Consumer demand for organically produced goods has shown double-digit growth during most years since the 1990s, providing market incentives for U.S. farmers across a broad range of products. Organic products are now available in nearly 3 of 4 conventional grocery stores, and often have substantial price premiums over conventional products (see data on Organic Prices).
Organic sales account for over 4 percent of total U.S. food sales, though organic products account for a much larger share in some categories (see the chart in Organic Market Overview). Certified organic acreage and livestock have been expanding in the United States for many years, particularly for fruits, vegetables, dairy, and poultry (see data on Organic Production). The U.S. Department of Commerce began adding codes for selected organic products to the U.S. trade code system in 2011, and the tracked value of organic imports and exports has been increasing (see the chapter on Organic Trade).
Through analysis of USDA’s Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) data, ERS compares the costs of production and returns for organic and conventional production in major crop/livestock sectors, and analyzes other economic characteristics of organic agriculture (see Characteristics of Conventional and Organic Apple Production in the United States, July 2011, as an example). A 2009 ERS report, Emerging Issues in the U.S. Organic Industry, examined a broad spectrum of economic research on the profitability and market conditions in this rapidly changing sector.
Government research and policy initiatives often play a key role in the adoption of new farming technologies and systems (see Readings). USDA has a current goal to increase the number of certified organic operations and is expanding programs and services for organic producers and handlers. Funding for organic research, certification cost-share assistance, and other programs has been increasing since 2002, when national organic standards were implemented (see the chapter on Organic Provisions in the 2014 Farm Act and also 2014 Farm Act-Highlights and Implications: Organic Agriculture).
In 2011, USDA held a major conference in Washington, DC to examine findings from research on the agronomic, economic, ecological, and quality-of-life performance of organic farming systems. Conference proceedings are published in the online interdisciplinary journal Crop Management. Most sessions were recorded live and are available on the university extension website, eOrganic.