U.S. consumers are increasingly attracted to organic food and products. So it should be no surprise that more U.S. farmers are turning to organic, too, with 3.3 million acres of certified organic field crops harvested in 2019.
Nationwide, total certified organic field crop acreage rose 13% in 2019, with the number of new organic certified farms rising 14%, according to a report from Mercaris, a company that describes its mission as helping customers capitalize on opportunities in organic and non-GMO foods.
"While growth in the organic industry was anticipated, the 14% year-over-year expansion in certified field crop operations well exceeded expectations," said Ryan Koory, director of economics at Mercaris.
The increase might have been greater if it hadn't been for uncooperative weather during the 2019 growing season, he said, adding that the growth in the number of new organic growers last year suggests that 2020 could bring new record highs in organic production.
The final numbers, which are based on U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics, beat previous estimates for every region of the country, according to the report.
One of the stars in 2019 was organic wheat production, which grew 16% from 2018. That increase was fueled by growth in the High Plains region, the report said.
The Upper Midwest remains a key player in organic field crop production.
Of the 3.3 million certified organic field crop acres nationwide, Montana accounted for 264,487, second behind California's 364,509 acres. Minnesota had 168,504 acres, Iowa 140,813, North Dakota 86,015 and South Dakota 56,641.
In addition to the 3.3 million certified organic field crop acres, U.S. farmers planted 1.3 million acres to certified organic fruits, vegetables and other non-field crops, the report said.
Total U.S. organic sales hit a record $52.5 billion in 2019, with organic food sales accounting for $47.5 billion, also a record, according to a previously released study by the Organic Trade Association.