Organic sector continues double-digit growth

By Whitney Forman-Cook

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, April 4, 2016 - The number of organic farms is increasing, even after more than a decade of sustained growth in the sector, according to newly released USDA data.

There are about 22,000 certified organic farms in the U.S. and more than 31,000 worldwide, the department's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) says in a release. Between 2014 and 2015, the number of organic farms in the U.S. increased by 12 percent - the highest growth rate since 2008.

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“Organic food is one of the fasting growing segments of American agriculture,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “The increasing number of organic operations shows that USDA's strong support for the vibrant organic sector is helping to create jobs and opportunities in rural communities.”

AMS began tracking organic farms in 2002, and since then, has recorded a 300 percent increase in their number. Today, the total retail market for organic products is worth $39 billion in the U.S. and $75 billion worldwide, USDA says.

“As consumer demand for organic products continues to grow, the USDA organic seal has become a leading global standard,” Vilsack added in the release.

Laura Batcha, CEO of the Organic Trade Association, told Agri-Pulse she was not surprised by the USDA's growth figures. 

“USDA's numbers support what we have been hearing anecdotally across the country: Organic certifiers are getting more calls from farmers who want to go organic,” she said.

While transitioning to organic can be expensive at first, Batcha said the resulting environmental benefits and “strong organic premiums” are what attract farmers to organic production.

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AMS data on certified organic farms can be accessed through USDA's recently launched Organic Integrity Database, which allows certified growers to quickly update their operations' information with the government.

USDA says it's been working to make the organic certification process “sound and sensible” over the last seven years. Its “one-stop-shop for operators” has market and pricing information for about 250 organic products, ways to access technical and financial resources, and links to organic research and outreach materials.

In 2015, USDA spent $11.5 million to assist producers certifying as organic, the department says.

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