While still a small sector of U.S. agriculture, organic farming is booming, the USDA reported Thursday. Sales totaled $9.9 billion in 2019, a 31% increase in three years, and 29% of organic farmers say they plan to increase production.
There are more farms and more land in organic production – 16,585 farms and 5.5 million certified acres – than ever before. The USDA conducted its first biological survey in 2008.
“Talk about a pretty picture!” noted Kathleen Merrigan on social networks, referring to the constantly increasing figures for organic. Merrigan, now a professor at Arizona State, helped draft the legislation creating the U.S. Biological Program as a Senate staffer and helped implement it as a USDA official during the Obama era.
The farm-gate value of organic produce, primarily dairy, vegetables and fruit, is triple the sales value reported more than a decade ago in the USDA’s first report, Organic said. Trade Association.
California has the largest sales ($3.6 billion), number of farms (3,012), and land area (965,257 certified acres) in the country. The rest of the top five organic states are Washington ($886 million in sales), Pennsylvania ($742 million), Oregon ($454 million), and Texas ($424 million).
For its report, the USDA attempted to contact every farm with certified organic production in 2019 as well as farms going organic. It had 16,585 certified organic farms. When farmers were asked about their plans for the next five years, 29% said they would increase their organic production and 44% said they would maintain their current level of production. In the 2016 survey, the USDA reported 14,217 organic farms and sales of $7.55 billion.
“The results of the 2019 organic survey show the continued growth of organic production in the United States,” said Hubert Hamer, administrator of the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.
Most organic farmers are relatively small producers, with the lion’s share of production on the largest 2,824 farms with combined sales of $8.4 billion. The average size of an organic farm is 333 acres.
By comparison, the average American farm is 444 acres. There are 2.02 million farms in the country, covering 897 million acres, according to USDA data. The largest farms, with more than $500,000 in sales per year, account for 40% of farmland.
More than half (56 percent) of farms in the USDA survey grow only organic produce, while the rest have a mix of organic and conventional crops and livestock. Some 1,460 farms say organic represents less than 25% of their sales.
A two-page summary of “highlights” from the 2019 report is available here.