Oct 21, 2016
Organic farms see growth in New York
Ana Olvera

Consumer interest in organic products has grown in recent years, as reflected by rising sales nationwide – with a 56 percent increase in New York from 2008 through 2014. The number and total acreage of organic farms in New York also rose over that period, despite nationwide declines.

According to the USDA, organic production involves food or other agricultural goods that are produced through approved methods including cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity. Organic production includes farms and ranches as well as food production and handling facilities.

USDA promotes organic farming as a means to reduce erosion and pollution and improve soil health. As of July 1, 2016, there were nearly 22,500 certified organic operations, including farms and other facilities, nationwide. Of these, over 1,400 were located in New York, ranking the State third in the nation.

Organic farming

In 2014, the United States as a whole had nearly 14,100 organic farms, covering approximately 3.7 million acres of land nationwide. Both numbers were down modestly from 2008. This decline was primarily due to a smaller number of farms that are exempt from certification (farms that comply with USDA organic standards and have less than $5,000 in gross annual organic sales). While the number of exempt farms fell, certified organic farms increased by over 1,700 during the period.

Figure 1. Top states for number of organic farms
Figure 1. Top states for number of organic farms

Despite the drop in the number of organic farms nationwide, sales of organic products increased significantly, from $3.2 billion in 2008 to $5.5 billion in 2014. Sales of organics rose again, by an estimated 12 percent, in 2015, according to USDA.

While organic sales remain a relatively small segment of total agricultural sales, the Department reports that it expects continued growth, with indicators including the fact that “top food retailers … have expanded their organic food offerings in recent years, and have announced initiatives which could further boost demand.”

Crops constitute 60 percent of total organic sales. Yet the sales of organic livestock and poultry grew especially rapidly over the period, increasing by over 100 percent.

Organic farms in New York

New York, with its 917 farms, ranks third nationally for the number of organic farms and comprises over 6 percent of the nation’s total. Only California and Wisconsin have more organic farms. Figure 1 shows the top ten states for numbers of organic farms.

New York has approximately 213,000 acres of land dedicated to organic farming, a little less than 6 percent of the U.S. total. This places New York fourth among the states. In comparison, Montana, which only has 1 percent of the nation’s organic farms, ranks second in the nation for acreage as the average size of its organic farms is much larger than those in New York. Figure 2 shows the top ten states for amount of organic farmland.

Figure 2. Top 10 states for organic farmland

Unlike the nation as a whole, New York added organic farms from 2008 through 2014, gaining nearly 100 such farms with over 44,000 additional acres. According to the USDA, 43 percent of organic farmers in New York plan to increase organic production over the next five years, while another 42 percent expect to maintain current production levels.

Organic products in New York

In 2014, New York ranked seventh in the nation for total sales of organic products. Its approximately $164 million in sales accounted for 3 percent of the U.S. total. Similar to the nation as a whole, sales of New York’s organic products increased significantly, rising by over 56 percent from 2008.

While New York ranked seventh in overall sales of organic products, it ranked in the top five for both the number of organic farms and sales of a variety of agricultural products. Figure 3 shows the number of farms and sales of the top organic agricultural products in the state as of 2014.

Figure 3. Top organic agricultural products in New York

New York’s top organic agricultural product is milk from cows. It ranks second in the nation for the number of organic farms with milk cows and for sales of organic milk. New York also ranks second in the nation for the number of farms for organic beef and farms for organic hogs and pigs.

With an increasing number of farms and a significant expansion of sales from their products, organic farming has taken its place as an integral part of the agricultural economy in the state. In New York as well as nationally, increased consumer interest in organic foods can be expected to drive continuing growth in this emerging sector.

New York State Office of Budget and Policy Analysis

Source: Office of the New York State Comptroller


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