Ten percent organic within 15 years: Policy and program initiatives
to advance organic food and farming in Ontario, Canada
R. MacRae1*, R.C. Martin2,
M. Juhasz3 and J. Langer4
With growth in retail sales estimated by industry at 15–25% yr-1,
organic food represents the only significant growth sector in Canada’s
food system. This reality, in combination with mounting evidence that
substantial environmental and economic benefits can arise from organic
farming adoption, suggests that organic sector development should be
a priority for governments. However, organic food remains a marginal
component of Canadian agricultural and trade policy.
This study was designed to examine the opportunities and costs to the
province of Ontario of strategic investment in the expansion of the
organic sector. Drawing on existing literature and Ontario land use
and production data, the study used an iterative process to identify
how the province could reach a target of 10% of Ontario’s cropped
acres in organic production within 15 years, from the current level
of about 1%.
We concluded that after 15 years 5343 organic farmers would be producing
organically in all major commodities, including 4254 converting farmers
entering the organic sector and 600 new entrants to farming. The 489
organic farms reported in 2004 would be included in this total of 5343
because we assume that they all make modest additions over this time
period to their existing operations.
Organic production would occur on about 367,000 ha of land, and some
1.4 million animals would be reared organically. After 15 years, these
farmers would reduce fertilizer applications by about 43 million kg
(saving $18.4 million yr-1), pesticide applications by about 296,000
kg active ingredient (saving $9.1 million yr-1), and 7079 kg of growth-promoting
antibiotics/medications consumed in animal feed.
This 30-point program would require new investments by the provincial
government of about $51 million over 15 years. Phase I (first 5 years)
costs would total $7.1 million and Phase II (following 10 years) costs
$43.9 million. Net program costs would be significantly lower since
farmers would have directly saved on inputs and received premium organic
prices for most of their goods sold, thereby reducing government costs
related to supporting farm finances.
Additionally, this program would contribute significantly to reducing
the externalized costs of current approaches to agriculture, conservatively
estimated at $145 million annually or $2.18 billion over the 15-year
life of the program. Not all those costs would be saved within 15 years,
but this exceedingly modest investment in organic production, representing
only 2.3% of these externalized costs, would generate savings in externalized
costs far beyond this one-time investment.
Implementation of this plan would allow domestic producers to capture
51% of Ontario’s organic consumption, up from the currently low-range
estimate of 15%. Organic foods would represent 1.9% of the total food
retail market after 5 years and 5.3% of the total market after 15 years.
See the full report
Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems (2009) 24: 120-136.
Author Locations and Affiliations
(1) Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University, Toronto, ON,
*Corresponding author: firstname.lastname@example.org
(2) Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada, Nova Scotia Agricultural College,
Truro, NS, Canada.
(3) University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada.
(4) Global Threats Program, World Wildlife Fund Canada, Toronto, ON,
Posted May 2009