WA organic farming in decline

Washington Organic Agriculture Sector Sees Declines in 2010
By Washington State University

WENATCHEE, Wash. — The number of certified organic producers, organic acreage and farmgate sales in Washington state all declined in 2010 according to data gathered by the Washington State University Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources. CSANR Sustainable Agriculture Specialist David Granatstein and Research Associate Elizabeth Kirby co-authored the just-completed profile titled “Current Status of Organic Agriculture in Washington State.”

Granatstein and Kirby found that the number of certified producers in the state declined by 18 in 2010 to 735 with five farms transitioning to organic. Certified organic land area, including double-cropped acreage, dropped by six percent to just under 102,000 acres. The declines were seen in both eastern and western Washington.

Organic lettuce field at Full Circle Farm near Carnation, Wash. WSU photo by Denny Fleenor. Click on photo to download high resolution image.

The study results showed that acreage devoted to organic forage and vegetable crops each dropped by 15 percent. The vegetable decreases came in green beans, potatoes, onions and sweet corn, all of which were in decline for the third year in a row.

Organic apple and cherry acreage each declined slightly in 2010, although shipments of organic Gala, Fuji and Honeycrisp apple varieties were ahead of the previous year.

There were seven fewer certified organic dairies in 2010 with 5,000 fewer dairy animals and an accompanying reduction in forage land.

The data also revealed areas of growth. Organic dry bean and pulse crop acreage expanded considerably to 3,400 acres. Organic blueberry production increased to 900 acres with another 230 acres in transition, likely making Washington the nation’s top producer.

With sales data lagging a year behind the farm data, reported organic farmgate sales for 2009 declined in both eastern and western Washington. Most of the decline was seen on farms with over $1 million in annual sales while smaller farm’s sales remained stable. Total state organic farmgate sales totaled $210.7 million in 2009, down from $246.7 million in 2008. Grant County led the state in 2009 with organic sales of $52.9 million, or more than double the next highest county. On the west side, Skagit County recorded the highest sales at slightly more than $12 million.

Granatstein said there is some uncertainty about the 2009 sales figures.

“Farms that didn’t renew their organic certification in 2010 and therefore did not report their sales for 2009 likely affected the accuracy of the totals provided,” he said.

Despite the state of the economy retail organic food sales continue to grow, now accounting for 3.7 percent of all U.S. food sales in 2009.

“The growth trend is expected to continue although at a slower pace than over the past decade,” Granatstein said. “That means there continue to be opportunities for growth for those who produce and sell organic food products in Washington State.”

The full profile can be found at http://csanr.wsu.edu/pages/Organic_Statistics.

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