This article summarizes a report published in June 2011 by DATCP Organic Agriculture Specialist Laura Paine with support and guidance of the OAC.
Globally, 87 million acres were farmed organically in 2008, representing almost 1.4 million producers in 154 countries. This acreage represents a nine percent growth in organic production over 2007. Wisconsin has seen even more dramatic growth as the number of certified organic farms in Wisconsin has grown from 422 in 2002 to 1202 in 2007, an increase of 285%. Wisconsin is second in the nation after California in numbers of organic farms and in the top five states in certified organic acreage (currently at 195,603 acres in WI). The state is in the top five in production of all major organic crops and livestock types.
Organic farming, processing and related economic activity account for a small, but rapidly growing portion of Wisconsin’s agricultural economy. The fastest growing areas include vegetable production and dairy.
About 250 farmers raise and sell organic vegetables on about 1750 acres in Wisconsin. With per acre income levels averaging $3741, these farms generate about 70% more income per acre than their non-organic counterparts. With our existing vegetable growing expertise and processing infrastructure in the state, and the proven strength in organic produce sales (about 38% of total organic sales nationally), there is great potential for growth in this sector in future years.
Dairy production and processing continue to be an area of strength and growth. About one-third of Wisconsin dairy processing facilities are certified to produce either their own or private label dairy products for other companies, providing multiple marketing options for organic dairy farmers. Wisconsin leads the nation in numbers with 23% of all organic dairy farms (479 farms). About 14% of all dairy cows live in Wisconsin and we produce about 12% of all organic milk produced in the nation. Wisconsin organic dairy farms tend to be relatively small, averaging about 66 cows, but as a result of premiums and low-cost production practices, most can generate a sustainable living for a farm family. Based on data from the University of Wisconsin Center for Dairy Profitability, even in the current economic downturn, Wisconsin organic farms generated nearly $1000 in net profit per cow in 2009 while farmers receiving conventional prices for their milk lost $147 per cow (Kreigl 2010). The organic farms in the study averaged $65,000 in net farm income in 2009.
Both organic dairy and vegetable processing represent a value added opportunity for Wisconsin agriculture. For more information or a copy of the complete report, contact Laura Paine at email@example.com or 608-224-5120.