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Posts tagged: organic

The Sunshine State’s Agriculture Remains Bright

The Sunshine State is seeing spectacular growth in organic crops. Check back next Thursday for more facts from the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

The Sunshine State is seeing spectacular growth in organic crops. Check back next Thursday for more facts from the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

As the new Florida State Statistician, I am excited to start digging into the agricultural data here in the Sunshine State. One of the first things anybody would notice upon glancing over our stats is the wealth of fruits, vegetables, and other unique commodities. According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, almost 64% of Florida’s total market value of agricultural products sold comes from three categories: (1) fruits and nuts, (2) nursery, greenhouse, floriculture, and sod, and (3) vegetables, melons, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. We are one of the top three states nationwide in sales in all three of these categories, and Florida is also the top producer of sugarcane for sugar. Thus, the Sunshine State definitely lives up to its bright nickname by harvesting a rainbow of commodities.

If one crop defines Florida, it’s oranges. There are over 465,000 acres of orange farms in our state, accounting for almost 70% of all the orange acreage in the nation. To top it off, we are the only state to grow the delectable Temple orange. Read more »

US – EU Organic Equivalence Trade Arrangement Opens New Markets

Driscoll’s berries being sold in a store (Photograph courtesy of Driscoll’s. Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.)

Driscoll’s berries being sold in a store (Photograph courtesy of Driscoll’s. Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.)

Two years ago this month, the United States and the European Union (EU) implemented an organic equivalence arrangement, meaning products that are certified as organic in the U.S. can also be sold as organic in the EU, and vice versa. This arrangement broke down many of the barriers that organic producers, especially small and medium-sized farmers, were facing in exporting their goods to one of their largest markets. It has also proved to be a good example of how we can recognize each others’ systems and work together across borders to arrive at beneficial agreements.

The U.S. and EU have some of the strongest regulatory protections in the world, and the organic equivalence arrangement recognizes these standards and uses them for everyone’s benefit. Before the agreement, growers and companies wanting to trade products on both sides of the Atlantic had to obtain separate certifications to two different standards, which meant a double set of fees, inspections, and paperwork. Now, if a product is certified organic by one party, it can bear both the USDA organic seal and the EU organic logo, without going through that second certification process. This is possible because the EU and the U.S. have recognized that though our regulatory systems are different, they both produce high quality organic food and agricultural products under rigorous programs. Secretary Vilsack, while addressing the EU agricultural ministers earlier this week, had the same message of cooperation in regards to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP). Read more »

Agriculture Remains Key to the Garden State

New Jersey really is the Garden State –  the state doubled its square footage for nursery stock crops in between the 2007 and the 2012 Census of Agriculture.  Check back next Thursday for another state profile.

New Jersey really is the Garden State – the state doubled its square footage for nursery stock crops in between the 2007 and the 2012 Census of Agriculture. Check back next Thursday for another state profile.

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

The 2012 Census of Agriculture results are out and New Jersey remains true to its name. The Garden State greenhouse industry keeps blossoming. There are more than 1,560 farms in New Jersey that focus on greenhouse, nursery, and floriculture production. In the five year period since the last census, square footage for nursery stock crops in New Jersey more than doubled from 7.8 million square feet to 16 million.  And greenhouse tomatoes went from 162,000 square feet to 275,000.

Speaking of vegetables, that’s another sector of New Jersey agriculture that bears mentioning. With more than 50,000 acres of farmland dedicated to vegetables, our farmers grow nearly every vegetable included in the census. Tomatoes, New Jersey’s state vegetable, lead this charge, with 688 vegetable farms, more than half of the total, growing this crop. Other key crops grown locally include bell peppers, cucumbers, sweet corn, and snap peas. Read more »

Organic 101: Understanding the “Made with Organic***” Label

Organic is one label that most consumers are familiar with, but understanding what “organic” really means can help consumers make informed choices.  If a product meets these requirements, its label may include a statement like, “Made with organic oats and cranberries.”  A more generic statement like, “Made with organic ingredients,” is not allowed.

Organic is one label that most consumers are familiar with, but understanding what “organic” really means can help consumers make informed choices. If a product meets these requirements, its label may include a statement like, “Made with organic oats and cranberries.” A more generic statement like, “Made with organic ingredients,” is not allowed.

This is the sixteenth installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.

Deciphering food labels and marketing claims can be a challenge for the average consumer.  Companies use production and handling claims as a way to differentiate their products in the marketplace. Organic is one label that most consumers are familiar with, but understanding what “organic” really means can help consumers make informed choices.

USDA certified organic products have strict production and labeling requirements.  The U.S. organic industry is regulated by the National Organic Program (NOP), part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.  Certified organic products are produced without excluded methods such as genetic engineering or genetically modified organisms (GMOs).  The organic standards are designed to allow natural substances in organic farming while prohibiting synthetic substances. Read more »

Join Us for a Google+ Hangout: Growing the Organic Sector

On Wednesday, May 14th at 1:00 PM EDT, the USDA’s National Organic Program Specialist Betsy Rakola will host a Google+ Hangout to discuss strategies for growing U.S. organic production. During this Hangout, you’ll hear from farmers, organic certifiers, researchers, and community organizations at the forefront of todays’ organic market.

Participate in the Hangout on Wednesday by watching it live on the USDA Google+ page or on www.usda.gov/live.  Some of the questions we will discuss are: Read more »

Farm Bill Listening Session: New and Expanding Opportunities for the Organic Industry

Steve Etka with the National Organic Coalition provides input during the listening session.  The session gave USDA the opportunity to hear from stakeholders about their priorities during the implementation process and the impact that the new provisions will have on their communities.

Steve Etka with the National Organic Coalition provides input during the listening session. The session gave USDA the opportunity to hear from stakeholders about their priorities during the implementation process and the impact that the new provisions will have on their communities.

Organic agriculture serves as an engine for rural development, representing a $35 billion industry in the United States alone. USDA is committed to protecting the integrity of organic products, and ensuring that all of our agencies work together to help the organic sector continue to grow.

Members of the organic community are important partners in these efforts. As Administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which includes the National Organic Program, I have had the privilege of getting to know our organic stakeholders – visiting their farms and talking to them about their priorities – and I have been very impressed. Thanks to the recently passed Agricultural Act of 2014 (Farm Bill), USDA is now even better equipped to support the success of organic operations. Read more »