Organic Agriculture

Craig A. Chase, Farm & Ag. Business Management Field Specialist, Northeast Iowa and Tim Eggers, Farm & Ag. Business Management Field Specialist, Southwest Iowa


The agricultural industry in Iowa is dominated by commodity production, which is a high volume, low profit margin industry.  Narrow profit margins force farm businesses to grow in assets, output, and labor income to remain profitable.  Farmers unable or unwilling to grow must look to higher margin alternative crops such as organics.  Organic production has grown steadily for several years and finding markets is easier due to increasing consumer demand.  Managing a profitable organic cropping system, however, is different and may be more difficult than commodity production. 

Iowa State University Extension has responded to the information needs of producers interested in organic agriculture a number of ways.  First, research has been conducted on university farms and in cooperation with producers on their land looking at a wide variety of production topics.  The research information has been disseminated through a variety of channels including popular press, publications, and conferences.  Most recently a series of organic informational meetings entitled Is Organics Right for Me? have provided information on organic certification, general production practices, available markets, general profitability, and resources available for more information.  The workshops have been conducted at four locations around Iowa. 

An end of the meeting evaluation indicated the program was well received.  In general, people found the information useful.  More importantly, individual participants may take what they learned and begin to transition fields from conventional to organic production.  For example, a farmer in Southwest Iowa after the meeting decided to look at transitioning a small field into organics.  He calculated that his profitability will be positive after land, labor, and management are taken into consideration even during the transition period.  If the transition goes well he will start to move more acres into organic production with his ultimate goal to be 100% organic.

ISU Extension is looking at the profitability of organic farming.  With added information, existing and potential commodity producers can make informed decisions regarding whether organic crops should be grown given the potential risks and rewards.  If interested in learning more about economics of organic production, contact Craig Chase at 319-882-4275 ( ) or Tim Eggers at 712-542-5171 ( )

March 31, 2006
POW 121 - Adding Value and Enhancing Agricultural Products

Page last updated: July 20, 2006
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