The Growing World of Organic

The Growing World of Organic: Number of U.S. Certified Organic Producers,  Worldwide Organic Acreage Hit All-time High

By Steven Hoffman

To satisfy domestic and international demand for all things organic, growing consistently at a double-digit pace, the number of certified organic producers in the U.S. hit an all time high in 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported in April 2016.Additionally, 43.7 million hectares, or over 100 million acres, of worldwide agricultural land was in organic production at the end of 2014 – a record high, as well, says the Swiss-based Research Institute of Organic Agriculture in its 2016 state of the global industry report, produced in partnership with IFOAM Organics International, the world’s leading organic producer association. According to new market data released by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service National Organic Program (NOP), there are now 21,781 certified organic operations in the U.S., and 31,160 certified organic operations worldwide. The number of domestic certified organic operations increased by almost 12% between 2014 and 2015, representing the highest growth rate since 2008 and an increase of nearly 300% since record keeping began in 2002, says NOP. The total retail market for organic products is valued at more than $39 billion in the U.S., and over $75 billion worldwide, reports USDA.

Organic: “Fastest Growing Segment of American Agriculture”

Organic food is one of the fasting growing segments of American agriculture," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "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." According to USDA, consumers are increasingly seeking out local foods, and industry data estimates that local food sales in the U.S. increased to $12 billion in 2014, up from $5 billion in 2008. USDA reports that it has invested more than $1 billion to over 40,000 local and regional food businesses and infrastructure projects since 2009 to boost growing markets for organic products and local foods. USDA has also established a number of resources to help organics producers find technical and financial resources to help them grow domestically and abroad, the agency said in a press release. The site creates a one-stop resource for operators, and USDA has made market and pricing information for approximately 250 organic products available free of charge through USDA's Market News. In 2015, USDA reported it made more than $11.5 million available to assist organic operations with their certification costs. Additionally, USDA’s NOP has made available to the public a list of certified organic operations and data on organic producers via its recently launched website With the new database, made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill, organic certifiers can add new operations and report changes to existing operations at any time, allowing USDA to report updated counts of certified organic operations throughout the year. Additional information about USDA resources and support for the organic sector is available on the USDA Organics Resource page. Global Growth: 2.3 Million Organic Producers Worldwide Today, more farmers are cultivating organically on more land in more countries than ever before, according to FiBL’s 2016 report, The World of Organic Agriculture, released in February 2016. At the end of 2014, 2.3 million organic producers were farming, ranching or otherwise engaged in organic production on 43.7 million hectares (108 million acres) of organic agricultural land worldwide, says FiBL. In all, 172 countries reported organic farming activities in 2014 (up from 77 countries in 1999 when data was first collected). (For comparison, the total estimated agricultural land worldwide is 1.5 billion hectares.) Overall, 40% of the global organic agricultural land is in Oceania (including Australia) (17.3 million hectares), followed by Europe (27%; 11.6 million hectares) and Latin America (15%; 6.8 million hectares). Australia is the country with the largest organic agricultural area (17.2 million hectares), with 97% of that area used for grazing, followed by Argentina (3.1 million hectares, and the U.S. (2.2 million hectares). In terms of numbers of organic producers, most are small-scale landholders, and India was number one with 650,000 producers, Uganda second with 190,552 producers, and Mexico with 169,703 organic producers. Of note, reports FiBL, are the countries with the largest share of organic agricultural land relative to total farmland. Leading in this category are the Falkland Islands (36.3%), Liechtenstein (30.9%) and Austria (19.4%). In eleven countries, more than 10% of all agricultural land is organic, including the above mentioned plus Sweden, Estonia,Samoa, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Italy and others. The leading markets for organic products worldwide include the U.S. at number one with 27.1 billion Euros in sales and growing at 11%, followed by Germany (7.9 billion Euros), France (4.8 billion Euros) and China (3.7 billion Euros), reported FiBL. Sources of content and charts: USDA Agricultural Marketing Service National Organic Program; Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) in partnership with IFOAM Organics International.

[Editor’s Note: Add Charts; see .jpg files attached.]