You can’t expect that you can do what you’ve always done and just change the inputs. [Organic agriculture] requires a complete shift in marketing, process, labour intensity, and way of life.
The costs associated with organic production are relatively stable, predictable and comparative to conventional agriculture, according to a vast majority of Atlantic organic farmers interviewed. The main areas of cost identified were inputs and labour/
Most farmers reported that the cost of inputs (composts, feeds, soil amendments etc.) is fairly constant. Because organic farming excludes the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, the total cost of inputs used is generally lower than in conventional production. One farmer stated that managing the risk of input costs is more of an issue in the transition years; afterwards, once the soil has been built up, the quantity (and therefore cost) of required inputs goes down. Other risks include:
- The level of knowledge of the farmer–not having knowledge and experience in what is permitted increases the risk associated with blight, crop failure, productivity and unnecessary spending;
- Specialized inputs (like organic compost and feed) may not be readily available, in the quantity or size required or may come at a higher cost;
- Transportation costs may be higher as the required input (e.g. certified organic feed) man not be available locally or may be shipped in small quanities.
In the 80s, we were using a lot of fertilizers. One year, someone did soil sampling on my fields and said, ‘you don’t need those fertilizers, you can do it with manure.’ That year I saved thousands of dollars.
Kipawo Holsteins, NS
It is important to find sources of allowable organic inputs BEFORE you begin your transition period. Planning will reduce expensive surprises, ensure that you know what you have to work with, the exact cost, and general availability.
The following strategies and tactics can be employed to manage the risks associated with the Input Costs: