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dirtbagathlete

human powered approaches vs heli, planes, skidoos

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If the total value of all of the inputs required to bring one unit of organic produce to market were identical to those required to bring one unit of produce generated by conventional agriculture to market, and the only factor making the price of organics higher was effective demand (not higher per-unit production costs ) - eventually enough farmers would respond to this price signal and grow only organic crops, until at some point the price disparity between organic crops and crops produced via conventional methods would disappear.

 

There are other factors to consider.

 

Long term soil, water, and air quality, for example. Public health issues (e coli, etc).

 

Farmers are going more towards sustainable practices, but the process can be accelerated by eliminating the current regimen of farm subsidies, which favor large operations growing a limited number of 'scheduled' crops, rather than more smaller, more diverse operations. Education and incentives to switch to sustainable practices are other ways government can help move things in the right direction. And finally, a move towards local (township level) control of farming practices is another way to promote healthier, more sustainable farms.

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However, none of these can account for the persistent difference in the money-price of organic vs conventional produce. I'd posit that organic produce costs more because the total value of the inputs required to produce a given unit of organic produce is greater than the total value of the inputs required to produce the same unit of produce with conventional methods.

 

If you are just talking about yields in terms of units of mass per acre of a given crop, I have a hard time believing that whatever constitutes a consensus definition of organic farming actually achieves the same yield as conventional farming - not based on any personal expertise, but on the assumption that if farmers could use "organic" methods and generate the same yield-per acre - they would do so, so long as the savings generated on fertilizers, pesticides, etc were greater than any additional costs that they might incur by adopting these methods.

If someone has some real data that they can share, that would be interesting to look at, though

 

No argument about ending subsidies.

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However, none of these can account for the persistent difference in the money-price of organic vs conventional produce. I'd posit that organic produce costs more because the total value of the inputs required to produce a given unit of organic produce is greater than the total value of the inputs required to produce the same unit of produce with conventional methods.

 

I'm curious about that. For crops grown in the Salinas valley they are done side by side, with the same labor pool for each, and the same overhead costs. Perhaps their is some price premium attached to organic?

 

As an aside it's comical to label an piece of produce from the Central or Salinas valley of California as organic given the completely manufactured and massively destructive water projects required to grow anything there.

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If the yields are identical and the costs are the same, then they must have altruistic motives for producing any crops via conventional methods and forsaking the organic price premium.

 

In the real world, I'm sure that there are quite a few constraints that constrain the crop choices and production methods of any given farmer, but if a farmer can make more money selling crops that they have the right combination of land, expertise, climate, water-rights, etc to produce - by switching production to "organic" methods then they'd be foolish not to.

 

Having said all of that, I suspect that there is a price premium for organic food over and above the real difference in unit-production costs, but I wonder how much of the delta is being captured by the farmers versus the merchants. If most of the price differential is captured by the folks selling the food at the local OrganoMart, as opposed to those growing it, I suppose this could provide an explanation for why farmers haven't been more responsive to the retail price differential.

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Jay & Carl, both of you might be interested in reading Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dillemma" - he does a really good job of examining "organic" and "conventional" modes of food production.

 

 

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However, none of these can account for the persistent difference in the money-price of organic vs conventional produce. I'd posit that organic produce costs more because the total value of the inputs required to produce a given unit of organic produce is greater than the total value of the inputs required to produce the same unit of produce with conventional methods.

 

If you are just talking about yields in terms of units of mass per acre of a given crop, I have a hard time believing that whatever constitutes a consensus definition of organic farming actually achieves the same yield as conventional farming - not based on any personal expertise, but on the assumption that if farmers could use "organic" methods and generate the same yield-per acre - they would do so, so long as the savings generated on fertilizers, pesticides, etc were greater than any additional costs that they might incur by adopting these methods.

If someone has some real data that they can share, that would be interesting to look at, though

 

No argument about ending subsidies.

 

RE: your first paragraph, you of all people should know better. Price is set by what the market will bear, not by the cost of goods sold. People pay more for food produced sustainably and naturally (whether certified organic or not) because it is more nutritious, contains less unhealthy ingredients, and because many consumers want to patronize farmers that are good environmental stewards.

 

RE: your second paragraph...depends on the region and what's being farmed. The cost of land, weather patterns, the cost of locally available inputs all must be considered in determining whether or not overall inputs for organic farming are greater than for conventional. One thing has become clear, however: organic farmers make higher profits per unit of output than conventional ones.

