I personally don’t mind paying more for higher-quality products—especially when they involve my food or other things that directly affect my quality of life. Production standards of organic farming may raise the price of organic produce, but they also increase its nutritional quality, flavor profile, color intensity and, as any raw foodist will tell you, life force. For this reason, it is my humble opinion that an extra 10 cents per pound is well worth the investment.
Still, it troubles me that this cost difference exists. I want my organic produce and I want it to be affordable! We’ve seen how farming location and production costs affect price, but they are not the only things factored into our fruit’s price per pound. There’s also basic economics at play.
Supply and Demand
Even during the 2008 economic crisis, organic product sales skyrocketed 17.1%. It is obvious that people are becoming educated about their food choices and are putting their money where their wisdom is. Still, organic foods account for only about 3.5% of all foods sold in the United States. What these figures tell me is that more people want it, but there’s not enough of it to go around. That is, demand exceeds supply.
When I stayed on the island of the Commonwealth of Dominica, bananas, pawpaw, soursop and cacao grew so abundantly that when I asked how much for two bananas at the village market, the woman chuckled, waived her hand and rolled her eyes. She could not imagine charging me at all for something I could walk 10 steps and pick off the tree myself. We have an inverse situation in the US. You want an organic strawberry? Well, it’s going to cost you. Organic produce costs more because wise businesspeople know there is limited supply and growing demand.
Conventionally farmed produce is priced anywhere from 10% to 60% lower. But what you don’t see on that conventional produce price tag is the portion of the cost that you’ve already paid in taxes.
In the aftermath of World War II, when governments needed to assure that severe food shortages never happened again, the chemical technologies of the 1950s seemed a blessing. To this day, the government subsidizes the use of chemicals in farming, while organic farms are just beginning to see incentives, many only at the state level. Once you include the income taxes you’ve already paid toward agrochemical subsidies, conventional produce doesn’t seem quite as affordable.
One Dollar, One Vote
I’d personally like to protest my tax money subsidizing conventionally farmed produce, but not paying taxes isn’t an effective protest. Instead, I vote with my dollars as to what I do want to see in my future. I opt to purchase organically farmed produce because the more it’s demanded, the more suppliers will enter the market and drive costs down due to market competition. The dollar is the only vote that gets tallied with precision day in and day out. Let’s show them where we stand with our greenback votes!
It is also important to contact your government representatives to kindly inform them of your interest in increasing incentives for organic farmers. Elected officials all have staff members who count your letters, calls and emails (yes, those tallies do get noticed!). So stay educated and involved, especially in state and local politics. This is where the changes that affect your locality are put in place the fastest.
Read Part 2: Organic Produce–Price vs. Value: Production Cost