Publications

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  • Economics of Food Labeling

    AER-793, January 25, 2001

    Federal intervention in food labeling is often proposed with the aim of achieving a social goal such as improving human health and safety, mitigating environmental hazards, averting international trade disputes, or supporting domestic agricultural and food manufacturing industries. Economic theory suggests, however, that mandatory food-labeling requirements are best suited to alleviating problems of asymmetric information and are rarely effective in redressing environmental or other spillovers associated with food production and consumption. Theory also suggests that the appropriate role for government in labeling depends on the type of information involved and the level and distribution of the costs and benefits of providing that information. This report traces the economic theory behind food labeling and presents three case studies in which the government has intervened in labeling and two examples in which government intervention has been proposed.

  • U.S. Organic Farming Emerges in the 1990s: Adoption of Certified Systems

    AIB-770, June 15, 2001

    Farmers have been developing organic farming systems in the United States for decades. State and private institutions also began emerging during this period to set organic farming standards and provide third-party verification of label claims, and legislation requiring national standards was passed in the 1990s. More U.S. producers are considering organic farming systems in order to lower input costs, conserve nonrenewable resources, capture high-value markets, and boost farm income. Organic farming systems rely on practices such as cultural and biological pest management, and virtually prohibit synthetic chemicals in crop production and antibiotics or hormones in livestock production. This report updates U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates of land farmed with organic practices during 1992-94 with 1997 estimates, and provides new State- and crop-level detail.

  • Recent Growth Patterns in the U.S. Organic Foods Market

    AIB-777, September 01, 2002

    Economic research on recent growth patterns in the U.S. organic sector, by market category, and a description of the marketing channels for major organic commodity groups. A summary of various research, regulatory, and other ongoing programs on organic agriculture in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

  • Organic Agriculture: Gaining Ground

    Amber Waves, February 03, 2003

    Organic agriculture is expanding rapidly in the U.S., as consumer interest continues to gather momentum and new organic production and marketing systems evolve. In the wake of USDA's implementation of national organic standards in October 2002, continued growth in the industry is expected.

  • On the Map: Certified Organic Acreage and Operations, 2001

    Amber Waves, February 03, 2003

    Farmers in 48 States dedicated 2.3 million acres of cropland and pasture to organic production systems in 2001. Over 1.3 million acres were used for growing crops.

  • U.S. Organic Farming in 2000-2001: Adoption of Certified Systems

    AIB-780, April 01, 2003

    U.S. farmland managed under organic systems expanded rapidly throughout the 1990s, and that pace has continued as farmers strive to meet consumer demand in both local and national markets. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) implemented national organic standards on organic production and processing in October 2002, following more than a decade of development. The new uniform standards are expected to facilitate further growth in the organic farm sector. This report updates USDA estimates of land farmed with organic practices for 2000 and 2001, and provides new estimates on the number of certified organic operations in each State.

  • Organic Produce, Price Premiums, and Eco-Labeling in U.S. Farmers' Markets

    VGS-301-01, April 01, 2004

    The popularity of farmers' markets in the United States has grown concurrently with organic production and consumer interest in locally and organically produced foods. This research describes the significance of farmers' markets as market outlets for many organic farmers, and recent shifts in relationships between organic growers, market managers, and customers. Market managers in more than 20 States answered questions by phone pertaining to the 2002 market season. Their responses provide insight into recent grower, manager, and customer decisionmaking and attitudes about foods advertised and sold as organic at farmers' markets.

  • Price Premiums Hold on as U.S. Organic Produce Market Expands

    VGS-308-01, May 27, 2005

    Price premiums for organic products have contributed to growth in certified organic farmland and, ultimately, market expansion. Fresh produce has long been an important component of the organic food sector, and a significant contributor to the organic industry's growth over the last decade. This article explores price premiums and market margins for a limited set of fresh produce items-carrots, broccoli, and mesclun mix.