 

Farmers are slow to adopt new methods for several reasons you have not touched upon. One big reason is huge amounts of money invested in equipment required for conventional agriculture. Using my dairy farm example: a conventional dairy farm requires equipment to fertilize, herbicize (?), harvest, and store silage for the herd. An organic grazing dairy requires none of these fixed costs. A second reason is that farmers are, by nature, conservative and slow to change. Third, the information isn't out there. Factory farm suppliers spend enormous amounts of money marketing their methods and inputs. And fourth, many farms are owned either by holding companies or large agribusiness companies; they are 'managed' without much concern for long term issues and the overall health of their communities.

 

The bottom line for any food production is maintaining soil and water quality over the long term. As global warming progresses, more extreme weather (drought followed by violent storms) have become more commonplace. This, coupled with destructive conventional agriculture, has caused an enormous amount of soil loss across the country. It has also produced a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico (all those fertilizers and pesticides have to go somewhere). Sustainable practices are the antidote (the dairy farm I mentioned suffers 1/100 the soil loss of it's immediate conventional neighbors per annum), but the farming community is just now waking up to the problem and potential solutions.

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RE: your first paragraph, you of all people should know better. Price is set by what the market will bear, not by the cost of goods sold. People pay more for food produced sustainably and naturally (whether certified organic or not) because it is more nutritious, contains less unhealthy ingredients, and because many consumers want to patronize farmers that are good environmental stewards.

 

whether or not overall inputs for organic farming are greater than for conventional. One thing has become clear, however: organic farmers make higher profits per unit of output than conventional ones.

 

If consumers are willing to pay more per-unit for organic crops/produce, and organic production yields more profits per unit (and any loss in production per-acre that occurs is more than offset by increased profit-per-unit), then it's quite a mystery why all conventional corn/soy/wheat/citrus/vegetable/etc

farmers haven't either converted, or undertaken efforts to convert their entire production to "organic" methods.

 

If the difference between the price that the market will bear for organic produce and total production costs is $2 per unit, and the same difference comes to $1 per unit with conventional production, and the organic yield per acre is at least 51% of the conventional yield per acre, then the farmer who is still using conventional production methods is behaving irrationally. Even if you assume that there are costs associated with converting to organic production methods, farmers will be able to make some assumptions about the persistence of the price differential over time and determine whether or not it makes sense to make the investment. Factory farms and agribusiness may or may not care about any number of factors, but I have yet to hear anyone claim that they are not concerned with profits, so why they haven't adopted methods that are both less capital intensive and more profitable is another mystery. Presumably it's not because their own marketing materials have duped them into doing so.

 

Still think there's reasons why farmers choose to use conventional production techniques, despite the price differentials. Other point is that the said differential will inevitably dwindle and eventually disappear as supply meets demand. This is good news for anyone who cares whether there's an organic label on the food that they purchase.

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I'm not sure what 'the earth will be fine' means. There have been at least 5 mass extinctions in the past, and by all accounts we're in the middle of number 6, and this one is caused soley by us.

 

...We control the levers now. Why not ease them away from devastation? It's completely a human choice, but, unfortunately given our basic nature, it's a collective one.

 

Are you refering to global warming as being soley caused by us?? If so I'd like to remind you that the ice has been slowly vanishing and the earth warming since the end of the last ice age, and last I checked, there were no green house gas emmisions back then. I have no doubt that we may be contributing to it but I also don't have such illusions of grandeur that we are the sole cause of it.

 

I don't know if you remember David Suzuki's last rant about the ozone layer depleting caused soley by us and methane produced from cow shit. Well the reason he's not ranting about it anymore is because the ozone somehow replenished itself and that big hole is vanishing. According to the EPA report, the ozone layer has not grown thinner over most of the world since 1998, and the Antarctic ozone level is projected to return to pre-1980 levels between 2060 and 2075. Of course they are crediting this soley to programs that reduced emissions over the last 20 years, or did they???

 

Do your part to cut back on pollution but try to keep your head out of the politicians and very vocal scientist's asses. The only way for them to benefit from natural change, is to make the population believe that it can be controlled by them. Would Gore's movie be such a hit if he claimed the change was natural and beyond our control? Just take a look at how many billions of dollars are focused at climate change over the next few years... kinda like the last wave of save the ozone funding. We control a very small portion of the levers. The rest is controlled by that little thing called the universe and it is ever changing well beyond our control. Don't be complacent about the environment but be critical of media hype and try and think for yourself.

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"Price is set by what the market will bear, not by the cost of goods sold."

 

for the record (ECON 101), "what the market will bear" is dictated both by consumer demand and by production cost. Higher costs-given identical demand-will result in fewer units being sold at higher prices.

