First certified organic survey has 2011 livestock sales at $1.31 billion

Nov 2, 2012

According to a USDA survey, certified organic growers in the U.S. sold more than $3.5 billion organically grown agricultural commodities in 2011. The 2011 Certified Organic Production Survey, released by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), was provided for USDA’s Risk Management Agency to help refine federal crop insurance products for organic producers.

“This is the first time we have conducted a survey focused solely on the USDA-certified organic producers,” said Hubert Hamer, chairperson of NASS’s Agricultural Statistics Board. “With this survey’s results, policymakers will be able to better assess the Federal Crop Insurance program and its impact on the organic industry.”

The results showed that certified and exempt organic farmers in the U.S. generated over $3.16 billion in sales in 2008. The average organic producer had sales of $217,675 with average expenses of $171,978. The 2007 Census of Agriculture showed that the average value of sales for all farmers was $134,807 with average expenses of $109,359.

Mirroring its conventional survey counterpart, corn leads organic field crops in sales and accounted for more than $101.5 million in 2011. The only other field crops to have more than $50 million in sales were alfalfa dry hay and winter wheat, accounting for $69.5 million and $54 million in sales, respectively.

When it comes to organic field crops acreage, Wisconsin leads the nation with more than 110,000 acres harvested in 2011. Wisconsin is followed by New York, with organic growers harvesting more than 97,000 acres. California closely follows the Empire State growers with more than 91,000 acres of organic field crops harvested in 2011. These top three states illustrate just how geographically diverse organic crop production is in the U.S.

In addition to looking at organically produced crops, the survey also gathered information on the organically raised livestock, which accounted for $1.31 billion in sales in 2011. Organic milk was the top livestock commodity last year, accounting for $765 million in sales. The other key organic livestock commodities were chicken eggs and broiler chickens, earning $276 million and $115 million in sales, respectively.

In 2000, the National Organic Standards Board of USDA established a national standard for the term “organic.” Organic food must be produced without the use of conventional pesticides, petroleum-based fertilizers, sewage sludge-based fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, genetic engineering (biotechnology), antibiotics, growth hormones, or irradiation. Animals raised on an organic operation must be fed organic feed and given access to the outdoors. Land must have no prohibited substances applied to it for at least three years before the harvest of an organic crop.

The National Organic Standards became law on Oct. 21, 2002. The law states that all farms and handling operations that display the “USDA Organic” seal must be certified by a state or private agency that ensures the National Organics Standards are followed.

Certifying agents are accredited by USDA. Farms that follow the National Organic Standards and have less than $5,000 in annual sales can be exempt from certification. These exempt farms can use the term “organic” but cannot use the “USDA Organic” seal.

The survey results also include statistics on organically grown fruit and vegetables, value-added products and marketing outlets. The full results of the survey are available online at http://bit. ly/2011OrganicSurvey. — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor