Information collected from U.S. accredited organic certifying agents for 2014 and 2015 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released in December 2016 showed 14,861 U.S. organic farms in operation in 2015, with 5.3 million acres farmed organically. Of that total, slightly more than 2.1 million acres were used for certified organic pasture and rangeland.
On January 11, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) announced a new partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help guide farmers transitioning into certified organic agricultural production.
Using standards developed by OTA, the National Certified Transitional Program will provide oversight to approved Accredited Organic Certifying Agents offering transitional certification to producers. This will help ease the transition process to organic, allow farmers to sell their products as certified transitional at a premium, and encourage more organic production.
The booming U.S. organic industry posted new records in 2015, with total organic product sales hitting $43.3 billion, up a robust 11 percent from the previous year’s record level and far outstripping the overall food market’s growth rate of 3 percent, according to the Organic Trade Association’s 2016 Organic Industry Survey.
From organic business milestones to marketing news, check out what's been happening in organic.
By now, you’re probably familiar with the pie chart illustrating the major categories within the organic food sector. The largest share of sales belongs to fruits and vegetables— accounting for more than 36% of the total $39.7 billion U.S. shoppers spent on organic food in 2015. Fruits and vegetables are more than double the size of the next largest category, according to OTA’s 2016 Organic Industry Survey, and it is the only organic food category to have experienced double-digit growth every year dating back to 2005.
OTA’s Export Promotion Program, now dubbed U.S. Organic Worldwide, was awarded record-high USDA funding totaling $1,389,393 for calendar year 2016. The award is split between two grant programs: $889,393 for the Market Access Program (MAP), and $500,000 for Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC).
As consumers wake up to the national debate of GMO labeling, possible links of high-fructose corn syrup to obesity, and larger dead zones caused by chemical runoff, another movement is building in the sidelines: the effort to find and implement new, even revolutionary agronomy practices that can replace current unsustainable systems, and be scaled to meet growing demand for healthful foods, renewable textiles and biomass.
OTA’s Farmers Advisory Council (FAC) enters into its third year stronger and broader than ever. Its membership includes OTA farmer members and organic farmer- governed organizations from coast to coast and across all sectors of the industry. Discussions at FAC meetings are going more in-depth than ever before, eliciting thinking and solutions to some of the world’s most pressing agricultural related issues. With the strong and diverse participation, 2016 is shaping up to be an ambitious year for FAC.
Around 14 percent of all U.S.-produced carrots are now organic—making carrots one of the highest ranked crops based on the total percentage produced organically, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).