The number of certified organic farming and agribusiness operations in the US increased by almost 12 percent between 2014 and 2015, the highest rate since 2008.
There are 21,781 certified organic operations in the US, ranging from crop cultivation to packaged food distribution, four times the number which existed in 2002, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The department places the value of the organic retail market at more than $39 billion, a $9 billion increase on the $30 billion size of the US organic market in 2014 estiamted in a Research Institute of Organic Agriculture and the Agricultural Market Information Company report.
The US consumes nearly half of the world’s organic agricultural output, while hosting just 2 percent of its organic acreage. It is still the third biggest producer in the sector, with 5.4 million hectares, behind Argentina (7.7 million) and Australia (42.5 million).
“Organic food is one of the fastest-growing segments of American agriculture,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement. “As consumer demand for organic products continues to grow, the USDA organic seal has become a leading global standard. The increasing number of organic operations shows that USDA’s strong support for the vibrant organic sector is helping to create jobs and opportunities in rural communities.”
The US Department of Agriculture announced an expansion of crop insurance earlier this year that allows growers to insure crops at a higher value while moving to organic production. The time and capital involved in going organic can deter farmers from making the switch.
Organic goods enjoy significant price premiums over conventionally farmed agri products, at a time when US farm incomes have been suffering, particularly those producing major grains.
General Mills said it would double its organic acreage by 2019, when it expects sale from natural and organic products to reach $1 billion.