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Iowa is 9th in organic farms

According to the 2008 Organic Production Survey recently released by USDA’s National Ag Statistics Service, Iowa ranks ninth in the U.S. in number of organic farms.

“This is USDA’s first wide-scale survey of organic producers, and it was undertaken in direct response to a growing interest in organics among consumers, farmers, businesses, policymakers and others,” says USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. “The information will be important for future program and policy development.”

The survey counted 14,540 U.S. farms and ranches that were either USDA-certified organic or were exempt from certification because their sales totaled less than $5,000. These operations comprised 4.1 million acres of land, of which 1.6 million acres were harvested cropland and 1.8 million acres were pasture or rangeland. In Iowa, 518 farms were reported, comprising 94,568 total acres.

Key Points

• New USDA data offers an in-depth look at organic farming in the nation and by state.

• Survey shows Iowa ranks ninth among states in the number of organic farms.

• Iowa farms have slightly more than 2% of U.S. organic sales, and most sell locally.

Iowa has 2% of organic sales

While there were organic farms or ranches in all 50 states, nearly 19% were in California. California also led in organic sales, with $1.15 billion, or 36% of all U.S. sales. In Iowa, 2008 organic sales totaled $71.5 million, accounting for more than 2% of U.S. sales and averaging $138,118 per farm. Nationally, organic farms averaged $217,675 in sales.

The nation’s certified and exempt organic farms had average production expenses higher than those of U.S. farms overall. Production expenditures averaged $171,978 per organic farm, compared with the nationwide average of $140,075 for all farms in 2008. Average per-farm production expenses for organic farms in Iowa were $107,667.

Most U.S. organic producers sold their products locally, with 44% of sales taking place less than 100 miles from the farm. Nearly 83% of organic sales were to wholesale channels, including processors, millers and packers. Just over 10% of sales were direct-to-retail operations, including supermarkets. Only 7% of sales were direct to consumers, via farm stands, farmers markets, community supported agriculture, etc.

Iowa organic producers reported nearly 64% of sales taking place less than 100 miles from the farm; 92% of sales were to wholesale market channels; slightly less than 4% were direct-to-retail sales; and over 4% were consumer-direct sales.

Survey respondents indicated they face various challenges, including regulatory, production, management and marketing issues. Despite these challenges, more than 78% indicated they plan to maintain or increase their organic production in the next five years.

A data summary is at
. Complete results of the 2008 Organic Production Survey are at

Source: USDA, NASS

This article published in the April, 2010 edition of WALLACES FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.