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Book of Abstracts

11th IFOAM
Scientific Conference
11-15 August 1996
Copenhagen, Denmark

Abstract front page
Subject index
Athor index


Do cost-reducing policies help or hurt organic systems? S31

Lohr, Luanne1; Salomonsson, Lennart2

1) Agricultural and Applied Economics, University of Georgia,Athens, Georgia, 30602-7509, U.S.A., 2) Crop Production Science, Box 7043, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, S-750 07 Uppsala, Sweden.

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It is generally accepted that cost-reducing policies are helpful,and even necessary to encourage widespread adoption of organic agriculture. However, as policies make it economically feasibleto convert more quickly to organic systems, more individuals with strictly economic interests will participate. Adoption of organic practices without a guiding philosophy of environmental, economic and social enhancement may lead to an unsustainable agricultural system. Using cost-reducing policies to expand organic markets has several implications. The entire system (production, processing and distribution) will grow, generating more positive environmental outcomes and providing wider access to organics for consumers, possibly at lower prices. Participants' greater emphasis on monetary returns means that choices will be dominated by economic factors. Under these conditions, environmental and social gains will become secondary to monetary goals for many producers, rather than equally weighted. Our objective is to examine the economic response of organic systems to cost-reducing policies and to delineate sustainability implications. We investigate two national policies - organic certification standards in the U.S. and subsidies for conversion to organic practices in Sweden. For certification, we describethe economic basis for the U.S. standard, and the expected outcomes of implementation. For the subsidy, we use an econometric model to identify differences between farmers who converted to organic methods after the subsidy and those who converted before to explain the effect of the subsidy. Our conclusion is that, as implemented, these policies undermine sustainability goals. Cost-minimizing farmers and processors will seek the least expensive certifier, typically the one who sees that minimal standards are met, but does not promote stewardship nor social goals. Without a subsidy, smaller scale and diversity in enterprises and product outlets are important in conversion. With a subsidy, the focus shifts to external factors - the payment, organic inspection quality and advice in conversion. Policy implementation requires attention to sustainability goals.

Hill, S. B. (1992):Ecological and Psychological Prerequisites for the Establishment of Sustainable Agricultural Communities. In:Salomonsson, L., Nilsson,E. and Jones, T. (eds.) Agroecosystemsand Ecological Settlements - Colloquium in Uppsala. EcologicalAgriculture No. 12, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences,Uppsala, p. 28-51.

Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (1993).Agricultural and Environmental Policy Integration: RecentProgress and New Directions, Paris.