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Latest World Organic Report Available

The “World of Organic Agriculture” report from FiBL/IFOAM covering data through 2016 was just released at organic-world.net. This annual report provides estimates of the global area of organic agriculture (by country, and crop where available), the number of organic producers, and market size and trends, along with various special topics. In 2016, there were an estimated 57.8 million ha of land under organic management (142.8 million acres), an increase of 7.5 million ha over the previous year.  This was the largest growth in hectares in a year that has been documented. There were some 2.7 million organic producers worldwide. The world market for organic products was estimated at $89.7 billion, with the US accounting for nearly half of that. The market grew by 10% from the previous year, adding $8.1 billion in sales. Thus, the growth of the past decade continues.  The report is free on line.

New Guide to Organic Fire Blight Management

Fire blight is a challenging disease for all apple and pear growers, and even moreso for organic growers with a limited toolbox. Recent advances in organic fire blight control are described in the new eXtension publication “Organic fire blight management in the western U.S.“, written by faculty in Oregon, Washington and California who have been involved with the search for non-antibiotic alternatives. The research is on-going but has reached the point where some specific management suggestions are possible, and field experience by growers is generally positive. With the huge increase in organic apple acres expected in the next year or two, the ability to manage this disease is ever more critical.

Organic market information getting easier to find

The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) recently hosted a webinar describing the various information products they have available to the public about organic food products. They currently collect data on 120 organic specialty crops.  These include reports about price and movement (volume of sales) at the shipping point (e.g. fruit warehouse), wholesale terminal market (they track markets in 13 US cities and several foreign ones), and retail (based on prices from weekly grocery ads from over 400 websites).  Wholesale price information is published daily, and a weekly specialty crops report is released.  All the data are searchable in their database. Imports of some crops can be tracked as well. Data are collected on grain, forages, and poultry (eggs, meat). Grains included both feed and food grade, as well as oilseeds like soybean. The retail price information includes side-by-side comparisons of prices for organic and conventional. Finally, data on organic dairy are also collected for milk (various sized containers), yogurt, butter, cheese, and other products. AMS now has a landing page for all the organic market information to make access much easier.

Economics of organic blueberries

A recent cost of production study of organic blueberries in eastern Washington shows that it will take 9-10 years to pay back all the initial establishment costs for the planting. A grower will need to received over $1.60 per pound on a fresh berry yield of 17,850 pounds per acre at full production to break even. A very large increase in blueberry production worldwide, both organic and conventional, in the last few years is increasing supplies, and for the most part demand growth has kept up. Berries are now the top selling fresh fruit category in the grocery produce department for both organic and conventional.

Hulless oats show promise for organic poultry feed

Researchers from Washington State University and Oregon State University just published their findings that hulless oats may provide organic poultry producers with an alternative to corn and wheat.  Shortages if organic feed grains, and consequently very high prices, have been a chronic challenge for organic livestock production in the U.S.Hulless oats are easier to certify as GM-free, compared with corn and soy. They have demonstrated nutritional value for poultry, and can be grown in many different climatic zones. This could offer more local feed production opportunities. Hulless oats did not have a negative effect on egg laying or hen health compared with a standard corn-based diet in the feeding study that was done. The oat-based diet was more expensive than the standard diet, based on current feed prices. However, the oat-based diet led to larger egg size which increased revenue that offset the higher feed cost. The study by Winkler et al. can be found in the most recent issue of Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems.

Organic Price Premiums Vary Widely

The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is now publishing a regular report that compares national prices for a range of organic foods with their conventional counterparts.  The report dated April 25, 2017, compares advertised prices at major retail supermarkets across the country drawing on over 300,000 different ads for produce alone. Premiums for organic ‘Gala’ and ‘Fuji’ apple, the two largest sellers, were 67% and 41% respectively when sold by the pound, but over 90% when sold as a 3-lb bag. The organic premium for a 2-lb bag of lemons was only 6%, and bananas 44%. Organic cauliflower cost 14% less than conventional by the pound, while organic broccoli cost 16% more. Organic Romaine lettuce hearts brought a 9% premium. For milk, organic half-gallons had a 62% premium while gallons had a 166% premium. One needs to look at the actual prices in many cases to understand this situation – organic milk cost $3.99 for a half gallon and $6.49 for a gallon, while conventional milk was $2.47 a half gallon and $2.44 a gallon. Organic large brown eggs had a 181% premium. Beef bottom round roast cost 9% less per pound for organic, while organic skirt steak cost 117% more. Organic chicken generally brought a 100-150% premium.

WA organic agriculture update

A Snapshot of Organic Agriculture in Washington State for 2016 was recently published in the Tilth Journal.  Global retail organic sales exceeded $80 billion in 2015, with North America accounting for 51% of that.  The U.S. had an estimated 4.3 million certified organic acres in that year as well. Washington State had an estimated 94,000 certified acres in 2016, and was second in the national for organic farmgate sales at over $600 million. Vegetable and tree fruit acres in particular are expanding.

Sustainable Farming Quarterly

Archived copies of the Sustainable Farming Quarterly newsletter are available here.  These were produced for the Northwest Dryland Cereal-Legume Project funded by USDA-SARE that included Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Utah.

Archived Issues (pdf)