molly K. Macauley (1989) $5.00 ENR89-05 POLICY OPTIONS FOR ADAPTATION TO CLIMATE CHANGE. Norman J. Rosenberg, Pierre Crosson, William E. Easterling III, Kennneth Frederick, and Roger Sedjo (1989) $5.00 ENR89-06 WILL NUCLEAR POWER RECOVER IN A GREENHOUSE? John F. Ahearne (1989) $5.00 ENR89-07 ETHANOL FUEL AND NON-MARKET BENEFITS: IS A SUBSIDY JUSTIFIED? Margaret A. Walls, Alan J. Krupnick, and Michael A. Toman (1989) $5.00 Energy and Materials D-0821 A NONCOOPERATIVE EQUILIBRIUM FOR STATE DEPENDENT SUPERGAMES. Michael A. Toman (Rev. 1986) $5.00 D-082S WHAT CAUSES OIL PRICE SHOCKS? Douglas R. Bohi (1983) $5.00



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27 Conclusion. The three studies we reviewed of the macro-economic consequences of wholesale adoption of alternative agriculture agreed that production costs would rise and set off a variety of other unfavorable economic consequences, except for farmers as a group. The studies disagreed, however, about the severity of the cost increase and the related consequences, Oelhaf (1978) estimating a smaller increase than Olson et al (1982) and CAST (1980). An important reason for Oelhaf's lower estimate is that he expects alternative agriculture to impose a lower yield penalty. Our reading of the literature suggests that Oelhaf's estimate of the penalty is A closer to the mark than the estimates of CAST and, especially, Olson et al. A The inelasticity of supply of organic sources of nitrogen, and other nutrients, might contribute to the yield penalty, although this is unclear. Even without a nutrient deficiency yield effect, however, wholesale substitution of organic sources for fertilizer almost-surely would tend to sharply increase nutrient costs, with a consequent increase in total production costs. The three studies agreed that conversion to alternative agriculture would increase the amount of land devoted to production. At the time the studies were done there was a general expectation that over the coming several decades demand for cropland would rise, even without a shift to alternative agriculture (e.g. Crosson and Brubaker, 1982). Under those circumstances,. the additional demand for cropland implied by such a shift would appear troublesome, both because of increased upward pressure on land price's and because of the likelihood that the additional land would be more erosive. The CAST report did in fact express these concerns. Current thinking, however, is that over the next 50 years the demand for cropland will decline, perhaps sharply, as the growth of crop yields outpaces the growth of crop demand (USDA, 1987). These yield projections do not reflect a large scale shift to alternative agriculture. If such a shift were



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4 fundamentalism. He also notes that many advocates of alternative agriculture value it because it would promote greater regional self-sufficiency in food production, thus providing protection against possible disruptions in supply. Altieri (1985) hints at an even broader agenda: use of alternative agriculture as a vehicle for changing the existing "capital-intensive structure of agriculture" (p. 182). We do not consider the relationship of alternative agriculture to these broader social goals of rural revitalization, regional self-sufficiency in A food production, and restructuring of agriculture. These are complex issues. A To treat them satisfactorily would require a much larger effort than could be A devoted to this report. By neglecting them we do not mean to imply that they A are less important than the issues we discuss. And if subsequent analysis should show the claims for alternative agriculture along these lines to have merit, then the USDA would be obligated to take them seriously. But we cannot undertake that analysis here. The rest of the report is in three parts. The first considers the comparative economics of alternative and conventional agriculture, the second considers their respective environmental characteristics, and the third discusses some of the implications for USDA policies with respect to alternative agriculture.



