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U.S. organic commodity sales doubled between 2012 and 2017

Monday, September 23, 2019

Although the total value of U.S. agricultural sales remained relatively flat between 2012 and 2017, U.S. organic sales more than doubled to $7.3 billion. Growth in the U.S. organic sector has accelerated since the early 2010s as retailers, food manufacturers, and livestock producers have increased demand for organic food and inputs. Agricultural sales averaged $400,603 for organic operations in 2017, more than double the average agricultural sales for all farms ($190,245). The organic share of U.S. agricultural sales doubled to 2 percent between 2012 and 2017, and was over 6 percent in some States. California was the top State in both organic and overall agricultural sales. Most other top organic States were in the Pacific Northwest (a major grower of organic produce), Upper Midwest (a major producer of organic milk), and Northeast (which has many small-scale organic farms). Pennsylvania and North Carolina were among the States with the fastest growth between 2012 and 2017, with organic sales up ten- and eight-fold, respectively. In contrast, Iowa ranked second in overall agricultural sales and twelfth in organic sales, reflecting the low adoption of organic systems for U.S. grain production. This chart updates data found in the Amber Waves feature, “Growing Organic Demand Provides High-Value Opportunities for Many Types of Producers,” originally published in February 2017.

Cover crops and rotational grazing are more widely used by organic producers

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Under USDA organic regulations, farmers who shift to organic farming systems must make changes across the spectrum of their production inputs and practices. Organic producers rely on complex rotations, cover crops, and nonchemical practices for pest and nutrient management, such as biological pest management. Practices associated with soil health—including the use of cover crops and rotational grazing—are more widely used in organic farming systems than in conventional systems. Nearly 40 percent of all organic field and specialty crop producers used cover crops in 2014, higher than among conventional producers (7 percent and 11 percent, respectively) in 2012. For livestock, USDA organic regulations require that organic dairy cows and other ruminant livestock obtain part of their dry matter intake, or forage, from pasture during the grazing season, while many conventional dairy operations did not use any forage from pasture as part of their feeding mix. Rotational grazing—managing where and when livestock graze to prevent overgrazing and to optimize pasture growth—is a soil-health strategy that is also used more frequently in the organic dairy sector. In 2014, 65 percent of organic livestock producers used rotational grazing, compared with 22 percent of conventional livestock producers in 2012. This chart appears in the May 2019 ERS report, Agricultural Resources and Environmental Indicators, 2019.

Organic corn prices are generally two to three times higher than conventional corn prices

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Converting from conventional to organic production systems requires the use of approved materials and practices in every phase of crop production. In addition, farmers cannot be certified organic and receive organic price premiums for their crops and livestock until 3 years after they have adopted organic practices. These organic requirements may decrease crop yields, increase labor requirements, and slow the adoption of certified organic farming systems in some commodity sectors. Organic price premiums help offset the cost of organic production. For example, organic corn prices are generally two to three times higher than conventional corn prices. Corn is one of the most widely grown crops in the United States, often used as animal feed in the livestock sector. Lower prices for conventionally produced corn—and strong U.S. demand for organic livestock feed—spurred increased U.S. organic corn production starting in 2016. This chart updates data found in the February 2016 ERS report Economic Issues in the Coexistence of Organic, Genetically Engineered (GE), and Non-GE Crops.

Certified organic operations are concentrated in the West, Northeast, and Upper Midwest

Friday, April 6, 2018

The number and share of U.S. farms that are certified organic varies across regions and commodities produced. Data from USDA's organic regulatory program show that organic farm production and food-handling operations are concentrated in California (the country's top fruit and vegetable producer), the Northeast (which has many small-scale organic farms), and the Upper Midwest (a major producer of organic milk). Northeastern States have the highest share of certified organic farmers—particularly Vermont and Maine, where about 5 to 6 percent of all farmers are certified organic. Organic processors, manufacturers, and other food-handling operations are concentrated around large metropolitan areas, while certified organic livestock operations are located predominantly in the Great Lakes region. The top 10 States for organic farm sales accounted for three-quarters of the total value of all U.S. certified organic commodities sold in 2016. California alone contributed 38 percent of total U.S. organic farm sales. This chart updates data found in the February 2017 Amber Waves feature "Growing Organic Demand Provides High-Value Opportunities for Many Types of Producers."

