Certified Organic Acreage on the Rise

The number of acres of organic farming are on the rise.
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Certified organic acreage

Certified organic acreage is growing in the U.S., according to a new report from market data platform Mercaris. The report estimates that USDA certified organic land will total 6.5 million acres in 2018, a 2 percent increase from last year.

Demand for organic livestock feed is one of the main motivations behind this growth, according to the report. Growth in organic corn and soybeans are higher than the average, with a 4 percent increase in certified organic corn operations and a 7 percent increase in organic soybean operations.

Mercaris senior economist Ryan Koory tells the Nebraska Rural Radio Association that while “historically the United States has been a major importer of corn and soybeans,” this has been changing of late. This is likely due, at least in part, to concern over false organic imports, as well as to a growing market for organic meat and dairy.

Sales of organic meat, poultry, and fish increased 17.2 percent in 2017, according to the Organic Trade Association, surpassing the $1 billion mark for the first time to reach $1.2 billion in sales. The organic dairy market, meanwhile, is in a decline after reaching its pinnacle in 2017. This slump is due in large part to an increased interest in plant-based dairy alternatives, but experts note that there is still room for organic dairy to edge out conventional in the marketplace.

The number of organic farms in the U.S. is growing at an even faster rate than overall organic acreage, according to the report. USDA certified organic farms increased 3 percent to total 17,648 in 2018. 

This discrepancy is one thing that Koory says he finds "most fascinating" about the report and is linked to the fact that farms along the Great Lakes and East Coast, where much of the marketplace growth is happening, tend to be smaller than in other parts of the country.

Non-GMO operations, meanwhile, declined 5 percent from 2017. According to the report, this trend can be linked both to a decline in total acres of corn and soybeans being planted in the U.S. as well as to an uptick in GMO planting.

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