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12 at very high cost. Fawcett (1983) discusses other advantages of herbicides relative to tillage for weed control in field crops. He does not consider hand labor as an alternative, presumably because the costs of farm labor in the United States are too high to make that feasible. Herbicides permit earlier planting in the spring than generally would be possible if weeds were to be controlled by cultivation. The reason is that when soil temperatures are cool, as in early spring, many weeds grow faster than emerging corn and soybean plants. Herbicides permit control of these weeds. Another advantage of herbicides is that they give easier control of weeds in the crop row, as noted in the CAST report. Fawcett (1983, p. 2) states that this permits higher seeding densities, hence higher crop yields. He stvs that weeds in the row probably can also be controlled with ". biolbgical farming, but it is going to be tougher" than controlling them with herbici:des. I-awcett also asserts that herbicides give greater flexibility in the timinPz of cultivation. "Nearly all Iowa farmers still row cultivate... But they don't have to be in there in a very timely manner like we do when we eliminate the use of herbicides" (Fawcett, 1983, p. 2). Finally, and perhaps most important, although Fawcett does not label it so, herbicides permit continuous cropping, that is to say they permit farmers to keep more of their land in relatively high value uses more of the time than would be possible in a rotational system for veed control. The literature reviewed gives less attention to the economic effects of the ban on insecticides in alternative farming systems. Indeed we have found no discussion addressed specifically to these effects. An adverse indirect effect can be inferred, however, from the fact that insect control is one of the important reasons why alternative systems rotate land among various



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58 Lasley, Paul and Gordon Bultena. 1986. "Farmers' Opinions About Third-wave Technologies," American Journal of Alternative Agriculture, vol. 1, no. 3, Summer. Recent data gathered from Iowa farmers provide evidence of growing support for alternative agricultural methods, i.e. many are concerned about environmental problems resulting from current farm practices, are supportive of boosting research on organic farming methods, and feel strongly that agricultural diversification is needed. Little, Charles E. 1987. Green Fields Forever, The Conservation Tillage Revolution in America, Island Press, Washington, D.C. From Chapter 7, pp. 99-122, "Beyond the Mongongo Tree" (on the emvironmental implications of conservation tillage): "The ecological principle of conservation tillage would be to capitalize on, rather than eliminate the natural properties of the soil, which, if 'conserved', can be beneficial in growing crops: structural integrity, porosity, tilth, fertility, and resistance to infestations of pests and diseases." Little defines conservation tillage (CT) as a practice which reduces erosion and agricultural run-off by leaving [crop] residues on the surface of the ground. He concludes that the trade-off of herbicides for reduced erosion and run-off is considered a good one, in terms of environmental quality, by most farmers, university ag.. experts, and USDA. Two issues -nonpoint source pollution and erosion. Re: erosion -there are economic benefits to CT -cites Edwin H. Clark, Conservation Foundation, estimates that cropland erosion costs $2.2 billion per year. Re: effects of CT on nonpoint source pollution -cites an EPA-funded study of the Lake Erie drainage basin which showed that adoption of CT practices could significantly reduce phosphorus run-off, and that the environmental trade-off would be a good one, ie.phosphorus delivery from run-off could be reduced by 2 lbs/acre with only slightly higher levels of herbicide required to control weed growth in corn and soybean fields compared with conservation tillage. Cites Maureen Hinkle, Audobon -agrees that erosion could be abated through CT, but concerned about the possibility of substantial increase of the "pesticide load" -residue on the surface tends to reduce runoff of chemicals to a lesser degree than run-off of silt, since many chemicals are water soluble; and pesticides not running off get into groundwater. Cites Donna Fletcher, EPA task force on appearance of new herbicides in groundwater -not just a matter of pounds, but the staggering number of



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49 Oelhaf, Robert C. 1978. Organic Agriculture, Allanheld, Osmun & Co., Montclair, New Jersey. Ottoboni, M. 1984. The Dose Makes the Poison, Vicente Books, Berkeley, California. Pimentel, D., et al. 1980. "Environmental and Social Costs of Pesticides: A Preliminary Assessment," OIKOS, vol. 34, no. 2. Poincelot, Raymond P. 1986. Toward a More Sustainable Agriculture, AVI Publishing, Westport, Connecticut, 241 pages. Power, J.F., and J.W. Doran. 1984. "Nitrogen Use in Organic Farming," Nitrogen in Crop Production, American Society of Agronomy, Madison, Wisconsin. Roberts, K.J., P.F. Warnken, and K.C. Schneeberger. 1979. "The Economics of Organic Crop Production in the Western Corn Belt," Agricultural Economics Paper #1979-6, University of Missouri, Columbia. U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1987. The Second RCA Appraisal: Review Draft, Washington, D.C. • 1978. Improving Soils with Organic Wastes, Office of the Secretary, Washington, D.C. USDA Study Team on Organic Farming. 1980. Report and Recommendations on Organic Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C., 620-220-3641. Youngberg, Garth. 1980. "Organic Farming: A Look at Opportunities and Obstacles," Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, vol. 35, no. 6, Nov.-Dec.



