The following was excerpted from an article in a farming trade publication.
“Farmers who switched from synthetic to organic farming last year have seen their crop yields decline. Many of these farmers feel that it would be too expensive to resume synthetic farming at this point, given the money that they invested in organic farming supplies and equipment. But their investments will be relatively minor compared to the losses from continued lower crop yields. Organic farmers should switch to synthetic farming rather than persist in an unwise course. And the choice to farm organically is financially unwise, given that it was motivated by environmental rather than economic concerns.”
Discuss how well reasoned . . . etc.
In this article the author recommends that farmers who switched from synthetic to organic farming last year should switch back to synthetic farming as soon as possible. Citing a decline in crop yields as the primary reason for the recommendation to reverse course, the author predicts that crop yields for organic farmers will continue to be lower unless synthetic farming is resumed. Moreover, the author argues that organic farming is not a financially viable choice for farmers in any case because it is motivated by environmental, not economic, concerns. The author’s position is unconvincing for several reasons.
First, there is no evidence that the first-year yields of farmers who switched to organic farming are representative of their future yields. Common sense would lead one to expect that first-year yields would be lower simple due to the inexperience of farmers accustomed to synthetic farming methods. Moreover, other factors such as weather or infertile seed stock could be responsible for the lower yields. Since the author does not address these or other factors that could account for the lower yields, his prediction that yields will continue to be lower unless a switch is made back to synthetic farming is not well founded.
Second, the author assumes that economic and environmental concerns are mutually exclusive and that only enterprises motivated by economic concerns are financially rewarding. These assumptions are not supported in the argument. Moreover, there are good reasons to suspect they may be false in the case at hand. For example, while it may be true that synthetic farming methods produce significantly higher yields in the short term, it may also be the case that they fail to sustain this yield in the long term, whereas the opposite is true for organic methods. If this were the case, the financial advantage of synthetic over organic method would be illusory.
In conclusion, the author’s prediction that yields will continue to lower for farmers who adopt organic farming methods is not well reasoned. To strengthen this forecast it would be necessary to examine and eliminate other possible factors that could account for the lower yields experienced. Lacking a full examination of these factors, it is difficult to accept the author’s position. Finally, the author’s view that organic farming is financially unwise is completely unsupported.