Organics bounce back from recession's dip

05/06/2014 03:33:00 PM
Tom Burfield

The U.S. organic industry has rebounded from a brief downturn during the 2007-09 recession and is back in expansion mode, according to an article titled “Growth Patterns in the U.S. Organic Industry” in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service’s Amber Waves publication.

In fact, U.S. demand for organically produced goods has grown continuously since USDA established national standards for organic production and processing in 2002, the article said.

According to industry analysts, U.S. organic food sales were $28 billion in 2012 — more than 4% of total at-home food sales. That was up 11% from 2011.

Data from industry sources indicate that “the market share of organic sales held by various food categories has been remarkably stable over the last decade,” the article said.

Produce and dairy remain the top organic food categories. They accounted for 43% and 15% respectively of organic sales in 2012.

Certified organic acreage has increased substantially in recent years.

The Economic Research Service, which has tracked certified acreage since 1997, estimates that the U.S. had 3.1 million acres of certified organic cropland in 2011.

“Certified cropland dipped between 2008 and 2010 as sluggish growth in consumer demand during the recession dampened the short-term outlook for organic producers,” the article said. “However, the growth in certified acreage of both cropland and pastureland has more than recovered those losses and has reestablished its upward trajectory.

“Fruit and vegetable growers and producers in other high-value, market-driven sectors have adopted organic management systems much more widely than producers of other crops, although they typically do not require large amounts of land to produce such crops.”

Fruits and vegetables accounted for an estimated 43% of U.S. organic food sales in 2011 but only 16% of certified organic cropland. Certified organic cropland made up about 0.7% of U.S. cropland in 2011.

Organic vegetables made up 6% of U.S. vegetable acreage, the article said, and organic fruits and nuts accounted for 4%.

“Markets for organic vegetables, fruits and herbs have been developing for decades in the U.S., and fresh produce is still the top-selling organic category in retail sales,” USDA said.

The popularity of organic produce isn’t limited to the U.S.

Growth in organic agricultural production is occurring in developed and developing nations throughout the world, according to the USDA article. As a result, competition for major consumer markets in developed countries is on the rise.


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