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There is an economic tipping point that is in organic's future which will doom it,

Uhmm this is a pretty weak economic theory.

Yup. IMO, The whole article is pretty stupid.

First is the presumption that Organic prices will inexorably become the same as conventional. The invisible hand of the market or some such mysticism I suppose.

The second presumption is that Organic Farmers are only in it for the money. - e.g."remember that organic is a more labor intensive choice to create a premium product. Meaning that farmers really only grow it because it's more profitable. At the point where it costs more for the farmer to grow than conventional(meaning that they see less profit than conventional), they will stop growing organic and switch back to conventional."

yea right. We Organic farmers are only in it for the big bucks.

Brings to mind the New Yorker cartoon taped to my fridge - it's a picture of a farmer on his tractor, chatting on his cell phone, saying "Right now, I'm dealing with all this spring bullshit."

Well, as in all groups there is diversity, but that is just the point, as the price goes down (theoretically as supply expands) eventually it would be less profitable and some of the bigger companies producing Organic would cut back in that production and the cost woudl stabi;ize or go back up.

There is the potential that larger operations could drive down cost and put some smaller farmers out of business but that wouldn't end organic in any real way.

Market forces are just some kind of mysticism, my my? We will always have Organic, but it will never be a major force in supplying food for the world, it doesn't scale well, and the mystical market will be a significant factor. I suppose the end of Organic depends on how you define the end. It is already insignificant as a source of food for the world, but like a fine wine, even if you can't taste the difference, a certain small percentage of the population will always buy it.

Its like a $20 billion industry in the US, and more than 10% of fresh produce here. It may only be less than 5% of the overall food and beverage markets but those numbers include alot of items, like alchohol, that folks don't really think of a groceries.

Indeed. Some people can't tell the difference between, say, tomatoes grown in a garden and tomatoes purchased from Walmart. Some people can't tell the difference between Mogen David and a fine wine. Maybe some of those who buy home-grown tomatoes or fine wine instead of tomatoes picked green and shipped across the country or Mogen David may not know the difference, but there is, in fact, a difference.

Anybody that can't smell the difference between a wallmart tomato and a farmers market tomato should just stick to ketchup.


Sounds like we need to have a blinded tasting challenge!

That's what I do. My philosophy on self-feeding boils down pretty much to "if it takes longer to cook than to eat it, it's not worth it".

I know this subject posting from July 6 is about to fall off the edge of the world, but I couldn't get back to it any sooner.

re: "stupid", "bullshit" and "mystical markets".

Sorry for that intemperate tone. I am just now liberated from a 30 day siege of house guests. Don't get me wrong, all were delightful people. It's, well, how can I put it? A solid month of company does not meet the conditions set by my sanity for sticking around. She, (Sanity), called me in well before the last 12 guests left. She noted that insofar as frequent bouts of solitude have ALWAYS been her most essential requirement, and she hadn't been gettin' any for some time now, she judged I was in breech of contract and and she was taking a powder. Yup. Ever true to her words. Up the drive and down the road. Courtesy, patience, hospitability, good judgement and, yes, temperate tones were all stashed in the duffel slung over her shoulder.

Pray forgive me if my words in that post reflected an uncharacteristic lack of propriety. I think I am better now. Indeed I'm find myself giddy with joy in this long awaited sound of silence. Nobody here but us chickens, so to speak. ahhhhh.

re: the law of supply and demand.

Yes. I remember this. The third talon, if you will, of old Adam Smith's 'Invisible Claw', that oversees, opaque to our eyes (see note 1), the distribution of resources in a market economy. The other two being self-interest, and competition. I understand that the Law of Supply and Demand says that, when applied to roughly the same product, suppliers will chase the higher prices that unmet demand permits. As equilibrium between supply and demand approaches, prices for that commodity drop.

The problem with Mr. Sam Vance's sloppy article, is that it reflects a significant lack of understanding about Organic.

First, Conventional and Organic agriculture and food products are not roughly equivalent. They are extremely different. By presuming equivalence, e.g., just another premium brand, the author is led to compare pricing between the two, then apply the law of supply and demand (which does not apply since the comparison is in error), and thus conclude that there will be an equilibrium achieved which will drop appeal to suppliers of Organic product and mark the end (or Peak) for Organic.

People buy Organic because they don't want pesticides and herbicides in their food, they don't want agricultural chemicals polluting their waterways, or poisoning farm families and farm workers. They buy Organic because they are dismayed at the increase in food allergies, and other health costs associated with the cheap ersatz food (manufactured fats and oils, sugar and highly enriched carbohydrates that are cheap to produce, AND subsidized by taxpayers. What passes for 'food' from conventional industrial agriculture is too cheap, for it does not account for subsidy, pollution, health consequences for the nation, and equity for farm workers. Organic prices should always be higher.

In other words, a true acolyte of Adam Smith would have realized that [enlightened] self-interest, not supply and demand, is the operating factor here.

But further, even IF one were to attempt to apply the law supply and demand, unlike such commodities as cell phones, demand for healthy food will NEVER be saturated, hence I assert that equilibrium with supply is unlikely to explain any potential draw down in pricing.