  • Market-Led Growth vs. Government-Facilitated Growth: Development of the U.S. and EU Organic Agricultural Sectors

    WRS-0505, August 12, 2005

    Organic farmland and sales are rapidly growing worldwide, and the two largest markets are in the European Union (EU) and the United States. The two regions have adopted different policy approaches to organic agriculture. Many EU countries have "green payments" available for transitioning and continuing organic farmers, as well as a variety of other supply and demand policies aimed at promoting growth of the organic sector. The U.S. Government, in contrast, has largely taken a free-market approach to the organic sector, and policy is aimed at facilitating market development. This report compares EU and U.S. organic agriculture policy and examines the organic sectors in the two regions.

  • On the Map: Certified Organic Handling Facilities Concentrated on Pacific Coast

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2005

    Just over 3,000 organic handling facilities were certified to USDA standards to handle organic products in 2004. Forty-one percent of these facilities are on the Pacific Coast.

  • Organic Price Premiums Remain High

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2005

    As long as demand increases faster than supply, given constant prices of conventionally produced food, organic food will continue to sell for higher prices. Findings show that organic price premiums remain high for carrots and broccoli but are lower for other vegetables, such as mesclun.

  • EU and U.S. Organic Markets Face Strong Demand Under Different Policies

    Amber Waves, February 01, 2006

    The article compares EU-15 and US policies regarding organic agriculture, and compares the farm sector and retail markets in the two regions.

  • U.S. Organic Farm Sector Continues to Expand

    Amber Waves, April 01, 2006

    Most segments of the U.S. organic farm sector have expanded since USDA set uniform organic standards in 2000. Certified organic crop acreage increased 11 percent between 2001 and 2003, with large increases for fruits and vegetables and for hay crops used in dairy.

  • U.S. Organic Farm Sector Continues to Expand

    Amber Waves, July 01, 2006

    Most segments of the U.S. organic farm sector have expanded since USDA set uniform organic standards in 2000. Certified organic crop acreage increased 11 percent between 2001 and 2003, with large increases for fruits and vegetables and for hay crops used in dairy.

  • Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook: December 2006

    LDPM-15001, December 27, 2006

    Organic poultry and egg markets in the United States are expanding rapidly. Statistics for the sector, especially the number of organic broilers, also signal expanding domestic supply. This report examines trends in markets, animal numbers, and prices for organic poultry and eggs. Price comparisons between organic and conventional show significant organic price premiums for both broilers and eggs.

  • Organic Poultry Gaining in Specialty Market Competition

    Amber Waves, February 01, 2007

    Eggs and poultry are now among the fastest-growing organic food products in the U.S. Despite rapid growth in production, supply has not kept up with demand, and price premiums for organic poultry and eggs remain high.

  • U.S. Organic Farm Sector Continues To Expand—Updated

    Amber Waves, May 01, 2007

    Most segments of the U.S. organic farm sector have expanded since USDA set uniform organic standards in 2000. Certified organic crop acreage increased 11 percent between 2001 and 2003, with large increases for fruits and vegetables and for hay crops used in dairy.

  • Data Feature

    Amber Waves, September 03, 2007

    Certified organic production is scattered world-wide and is growing across the U.S. In 2005, for the first time, all U.S. states had some certified organic farmland. Overall adoption level is still low-only about 0.5 percent of all U.S. cropland and 0.5 percent of all U.S. pasture was certified organic in 2005.

  • U.S. Organic Handlers Mostly Small, Focus on Fruit and Vegetables

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2008

    Retail sales of organic food increased an average of 17 percent annually between 1995 and 2006. This growth was accompanied by significant changes in organic food marketing. Organic versions of conventional brands (such as Organic Rice Krispies) and private label organic products are now commonly sold alongside longtime organic brands (such as the Safeway “O” line of organic products).

  • Vegetables and Melons Outlook: October 2008

    VGS-329-01, October 27, 2008

    Rapid growth in the organic foods market has placed great pressure on farmers and handlers in the U.S. organic sector. Handlers are firms that produce, process, and distribute organic food. As the middlemen in the supply chain, organic handlers have been unable at times to provide as much of their final product as the market wants and have also found needed ingredients in short supply. A survey of certified organic handlers in the United States reveals that handlers widely use contracts as a means to not only procure needed ingredients but also to develop and maintain strong working relationships with their suppliers. Only a few organic handlers, however, have worked to assist farmers directly with farmers' transition to organic production.