Organic agriculture - the production and marketing of foods grown with few or no synthetic pesticides or fertilizers - is flourishing in many parts of the United States. And according to two recently published reports, these techniques represent one area of a whole range of alternative and sustainable-agricultural methods that lower farmers' costs, produce healthier products, and lessen damage to the environment.
Farmers successfully adopting alternative farming systems generally derive significant sustained economic and environmental benefits, according to a National Research Council report entitled Alternative Agriculture. Organic and other alternative systems can be profitable for farmers, even though many function with relatively little help from commodity income or price-support programs. Some, however, do rely on higher prices for their products. Wider adoption of proven alternative systems would result in even greater economic benefits to farmers and environmental gains for the nation, according to the study.
Another report, by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), notes that many states are developing programs to promote the use of organic-agriculture techniques. State legislatures, state departments of agriculture, and state-supported universities have taken steps to promote the use of organic and sustainable-agriculture techniques by farmers in their states. These steps include taxing pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, adopting standards for organic food, establishing statewide sustainable-agriculture programs, making low-interest loans available, and assisting the marketing of organic and locally grown food.
Farmers may face difficulties obtaining financing for new alternative-agriculture ventures for which they have no established earnings history. …