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Why Isn’t More US Farmland Organic?

Nicolai Kuminoff and Ada Wossink

Journal of Agricultural Economics, 2010, vol. 61, issue 2, 240-258

Abstract: We develop a theoretical model to assess the dollar compensation required to induce conventional growers to convert to organic. The model incorporates the uncertainty in producers’ expectations about future returns and about the impact of policy changes on these expectations in particular. We demonstrate that a new policy which favours organic can have opposing effects on the rate of conversion. An increase in relative returns to organic today will increase conversion rates. However, if the future of the policy programme is uncertain, its introduction can increase the value of waiting to switch, which will decrease conversion rates. We then develop an empirical switching regression model that enables direct estimation of the value associated with being able to postpone the conversion decision until some of the uncertainty is resolved. The model is applied to data on organic and conventional soybeans before and after major changes in US farm policy toward organic growers. The results suggest that sunk costs associated with conversion to organic coupled with uncertainty about future returns can help to explain why there is so little organic farmland in the USA.

Date: 2010
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Handle: RePEc:bla:jageco:v:61:y:2010:i:2:p:240-258