Now Norm, I hear you say "yea, like I said, Organic doesn't scale." But I submit such as statement is simplistic to the point of error. Yes, mega-industrial mono-culture commodity production is not what I mean by Organic agriculture. Yet there is no reason why economies of scale must be achieved at every level of food creation. Indeed, the place where economies of scale actually matter and can be benign and beneficial in an Organic system, is not in production, but in distribution. And, of course, this is the place where most of the food dollar is spent. Just as Farmer's Cooperatives historically provided a consolidation and distribution function for the nation's small farmers, so many of the newer large Organic operations actually represent a consolidation and distribution service, gathering Organic product from many small farms, and opening larger markets for them. Abroad, many small Organic farms could do a much better job of feeding their countries, if only their governments would do something useful in the way of infrastructure (roads, water, security) development instead of padding their own pockets with ill gotten gain.

Note 1: see

Reporting on Alan Greenspan's latest prognostications:

"Today’s competitive markets, whether we seek to recognize it or not, are driven by an international version of Adam Smith’s >"invisible hand" that is unredeemably opaque."

Who knew an ‘invisible hand’ could be opaque?

re: Mystical Market forces.

Mystical was not the correct word choice, just the most alliterative. Perhaps you might instead concur with this:

"Ludwig von Mises, in Human Action, claims that Smith believed that the invisible hand was that of God. He did not mean this as a criticism, since he held that secular reasoning leads to similar conclusions."

Indeed, Theological analogies with respect to the Invisible Hand are not uncommon.

Duncan K. Foley, in "Adam’s Fallacy: A Guide to Economic Theology." comes to mind for one. ( In describing Dr. Foley's views, the NY Times reviewer comments:

"So what is Adam’s Fallacy?"..."It is the idea that the economic sphere of life constitutes a separate realm in which the pursuit of self-interest is guided by objective laws to a socially beneficent outcome, Professor Foley wrote, a realm unlike all the rest of social life, in which the pursuit of self-interest is morally problematic and has to be weighed against other ends."

"This separation of an economic sphere", he wrote, "with its presumed specific principles of organization, from the much messier, less determinate and morally more problematic issues of politics, social conflict and values, is the foundation of political economy and economics as an intellectual discipline."

"What is pertinent here is the author’s contention that economists, all along, have been writing theology."

"He does not use the word "theology" with disdain, as many writers do when they want to disparage something as doctrinaire or irrational....What he means, he wrote, is that "at its most abstract and interesting level, economics is a speculative philosophical discourse, not a deductive or inductive science."

Historically, economics has not only shed light on how a capitalist market system works, it has also suggested what attitudes people should take about those workings and about the moral conflicts accompanying them. "These are discussions, above all, of faith and belief, not of fact, and hence theological," Professor Foley wrote.

I am persuaded. I eschew the 'mystical machinations of the market' for the Theology of Adam Smith.

Trouble with Prophets of course, is that they are frequently quoted, and equally often either misunderstood, or more mischievously misrepresented by those with axes to grind. The 'Free Market, no regulation, no government' folks always seem to forget this part of Prophet Smith's prognostications:

"Throughout history", Adam Smith observed, "we find the workings of "the vile maxim of the masters of mankind": "All for ourselves, and nothing for other People." He had few illusions about the consequences. The invisible hand, he wrote, destroys the possibility of a decent human existence "unless government takes pains to prevent" this outcome, as must be assured in "every improved and civilized society." It destroys community, the environment, and human values generally—and even the masters themselves, which is why the business classes have regularly called for state intervention to protect them from market forces."

(Notes of NAFTA: "The Masters of Man" Noam Chomsky The Nation, March, 1993(

Here's another view of the Invisible Claw.

"Does the Market Have a Brain? Thinking the market has a brain led to tragedy Published on June 27, 2011 by Norman N. Holland"

"Common sense would suggest it doesn't, but since when did Alan Greenspan show common sense?

Back in March, he delivered himself of an op-ed in which he said it was an impossible task to try to regulate the market (as in the Dodd-Frank regs). We should just leave it up to the free market, because "with notably rare exceptions (2008, for example), the global 'invisible hand' has created relatively stable exchange rates, interest rates, prices, and wage rates." ....

"You would think the man would keep his obscurantist monologues to himself after the appalling mess he got us into in 2008 (that "rare exception"). (See Charles Ferguson's film INSIDE JOB. ( But Greenspan's back and still claiming "the invisible hand" and the "wisdom of the market." They talk about the market as though it had a brain."

re: "like a fine wine, even if you can't taste the difference, a certain small percentage of the population will always buy it."

I've used a similar analogy once, back in the 70's when dissuading husband from the notion we needed to make room in the front room for a pair of humungous speakers. Ears still ringing from that Dead concert at the Family Dog on the Great Highway, some words about "tin ears" come to mind.

But of course, Organic sustainable agriculture and healthy food are not an issue of taste. They are issues of good health for ourselves and our only planet.


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