Organic Sales, Farm Growth Soar in 2014

April 15, 2015 - The U.S. organic industry enjoyed robust growth in 2014, with the number of certified organic farms increasing by more than 5 percent over 2013, and domestic sales of all organic products soaring 11 percent to more than $39 billion.

Organic food sales accounted for $35.9 billion of that total, with organic fruits and vegetables now accounting for 12 percent of all produce sold in the U.S. And while organic exports are growing, they are dwarfed by organic imports, reflecting U.S. farmers’ inability to keep pace with demand.

The statistics were released today to coincide with this week’s Organic Policy Conference and Hill Days in Washington DC, an annual gathering of organic stakeholders sponsored by the Organic Trade Association. Speaking to a sold-out crowd at Washington's Newseum, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the number of certified organic farms in the U.S. increased to 19,474 last year, out of a global total of 27,814. Read the USDA press release here.

"As demand for organic products continues to soar, more and more producers are entering the organic market," Vilsack said. "The more diverse type of operations and the more growing market sectors we have in American agriculture, the better off our country's rural economy will be."

U.S. organic sales statistics for 2014 were released by the OTA, a sampling of data from the organization’s comprehensive annual survey of the organic industry. Among the tidbits in the OTA release: non-food organic sales rose nearly 14 percent last year, and organic dairy sales jumped nearly 11 percent, despite persistent shortages in organic feed.

A majority of American households now make organic at least part of their retail purchases, according to the OTA, with nearly 80 percent of households in southern states and nearly 90 percent on the West Coast and in New England buying organic groceries and other products last year. Read the OTA release here.

The OTA also released highlights from a benchmark study setting the value of U.S. organic exports at $550 million in 2014, compared to nearly $1.3 billion in organic imports. While much of the import total encompasses items not commonly grown in the U.S., such as coffee and bananas, the second-largest component of organic imports is soybeans, though the U.S. is the world’s largest producer of soybeans. Read the OTA release here.

OFRF Executive Director Brise Tencer attended the Vilsack event, and applauded the good news, but pointed out that U.S. organic farmers are seeing far less growth than the organic industry overall. The U.S. still imports a significant portion of its organic food supply, a clear sign that U.S. farmers are not fully benefiting from industry trends.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana also addressed the policy conference, and urged meaningful increases in organic farming research to help expand the use of organic practices. 

“Our core message to lawmakers and policymakers this week is that we need to rally behind our organic farmers,” Tencer said. “Consumers around the world are demanding organic, and our farmers should be at the forefront of this global market.”

To view a list of certified organic operations in the U.S., go to http://apps.ams.usda.gov/nop/

Image courtesy GrowGainesville.wordpress.com

Maria Gaura - OFRF