USDA Sees 12 Percent Increase in Number of Certified Organic Farms
According to data collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the number of certified organic farms has increased by 12 percent between 2014 and 2015.
There are now about 21,790 USDA certified organic operations in the United States and 31,160 around the world. Overall, there has been a three-fold increase since the count began in 2002.
"Organic food is one of the fasting growing segments of American agriculture," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a written statement. "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."
Organic products make up a $39 million retail market just in the United States.
Along with the increased demand for organic food, there has also been a big push toward offerings from local producers. Between 2008 and 2014, local food sales has increased from $5 billion to $12 billion.
Responding to the increase, the USDA has, since 2009, put about $1 billion in investments into more than 40,000 local and regional food businesses and infrastructure products.
What is Organic Agriculture?
The USDA uses a set of organic standards to describe how farmers grow crops, raise livestock, and governs what materials they can use. The standards include soil and water quality, pest control, livestock practices, and rules for food additives.
To have the USDA organic seal, organic farms and processors:
- Preserve natural resources and biodiversity
- Support animal health and welfare
- Provide access to the outdoors so that animals can exercise their natural behaviors
- Only use approved materials
- Do not use genetically modified ingredients
- Receive annual onsite inspections
- Separate organic food from non-organic food