Opinion/Editorial Archive

Commercial Agriculture Research Finds Chemicals Are Better for the Environment?

Wednesday, November 6th, 2019

Hardly surprising.

Source: Tobias Nordhausen, Flickr

You may have seen the study suggesting that organic agriculture actually creates more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional agriculture. The Cornucopia Institute has observed research on this topic often comes from an industrial agriculture viewpoint. For more on this issue, read “Big Ag’s Long Arms in Scientific Research.

We believe the research published in Nature Communications in October 2019 is based on this biased viewpoint. The researchers did not consider all of the factors involved in greenhouse gas emissions—nor do they claim to. The study has been sensationalized (or weaponized, depending on your background) in the press.

This article in Organic Insider, written by former New York Times food business reporter Stephanie Strom, sheds some light on the research claims. Organic remains the most environmentally friendly food production method with third-party verification.

Why Claims That Organic is Worse for the Environment Do Not Hold Up
Organic Insider
by Stephanie Strom

Dominating the headlines recently has been a study out of the UK which claims that organic farming is bad for the environment.

Not exactly.

In the report, which assesses the potential changes to net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions if England and Wales shifted to 100% organic food production, it clearly acknowledges that organic farming might contribute to a reduction in GHG emissions “through decreased use of farm inputs and increased soil carbon sequestration.”

Nonetheless, the authors contend that organic’s positive environmental impact “must be set against the need for increased production and associated land conversion elsewhere as a result of lower crop and livestock yields under organic methods.” Read Full Article »

USDA Secretary Perdue Betrays His Disdain for Family-Scale Farmers Again

Friday, October 4th, 2019

USDA Secretary Perdue made comments at the World Dairy Expo this week that have inflamed family-scale dairy producers across the country:

USDA Secretary Perdue
Source: USDA, Flickr

“…[B]ig get bigger and small go out. … It’s very difficult on economies of scale with the capital needs and all the environmental regulations and everything else today to survive milking 40, 50, 60 or even 100 cows, and that’s what we’ve seen.”

Small dairies and other family-scale farms support rural areas with food and local investment. They are a critical part of the fabric of the rural United States.

Many small dairy farmers transitioned to organic production in order to survive the economies of scale that have overtaken conventional dairy markets. Organic producers and consumers have asked for stricter regulation for both environmental and human health, setting organic agriculture apart from conventional.

Instead of giving support to the organic market, Perdue seems determined to subvert it on behalf of industrial organic interests. Read Full Article »

Regenerative Organic Certification is Coming Soon

Friday, May 10th, 2019
Source: USDA, Flickr

Despite recent news that studies show organic food is worse for the environment due to land-use concerns, real organic farming is based on regenerative principles. Researchers at the Rodale Institute have shown that if all farms and ranches used regenerative organic techniques (practices premised on supporting soil health), global carbon emissions could be captured in the soil. The positive impact this would have on climate change cannot be overstated.

Several companies, including Patagonia and Dr. Bronner’s, have teamed up with other allies from the Regenerative Organic Alliance.  The focus of the program and their eventual add-on label, Regenerative Organic Certification, is said to be: soil health, animal welfare, and social fairness for farmers. ROC-certified products are expected to be publicly available by 2020.

Cornucopia will continue to advocate for policies and consumer support of family-scale farmers that use practices that support the health of the planet. Consumers can vote with their forks by choosing organic food from real organic farmers using regenerative practices.

Reckless farming is destroying the planet. This could save it
by Rose Marcario and David Bronner for CNN Business Perspectives

Editor’s Note: Rose Marcario is the president and CEO of Patagonia. David Bronner is the CEO of Dr. Bronner’s. The opinions expressed in this commentary are their own.

The United Nations released a dire warning recently: Climate change is here and it’s a clear and present danger to our entire planet. Of course, we didn’t need another report to tell us that — we see it in extreme and unusual weather, disappearing wildlife and falling farm yields. But there is one major cause of this global catastrophe that doesn’t get the attention it deserves: industrial-scale chemical agriculture. Read Full Article »

Former Dairy Farmer Jim Goodman: My Retirement was Mostly Voluntary

Friday, December 21st, 2018
Mark Kastel and Jim Goodman
with Jim’s Cows

Cornucopia’s Take: I’m proud to call Jim Goodman a valued friend. We met 25 years ago, when I worked as a lobbyist for the Farmers Union and Jim was an activist with Family Farm Defenders. He’s a good man. Intellectually powerful, as you can tell by his writing, with a big heart. Jim has not given up fighting for farmers and is currently president of the National Family Farm Coalition.

Ironically, the post I created the other day, concerning the farmer in Wisconsin who attempted to take his own life, used an image of Jim’s pristine and sweet-smelling barn–when it was still populated by the cows he loved.


Dairy farming is dying. After 40 years, I’m done.
The Washington Post
by Jim Goodman

After 40 years of dairy farming, I sold my herd of cows. The herd had been in my family since 1904; I know all 45 cows by name. I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to take over our farm — who would? Dairy farming is little more than hard work and possible economic suicide.

A grass-based organic dairy farm bought my cows. I couldn’t watch them go. In June, I milked them for the last time, left the barn and let the truckers load them. A cop-out on my part? Perhaps, but being able to remember them as I last saw them, in my barn, chewing their cuds and waiting for pasture, is all I have left.

My retirement was mostly voluntary. Premature, but there is some solace in having a choice. Unlike many dairy farmers, I didn’t retire bankrupt. But for my wife and me, having to sell our herd was a sign — of the economic death not just of rural America but also of a way of life. It is nothing short of heartbreaking to walk through our barn and know that those stalls will remain empty; knowing that our losses reflect the greater damage inflicted on entire regions is worse. Read Full Article »

Eliot Coleman: Organic is a System of Agriculture That Acknowledges the Pre-Eminence of Soil Life

Monday, November 19th, 2018

Cornucopia’s Take: Pioneering organic farmer Eliot Coleman of Four Season Farm in Maine has shared his knowledge of the soil and growing food with growers from around the world. He has also been a vocal critic of the USDA National Organic Program. Read his latest commentary on the NOP and organic below.

by Eliot Coleman

Eliot Coleman at
Rally in the Valley
Source: Real Organic Project

Organic farming began as a statement of faith in the nutritional superiority of food grown on biologically active, fertile soils. The early organic farmers knew that quality food can only result from the quality soil care practiced by the good farmer. Unfortunately, that idealistic stance is no longer the reality for much of the food sold as organic in the US today.

I am one of a group of old-time organic farmers who have been battling against the US Department of Agriculture for allowing hydroponic produce to be sold as certified “organic”. The enabling legislation of the US Organic Standards passed by Congress states clearly that maintaining and improving the fertility of the soil is a requirement for organic certification. Traditional organic farmers understood that crops grown in water or some inert medium utilizing liquid fertilizers could not be the same as soil grown crops. Hydroponic food can no more duplicate the nutritional quality of soil-grown food than Nestle’s artificial baby formula can duplicate that of human breast milk. Read Full Article »