The number of certified organic farm operations in the United States has been steadily increasing since 2002, when the count began, USDA said Wednesday.
That increase amounts to about 250%, and is based on information from the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service's National Organic Program.
In all, USDA says there are 19,474 certified organic operations in the United States and a total of 27,814 certified organic operations around the world. The number of U.S. certified organic operations represents a 5% increase from just last year.
"As demand for organic products continues to soar, more and more producers are entering the organic market," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Vilsack visited with the Organic Trade Association at its policy conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.
"USDA tools and resources have created opportunities for organic farmers and more options for organic consumers. Growing demand for organic goods can be especially helpful to smaller family operations. The more diverse type of operations and the more growing market sectors we have in American agriculture, the better off our country's rural economy will be," he said.
His comments echoed a discussion earlier this year with delegates at the National Farmers Union convention in Wichita, Kan. He called for segments of agriculture – organic, conventional, beef, poultry, row crops, GMO and non-GMO – to work together to consistently advocate for the entire industry.
"Every minute we spend fighting within agriculture is a minute we're not using to advocate about agriculture to the rest of the country," he said at the March meeting.
New USDA organic database >>
USDA organic programs, organic database tool
USDA is committed to connecting organic farmers and businesses with resources to ensure the continued growth of the organic industry, the agency said.
Along with programs to support conservation, provide access to loans and grants, fund organic research and education, and integrated pest management, USDA administers organic certification cost share programs to offset the costs of organic certification for U.S. producers and handlers nationwide.
USDA is using funding from the 2014 Farm Bill to develop the Organic Integrity Database, a modernized certified organic operations database that will provide accurate information about all certified operations that is updated on a regular basis.
The new Organic Integrity Database will allow anyone to confirm organic certification status using the online tool and support market research and supply chain connections.
The USDA Organic Database tool also will allow international verification of operator status to streamline import and export certificates, and establish technology connections with certifiers to provide more accurate and timely data. The initial launch is planned for September 2015.
Number of organic operators by year, number of organic operators by state graphics provided by USDA.