December 28, 2006
More than one million new acres
were devoted to organic agriculture production in 2005,
statistics released today by the
U.S. Department of Agriculture
(USDA), and that's "great news," according to Caren Wilcox,
executive director of the Organic
Trade Association (OTA). However, the government still needs
to do more to encourage farmers to switch to organic production.
"Consumers are demanding more and more organic products for
their families, and farmers are working to meet that demand,"
Wilcox said. However, USDA's data also show that the number of
certified organic operations increased just slightly in 2005,
and that farmers face significant hurdles in making the
transition from conventional to organic production.
"Given the strong consumer desire for organic products, USDA
should do more to invest in organic agriculture and to remove
the hurdles currently facing farmers who want to make the
transition. Organic farmers need access to the same resources
USDA provides to conventional farmers-research, market data,
risk management tools, and import/export information," Wilcox
"That is why OTA is asking Congress to make the critical
investments needed in the upcoming Farm Bill to advance organic
agriculture," she added.
OTA's recommendations focus on four priorities:
transition to organic agriculture and trade by providing
technical assistance to aid in the conversion of farmland
from conventional to organic.
hurdles to organic agriculture and trade by creating
appropriate risk management tools and developing an organic
export policy and strategy.
fund organic agriculture and economic research as privately
funded research is limited, and there is much to be learned
about the fundamentals of organic production.
enhance current agency programs so that the National Organic
Program (NOP) and other parts of USDA can keep pace with the
growing organic sector. Credibility of the organic standard
is critical to organic farmers, handlers, and all others in
the organic trade, and that credibility is tied to the
capabilities and funding of NOP.
OTA's comprehensive plan is
According to the latest available statistics for U.S. organic
production released today (Dec. 15) by USDA's Economic Research
Service (ERS), there were at least 8,445 certified organic farms
in the United States in 2005, up from 8,035 certified organic
farms in 2003. The 2005 operations represented slightly more
than 4 million acres under organic management, up from 3 million
acres in 2004 and nearly 2.2 million acres in 2003. For the
first time, all 50 U.S. states had some certified organic
farmland. The statistics are posted at
ERS data for 2005 reported 1,722,565 acres in organic cropland
(about 0.51 percent of all U.S. cropland) and an additional
2,281,408 acres in pasture and rangeland (about 0.5 percent of
all U.S. pasture). Organic cropland in 2005 was up from
1,451,601 acres in 2003, while organic pasture grew
substantially from the 745,273 acres recorded for 2003. In
addition, livestock numbers in 2005 were up substantially from
2003, reflecting the growing demand for organic milk and meat in
the United States. According to ERS, nearly one percent of dairy
cows and 0.6 percent of layer hens in the United States were
managed using certified organic practices in 2005.
In its posting, ERS pointed out that farmers face a number of
hurdles when considering converting to organic production.
According to ERS, these include high managerial costs and risks
in shifting to a new way of farming, limited knowledge of
organic farming systems, lack of marketing and infrastructure,
and inability to capture marketing economies.
OTA's farm bill proposal will address all of these issues.
The mission of the Organic Trade Association is to promote
and protect the growth of organic trade to benefit the
environment, farmers, the public and the economy. OTA envisions
organic products becoming a significant part of everyday life,
enhancing people's lives and the environment. As a
membership-based business association, the Organic Trade
Association focuses on the organic business community in North
America. OTA's more than 1,500 members include farmers,
processors, importers, exporters, distributors, retailers,
certifiers, and more. For further information, visit OTA's web
site at http://www.ota.com/.