Organic Farming in New York State
What does “organic” mean?
The term “organic” can be used to label products when farmers and food processors follow the federal regulations comprising the National Organic Program. Organic farming methods emphasize soil health, biological insect and disease control and natural fertilizers. Organic food processors cannot use synthetic food preservatives or non-organic additives, although there are several exceptions.
USDA provides detailed information on all aspects of organic farm production and food processing. Visit the USDA’s National Organic Program for more details.
An important component of the regulations is third party independent verification, which requires farmers and food processors to keep detailed farm production records, provide product transfer documentation, and open their operations to scheduled annual and unannounced inspections by the organization that verifies their practices. This is the certification process for the crops and food products encapsulated in the phrase “certified organic.”
Organic Farming Today
Organic food has been steadily increasing as a percentage of overall food sales, according to the Organic Trade Association, the only entity to collect this information from food manufacturers and make it public. In 2015, nationwide organic product sales were $43.3 billion, up 11% from the previous year, according to OTA. $39.7 billion were organic food sales and $3.6 billion were non-food organic products. In 2012, organic food sales were $29 billion, just over 4 percent of total at-home food sales. Sales for non-food organic products were $2.4 billion in 2012. These figures include sales of imported organic foods and products. There is no publically available state-by-state sales information.
According to information supplied to the Department, there were 1053 certified organic farms in New York State in 2015, and an unknown number of farms following organic practices that are not certified. This information is provided to NYSDAM by organic certification organizations and has been steadily increasing over the last decade. There are also 279 certified organic processors in New York State, a category that includes all kinds of food processing, such as sausage makers, bakeries, granola makers, etc. For comparison, ten years ago in 2006, there were 566 certified organic farms reported to NYSDAM. NYSDAM counts the number of farms reported by certifiers at the end of every calendar year. The USDA National Organic Program lists most organic farms on their website, but also state that it may be incomplete or not up to date.
Numbers of organic farms and acres under organic production differ depending on data sources. For example, the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) survey for the 2011 production year found 597 certified organic farms in New York State, while the USDA ERS survey of information filed by certification organizations that report to USDA found 842 certified organic farms in New York State for that same year. For 2011, certifiers reported to NYSDAM that there were 850 certified organic farmers in NYS. When looking for accurate numbers, the source and method of data collection should always be considered.
New York State Organic Farming Links