Organic Farm Sales Reached $3.53 Billion in 2011, USDA Says

Organic-foods sales to businesses including Dean Foods Co. totaled more than $3.53 billion last year, about 0.9 percent of total U.S. farm receipts, the Department of Agriculture said.

At least 3.65 million acres were used to raise certified organic crops and livestock, the USDA said yesterday in a report. That’s approximately 0.4 percent of the 917 million acres of farm and ranchland in the U.S.

A survey by the Organic Trade Association last year showed that in 2010, retail sales of organic goods rose 7.7 percent to $28.6 billion from the previous year, outpacing the 0.6 percent growth in total food receipts. The figure represented about 4 percent of the overall food-products industry, the group said. Organics comprised about 12 percent of all U.S. fruit and vegetable sales that year, it said.

“There definitely much interest from consumers, and the demand is there,” Barbara Haumann, a spokeswoman Brattleboro, Vermont-based group said yesterday in an interview. “We need more organic farmers.”

The USDA report was based on a survey of certified organic farms, operations that comply with government standards that restrict or ban the use of synthetic chemicals and hormones. An earlier survey of organic operations, in 2008, included farms that were not certified as organic by the department. That report found that 14,450 farms -- about a fourth of them uncertified -- had produced about $3.16 billion in sales.

California Leads

According to the latest report, 9,140 farms or ranches reported producing certified organic goods last year, or about 0.4 percent of the nation’s total. In harvested cropland, California led the nation with 223,644 acres, followed by Wisconsin with 112,215 acres and New York with 101,141.

Crops accounted for $2.22 billion, or 63 percent, of total organic sales, followed by livestock, poultry and their products at $1.31 billion, the USDA said.

The survey was conducted to provide the department’s Risk Management Agency with better information for federal crop-insurance programs, the USDA said. Organic producers pay a surcharge for many insurance policies, and payouts often don’t reflect their higher costs, according to some producers.

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