Organic growers in Iowa were responsible for more than $60 million in sales from the products they grew or raised in 2011, according to the first-ever survey done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture looking at certified organic production in the country.
The survey, released earlier this month, looked at only those farms that were certified organic by the USDA. To be certified organic, food must be produced without the use of conventional pesticides, petroleum-based fertilizer, sewage sludge-based fertilizer, herbicides, pesticides, genetic engineering, antibiotics, growth hormones or irradiation, according to the National Organic Standard Board of the USDA. Animals raised on an organic farm must be fed organic feed and given access to the outdoors.
The Certified Organic Production survey was conducted by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service and the agency’s Risk Management Agency. The data will be used to help improve insurance products for organic farmers.
“The Risk Management Agency wants to specifically look at farm crop protection and the crop insurance practices for organic operations,” said Aleksey Minchenkov, an NASS spokesman.
The report, which looked at organic production in all 50 states, showed there were 467 certified organic producers in Iowa, farming on more than 81,000 acres. The value of sales of crops and products produced by organic farmers in the state totaled more than $60 million last year, the survey showed.
More than $29 million in sales were recorded in crop production, with more than $31 million in livestock, poultry and related products. Nationally, there were more than 9,000 certified organic farms with sales of more than $3.5 billion.
In Iowa, there were 192 organic producers who grew corn for grain or feed, producing 1.5 million bushels valued at $15.9 million. There were 264 organic soybean producers who harvested more than 423,000 bushels valued at nearly $7 million.
By comparison, conventional Iowa corn growers grew more than 2.3 billion bushels of corn in 2011, valued at more than $14.4 billion. Conventional soybean producers grew more than 70 million bushels in 2011, valued at $5.5 billion.
Organic producers in the state also grow a variety of other fruits and vegetables, including grapes, apples, tomatoes, squash, peppers, pears and various berries, melons and lettuces. Iowa organic farmers also grow various herbs, garlic and spinach, produce organic chickens, eggs, turkeys, hogs and beef cattle. Iowa also had 10 certified organic farms producing more than 670,000 pounds of goat milk. There were 78 organic farms that produced more than 42 million pounds of milk from cows, the survey showed. - Michael Crumb, Ames Tribune