The national organic standards have officially been around for 15 years now, and the USDA celebrated its birthday by putting out a survey on the organic farms and products, the first since 2008. This survey has revealed that over 14,000 organic farms sold about $5.5 billion worth of organic products last year in the United States alone. This is a whopping 72% increase since 2008. Organic dairy products alone make up over $1 billion of that number.
78% of sales can be found in just 10 states. California is producing nearly half of the organic products at $2.2 billion of the total, and Oregon and Washington State came in at the number 4 and number 2 positions, making the West Coast the true center of organic farming. Furthermore, the survey revealed that farmers are now able to get more produce from less acreage, which dispels the common belief that organic farming doesn’t produce high enough yields to be truly profitable on a large scale.
However, there is another side to the story that is darker and mysterious. Despite the amazing growths seen in sales, the actual number of certified organic farms and acreage has declined since the 2008 survey. Although this gives a better indication of the improved methods that farmers are using to maximize their growing space, it also leads to many concerns about the reasons as to why there are smaller numbers of organic farmers now than there were before.
While there have been complaints about the corporatization of organic farming over the years, the survey suggests that growers are staying true to the local food economy: Nearly half of the food sold in 2014 was purchased within 100 miles of where it was grown.
Nearly 40 percent of farmers said they intended to expand their organic production in the next five years, suggesting that the industry will continue to grow quickly. But when considered in the context of the larger food industry, organic remains a niche concern: According to the Organic Trade Association, it is closing in on 5 percent of the overall market share.
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