Much of the growth in certified operations is in organic handlers - facilities that take organic materials and process them – but there was also a 9% rise in the number of certified crop producers, according to the data, which logs 21,781 certified organic operations in the US and 31,160 around the world.
"Organic food is one of the fasting growing segments of American agriculture," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
"As consumer demand for organic products continues to grow, the USDA organic seal has become a leading global standard. The increasing number of organic operations shows that USDA's strong support for the vibrant organic sector is helping to create jobs and opportunities in rural communities,” added Vilsack, who said USDA had made more than $11.5m available to assist* organic operations with certification costs in 2015.
Organic farms and processors are committed to:
- Preserve natural resources and biodiversity
- Support animal health and welfare and provide access to the outdoors so animals can exercise their natural behaviors
- Only use approved materials (eg. The use of most synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, growth hormones, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering is prohibited.)
- Receive annual onsite inspections and separate organic food from non-organic food
*The USDA Organic Certification Cost Share Programs (OCCSP) provide organic producers and handlers with financial assistance to reduce the cost of organic certification. The programs reimburse producers and handlers for a portion of their paid certification costs.
Once certified, organic producers and handlers are eligible to receive reimbursement for up to 75% of certification costs each year up to a maximum of $750 per certification scope—crops, livestock, wild crops and handling.