WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced a significant increase in the number of certified organic operations, continuing the trend of double digit growth in the organic sector. According to new data, there are now 21,781 certified organic operations in the United States and 31,160 around the world.
"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 data released by the Agricultural Marketing Service's (AMS) National Organic Program (NOP), 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 the count began in 2002. The total retail market for organic products is now valued at more than $39 billion in the United States and over $75 billion worldwide.
Along with consumer demand for organics, increasingly they are asking for local foods. Under Secretary Vilsack, USDA has supported providing consumers a stronger connection to their food with more than $1 billion in investments to over 40,000 local and regional food businesses and infrastructure projects since between 2009. Industry data estimates that U.S. local food sales totaled at least $12 billion in 2014, up from $5 billion in 2008. More information on how USDA investments are connecting producers with consumers and expanding rural economic opportunities is available in Chapter IV of USDAResults on Medium.
USDA has strengthened programs that support organic operations over the past 7 years, helping to make organic certification more accessible, attainable, and affordable through a "Sound and Sensible" approach. This initiative includes streamlining the certification process, focusing on enforcement and working with farmers and processors to correct small issues before they become larger ones.
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 site www.usda.gov/organic creates a one-stop-shop 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 made more than $11.5 million available to assist organic operations with their certification costs.
The NOP maintains the list of organic operations and leads activities that support organic integrity and market growth. In addition, USDA helps organic stakeholders access programs that support conservation, provide access to loans and grants, fund organic research and education, and mitigate threats from pests and diseases. USDA also administers organic certification cost-share programs that offset the costs of organic certification for U.S. producers and handlers.
The data announced today are publicly available as part of the recently launched Organic Integrity Database, a modernized system for tracking certified organic operations. In the past, USDA published an updated list of certified organic operations once each year. 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. The modernized system will provide data for market research, enable stakeholders to identify market opportunities and make supply chain connections, support international verification of operator status to facilitate trade, and establish technology connections with certifiers to share more accurate and timely data.
Additional information about USDA resources and support for the organic sector is available on the USDA Organics Resource page.