Fruits and vegetables top organic food sales

Friday, February 16, 2018

Although U.S. organic food sales account for a small share of total U.S. food sales, they have exhibited double-digit growth during most years since 2000, when USDA set national organic standards. In 2016, the Nutrition Business Journal estimated U.S. organic retail sales at $40.2 billion—with organic food accounting for about 5 percent of total U.S. at-home food expenditures, more than double the share in 2006. Organic sales in every food category have grown over the last decade. Fresh fruits and vegetables were still the top selling organic category in 2016, accounting for 40 percent of total organic sales that year. Dairy, the second top selling organic category, accounted for 15 percent of total sales. In 2014, Gallup included questions on organics in its annual food consumption survey for the first time and found that 45 percent of Americans actively tried to include organic foods in their diets. The share of Americans who actively tried to include organic foods was higher (over half) for Americans ages 18 to 29 than for those ages 65 and older (one third). This chart updates data found in the February 2017 Amber Waves feature "Growing Organic Demand Provides High-Value Opportunities for Many Types of Producers."

U.S. certified organic cropland has increased most years since 2002

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Although the organic sector shows substantial regional and commodity concentration, all 50 States now have some organic production and processing. In 2015, the United States had 3.2 million acres of certified organic cropland and 2.2 million acres of certified organic pasture (including rangeland). That land accounted for less than 1 percent of all U.S. cropland and pasture, but continued the long-term growth trend in the organic sector. Between 2002 and 2015, U.S. certified organic cropland increased most years. The adoption of organic systems has been relatively higher in some sectors. For example, U.S. markets for organic vegetables, fruits, and herbs have been developing for decades. In 2015, 5 percent of fruit and vegetable acreage was managed under certified organic systems. In contrast, less than 0.3 percent of corn and soybean acreage—the two most widely planted U.S. crops—had adopted organic systems. This chart appears in the February 2017 Amber Waves feature "Growing Organic Demand Provides High-Value Opportunities for Many Types of Producers."

Certified organic operations are concentrated in the West, Northeast, and Upper Midwest

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Although all 50 States have some organic production and processing, the proportion of farms that are certified organic varies across commodities produced and regions. Data from USDA’s organic regulatory program show that organic farm production and food-handling operations are concentrated in California (the country’s top fruit and vegetable producer), the Northeast (which has many small-scale organic farms), and the Upper Midwest (a major producer of organic milk). Northeastern States have the highest share of certified organic farmers, particularly Vermont and Maine, where about 5 to 6 percent of all farmers are certified organic. Organic processors, manufacturers, and other food-handling operations are concentrated around large metropolitan areas, while certified organic livestock operations are located predominantly in the Great Lakes region. The top 10 States for organic farm sales (see table to the right of chart) accounted for 78 percent of the total value of all U.S. certified organic commodities sold in 2015. California alone contributed 39 percent of total U.S. organic farm sales. This chart appears in the February 2017 Amber Waves feature "Growing Organic Demand Provides High-Value Opportunities for Many Types of Producers."

Organic shares of U.S. retail sales vary by food category

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

While U.S. organic food sales account for a small share of the country’s total food sales, they exhibited double-digit growth during all but 3 years (2009-11) during 2000-14. ERS analysis of U.S. organic sales data for five retail food categories shows that the organic market share increased for four of the five categories between 2009 and 2014. The highest organic market share in 2014 was for milk (14 percent of total organic and nonorganic sales), followed by eggs and fresh vegetables (both at nearly 7 percent). Foods frequently fed to children, like milk, tend to have higher organic market share than other foods. Industry estimates find that the organic fresh fruit and vegetable category has the highest sales of all organic categories, but their share of total produce sales is smaller than for milk. The decline in market share of organic yogurt between 2010 and 2014 may reflect growing nonorganic sales of Greek-style yogurt and yogurt drinks—products that were not readily available in organic forms. This chart appears in "Growing Organic Demand Provides High-Value Opportunities for Many Types of Products" in the February 2017 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Fruits and vegetables top organic food sales

