By Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau: According to new USDA figures, the organic industry continues to grow domestically and globally, with more than 25,000 certified organic operations in more than 120 different countries around the world. Through the Agricultural Marketing Service’s National Organic Program, USDA has helped an additional 763 producers become certified organic in just 2013, an increase of 4.2 percent from the previous year. The industry today encompasses a record breaking 18,513 certified organic farms and businesses in the United States alone, representing a 245 percent increase since 2002.

Arizona has 137 certified organic farms and businesses, an increase from previous reports. Of those certified organic farms (minus other organic food processing businesses), in 2011 (most recent available figures, according to the USDA) they generated $77.1 million in sales. But that only tells a part of the story.

While we’ll get new figures from the 2012 Census of Agriculture by this May, the last agriculture census by the USDA reported that the average organic operation in Arizona has 350 acres of land, larger than the 285 acres for an average organic farm nationwide.

What do Arizona’s organic farms grow? As you might expect, vegetables and melons are two widely grown commodities. Nearly one-third of all organic farms produced vegetables, melons or potatoes. Apples were also grown organically in Arizona with 10 growers reporting sales of nearly $4.2 million in the last agriculture census. Other fruit crops produced included grapes, peaches, pears and citrus. Other types of crops were also produced including barley, dry beans, corn, cotton, hay, sorghum, sunflower seed and durum wheat. Organic milk and beef cows, hogs, sheep, goats, and chickens were also produced.

The 2013 list of certified USDA organic operations shows an increased rate of domestic growth within the industry, resuming previous trends.

Arizona agriculture is eager to find out the latest results of organic agriculture in our state. When we do, Arizona Farm Bureau will report on the results.

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