WENATCHEE, Wash. – Certified organic acreage farmed in Washington state continues to expand, increasing by an estimated 27 percent between 2006 and 2007. Since 2004 the amount of certified acreage being farmed in the state has increased by 86 percent. Those growth estimates are documented in the annual profile of the state’s organic acreage and crops compiled by the Washington State University Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources.
“We’re careful to point out that the figures in the profile are a best estimate because of anomalies and inconsistencies in the available data,” says WSU CSANR sustainable agriculture specialist David Granatstein. “We’ve been conservative with our analysis, so this report represents a low-end estimate of organically farmed land in the state.”
Granatstein and research assistant Elizabeth Kirby compiled and analyzed data from six organizations that certify organic farmland within the state. The Washington State Department of Agriculture Organic Food Program and Oregon Tilth Certified Organic have certified more than 98 percent of the organic acreage.
Granatstein points out that the certifying organizations request information from growers in different forms and categories, which makes a highly accurate analysis difficult.
The 2007 profile’s estimate of certified organic land statewide is 81,472 acres, up from 64,325 acres in 2006, a 27 percent increase. During 2007, 629 organic crop and livestock farms and 71 transitional farms in the state were certified by the combined certifying organizations.
Two-thirds of the state’s organic land is devoted to three crop categories: forage crops for feeding livestock, vegetables and tree fruit.
Organic forage production again showed the most growth with an annual increase of 51 percent, now accounting for 35 percent of the state’s total organic acreage. Certified hay and silage acreage increased by 84 percent to more than 12,000 acres and certified pasture acreage totaled 13,381 acres compared to 10,651 acres in 2006.
The report cites the recent expansion of the organic dairy sector and resulting demand for organic feed for fueling the dramatic increase.
Certified vegetable acreage increased by 4,500 acres in both 2006 and 2007, or 41 and 30 percent growth rates respectively. Certified vegetable acreage now totals more than 20,000 acres with sweet corn, peas, potatoes, green beans and onions being the major crops grown. The report states that Washington is likely the leading U.S. producer of organic sweet corn and peas, and ranked as the country’s third largest producer of organic potatoes in 2005.
Washington leads the nation in organic apple, pear and cherry production, primarily in irrigated areas of central Washington. Apples are the state’s predominant organic tree fruit crop with apple orchards comprising 73 percent of the certified tree fruit acreage. Fuji and Gala are the leading varieties grown organically.
Thanks to the continuing growth in market demand for organic fruit and advances in organic pest control options, a significant amount of orchard acreage is in transition to organic production. The profile projects a 78 percent increase in organic apple acres, a 44 percent increase in organic pear area, and a doubling of organic cherry acreage by2009 based on the amount of transitional acreage.
The estimated farmgate sales of organic goods for 2006, the latest year for which figures are available, increased by 42 percent over the previous year to total gross sales of more than $144 million. Seventy-six percent of organic sales were from eastern Washington farms that comprise 69 percent of the state’s total organic acreage.
Grant County leads the state with 20 percent of the state’s organic acreage (15,565 acres), followed by Benton County at 14 percent (11,336 acres) and Yakima County with eight percent (6,148 acres).
In western Washington, Skagit County is home to six percent of the state’s organic acreage (4,476 acres), followed by Lewis County with five percent (4,159 acres), and Thurston and Whatcom counties each with four percent (2,959 and 2,839 acres respectively).
The full 2007 organic profile can is available for viewing or download at http://csanr.wsu.edu/Organic/OrganicStats.htm.