Certified organic food gaining ground

by Erica Shaffer
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WASHINGTON — More than 12,000 certified organic farms in the United States generated $6.2 billion in sales in 2015, an increase of 13% from $5.5 billion reported in 2014, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) of the U.S. Deptartment of Agriculture reported in its 2015 Certified Organic Survey.

Ten states accounted for 78% of all certified organic food sales. California led with $2.4 billion, which accounted for 40% of the total value of all certified organic sales in the United States, the NASS said.

The value of sales from organic milk and eggs led all food categories with $1.9 billion followed by vegetables with $1.4 billion; fruits, tree nuts and berries with $1.2 billion; meat and poultry at $743 million and field crops at $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.

“In the 2015 Certified Organic Survey, producers reported that they expect to expand U.S. organic production in the coming years, making the data even more important for policy and programs,” said Hubert Hamer, administrator with NASS. “These results will assist with the development of appropriate risk management programs designed to help organic producers.

“The report also shows that organic producers are marketing their products through similar avenues in 2015 as in 2014, largely within their region, and that the value of sales increased during that time for many products.”

California and Wisconsin had the largest number of certified organic farms with 2,637 and 1,205 respectively. The NASS also said that the first point of sale for 75% of all U.S. organic farms and ranches was within 100 miles from the farm while 35% was 100 to 499 miles away. Farms in eastern and southern states, along with Alaska and Hawaii, had the highest number of farms selling products close to the production site.

Additionally, 71% of certified organic producers sold their products to buyers for supermarkets, processors, distributors, packers, cooperatives and other wholesale markets. Meanwhile, 36% of producers reported selling directly to consumers, the NASS said, and 22% sold directly to retail markets and institutions.
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