Organic farm sales surge 72 percent from 2008, USDA reports

By Daniel Enoch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Sept. 17, 2015 - Sales of organic farm products are booming.

The 2014 Organic Survey, released today by USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), shows that 14,093 certified and exempt organic farms in the United States sold a total of $5.5 billion in organic products in 2014, up 72 percent since 2008. An exempt farm is one grossing less than $5,000 in annual organic sales.

California accounted for about 40 percent of total sales, leading the nation with $2.2 billion. Rounding out the top five states in sales were Washington ($515 million), Pennsylvania ($313 million), Oregon ($237 million) and Wisconsin ($201 million).

The 592-page report also indicated there's plenty of potential for growth. Approximately 5,300 organic producers, almost 40 percent, say they intend to increase organic production over the next five years. An additional 688 farms with no current organic production are in the process of transitioning into organic production.

Lets Talk Food

While only about 1.3 percent of total U.S. farm receipts ($402.2 billion) in 2014, the sales figure was welcomed by Laura Batcha, the CEO of the Organic Trade Association.

“We think the jump in farm sales since 2008 is fantastic,” Batcha said in a telephone interview from Baltimore, where OTA is holding its “All Things Organic” conference in conjunction with the bustling Natural Producers Expo East trade show. Batch said while the annual growth rate of about 10 percent is rewarding, it still is not enough to meet demand.

NASS Administrator Joseph T. Reilly said with the indications of expanded organic production in coming years, the data provided by the survey is becoming more important for policy and programs.

“These results will assist with the development of appropriate risk management programs designed to help organic producers,” Reilly said. “The report also shows that organic producers are providing a wide variety of products to customers and are getting those items from farm to table more efficiently.”

The selection of organic products sold by U.S. farms in 2014 was diverse, from dairy and proteins, to fruits, vegetables and grains, NASS said in a news release. The top five commodities in organic sales were:

  • Milk, $1.08 billion
  • Eggs, $420 million
  • Broiler chickens, $372 million
  • Lettuce, $264 million
  • Apples, $250 million
The report also showed that the vast majority of organic agricultural products sold in 2014 were sold close to the farm. The first point of sale for 80 percent of all U.S. organic products was less than 500 miles from the farm, compared to 74 percent in 2008. Of the sales of organic products in 2014:

 

  • 46 percent were sold within 100 miles
  • 34 percent were sold 101-499 miles
  • 18 percent were sold 500 or more miles
  • 2 percent were sold internationally

 

Additionally, 63 percent of U.S. organic farms reported selling products to wholesale markets. These sales accounted for 78 percent of U.S. organic farm sales. Wholesale markets, such as buyers for supermarkets, processors, distributors, packers and cooperatives, were serving as the marketing channel of choice for U.S. organic farmers to get organic agriculture products to customers.

OTA's Batcha said she was glad to see the survey tracking losses to organic operations from contamination by GMOs. The survey indicates that from 2011-2014, 87 organic operations reported total losses of about $6.1 million in crop losses from GMOs, or about $70,000 per farm affected. That's up from just nine farms with average losses of about $7,600 from 2006-2010. “These figures are going to become more and more important,” Batcha said.

The survey is part of the Census of Agriculture program and was conducted by NASS in conjunction with USDA's Risk Management Agency to provide objective information to serve the organic industry. Survey results are available at www.agcensus.usda.gov/Publications/Organic_Survey/ or the Quick Stats database at http://quickstats.nass.usda.gov. Interested parties can also join NASS for a webinar about the 2014 Organic Survey, hosted by the USDA Organic Working Group, on September 29, from 1:00-2:00 p.m. ET. To join the webinar, visit www.readytalk.com, dial 1-866-740-1260, and use passcode 720 6000.

The data was gathered from survey forms mailed by NASS in early January to approximately 17,000 producers. Producers were also contacted by phone or in person from February through April.

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