United States organic farming land has reached 4.1 million acres in 2016, a new record and an 11 percent increase as compared to 2014, according to a new report.
While California still leads with 688,000 acres of organic farming land, Montana saw a 30 percent increase with 417,000 acres, a 100,000-acre increase since 2014.
The report estimates that North Dakota, Colorado, and New York also increased organic acreage by about 40,000 since 2014.
As of June 2016, the number of certified organic farms in the U.S. had reached 14,979, a 6.2 percent increase as compared to 2014.
Scott Shander, an economist at Mercaris, attributes this growth to consumer demand for organic foods.
“The organic industry is growing and with lower commodity grain prices, and farmers are looking to add value and meet consumer demands,” he told Civil Eats.
Alix Heilman, a sales associate at Mercaris, notes that this growth trend is likely to continue, particularly given the organic acreage growth programs that have been launched by companies such as General Mills, which has vowed to add 3,000 acres of organic farming land to its source pool over the next three years.
“I think we will see more of an impact of those programs in the next few years as more farmers start the transition process (to organic),” says Heilman.
This new growth is on par for the exponential expansion the market has seen in the past few years. In 2015, U.S. organic sales had reached a new record of $43.3 billion according to the Organic Trade Association’s 2016 Organic Industry Survey, representing the largest dollar gain ever for the sector, and this despite struggle to meet consumer demands for organic.
“The industry joined in collaborative ways to invest in infrastructure and education, and individual companies invested in their own supply chains to ensure a dependable stream of organic products for the consumer,” said OTA’s CEO and Executive Director Laura Batcha. “Organic will continue to be the most meaningful farm-to-fork—and fiber—system.”
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