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2 Organic farming "... is a production system which avoids or largely excludes the use of synthetically compounded fertilizers, pesticides, growth regulators and livestock feed additives. To the maximum extent feasible organic farming systems rely upon crop rotations, crop residues, animal manures, legumes, green manures, off-farm organic wastes, mechanical cultivation, mineral bearing rocks and aspects of biological pest control to maintain soil productivity and tilth, to supply plant nutrients, and to control insects, weeds and other pests." The literature reviewed for this report includes accounts of practices fitting both the strict and less strict definitions of alternative agriculture. Advocates of alternative agriculture, e.g. the Rodale organization and the people supporting the Journal of Alternative Agriculture, argue that the system has significant environmental and other advantages over conventional agriculture, i.e. the system now followed by most crop nd animal producers in the United States. Why should the American society concern itself with this line of argument? The reason is that most of the benefits claimed for alternative agriculture, e.g. reduced damages to soil and water quality, will not be adequately reflected in the economic calculation of farmers. Consequently, if these benefits are real, the market system which fundamentally drives American agriculture will undervalue alternative agriculture relative to conventional agriculture, and American society will be poorer as a result. The argument for alternative agriculture thus raises a public policy issue, specifically for the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). If in fact alternative agriculture has the advantages its advocates claim for it, the USDA should encourage more widespread adoption of the system, the amount'of the encouragement depending on the strength of the advantages relative to those of the existing system. In this report we draw on the literature described'in the references and in the annotated bibliography to assess the economic and environmental characteristics of alternative agriculture relative to conventional



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26 also is quite limited. According to CAST (1980) most soils farmed in the United States today have less than half of their original endowment of organic matter. The main reason is that plowing the soil speeds microbial decomposition of humic material containing the organic matter. Humus and organic matter in the soil can be increased by return of crop residues and animal wastes, but as we already have concluded, most of these materials that can be economically incorporated in the soil already are. The only source of organic material that has much promise for replacing nitrogen fertilizer on a significant scale over the next decade or so is leguminous crops. 3 This, of course, is what alternative agriculture proposes to do. Apart from whether these crops can produce enough nitrogen to replace that now available in fertilizer--an unsettled question in our' judgment--it is the necessity of including these crops in rotation with main crops which depresses the yield of the latter per acre of land in the rotation. And this yield penalty is a principal reason for the conclusion of all the studies we have considered that wholesale conversion to alternative agriculture would drive up the costs.of agricultural production, increase the amount of land in crops, and have unfavorable (except for farmers) macroeconomic consequences. It seems necessary to conclude that the inelasticity of supply of organic forms of nitrogen (and other nutrients) would impose higher economic costs of production on American agriculture should alternative agriculture be substituted wholesale for the conventional system. 3. Research on biological nitrogen fixation may in time enhance the ability of leguminous crops to fix nitrogen and, in more time, teach corn and other non-leguminous crops how to do this also. This would make alternative agriculture more attractive economically, although the research is not-being done for that reason.



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33 Ground and Surface Water Quality Some quality problems are distinctive between ground and surface water, e.g. concern about pesticides and nitrates in well water, but ground and surface water are so closely related hydrologically that many quality problems are common to both. Accordingly we discuss them together in this section. Pesticides. Chemical pesticides are almost completely a product of conventional agriculture. Even loosely practiced alternative agriculture makes scant use of them relative to conventional agriculture. To the extent that pesticides pose water quality problems, therefore, conventional agriculture is the culprit, and alternative agriculture offers potential for eliminating the problems. Hallberg (1987) reports that studies of effects of pesticides on groundwater quality from routine use are few compared to those of nitrates. He says, however, that this is beginning to change, citing a study by Cohen et al (1986) showing that at least 17 pesticides have been found in groundwater in 23 states as a result of routine agricultural use. The largest number of pesticides were found in California, New lFork and Iowa, but this*is because these states engage in closer monitoring than others (Hallberg, 1987). As monitoring increases in other states *he number of pesticides found is expected to increase (Hallberg, 1987). The concentrations of pesticides in groundwater resulting from routine agricultural use are low, ranging in most cases from 0.1 to,,1.0 milligrams per liter (Hallberg, 1987). Hallberg cites evidence suggesting that the concentrations may be increasing, but this evidently is quite uncertain. However, some increase seems likely given the increasing use of herbicides. (Insecticide use is declining.) In some places where suppliers of pesticides mix or rinse them,



