Introduction and Approach
WSU’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources (CSANR) has compiled state organic crop acreage statistics since 2004 to provide annual updates containing current, detailed information for use in farm and business planning, decision making, and risk management. This publication contains a series of tables with numerical data on organic farm numbers and acreage (2007–2015), and sales (2008–2015) based on certifier data. Graphical presentations of these data are available at http://csanr.wsu.edu/pages/Organic_Statistics.The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) has historically been the primary certifier working in the state, certifying an estimated 90% or more of the state’s annual organic acreage. Oregon Tilth Certified Organic (OTCO) and California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) have been the next two largest certifiers, typically covering 6–9% of the acreage. Data from additional certifiers such as Quality Assurance International (QAI), Stellar Certification Services, and International Certification Services (ICS), have been included as available.
The goal of the annual CSANR organic statistics reports is to provide timely, detailed, and accurate data regarding certified organic farms in the state to growers, businesses, policymakers, and other interested parties. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) have also collected state and national information on organic farms when funding has been available; however, publication has typically lagged several years behind the reported production year. The ERS data are based on certifier-reported values but have limited detail by individual crop. For example, apples are the only segregated temperate tree fruit crop (ERS 2013). NASS administered the 2008 Organic Production Survey (NASS 2010), the 2011 Certified Organic Production Survey (NASS 2013), the 2014 Organic Survey (NASS 2015), and the 2015 Organic Survey (NASS 2016). The 2008 and 2014 Organic Production Surveys included both certified and exempt producers; data reported in this publication are for certified producers only. The NASS 2011 survey included only certified producers, but participation was voluntary. Values in the survey results sometimes differ considerably from those reported in this publication, as not all growers participate in the surveys, and not all data are collected in the same manner. For example, the NASS
While the certifier data are expected to be the most accurate available, there are some inconsistencies. For example, certifier data collection methods vary and reporting forms have changed over time. Individual crops are not always entered into certifier databases in the same category each year, especially crops such as cover crops, forage, and seed crops.
Overview of Tables
The certified acreage numbers present a reliable picture of certified organic crop production in the state. Transition acres (land currently managed as organic that has not met the USDA-NOP 3-year period of no prohibited materials) are reported here where producers and certifiers opted to provide it. However, growers are not required to register transition acreage (as of 2002), and the reported transition numbers underestimate the actual total. Historically, a large proportion of the reported transition acres have been tree fruit acres and other perennial crops. While likely under-reported, these numbers were still useful in predicting growth that occurred in the industry during the last decade. County acreage values are considered estimates because site information from farms with sites in multiple counties has not always been segregated for the specific county. The newer WSDA database (beginning in 2016) links each site to the county it is in, improving accuracy.
Table 1 presents an overview of acreage of the major crop categories from 2007–2015. Forage, tree fruit, and vegetables have been the leading categories (see percentage of total column). Total certified area in the state peaked in 2009 and gradually declined each year from 2010 to 2014, while total acreage (including double crop) increased in both 2014 and 2015. Total area (certified site acreage) is distinguished from total acreage which includes double-cropped land,