U.S. Organic Statistics and Trade: We Need More Organic Field Crop Producers

The latest issue of the USDA’s Amber Waves publication contains an interesting piece about the growth of organic crop production here in the U.S., and includes trade statistics, too.

Earlier this year, I covered an eye-opening WSJ article which informed us that we import organic soybeans from China these days due to a lack of production here, and the statistics in this USDA article help bear that out. I have been able to verify this, because occasionally, I buy dry roasted wasabi-flavored edamame beans to snack on, and when I’ve checked the package label, sure enough, the bean’s origin is China. (Note that edamame beans are immature soybeans.) I’ve also checked the organic frozen edamame bean packages at my favorite grocer, and they also originate from China.

Though U.S. organic food sales have grown from $3.6 billion in 1997 to $28 billion in 2012, still only 1 percent of U.S. farms are organic, and about 70 percent of them are in the Northwest or Pacific regions. Organic food sales were up 11 percent in 2012, from 2011, which would suggest we are in a period of rapid growth for this producer sector.

The following chart lists 2011 cropland acreages for specific organic crops such as corn and soybeans versus the respective total crop acreage. Note that in 2011, certified organic cropland made up only 0.7 percent of U.S. cropland, at 3.1 million acres. For field crops, only 0.3 percent of corn, 0.2 percent of soybeans, and 0.6 percent of wheat were grown as certified organic.

The top two organic food sellers in this country are fruit and vegetable produce, at 43 percent of total organic sales, and dairy, at 15 percent of total organic sales. Although fruit and vegetable fresh produce amounted to 43 percent of sales in 2011, this category used only 16 percent of the certified organic cropland.

The organic meat, fish, and poultry category sales have gained most over the last decade, but still only amount to 3 percent of total organic sales.

The two organic foods which we import with the greatest value, bananas and coffee, are tropical/subtropical crops which we aren’t able to grow here.

Of all the organic product imports, soybeans showed the biggest jump in value from 2011 to 2012, more than doubling to $90.2 million, and imports of organic rice, wheat, and other U.S. staple crops also grew. This would suggest a good opportunity for American farmers to supply these niche markets. Because I’d much rather snack on some dry roasted organic wasabi-flavored edamame beans that are grown, processed, and packaged in Iowa.

To learn more, please go to the source for additional charts and statistics.

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