U.S. Organic Farmland Hits Record 4.1 Million Acres in 2016

California still reigns supreme when it comes to organic farmland, but several other states are catching up.


A new report has found that U.S. land for organic farming reached 4.1 million acres in 2016, a new record and an 11 percent increase compared to 2014.

As of June 2016, the number of certified organic farms in the U.S. reached 14,979, a 6.2 percent increase of 1,000 farms compared to 2014 survey data.

A recent report on organic acreage from Mercaris found that the top five states in organic cropland are California, Montana, Wisconsin, New York, and North Dakota. California leads the U.S. with 688,000 acres. However, Montana has seen a 30 percent increase in organic farmland, reaching 417,000 acres in 2016, an increase of 100,000 acres since 2014 and adding 50 new organic farms.

The report also estimates that North Dakota, Colorado, and New York all increased their organic farming acres by more than 40,000 since 2014. North Dakota has surpassed Oregon as the fifth leading state in organic acreage. Oregon is sixth followed by Colorado and Texas.

Scott Shander, an economist at Mercaris, attributes the increase in organic acres to farm economics and consumer demand for organic foods.

“The organic industry is growing and with lower commodity grain prices, and farmers are looking to add value and meet consumer demands,” he says.

According to Alex Heilman, a sales associate at Mercaris, the number of organic acres is likely to continue increasing, especially with larger companies such as General Mills and Ardent Mills launching programs to increase organic acres.

“I think we will see more of an impact of those programs in the next few years as more farmers start the transition process (to organic),” he says.

Organic alfalfa/hay was the leading organic crop grown with more than 800,000 acres in 2016. This was followed by organic wheat, corn, and soybeans with 482,000, 292,000, and 150,000 acres respectively. Organic oats reached a record level of 109,000 acres in 2016. Organic wheat showed the greatest increase with nearly 150,000 more acres since 2014 and a 44 percent increase since 2011. Plantings of organic corn increased by 58,000 acres since 2014.

The percentage of acres planted to organic crops such as wheat, corn, soybeans, and oats remains small compared to conventional crops in the U.S. Organic corn accounts for only 0.31 percent of total corn acres; organic wheat was 0.9 percent of total wheat acres; organic soybeans were 0.2 percent of total soybean acres. Organic oats account for the highest percentage of an organic crop with 3.6 percent of total oat acres.

Acreage of both organic corn and soybeans has seen small increases as a percentage of total acres for both crops in the past few years, according to the report. This may be due to the fact that the U.S. is importing large amounts of organic corn and soybeans, which is depressing the U.S. market and prices for both crops. According Shander, 25 percent of organic corn and 75 percent of organic soybeans used in the U.S. are imported.

“It’s a global market that is dictating U.S. prices,” he says. “Demand for organic corn and soybeans is still growing strongly, but production in the U.S. is not growing as fast so more of the production will be international.”

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  1. Robert Shea
    Wednesday, November 9th, 2016
    That will all be bulldozed by the Trump Administration.....
  2. Terry Geaber
    Wednesday, November 9th, 2016
    Why is Rhode Island not represented here?
  3. CherylPitts
    Thursday, November 10th, 2016
    This is great now let's get Oregon to Report how much ORGANIC Land there is in Oregon and keep doing that throughout the rest of the Country????
  4. Jules
    Saturday, November 12th, 2016
    Good news, but what about people paving their gardens for parking. Big news in UK. What with flooding and all that.
  5. Clawson
    Sunday, November 13th, 2016
    Robert Shea, please explain.
  6. Bryan
    Wednesday, November 30th, 2016
    Why can't we see the source of this info? Just a link to a paid service site? Is this an ad for them or sponsored post?
    • Twilight Greenaway
      Thursday, December 1st, 2016
      No, it's not a paid or sponsored post. The company sells the data (as many do these days), but made it available to Ken Roseboro, who wrote about it.
  7. Chris meer
    Monday, December 5th, 2016
    Do we have any inspectors who validate their organic integrity?
  8. Thursday, December 8th, 2016
    This is important...
  9. Ron gaskin
    Thursday, December 8th, 2016
    Very interesting that the highest obesity and health problems are the lowest in organic acres.
  10. Dave
    Saturday, January 14th, 2017
    What's the average increase in acreage prices for organic certified farm acreage?
  11. Jacqueline Rice
    Tuesday, January 17th, 2017
    Good to know. Being such a large state with a long growing season, I'm glad California is at the head of this. I live in Wisconsin and am proud of our state's standing--3rd--in this list. I've been a proud member of Springdale Farm CSA since their start in 1988, the first CSA in the Midwest!
  12. Joan
    Tuesday, January 17th, 2017
    Thank you