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53 Definitional (Vhat are we talking about?) Organic agriculture is often presented as a lifestyle, ignoring its scientific aspects; often presented in negative terms ("don't use this") or in terms of substitution ("use this instead of that"). The issue instead is the long-range physical and environmental stability of our food production system. Attitudinal (inertia and misunderstanding) This includes the human inclination to embrace the familiar as well as a negative reaction to the naive, sectarian, and sometimes accusatory manner in which so many alternative ideas have been presented. The distortions of the chemical-organic controversy have kept farmers from realizing that low-input systems offer potential options which do not exist in the present system. This conclusion is based on the author's interaction with a large farmer's organization when invited to speak on the benefits of alternative agriculture. Perception on the part of the group was that organic farming was a dangerous revolutionary movement which advocated (1) banning all pesticides, and (2) breaking up large farms into small farms and giving them to the poor. Scientific (resistance to change) The scientific community may feel that their lives lose value if the system they have developed is scrapped. There is a need to recognize the invaluable resource of experienced scientists, interest them in the potential of a different approach, and encourage their participation in fine-tuning the emerging ecological agricultural systems. Economic Those with a vested interest in the status quo (e.g. manufacturers and purveyors of chemicals) are not going to voluntarily abandon this field and lay down their sales force in favor of an ecological agriculture. It may be to their advantage, however, to explore the needs of ecological farmers, such as access to improved data on soil tests, plant tissue analysis, crop rotation programs, etc., and begin to provide these new inputs. Council for Agricultural'Science and Technology. 1980. "Comparison of Conventional and Organic Farming Published," Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, Vol. 35, No. 6, Nov.-Dec. Differed from USDA on the probable results of a move toward organic farming. Concludes that widespread adoption would cause an increase in soil erosion since more acres of marginal land would need to be cultivated to meet total crop production needs.



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56 Hallberg, George R. 1986. "From Hoes to Herbicides-Agriculture and Groundwater Quality," Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, 41:6, Nov.-Dec. Many agricultural water quality problems are the result of inefficiencies in chemical use. Agricultural chemical contaminants in groundwater of foremost concern are nitrates and pesticides. Re: nitrates, the focus of attention with respect to groundwater must be nitrogen fertilizer since it is the greatest nitrogen input, the most controllable input, and the one farmers pay for. Estimates that only about 20% of the nitrogen needed could be supplied naturally even under BMPs. Compared with nitrogen, pesticide losses in groundwater and surface waters are quite low, usually less than 5% (about the same amount of active ingredient that actually reaches target pests), i.e. there is no clear economic incentive to reduce inputs. There is legitimate concern about the effects of conservation tillage. In reducing run-off many studies show that infiltration and leaching of chemicals into groundwater may increase. Harmon, W.L., et al. 1985. "No-Till Technology: Impacts on Farm Income, Energy Use and Groundwater Depletion in the Plains," Western Journal of Agricultural Economics, vol. 10 (1), July. Abstract: Rapidly rising fuel costs for irrigation and tillage, combined with groundwater depletion, confront producers in the Great Plains. Maintaining profits while production costs escalate and water levels decline emphasizes the need to increase water and energy use efficiency. A linear programming analysis for a ten-year period comparing conventional tillage practices with no-till practices based on an irrigated wheat/no-till feedgrain/fallow crop rotation indicates notill increases both water and energy use efficiency. Returns to land, management0 and risks are substantially higher using no-till practices. Weed control with no-till is accomplished through application of twice the amount of herbicides applied under conventional tillage. -V Harwood, Richard R. 1984. "Organic Farming Research at the Rodale Research Center," (rganic Farming: Current Technology and Its Role in a Sustainable Agriculture, ASA, CSSA, SSSA, Madison, Wisconsin. Notes the decline in yields during the process of conversion from conventional to organic practices -it takes 3-5 years to obtain yield potential #ith organic culture commensurate with that of conventional practice., Gives the cost comparison between an organic operation and the average costs for Pennsylvania using the same market price for corn.