The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released the results of the 2015 "Certified Organic Survey," which show that 12,818 certified organic farms in the U.S. sold a total of $6.2 billion in organic products in 2015, up 13% from $5.5 billion in 2014. California and Wisconsin had the largest number of certified organic farms, with 2,637 and 1,205, respectively.
When the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) examined the numbers, the group noted that the number of certified organic farms in 2015 totaled 12,818, down from the 14,093 reported in the 2014 survey. However, it must be noted, that while this survey is mandatory, discrepancies can exist between the survey and other sources, such as AMS’s organic integrity database. The Organic Integrity Database is currently showing 15,904 certified organic operations in the United States raising crops or livestock, and gathering wild crops.
A closer look at the 2015 Organic Production Survey reveals that virtually all of the increase of 691,289 acres can be attributed to a single organic operation becoming certified in September 2015. Due to the addition of this large livestock ranch, Alaska shot from up from having around 300 certified organic acres to having nearly 700,000, second only to California in total certified acres.
NSAC said in digging a little deeper and looking at the top five states for organic acreage in 2015, excluding Alaska, they find a mixed bag with some states experiencing a significant increase and other seeing a significant decrease.
- California – 685,848 to 790,413 acres, a 15% increase
- Montana – 317,878 to 251,531 acres, a 21% decrease
- New York – 210,871 to 238,700 acres, a 13% increase
- Wisconsin – 226,056 to 209,615 acres, a 7% decrease
- Oregon – 203,555 to 175,675 acres, a 14% decrease
NSAC said it does appear that a significant number of acres are moving back and forth between being certified and not certified, “which is a potentially concerning trend given the time and effort that must be expended to become certified and the growing demand for organic products,” NSAC noted.
The selection of certified organic products sold by U.S. farms in 2015 was diverse, from dairy and meats, to fruits, vegetables and grains. The value of sales from livestock and poultry products led the way ($1.9 billion) followed by vegetables ($1.4 billion); fruits, tree nuts, and berries ($1.2 billion); livestock and poultry ($743 million), and field crops ($660 million). The top five commodities in certified organic sales were:
- Milk, $1.2 billion, up 8.4% from $1.1 billion in 2014.
- Eggs, $732 million, up 74.5% from $420 million in 2014.
- Broiler chickens, $420 million, up 13.1% from $371 million in 2014.
- Apples, $302 million, up 20% from $251 million in 2014.
- Lettuce, $262 million, down less than 1% from $264 million in 2014.
The vast majority of certified organic agricultural products sold in 2015 were sold close to the farm or ranch, with many growers having multiple outlets. The first point of sale for 75% of all U.S. organic farms and ranches was within 100 miles from the farm and 35% was 100-499 miles away, virtually unchanged since 2014.
Additionally, 71% of U.S. certified organic farms and ranches reported selling products to wholesale markets. 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 and ranchers to get their products to customers. Thirty-six percent sold directly to consumers and 22% sold directly to retail markets and institutions.