WASHINGTON — The U.S. organic industry now encompasses a recordbreaking 18,513 certified organic farms and businesses, according to new figures released by the USDA, a 245 percent increase since 2002.
The figures show the organic industry continues to grow domestically and globally, with over 25,000 certified organic operations in more than 120 countries.
Through the Agricultural Marketing Service’s National Organic Program, USDA has helped an additional 763 producers become certified organic in 2013 alone, an increase of 4.2 percent from the previous year.
The 2013 list of certified USDA organic operations shows an increased rate of domestic growth within the industry, resuming previous trends.
“Consumer demand for organic products has grown exponentially over the past decade,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
“With retail sales valued at $35 billion last year, the organic industry represents a tremendous economic opportunity for farmers, ranchers and rural communities.”
Carol Goland, executive director for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, said the report mirrors what is happening in Ohio.
OEFFA has witnessed an increase in the number of certified organic farms year after year.
Goland said growth in the organic food sector has outpaced its conventional counterpart for more than a decade.
“This industry signal means that we can expect to see more farms transition to organic production, and more new farmers begin their businesses as certified organic,” said Goland.
Now that the farm bill has passed and the National Organic Cost Share Program will be reinstated, Goland expects more farmers to chose to complete the organic certification process.
USDA has a number of new efforts to connect organic farmers with resources that will help develop the growth of the organic industry.
The USDA is helping organic stakeholders access programs that support conservation; providing access to loans and grants; funding organic research and education; and mitigating pest emergencies.
Funds are currently available for research projects under the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Organic Agriculture Research and extension initiative to solve critical organic agriculture issues or problems.
The program also funds research projects to enhance the ability of organic producers and processors to grow and market their products. Additional information is available online, and request for proposals are due by May 8.