Along the Fencerow

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BRADLEY GOERING
In some circles we read that the demand for organic food has been growing rapidly in the United States over the past decade.

Sales of organic products have grown steadily at an annual rate of 20 to 25 percent since 1996, with sales reaching $7.8 billion in 2001.

Some agricultural producers have responded to this growing demand by making the transition to certified organic-food production.

With this growth rate, many people believe a lot of organic-food production is widespread in the country. Actually, the organic-food sector accounts for only 2 percent of all food sales.

From a global perspective, many consumers who like organically grown foods will pay a premium price. Because of this niche, large food companies such as General Mills, Kellogg and Heinz have entered the organic market.

As with all markets, once larger players enter the game, products increase and profit margins decrease as efficiency and automation increase.

In California we can see this happening in that five major farms specialize in organic-food production.

Statistics show that in 1997, Kansas agriculture production of organic grains totaled 24,314 acres, which includes pasture for livestock.

Most people who consume organic foods are generally in the higher-income category and live in cities. In other countries, including the European nations, organic foods are a hot topic for discussion in agriculture circles. Farms there are smaller and those nations generally have a higher per capita income that can support the higher cost of organic foods.

If we had a major transition in the United States to organic-food production, the poorer nations would be priced out of the food market.

Organic-food prices would decrease when production increases, which would not necessarily support farm businesses involved in the system.

Therefore, we would be in the same situation we are now-the size of farms would be continually increasing in the United States.

Bradley Goering can be reached by telephone at 620-327-4941 and be e-mail at bgoering@thecsb.com.

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