Sales from organic U.S. farms reached $5.5 billion last year, a 72 percent increase from 2008, the U.S. Agriculture Department reported last week. From all indications. there is a trend toward more organic food consumption that is expected to continue through 2015.
The report suggests that consumers are becoming more and more concerned about genetically modified products, as well as the use of crop protection chemicals in the food chain.
An Organic Trade Association (OTA) spokesperson was quoted by Reuters’ reporter Tom Polansek. “We need a higher rate of growth in order to get close to meeting the demand,” said Laura Batcha, chief of the OTA.
The U.S. sales of organic food and non-food products broke another record in 2014 in totaling $39.1 billion, up 11.3 percent from 2013; food sales rose 11 percent to be $35.9 billion, according to another report. This one from the media published on www.foodproductsdesign.com.
So, if U.S. organic farms produced $5.5 billion and total organic consumption of food was almost $36 billion, that means more than $30 billion in organic came from non-U.S. farmers or imports. The question then becomes: Was all the professed imported organic food really organic?
A critic of the organic industry as it exists and proposed labeling of GMOS, Mischa Popoff, noted, “Unless there’s a field test, there’s no possible way to ensure something is organic. With domestic organic farmers, at least we know their neighbors would report them if they tried to use synthetic ammonium nitrate or if they were spraying their fields with Roundup. But we have no way of knowing what Chinese and Mexican organic farmers are doing beyond what their paperwork tells us.”
Sales at “natural” and organic retailers rose 9 percent in 2014 from 2013, but the volume increase at supermarket chains and other conventional retailers rose only about 1.3 percent, according to another source, Spins, a market research firm that tracks data from store scanners, as the Reuters reporter wrote in the news service article examining the USDA report.
Even though the organic reports seem like impressive big numbers in organic food sales, the truth is that organics are an extremely small share of total food consumption. Popoff said the most recent numbers available to him don’t indicate organic food being much more than 1 percent of total food consumption in the two big volume areas of grain and meat production. In the dairy and leafy greens, the organic market probably is above 4 percent of total consumption. The OTA claims overall organic food sales being close to 5 percent of the total food consumption in the U.S. in 2014.
The OTA claims that 90 percent of the households on the West Coast and New England are at least occasionally buying organic product, and Caucasian consumers bought 73 percent of organic products purchased in 2014.
The USDA report for 2014 showed a drop in total number of organic farms from 14,540 in 2008 to 14,093 in 2014, although there were some differences in reporting methods, but indications are that small farms have expanded in acreage. Certified organic farms rose by 15 percent from 2008 to 2014.