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Although U.S. organic food sales account for a small share of total U.S. food sales, they have exhibited double-digit growth during most years since 2000, when USDA set national organic standards. In 2015, the Nutrition Business Journal estimated U.S. organic retail sales at $37.1 billion—with organic food accounting for about 5 percent of total U.S. at-home food expenditures, more than double the share in 2005. Organic sales in all food categories have grown over the last decade. Fresh fruits and vegetables remained the top selling organic category in 2015, accounting for 40 percent of total organic sales. Dairy, the second top selling organic category, accounted for 15 percent of total sales. This chart appears in the February 2017 Amber Waves feature “Growing Organic Demand Provides High-Value Opportunities for Many Types of Producers.”

Organic eggs displayed largest swings in retail price premiums of 17 organic foods

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A recent ERS study estimated price premiums in grocery stores for 17 commonly purchased organic foods relative to their nonorganic counterparts from 2004 to 2010. Price premiums for most of the organic products studied did not steadily increase or decrease during the 7-year period, but fluctuated. Premiums for organic bread ranged from 25 to 45 percent above the nonorganic price, and premiums for organic milk ranged from 50 to 80 percent. The wide fluctuations in the price premium for organic eggs—66 to 173 percent—may be a result of the large retail price swings common for nonorganic eggs. Organic carrots, on the other hand, had a narrower range of premiums. Organic carrots were priced between 20 and 27 percent higher than nonorganic carrots during 2004 to 2010. This chart appears in “Investigating Retail Price Premiums for Organic Foods” in the May 2016 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Consumer demand drives growth in the organic food sector

Friday, July 15, 2016

U.S. organic food sales were an estimated $37 billion in 2015, according to the latest data from Nutrition Business Journal. Organic food products are still gaining ground in conventional supermarkets as well as natural foods markets, and organic sales accounted for about 5 percent of total U.S. food sales in 2015, according to industry estimates. Although the annual growth rate for organic food sales fell from the double-digit range in 2009-10 as the U.S. economy slowed, growth rates since 2011 have rebounded to 10-12 percent, and are more than double the annual growth rate forecast for all food sales. Fresh fruits and vegetables are the top selling organic category, followed by dairy products. Organic farmers often earn substantial price premiums for their products. This chart appears in the ERS report Economic Issues in the Coexistence of Organic, Genetically Engineered (GE), and Non-GE Crops, February 2016.?

Organic producers reported economic losses from unintended presence of genetically engineered crops

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

U.S. organic farmers, and conventional farmers who produce crops for non-GE (genetically engineered) markets, must meet the tolerance levels for accidental GE presence set by domestic and foreign buyers. If their crops test over the expected tolerance level, farmers may lose their organic price premiums and incur additional transportation and marketing costs to sell the crop in alternative markets. Although data limitations preclude estimates of the impact just on organic farmers who grow the 9 crops with a GE counterpart, the data do reveal that 1 percent of all U.S. certified organic farmers in 20 States reported that they experienced economic losses (amounting to $6.1 million, excluding expenses for preventative measures and testing) due to GE commingling during 2011-14. The share of all organic farmers who suffered economic losses was highest in Illinois, Nebraska, and Oklahoma, where 6-7 percent of organic farmers reported losses. These States have a high percentage of farmers that produce organic corn, soybeans, and other crops with GE counterparts. While California has more organic farms and acreage than any other State, most of California’s organic production is for fruits, vegetables and other specialty crops that lack a GE counterpart. This map is based on data found in the ERS report, Economic Issues in the Coexistence of Organic, Genetically Engineered (GE), and Non-GE Crops, February 2016.

