October 30, 2011

Thought about going organic?

According to Cornell University's Agriculture Experiment Station, organic farming is one of the most dynamic and fast-growing segments of the U.S. agricultural market and is an increasingly important engine of growth for New York's farmers, large and small.

Through numerous research and extension activities, Cornell supports a wide variety of organic agriculture including dairy.

As the number of organic vegetable farms has increased tremendously in the past decade, the movement to organic practices in dairy farming has been slower.

From my recent inquiries, Clinton County had just three or four local farms shipping organic milk, all located in the northern part of the county. Consumer demand is not the problem as demand for organic milk in the Northeast is greater than what is produced in the region. The most recent USDA report on organic fluid milk consumption and production in New York indicates that during the first six months of 2011, sales of organic fluid milk products in the Northeast increased 21.4 percent from the same period of 2010. The 2011 magnitude of growth is triple the magnitude for the same period of 2010.

Organic milk product share of all fluid milk sales is also increasing in the Northeast. During the first six months of 2011, sales of organic milk products accounted for 5.2 percent of all fluid milk sales in the region, up from 4.2 percent in 2010.

The benefits of being organic can be financially rewarding. The current base price of organic milk is almost $28 per hundredweight with numerous quality premiums. Because some consumers are willing to pay more for products produced without antibiotics, synthetic pesticides, fertilizers and other additives, organic dairy farmers currently fill a small but growing niche. So why aren't there more organic dairy farmers?

The number-one obstacle is the risky transition period. A farmer can't just decide to start producing organic milk tomorrow, next week or even next year. The transition takes three years to become certified organic. During this time, the farmer must cease using conventional management tools such as fertilizers, antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides and synthetic hormones. Additionally, the farm must develop a whole-farm plan that tracks the organic management of every animal and every acre of crop and pasture land. New regulations also mandate that cows have access to pasture that provides at least 30 percent of their diet during the grazing season. While no dairy farming is easy, organic dairying probably requires even more management skill and record keeping than conventional farming.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • Hagar_mug1.jpg Owners show off their animals at fair

    It's no easy task to prepare animals for annual show where judges rate livestock on traits according to breed, according to Columnist Peter Hagar.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hagar_mug1.jpg Making good hay a challenge

    Even with today's technology and weather forecasting, getting in a load of good hay comes with lots of pitfalls, according to columnist Peter Hagar.

    July 6, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hagar_mug1.jpg New farms take careful planning

    While people start small farm operations for various reasons, it takes plenty of hard work, dedication and information to be successful, according to columnist Peter Hagar.

    June 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hagar_mug1.jpg Science, economics key to farming

    Modern agriculture has been a steady evolution of adaption to changing times, according to columnist Peter Hagar.

    May 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hagar_mug1.jpg Warm spring rains bring growth

    But pastures shouldn't just be left alone, they need attention just like other crops, according to columnist Peter Hagar.

    May 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hagar_mug1.jpg Conservation programs offered

    No-till drill allows farmers to enhance their soil and promote conservation at the same time, according to columnist Peter Hagar.

    April 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hagar_mug1.jpg Farmers strive for sustainability

    Conserving the land and assuring long-term profitability are two of the key goals for farmers these days, according to columnist Peter Hagar.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hagar_mug1.jpg Watch out for farm machinery

    Accidents on roadways involving farm vehicles can be avoided with a little bit of caution, according to columnist Peter Hagar.

    March 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hagar_mug1.jpg Better bulls improve beef quality

    Artificial insemination can be used to get the most from a beef-cattle herd, according to columnist Peter Hagar.

    March 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hagar_mug1.jpg Healthy environment good for farming

    Best practices and conservation are top priorities for modern farmers, according to columnist Peter Hagar.

    March 2, 2014 1 Photo