 

 

 

 

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I'm not sure what 'the earth will be fine' means. There have been at least 5 mass extinctions in the past, and by all accounts we're in the middle of number 6, and this one is caused soley by us.

 

...We control the levers now. Why not ease them away from devastation? It's completely a human choice, but, unfortunately given our basic nature, it's a collective one.

 

Are you refering to global warming as being soley caused by us?? If so I'd like to remind you that the ice has been slowly vanishing and the earth warming since the end of the last ice age, and last I checked, there were no green house gas emmisions back then. I have no doubt that we may be contributing to it but I also don't have such illusions of grandeur that we are the sole cause of it.

 

I don't know if you remember David Suzuki's last rant about the ozone layer depleting caused soley by us and methane produced from cow shit. Well the reason he's not ranting about it anymore is because the ozone somehow replenished itself and that big hole is vanishing. According to the EPA report, the ozone layer has not grown thinner over most of the world since 1998, and the Antarctic ozone level is projected to return to pre-1980 levels between 2060 and 2075. Of course they are crediting this soley to programs that reduced emissions over the last 20 years, or did they???

 

Do your part to cut back on pollution but try to keep your head out of the politicians and very vocal scientist's asses. The only way for them to benefit from natural change, is to make the population believe that it can be controlled by them. Would Gore's movie be such a hit if he claimed the change was natural and beyond our control? Just take a look at how many billions of dollars are focused at climate change over the next few years... kinda like the last wave of save the ozone funding. We control a very small portion of the levers. The rest is controlled by that little thing called the universe and it is ever changing well beyond our control. Don't be complacent about the environment but be critical of media hype and try and think for yourself.

 

Your 'scientific backround' is a little lacking. Actually, according to the three cyclical anomalies in the earth's motion that are the primary cause of ice ages, we should be heading into, not away from a cooling period. There is only one reason we are not, and that is us. So yes, WE are the sole cause of global warming.

 

As for ozone depletion, that was reversed by a ban on chloroflourocarbons. Again, primarily human controlled.

 

 

Edited by tvashtarkatena

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Your 'scientific backround' is a little lacking. Actually, according to the three cyclical anomalies in the earth's motion that are the primary cause of ice ages, we should be heading into, not away from a cooling period. There is only one reason we are not, and that is us. So yes, WE are the sole cause of global warming.

 

As for ozone depletion, that was reversed by a ban on chloroflourocarbons. Again, primarily human controlled.

 

Well it's a damn good thing we turned the heat on then cause it's going to get chilly. How do they figure we should be cooling now in year 2007 vs. year 750 when the ice age was millions of years ago give or take a few million?

 

Believe what you may, anything with this many politicians surrounding it stinks of cover up. Take a read at this: http://www.junkscience.com/Ozone/ozone_seasonal.htm#Addendum

Some food for thought.

 

Now this is just humerous:

 

Cow flatulence

It has been estimated that 9 to 12% of the energy that a cow consumes is turned to methane that is released either through flatulence or burping (Radford, 2001). A huge number of factors affect methane emission, including diet, barn conditions and whether the cow is lactating, but an average cow in a barn produce 542 liters of methane a day, and 600 liters when out in a field (Adam, 2000).

 

These estimates were made using a trace gas (sulphur hexofluoride) that was released at known points within a barn containing 90 cattle. Levels of this trace gas and CO2 are then measured 30 metres downwind of the shed and thus they can estimate how much CO2 is released per cow per day. All this methane can add up to a significant amount. Australia's 140 million sheep and cattle are estimated to produce one seventh of the nation's total greenhouse gas emissions, whilst America's 100 million cattle also are major contributors (Major, 2000).

 

Screw cutting down factory emmissions, just get the queen to tour the ranch's of the world and teach those cows some manners.

 

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If the total value of all of the inputs required to bring one unit of organic produce to market were identical to those required to bring one unit of produce generated by conventional agriculture to market, and the only factor making the price of organics higher was effective demand (not higher per-unit production costs ) - eventually enough farmers would respond to this price signal and grow only organic crops, until at some point the price disparity between organic crops and crops produced via conventional methods would disappear.

 

There are other factors to consider.

 

Long term soil, water, and air quality, for example. Public health issues (e coli, etc).

 

Farmers are going more towards sustainable practices, but the process can be accelerated by eliminating the current regimen of farm subsidies, which favor large operations growing a limited number of 'scheduled' crops, rather than more smaller, more diverse operations. Education and incentives to switch to sustainable practices are other ways government can help move things in the right direction. And finally, a move towards local (township level) control of farming practices is another way to promote healthier, more sustainable farms.