Organic retail price premiums vary by food product

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Organic foods are generally higher priced than their nonorganic counterparts. Price premiums for organic foods reflect both costs to produce and bring organic foods to consumers as well as consumers’ willingness to pay more for organic products. A recent ERS study estimated price premiums in grocery stores for 17 commonly purchased organic foods relative to their nonorganic counterparts from 2004 to 2010. Eggs and milk had the highest premiums in 2010, at 82 and 72 percent, respectively. Organic eggs and dairy products have high production costs since the chickens and cows must be fed organic feed, have access to the outside, and be free of hormones and antibiotics. Organic fresh fruits and vegetables, generally recognized as the largest part of the organic market, had the widest spread of premiums in 2010—ranging from 7 percent for spinach to 60 percent for salad mix. Price premiums for organic processed foods ranged from 22 percent for granola to 54 percent for canned beans. This chart appears in the ERS report, Changes in Retail Organic Price Premiums from 2004 to 2010, released on May 24, 2016.

Farms selling directly to consumers saw smaller increases in sales than other farms between 2007 and 2012

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Between 2007 and 2012, farms using direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing had smaller growth in nominal gross sales (13.5 percent), on average, than farms using traditional marketing channels (19.3 percent). In addition, gross sales on farms using DTC marketing grew more slowly in each size class (as measured by 2007 sales). The slower growth for farms with DTC sales may stem from several factors. The 2012 Census of Agriculture shows farms using DTC marketing employ substantially more labor across all sales categories than farms without direct sales. Therefore, farms with DTC sales may need to hire additional workers at a lower scale of production, and the associated transaction costs may provide an obstacle to growth. Off-farm income opportunity may also play a role, as farms with DTC sales are more likely to have total household incomes both less than $50,000, and less than $20,000. The lower total household income for farms with DTC sales may reflect fewer off-farm income opportunities, leading these farms to continue farming even if they have less ability to expand production. This chart is found in the March 2016 Amber Waves feature, “Local Foods and Farm Business Survival and Growth.”

Verified non-genetically engineered products see steady increase since 2010

Monday, April 4, 2016

Genetically engineered (GE) crops are now widely used to produce breakfast cereals, corn chips, soy protein bars, and other processed foods and food ingredients, and a market for foods produced without crops grown from GE seed has emerged. The Non-GMO Project is a private group that provides verification services for products made according to best practices for genetically modified organism (GMO) avoidance. In 2014, the Non-GMO Project Verified label appeared on nearly 12,500 products with unique universal product codes (UPC), up from fewer than 1,000 in 2010. Many of the food products verified under this protocol, and bearing the Non-GMO Project Verified butterfly logo, are not at risk of GE contamination: that is, they do not contain corn, soybeans, or other crops for which GE varieties are available. Also, over half of the products verified under this protocol are certified organic under USDA’s organic regulations, which already prohibit the use of genetic engineering in organic production and processing. Non-GMO Project Verified labeling currently accounts for most of the conventionally grown U.S. products that are non-GE verified. This chart appears in the ERS report, Economic Issues in the Coexistence of Organic, Genetically Engineered (GE), and Non-GE Crops, February 2016.

Farms with direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales had higher rates of business survival between 2007 and 2012

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing—where producers engage with consumers face-to-face at roadside stands, farmers’ markets, pick-your-own farms, onfarm stores, and community-supported agricultural arrangements (CSAs)—brings benefits for consumers as well as the farm businesses. According to Census of Agriculture data, farmers who market food directly to consumers had a greater chance of remaining in business than those who market through traditional channels. Sixty-one percent of farms with DTC sales in 2007 were in business under the same operator in 2012, compared with 55.7 percent of all U.S. farms. Based on a comparison of farms across four size categories (defined by annual sales), farmers with DTC sales had a higher survival rate (measured as the share of farmers who reported positive sales in 2007 and 2012) in each category. The differences in survival rates were substantial—ranging from 10 percentage points for the smallest farms to about 6 percentage points for the largest. This chart is found in the March 2016 Amber Waves feature, “Local Foods and Farm Business Survival and Growth.”

