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Master of Agribusiness

Organic Transition Rates on a Morris County Kansas Grain Farm

Russell Moore, Wamego, Kans., defended his thesis, “Organic Transition Rates on a Morris County Kansas Grain Farm,” Friday, February 15, 2008. Moore is a Product Support Analyst with Caterpillar Work Tools, Inc. in Wamego, Kans. He graduated from Kansas State University in May with a Master’s in Agribusiness (MAB).

For many small grain farmers the rising costs of fertilizer and chemicals and the declining profit margins make it hard to remain in business. To stay profitable, they must consider other cropping prospects, including organic cropping systems. Established in 1919, Moore Farms has 600 tillable acres and grows conventional corn, soybeans, wheat, milo and alfalfa. In his thesis, Moore researched the economic feasibility of converting his family farm from a conventional to an organic cropping system.

Moore made a few assumptions based on his prior research and discussions with local organic farmers. He  held that organic cropping would have lower yields, the yields would improve over the years, and certified organic crop prices are generally higher than conventional crop prices.

“Certified organic crop prices are on average higher than conventional prices, but input costs are more expensive,” Moore said. “The transition period from conventional cropping to organic cropping is going to be financially difficult. All of the proposed transition schedules revealed economic loss to the farm at some point during their transition periods. However, after complete transition, the organic schemes showed much higher profitability in the long term than the conventional cropping system, when able to take advantage of organic price premiums.”

Moore’s findings will be valuable to family farms in similar situations as there is limited research available on the timely topic.

Dr. Hikaru Hanawa Peterson,  Agricultural Economics professor and Moore’s thesis advisor, said, “Russ completed a piece of research that can be appreciated by an audience looking for careful scientific evidence on how a family farm can actually make the transition to an organic operation. We can expect his work to be cited quite frequently, since there’s not much quality work on this topic available.”

The full thesis publication can be found online on Kansas State University’s Research Exchange at http://hdl.handle.net/2097/757.