Thursday, April 09, 2009


The Value of Organic Inputs

In several previous posts I made two predictions. First, that the rising cost of artificial fertilizers will push farmers back toward using the traditional organic inputs that have sustained agriculture from its inception until the invention and widespread use of artificial fertilizers, and still do sustain agricultural production for many people (including me). Second, I said that the more dependent farmers become on organic inputs, the more they will come into conflict with commercial biofuel producers seeking feedstock for their operations.

This article makes my first point, going so far as to say that livestock manure will become a hot commodity. Whether or not it will be traded on the stock market in any significant quantity remains to be seen (I suspect most will be produced and consumed locally), but it certainly will become highly sought after, as will all other kinds of organic inputs.

Although the article does not treat biofuels, it is a foregone conclusion that competition for organic inputs will pit farmers and commercial biofuel operations against one another. Those who do not grow food, or those who grow food only with chemical fertilizers, have no appreciation of the large amounts of organic inputs needed to build and maintain soil fertility. And large amounts means that vast expanses of land — which biofuel producers are counting on — will be needed just to produce farmland inputs.

It’s possible that high oil prices will cause the large-scale commercial biofuel industry to fizzle before competition for organic inputs really heats up, in which case my second prediction may not come to pass, at least not to a significant degree. But of my first prediction there is absolutely no doubt.

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