I agree with this and would like to see it.

However, I don't really know how many people would be up for farming. As it is, my family can't find enough pickers, punchers, or tractor drivers for harvest. There just isn't a long line of people who want to work really hard, be exempt from the minimun wage law, risk their lives in one of the deadliest professions, and work 12 hour days. And that is just for the employees. The owners get to figure out yearly taxes (those subsidies don't just get brought to the doorstep, and the rest of us who manage to break even or even make a little money spend a great deal of time doing the phenomenal amount of accounting that every small/med business is required to do), worry about how to prepare for the estimated pestilance for the upcoming year (the "bug guy" makes home visits), amend the soil (rotating crops means no breaks, brewing your own means managing a bunch of manure out in the back 40), repairing all the machinery that broke last year, keeping up with new species entering the market, and on and on.

 

Maybe you grew up in a farming background and these things don't phase you. But to someone who has never worked a farm or an orchard, they are in for a great surprise when they take on that cute little hobby farm.

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Just so we don't get off track on a tiny part of the overall point, you can begin reading here: http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---dgreports/---dcomm/documents/publication/wcms_067555.pdf

and find much more current and interesting reading about agriculture-related deaths and injury.

 

Back to the larger point--who is going to line up to do all this farming work? Is there a sector looking for this that is sizeable? I honestly do not know.

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I respectfully ask for a bit of forgiveness; because I'm going to stir up a bit of trouble with my 1st post.

 

The psyche of this community is incredible to me. The volume of trip reports, and the number of local climbers operating at a high level astounds me.

 

In my opinion, there is a demon lurking among alpine climbers and ski mountaineers. It has always surprised me how many trip reports from: alpine journals, magazines, and this site mention that they (the alpinists) used helicopter access or a plane etc. In a time when I observe the Earth being hammered in many ways - climate change in particular - does it not seem strange that the people who love Ice and Snow the most, would use a machine as consumptive and polluting as an aircraft for their own wants and needs?

 

Personally, I look up to the people who cram their friends into a subaru or whatever and make things happen on a shoestring budget. I know that many will justify themselves by saying they "only have so much time off work", or this or that. What I ask though is: "are you really that important?" If you think you are; you have learned nothing from the Mountains. Enduring a sick approach is similar to weight training or endurance training; the difficulty is what cleanses and develops a persons' thinking mind; and their awareness of the true reality that they exist in.

 

I remain optimistic that humans will figure it out; because I really would be sad if I couldn't enjoy the mysterious, awesome spectacle of an Ice climb throughout my life. But who cares about me, what about all of the generations to come? We are all just specks of dust in the Universe. Don't f*&% up the Earth.

 

You are using electricity by posting to this site...as well as the mass amounts of electricity for the server farms to host this website.

 

You are greatly contributing.

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Back to the larger point--who is going to line up to do all this farming work? Is there a sector looking for this that is sizeable? I honestly do not know.

 

Yes there is, they speak Spanish and aren't well documented.

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Thanks guys, you beat me to it.

 

I personally know a man who was killed three years ago when his tractor rolled over on him. He left a wife and six kids behind.

 

Not a whole lot of people I know can say they know someone in their "line of work" that was killed on the job due to an inherent danger of that job. (Of course, I don't know many firefighters or police or war journalists). But it does make you pause and reconsider what you are doing for a living (especially when that living doesn't pay much)

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Back to the larger point--who is going to line up to do all this farming work? Is there a sector looking for this that is sizeable? I honestly do not know.

 

Yes there is, they speak Spanish and aren't well documented.

Hello--talking about starting up organic, local farms here.

 

I already mentioned the difficulty in hiring workers for harvest. It is a bi-annual problem for my family.

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Hello--talking about starting up organic, local farms here.

 

Organic local farms can't hire laborers?

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What will eventually happen if the borders are ever brought under control, and we decline to follow the Euro-model of creating a class of unassimilated guest workers - is that crops that can be harvested mechanically will continue to be grown in the US, while labor intensive crops will be grown where the labor is cheap.

 

Growing labor intensive crops in Mexico instead of using the current de-facto labor subsidy for farmers would bring about important social and economic benefits for both the US and Mexico.

 

Somehow factories found a way to get by without using child labor, and farmers will have to find a way to grow crops without paying below-market rates for their labor, or go out of business. Farmers are businessmen, and why they should be exempt from the rules that every other class of enterprise has to abide by is beyond me.

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