Sales of organic food are booming and account for more than 5 percent of U.S. grocery sales, running ahead of organic's small but growing share of the farm sector. The organic farms total is up by 3 percent and harvested acres are up by 2 percent from 2017, market data company Mercaris said on Tuesday.
For the third time this year, the Agriculture Department is holding up a regulation that would give livestock on organic farms more elbow room than is common at conventional operations, and this time, it says, it may rewrite the rule, which already is a decade in the making. "We will see the department in court and are confident that we will prevail on this important issue for the organic sector," said the Organic Trade Association, which sued USDA two months ago for unlawful delay of the animal welfare regulation.
Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey says modifications to three USDA conservation programs will help organic farmers get established. A member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Casey said with demand on the rise for organic food, "we must do all we can to help American farmers and ranchers meet this demand."
The Organic Farmers Association, a national membership organization advancing the interests of certified organic farmers, said that it named Mark Rokala, a lobbyist on agriculture issues, as its policy director and also elected a policy committee. This new leadership will facilitate the association's policy platform.
At a time when U.S. farm numbers are stagnant, the organic sector continues to grow, said a recent report by the USDA. There were 14,217 certified organic farms that sold $7.55 billion worth of organic commodities last year. The number of farms was up 11 percent from the previous year, and total sales were up 23 percent, according to the agency’s Certified Organic Survey.
In a challenge to the Trump administration's drive to erase Obama-era regulations, the organic food industry accused USDA of unlawfully delaying animal welfare rules that give livestock on organic farms more elbow room than allowed at conventional operations. Livestock groups and their allies in Congress have alternated between ridiculing the organic livestock rule and trying to scrap it.