Oregon continues to rank high in organic agriculture
Organically Grown in Oregon Week celebrated September 10-16
September 6, 2017… Oregon continues to rank high nationally in organic agricultural production, making it a great time to celebrate Organically Grown in Oregon Week, September 10-16, as proclaimed by Governor Kate Brown. This year marks the 29th anniversary of the week long observation recognizing farmers and ranchers who grow organic and the businesses connected to that production.
Just from looking at the numbers, there’s a lot to celebrate in Oregon.
“It’s a $269 million industry in our state and we have more than 840 farms or businesses that are certified organic,” says Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Alexis Taylor. “There are many great opportunities for farmers, ranchers, agribusinesses, and then, of course, Oregon consumers who are able to support our organic farmers and ranchers.”
The most recent certified organic survey produced by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) shows 409 certified organic farms in Oregon– good for 11th in the US– on 175,675 acres– good for 6th in the nation. While several states rank higher in those two categories, with California dominating national organic production, it’s the sales figures that stand out for Oregon. Only California, Washington, and Pennsylvania sell more certified organic products than Oregon.
“Organic production is a way for our producers to capture additional value,” says Taylor. “They are able to gain a high rate of return. Of course, they often use labor-intensive farming practices which may be more costly up front, but they see the return on the back end when they sell their products, whether it’s at a farmers’ market, through CSAs, or in local stores and restaurants that advertise what farm that organic food came from.”
According to the NASS survey, 86 percent of Oregon’s certified organic producers grow crops, leaving the other 14 percent raising livestock and poultry products. Two-thirds of the sales come from crops, the other third from livestock.
A specific look at what is being produced organically in the state reveals Oregon as one of the leaders in various categories. Oregon leads the nation in production of organic potatoes, both in acreage (3,759 acres) and sales ($20.3 million). Oregon is also number one in production of organic snap beans in acreage (1,486 acres) and sales ($2.41 million). Nearly all of those beans are used for processing. It should also be no surprise that the state leads in organic hazelnut production, since Oregon grows virtually all of the nation’s hazelnuts overall.
Oregon ranks in the top three in production of organic sweet corn, broccoli, cauliflower, squash, sweet cherries, pears, blackberries, raspberries, wine grapes, and hay. In fact, while organic hay from Oregon ranks third in acreage, the 2016 crop resulted in nearly $23 million in sales– tops in the nation.
On the animal side, Oregon ranks second in the US in sales of organically-raised beef and fourth in the nation in sales of organic milk, according to the NASS survey.
Another data source confirms the state’s organic presence on the national stage. More than half of Oregon’s certified organic entities listed in the USDA-Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) inventory database are not farms or ranches, but businesses that manufacture foods from organic crops or livestock. Accounting for food processors and other handlers, as well as growers, Oregon ranks 8th in the nation in certified organic entities.
The growing demand for organic food products is fueling the expansion of Oregon’s already impressive reputation in the organic world. Roughly 91 percent of Oregon households purchase at least some organic products over the course of a year, which is significantly higher than the national average of 80 percent. While organic agriculture still represents only about 5 percent of the state’s total agricultural cash receipts, the number keeps rising.
It wasn’t that long ago that just a handful of food products in Oregon were organic. Now, consumers can choose from a variety of fruits and vegetables, grains, meat and dairy, and an explosion of processed foods that rely on organic ingredients.
The NASS survey also details where Oregon’s organic producers are selling. Last year, 196 of the state’s 409 certified organic farms sold directly to the consumer, either at farm stands, farmers’ markets, or through CSAs. There were 124 farms that sold directly to retail outlets or institutions, while 268 sold to wholesalers. More than likely, organic production was sold close to the farm, with 322 of the farms recording the first point of sale taking place locally, within 100 miles of the operation. There were 168 farms selling regionally– from 100 to 500 miles away– and 81 operations selling nationally, defined as more than 500 miles from the farm. Only 19 farms sold internationally last year, but a number of agribusinesses involved in organic food continue to look outside the US for a customer base.
“Our farmers, ranchers, and agribusinesses are turning out some great organic food products and have the ability to not just sell in Oregon,” says Taylor. “They are selling all over the country and exporting to many of our key markets overseas. The US has a reputation for high quality, safe food products. As organics get more recognition in many developing countries, particularly in Asia, there is great interest in what Oregon produces.”
While some Oregon producers are exclusively growing organically, others are finding that organic and conventional crops and livestock need not be mutually exclusive. In fact, the two systems often co-exist, side-by-side, not only in the food aisle of a grocery story, but on the farm itself.
Organically Grown in Oregon Week puts the spotlight on seven days, but the real story is that organic production has firmly established itself as part of what Director Taylor calls the great Oregon food plate which offers consumers near and far high quality and choice in how they spend their food dollar.
For more information, contact Bruce Pokarney at (503) 986-4559.