Report: US organic acres set record

We are part of The Trust Project.

American consumers are increasingly interested in organic food. So it should be no surprise that organic commodity farmers will harvest a record 3.1 million acres of U.S. land certified for organic field crop production this year, 7% more than a year ago, according to a new report.

Total organic acres, which includes pasture and rangeland, now stands at 8.3 million acres, according to the report from Mercaris. The Silver Spring, Md.-based organization provides market data and a trading platform for organic and non-GMO markets.

Organic field crop acreage increased nationwide, with the High Plains and western U.S. seeing the biggest increase, the report said.

California leads the nation in organic crop acres. Montana ranks second. North Dakota and Minnesota also rank relatively high.

Other growth for the organic industry included a 3% increase in 2019 in the number of U.S. farm operations that are certified compliant with the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Program standards. The number now stands at 18,155.


Farmers who become certified compliant do so for many reasons, Ryan Koory, director of economics at Mercaris, said.

One of the biggest incentives is the premium, or higher price, that organic farmers often receive for their product, he said.

The premiums can be particularly attractive when conventional crop prices are poor, as they are now, or when a farmer has relatively few acres and consequently needs higher per-acre profit.

Wheat, corn and soybeans, in that order, are the three biggest-acreage organic crops, together accounting for about 36% of U.S. organic field crop acres, Koory said.

Wheat is popular among organic producers for its rotational benefits, while organic corn and soybeans can fetch attractive premiums, he said.

Organic farmers, particularly ones who raise corn and soybeans, often faced weather-related challenges this growing season, Koory said.

“However, the industry overall remains on a robust growth trend, and with better weather in 2020, the industry will likely see even more growth in the year to come,” Koory said.

Historically, the process of becoming certified compliant with USDA’s national organic program has been seen by many as complicated and filled with paperwork.


“It’s necessary,” Koory said of the process to become certified compliant.

Even so, the process is becoming easier, in part because more information is available through the Extension Service and other organizations, he said.

More information on USDA’s National Organic Program standards: .

Related Topics: AGRICULTURE
What to read next
The labor intensive nature of the work, the length of time it takes for an evergreen tree in North Dakota to grow to a saleable height, and the competition from “big box” stores are deterrents to raising Christmas trees, said Tom Claeys, North Dakota state forester.
Cathy Scheibe, at 82, of LaMoure, North Dakota, continues with Toy Farmer Magazine, more than 22 years after her husband and co-founder, Claire, died. She talks about how the company is changing and preparing for transitions, about how markets for toy tractors and construction equipment have been unusually strong due to the pandemic and supply chain issues for new toy commemorative projects.
This week on AgweekTV, as our Thankful for Ag series continues, we'll visit a farm that's helping find a cure for Huntington's Disease with some very special sheep. We'll meet a family who's thankful for "the little things." Commodity groups come together to promote sustainability. And a North Dakota tree farm is growing Christmas cheer.
Meat cutting courses at Ridgewater College and Central Lakes College are helping train the next generation of meat processing professionals, but more work is needed to build a more resilient system.