Certified organic corn was planted later than GE corn in 2010 to avoid cross-pollination

Friday, February 26, 2016

U.S. farmers used genetically engineered (GE) seed varieties that contain traits to tolerate herbicides used for weed control and/or to resist other pests on over 90 percent of corn acreage in 2015. To receive the price premiums associated with organic and other non-GE crops, these producers must minimize the unintended presence of GE materials in their crops. Organic and other non-GE farmers use various practices—including the use of buffer strips to minimize pesticide/pollen drift and/or delaying crop planting until after any nearby GE crops are planted—to prevent their crops from commingling with GE crops. While some field crops are mostly self-pollinating, most corn pollination results from pollen dispersal by wind and gravity. In USDA’s most recent (2010) corn survey of conventional and organic producers in top corn producing States, delayed planting was reported on two-thirds of planted organic corn acreage. While this strategy helps protect against commingling of GE and non-GE crop pollen, growers may realize lower yields from planting at a suboptimal time. This chart is found in the ERS report, Economic Issues in the Coexistence of Organic, Genetically Engineered (GE), and Non-GE Crops, February 2016.

Nearly half of all organic farms sell through local food markets

Monday, October 26, 2015

In 2012, fewer than 5 percent of farms with local food sales were organic farms (either certified organic, or certification-exempt farms because annual organic sales were under $5,000). However, nearly half (46 percent) of all organic farms sold food commodities through direct-to-consumer outlets (such as farmers’ markets and community supported agriculture arrangements), and/or through intermediated marketing channels (such as restaurants and retail outlets). Over the 2007-12 period, direct-to-consumer outlets continued to be the most frequently used local food marketing channel for selling organic—41 percent of organic farms used this marketing channel in 2007 versus 39 percent in 2012. Certification-exempt farms, which often tend to be very small and/or beginning farmers, are also more likely to rely on local markets. In 2012, they were twice as likely as certified organic farms to use direct-to-consumer outlets (63 percent versus 32 percent). This chart is found in Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems: A Report to Congress, January 2015.

Growth in certified organic field crop acreage has been rapid, but uneven

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

U.S. crop acres under USDA certified organic systems have grown since the National Organic Program was implemented in 2002. Organic crop acres increased from about 1.3 million in 2002 to almost 3.1 million in 2011, and part of this growth was in major field crops: corn, soybeans, and wheat. Among these 3 crops, certified organic production of corn increased the most, from about 96,000 acres in 2002 to 234,000 acres in 2011. Certified organic soybean acreage peaked at 175,000 acres in 2001, before falling to 100,000 acres in 2007 and rebounding to 132,000 acres in 2011. Wheat has the largest number of organic acres, starting at 225,000 acres in 2002 and peaking at more than 400,000 acres in 2008, before falling to 345,000 acres in 2011. Much of the increased organic corn production has been to support a rapidly growing organic dairy sector. Higher prices for conventional corn, soybeans, and wheat since 2008 and somewhat slower demand growth for organic products due to the economic recession, along with increasing imports of these crops, may have limited the growth in organic field crop acreage in recent years. This chart is from the ERS report, The Profit Potential of Certified Organic Field Crop Production, July 2015

Produce farms account for about half of all local food sales

Friday, June 5, 2015

In 2012, 34 percent of all U.S. produce farms—those producing vegetables, fruit, or nuts—sold food through local food marketing channels, whereas only 3 percent of field/other crop farms and 8 percent of livestock/livestock product farms did so. The nearly 48,000 produce farmers with local sales in 2012 represented 29 percent of all local food farmers but generated $3.1 billion, or 51 percent of all local food sales. Farmers have two main channels through which to sell their food locally: directly to consumers (at farmers' markets, roadside stands, farm stores, etc.), and through intermediated marketing channels (defined to include sales to grocers, restaurants, schools, universities, hospitals, and regional distributors). Among local food farmers who elected to sell through direct-to-consumer outlets, intermediated marketing channels, or a mixture of both, produce farmers generated higher local food sales per farm than did field/other crop farms or livestock/livestock product farms. This suggests that opportunities to market locally are important to produce farmers, and their disproportionate presence (through local food sales) shapes the profile of a typical local food farm. This chart is found in the ERS report, Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems: Report to Congress, January 2015.

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