The commodity markets have tied up most of the American farms into a wage-slave existence. The fact that the bulk of the beef in production is from herds of less than 50 says quite a bit all by itself.
That the politicians and others have tied the FSA into auto-updating farmers through the corn-soybean cycle with their miniscule (welfare) payments says more.
You see, when you raise corn and soybeans with commerical methods, the land never really improves. It is essentially addicted to the fertilizer and increasing amounts of insecticide and herbicides. The extra phosphates and residues raise more competing weeds than your crop if you don't use their chemicals.
So moving to organic is a tough call - you have all this capital tied up in your farm (how about them credit card overages...) and its equipment. And the land - in order to make it able to grow healthy, organic food - takes three years of careful work (and much more expense) to convert it over to "government certified" organic production.
See the interesting scene - both scenes are government sponsored, both require you to be in debt and a basic wage-slave to the system.
The solution is to be neither.
Direct marketing your goods, especially over the Internet (which is not, at this time, government regulated), will take you out of that downward spiral.
Now, how to get out of the scene? Simple steps.
First, both corn and soybeans require processing to be really useful. And they have really long seasons - which means the "weeds" to them can be a lot of different plants, all of which grow faster.
My solution? Grow hay. Sell to indifiduals who have cows and horses. Grass-fed beef is healthier for you, if it takes slightly longer to produce. Months, not years - a few weeks, actually.
Hay can give you two and sometimes four or five cuttings a year, depending on what you raise. And you can fertilize it with cow manure...
You don't have to have expensive equipment to harvest it - just a cutter, a rake, and a baler. And somewhere to store it (or have the person come and pick it up out of the field).
Having hay last year would have made you rich - since what was a $30 dollar bale could have gone for $100 or more. Now its back "down" to about $50. But corn - the stuff they feed cows - has gone up double. So hay is more valuable now.
Did you know that alfalfa bales have enough protein to fatten cattle to market weight in nearly the same time as corn-fed beef?
Here was one scene I encountered already. We had 20 steers and heifers (20 total). The feed bill came to half of what we got for fattening them. Last week I tested my theory by selling four calves as feeders - I got half of what I would have if I had fattened them up for sale. But - I didn't have to keep them alive for another 9 months, watering them, vet bills, etc.
If I raised the corn to feed them myself, the cost would have been less, but still I would have to give up what I could sell the corn for.
Now, corn is up. And beef is up. So, raise corn (for now) and sell it at a good price. Feed the cows grass and make them nice and fat, healthy - or simply sell their produce young and get off the endless chain.
But -- if you can pay someone to make your pastures and hay fields "certified organic", then you can feed your cattle only organic hay and the offspring become organic feeder calves. And your organic hay is in big demand by organic dairies.
If you go ahead and raise organic beef, market them over the Internet, you can get some real top-dollar profits going along.
Meanwhile, your ground is starting to heal itself and produce better crops. And yes, that same cattle herd is used to feed off your hay ground and fertilize as they go. So your bills are much less.
Now, if you simply raise "natural" beef (no implants or anti-biotic diets), you can still market your beef directly and make some big bucks this way - without having to have the government approve everything you do.
But it takes some guts - but you have nothing to lose except your debt.