U.S. organic sales jump 23 percent in 2016

California continues to lead the way in organic sales and number of organic farms and acreage nationwide. Milk topped the list of organic product sales in 2016, followed by eggs and broiler chickens.

U.S. farmers and ranchers sold $7.6 billion in certified organic agricultural products in 2016, an increase of 23 percent from $6.2 billion a year earlier.

Those sales came from an additional 1,399 certified farms, up 11 percent, and 657,547 more acres, up 15 percent, USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Wednesday.

Ten states accounted for 77 percent of the sales, and California continued to lead the way.

The Golden State accounted for 38 percent of total U.S. sales at $2.9 billion. With the largest share of certified farms and organic acreage, California added 76 farms to its organic ranks and nearly 300,000 acres in 2016.

Washington lost its No. 2 ranking to Pennsylvania but increased sales by $10 million with 79 additional farms and about 7,000 additional acres.

Oregon held its No. 4 spot, increasing sales by more than $81 million on 52 additional farms and 19,000 additional acres.

Nationwide, crops accounted for 56 percent of organic sales at $4.2 billion, and livestock, poultry and their products accounted for 44 percent at $3.4 billion.

Milk, however, led product sales at $1.4 billion, an increase of 18 percent. Eggs followed at $816 million, up 11 percent. Sales of broiler chickens were up a whopping 78 percent to $750 million.

Other heavy hitters were apples, up 8 percent to $327 million, and lettuce – which increased 6 percent to $277 million.

Other top organic crops were strawberries, grapes, tomatoes, corn, potatoes, hay, spinach and mushrooms, NASS reported.

The agency also noted the 2016 survey was expanded to include grape data by variety and to separate information on fresh and processed fruits and berries.

The National Trade Organization said in an email that while it welcomes USDA’s commitment to providing important information on organic agriculture through its farmer-based census, certifier-based estimates show even higher numbers.

Numbers from accredited certifying agents in December showed 14,861 organic farms and 5.3 million organic acres, compared with the 14,217 farms and 5.0 million acres in the Sept. 20 report.

“Precise and current information on organic farm sales and acreage is vital for all organic stakeholders. The organic industry cannot continue to thrive and maintain stable markets without good data collection,” OTA stated.

The organization also pointed out that while overall growth in sales of organic agricultural production is positive news, the latest report highlights that growth in livestock feed grains doesn’t parallel the dramatic growth in livestock products — noting an ever widening gap between the supply of domestic organic feed grains and demand.

“This underscores the need to shore up import oversight and increase support for domestic grain producers through a stronger crop insurance safety net, market access and organic data collection,” OTA stated.

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