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U.S. organic production growth looks strong

Straitel/iStock/Thinkstock corn field
Number of certified organic farms and demand for organic products continues to grow.

More land and operations have converted to U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified organic production during 2020, expanding the footprint of organics within U.S. agriculture, according to the newly released “Mercaris Commodity Outlook” for 2020-21. Mercaris is the nation’s leading market data service and online trading platform for organic, non-genetically modified organism (GMO) and certified agricultural commodities.

The outlook suggests that the number of certified organic operations in the U.S. will reach 19,888 during 2020-21, a 4% year-over-year (y/y) increase.

“The role of organic in U.S. agriculture continues to expand, bolstered by growing consumer preferences and challenging markets for conventionally grown commodities, and 2020 appears to be a clear reflection of this, as many crops are projected to see harvested acres reach record levels this year,” Mercaris director of economics Ryan Koory said.

In total, Mercaris forecasts U.S. harvested organic field crop area will exceed 3.4 million acres in 2020-21, a 4% increase from the prior year. In addition to more harvested acres, Mercaris expects the 2020-21 yield outlook for many key U.S. organic crops to rebound following dismal planting and harvest weather conditions in 2019-20.

U.S. organic corn production is projected to reach 43.6 million bu. in 2020-21, up 9% y/y. U.S. organic soybean production is projected to reach a record-setting 8.6 million bu. over 2020-21, up 12% y/y.

Due to the larger U.S. organic commodity supplies on the horizon, Mercaris emphasized that growth in organic livestock production and feed demand will be critical over 2020-21.

Following the rapid global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chains, trade partners and U.S. households found themselves in an unpredictable new world. Despite this, the outlook noted that U.S. consumer organic demand appears to have held up versus 2019-20, with both organic broiler and turkey meat production achieving y/y growth.

“The expansion in organic turkey production this year has been nothing short of phenomenal,” Koory said. “We estimate the daily rate of organic turkey slaughter jumped 147% over the past year -- from 5,600 head per day over August 2019 to 13,800 head per day over August 2020.”

Maintaining the slaughter rate for August alone is enough to significantly expand total organic turkey slaughter for 2020-21, he added.

Furthermore, Mercaris anticipates that U.S. consumer markets for organic protein will continue to expand in 2020-21. However, this outlook is largely dependent on the strength of the U.S. economy and consumer demand over the year to come.

Additional findings from the Mercaris outlook include:

  • Organic corn for livestock feed use is projected to increase 6% y/y for the 2020-21 marketing year as organic poultry production continues to boost demand for U.S. organic feed grain.
  • The U.S. organic soybean crush is projected to increase 13% y/y in 2020-21 as organic soybean meal imports plateau and livestock feed demand continues to expand.
  • U.S. non-GMO soybean planted area expanded 19% y/y over 2020.
  • U.S. non-GMO corn planted area increased 8% y/y over 2020.

The outlook includes additional data and commentary on expected yields, use, prices and more for organic commodities as well as for non-GMO acreage in the U.S.

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