By Melody Meyer
The number of organic farms in the United States, acres used in organic production, and the value of organic products sold have increased dramatically over the last three years, with California organic fresh produce commodities leading the way, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service’s (NASS) 2019 Organic Survey released last week.
The 2019 Organic Survey shows total sales of $9.93 billion in organic commodity products, an increase of $2.37 billion, or 31% pe, from 2016. According to the survey, there were 16,585 certified organic farms in the US last year (a 17% increase from 2016), which accounted for 5.5 million certified acres (an increase of 9% over 2016).
California continued to lead the nation in certified organic sales with $3.6 billion, 36% of the U.S. total and four times that of any other state. It also led all states with 3,012 certified farms and 965,257 certified acres.
The top 10 Organic crops produced in the nation by sales were dominated by fresh produce. In order of sales, organic apples, lettuce, grapes, strawberries, corn, blueberries, spinach, mushrooms, potatoes, and alfalfa headed the list.
Highlights from the sales of organic fresh produce commodities include:
- Vegetable sales at $2.08 billion, up 27% from 2016
- Lettuce sales at $400 million, up 44% from 2016
- Fruit, tree nut, and berry sales at $2.02 billion, up 44% from 2016
- Apple sales at $475 million, up 45% from 2016
Following California’s record-setting organic production were Washington ($886 million), Pennsylvania ($742 million), Oregon ($454 million), and Texas ($424 million).
Hubert Hamer, NASS Administrator
“The results of the 2019 Organic Survey show the continued growth of organic production in the United States,” said NASS Administrator Hubert Hamer. “These comprehensive and essential, national- and state-level data are valuable to the organic industry as well as agri-business infrastructure and programs that support the sector.”
NASS began collecting data for the 2019 Organic Survey in early 2020 as a follow-up special study to the 2017 Census of Agriculture. This is the sixth organic survey NASS has conducted and the first since the 2016 Organic Survey.
The top 2019 organic vegetable commodities in sales were (in $millions):
- Lettuce: $400
- Spinach: $179
- Potatoes: $155
- Tomatoes: $132
- Carrots: $132
- Onions: $113
- Broccoli: $109
- Sweet potatoes: $77
- Cauliflower: $68
- Celery: $65
The top 2019 organic fruit categories (in $millions) were:
- Fruits, tree nuts, and berries: $2,023
- Berries: $676
- Apples: $475
- Grapes: $332
- Other fruits: $314
- Citrus: $116
- Tree nuts: $110
The top organic commodities with the greatest gains in sales value from 2016 were led by produce.
Fresh spinach was up 52%; grapes too were up 52%; cultivated blueberries were up 104%; and raspberries increased 197%.
What does future organic production look like?
The survey also asked organic farmers about their plans for organic production over the next five years, including acres they may have in transition to organic production.
Certified organic farms reported an additional 255,060 acres currently transitioning to organic production. Other farms (not currently certified) reported 60,611 transitioning acres.
The survey also addressed direct-to-consumer sales by state.
Major challenges reported for certified organic farms in 2019 were predictable:
Regulatory, pricing, production, market access, and management issues emerged as the dominant themes.
To learn more about the 2019 Organic Report, visit: www.nass.usda.gov/organics