February 18, 2020
An article by Daniel Pessar '20: The growth of certified organic farming is booming; approximately 26,000 United States producers and businesses are now certified as organic operations and thousands of international firms have been certified as well. The road to getting certified by the USDA National Organic Program can be challenging; requirements include “no prohibited substances applied to [the land] for at least 3 years before the harvest of an organic crop,” specific rules for managing “soil fertility and crop nutrients,” and the absence of “genetic engineering, ionizing radiation and sewage sludge.” The time, complexity, and tools required for the transition can also be costly, especially during the three years of implementation when the farm lacks the benefit of the USDA Organic label. Of course, the overall benefits can outweigh the costs as higher prices for food products compensate for the new cost structure. And there could be long-term benefits from the organic farming practices such as reduced soil erosion and increased soil fertility. But another benefit that could be available to farmers considering the switch to organic is a tax benefit obtained by donating a conservation easement.