When compared to conventional counterparts, certified organic producers are more likely to sell directly to consumers, are more likely to produce on-farm renewable energy and are younger, according to the results of the 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture Organic Special Tabulation.
USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service compiled the data, which provides a closer look at the U.S. organic farm sector including production practices, economics and demographics.
"Earlier this year, the 2012 Agriculture Census reported that total organic product sales by farms in the U.S. increased 83% since 2007," NASS Administrator Joseph Reilly said in a press statement. "This information combined with the more comprehensive data released today shows the demand for, value of and potential for continued growth in certified organic products."
The special tabulation provides national and state level data on farms, land in farms and tenure; production expenses, equipment and machinery; farm income and government payments; land use and practices; operator characteristics; and more.
Organic production findings
Organic agriculture producers were much more likely to report direct-to-consumer sales than conventional producers, USDA found. While only 7% of all U.S. farms sold agricultural products directly to consumers, 42% of organic farms reported direct sales to consumers.
In addition, organic farms were more likely than other farms to participate in non-traditional markets: 30% marketed products directly to retail outlets, 16% produced value-added products, and 13% distributed products through community supported agriculture arrangements.
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Specifically, the organic operations were also more likely to sell crops, such as fruits and vegetables, than livestock and poultry products. Almost 90% sold crops, while a slightly fewer than 50% sold livestock or poultry products.
Organic farms also were more likely than other farms to invest in on-farm renewable energy producing systems, such as solar panels and wind turbines.
Demographics of organic operators
Organic producers were more likely to be beginning farmers, with 27% starting farming in the last 10 years, compared to 18% of all principal farm operators. Organic operators also were younger, with 26% under 45 years old, compared to 16% of all principal operators.
"These new data points from the agriculture census provide valuable information to help our stakeholders identify producer successes and needs to help them develop programs to benefit the organic industry," Reilly said. "NASS is committed to continuing to help measure the organic industry and is looking forward to conducting the 2014 Organic Survey early next year."