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.

map organic farmland

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.

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“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.

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“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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Ken Roseboro is editor and publisher of The Organic & Non-GMO Report, a monthly news magazine that focuses on threats posed by GM foods and the growing non-GMO food trend. He is also editor and publisher of The Non-GMO Sourcebook, a directory of suppliers of non-GMO seeds, grains, and ingredients. Ken is author of Genetically Altered Foods and Your Health and The Organic Food Handbook. He is a member of the board of directors of the Iowa Organic Association. Ken appears in the new documentary film, GMO OMG. Read more >

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  1. Robert Shea
    That will all be bulldozed by the Trump Administration.....
  2. Terry Geaber
    Why is Rhode Island not represented here?
  3. CherylPitts
    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
    Good news, but what about people paving their gardens for parking. Big news in UK. What with flooding and all that.
  5. Clawson
    Robert Shea, please explain.
  6. Bryan
    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
      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
    Do we have any inspectors who validate their organic integrity?
    • Stan Ford
      That is what certifying agencies are for
  8. This is important...
  9. Ron gaskin
    Very interesting that the highest obesity and health problems are the lowest in organic acres.
  10. Dave
    What's the average increase in acreage prices for organic certified farm acreage?
  11. Jacqueline Rice
    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
    Thank you
  13. Narasimha Reddy Donthi
    I think lack of small-scale processing, with lesser mechanisation, is a major bottleneck for the growth of organic acres in USA.
  14. Hope Johnston
    I would like to know where these organic acres are in North Dakota. I live in what I call Monsanto Valley where, predominantly, GMO soy beans, sugar beets and canola are grown. If i want to buy organic products, I have to shop in Canada.
  15. Camille Kahn
    Come on, NEW JERSEY, get on board! We want to buy local, but we demand organic, nonGMO all the way.
  16. Dr. Desgrange
    Greetings -

    Thank you for taking the time to put this map of organic farmland together and for the opportunity of allowing the public to view this.
    We need to get back to basics when it comes to living a more healthy way of life.
    Years past, my uncle was farming organic, while the remainder of our family farms were being over-run by GMO, pesticides, herbicides and the like - Those other family members, poopooed his tactics, saying there was no place for this type of farming. That the very idea, was archaic!
    This, to me, was an odd utterance, for a generations old, farming family - A family who had farmed organic produce, since their roots were established in Europe, then on to America!
    It takes a brave lot to overcome the Moguls of big agriculture - They have brainwashed the farming society with their deceptive ploys and appear to stop at nothing to keep the farmer as well as the consumer, in the dark with regard to the goings on in the Ag industry.
    For those farmers who have gone back to their roots or just simply, taken the step in the right direction, KUDOS! I for one, commend you - Your fortitude and efforts to keep our food real, organic and out of the hands of those who have no business in the farming of our food is much appreciated.

    Keep it real, Just for the health of it!

    Blessings,
    Dr. Linni Desgrange
  17. Stan Ford
    Still can not get a breakdown by county
  18. Chilepowered
    Great information. It would be interesting to know how this compares to non-organic.
  19. Sue Oppenheimer
    That's great news but what happened to RI and NH?
  20. Cheryl
    Yes for ORGANIC FARMS. It is a Win Win for everyone! We as the consumer will make a difference if we buy organic but we have to have it available to us.

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