The value of certified organic crops to the state's farmers rose 16 percent in 2010, to a total of $244.6 million, according to a study by the Washington State University Center for Sustaining Agriculture released on Wednesday.
The value of certified organic crops to the state’s farmers rose 16 percent in 2010, to a total of $244.6 million, according to a study by the Washington State University Center for Sustaining Agriculture released on Wednesday.
The study also found that the amount of certified organic crop acreage and the number of certified organic farms in Washington state decreased.
Eastern Washington accounted for 76 percent of organic farm sales in 2010, the most recent year available.
Grant County repeated as the state’s leading producer of organic crops, with $64 million in farm sales, more than the next three counties combined. Elizabeth Kirby, a WSU researcher, said Grant County has more than 25 percent of the organic acreage in the state, including 47 percent of vegetable acreage.
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Counties that saw significant increases from the previous year’s sales included Kittitas, Walla Walla, Skagit, Pierce and Island, the study found.
The study found that certified organic acreage dropped 12 percent to just over 90,100 acres in 2011. The number of certified organic farms dropped to 729 from 735.
Crops seeing decreasing acreage included forage, tree fruit, grains, pulses (beans, peas, lentils and other legumes) and oilseed crops. Vegetables, mixed horticulture and small fruits and nuts saw increases in acreage.
Although tree fruit acreage dropped 5 percent in 2011, it continues as one of Washington’s organic success stories, accounting for 20 percent of organic acreage in the state. Apples account for nearly 14,300 of the 19,590 acres of organic tree fruit and for 8.5 percent of Washington’s apple acreage, the report found.
Washington accounts for more than half of U.S. organic apple acreage, thanks to its dry climate that reduces pest and disease outbreaks.
“Central Washington has low humidity and is irrigated,” said sustainable agriculture specialist David Granatstein. “Growers can control the water and can thereby reduce the disease potential for many crops.”
Washington lost one organic dairy farm in 2011, bringing the total to 33. The number of Washington’s organic dairy cows, however, increased nearly 8 percent.
Due to the statutory three-year transition from conventional farmland to organic, Granatstein said growers cannot quickly respond to changes in market demand. But demand continues to grow. In 2010, organic food sales in the U.S. reached 4 percent of all food sales, up from 3.7 percent in 2009.