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I’ve been a bit lazy about posting, though I keep thinking of things I want to discuss on here. Here’s one thing:

I’ve had several people email me and/or ask me for my thoughts on the recent New York Times article ‘Sticker Shock in the Organic Food Aisles’. Martin and Severson’s question is: how much is too much?

In reading the article, I had an only-slight ‘7 dollars for a gallon of milk!’ moment of outrage. UNTIL I realized a few things (well, three things, listed here in my order of importance).

First of all, a conventional gallon of milk at my local supermarket is about 4 bucks. And, I’m not much of a milk drinker so a gallon of milk is a lot of milk. But organically grown vegetables at places like Whole Foods have generally cost just under double the amount of conventional vegetables at conventional grocery stores. This is nothing that new. The idea that organics were going to price themselves out of the market has been around as long as the USDA organic label paved the path for these foods’ availability in grocery stores. Organic food is quite high in places like Whole Foods anyway, because of the business structure of the distribution system, NOT because of the price of producing the product.

Secondly, this is a point of comparison to conventional food prices, which are artificially low because of government subsidies to big commodity producers. A regular gallon of milk shouldn’t cost 99 cents, and you shouldn’t be able to by chicken for 59 cents a pound, in the year 2008, in the United States of America. Organic food producers (and there is a negative correlation to size here) are much less likely to receive USDA subsidies for their production. Add this to the cost of distribution, and a higher price point for consumers is what happens….. in grocery stores.

This leads to my third point, and one that I think will be echoed this growing season by local food advocates – while prices go up, due to higher prices for oil and fertilizers-of-all-types, those with shorter supply chains (farmers markets and CSAs) will go up less, proportionally, to organic and conventional foods alike in grocery stores.

We’ll wait and see what happens, with conventional and organic food prices alike!

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