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Source: Univ of Illinois news release

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Due to continued increases in demand for certified organic grains, crop farmers that have transitioned from conventional to certified organic grains report higher net returns per acre (McBride et al., 2015; Greene et al., 2017; Greene and Vilorio, 2018; Center for Farm Financial Management, 2020).

Despite this, certified organic land accounts for less than 2 percent of U.S. farmland (U.S. Agricultural Census, 2017). Information pertaining to the relative profitability of conventional and organic production is often lacking.

Two previous farmdoc daily articles (June 5, 2020 and July 3, 2020) compared net returns for conventional and organic crop rotations. The organic crop rotations were found to be relatively more profitable than a conventional corn/soybean crop rotation and a conventional corn/soybean/wheat crop rotation.

These two articles used FINBIN data (Center for Farm Financial Management, 2020) from 2014 to 2018 to help estimate the difference between conventional and organic crop prices and yields. This article uses FINBIN data from 2015 to 2019, to compare crop yields, gross revenue, total expense, and net returns for conventional and organic alfalfa, corn, oats, soybeans, and winter wheat. The organic enterprise data represents farms that have already transitioned to organic production, and thus do not include information pertaining to the transition phase.

Crop Yields
Table 1 shows the average conventional and organic crop yields for alfalfa, corn, oats, soybeans, and winter wheat. The ratio illustrated in the last column of the table was computed by dividing the organic crop yield by the conventional crop yield. Alfalfa and oats exhibited the smallest differences in crop yields between conventional and organic crops. The yield drags for corn, soybeans, and winter wheat ranged from 29 to 32 percent.

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