Organic Farming in USA: Crops, How to Start, A Step-By-Step Guide for Beginners

Organic farming is becoming more popular as a farm practice in the USA. Although most agricultural land is still used for conventional farming, the demand for organic farming in USA continues to grow. The USDA Organic Regulations define organic farming as applying cultural, biological, and mechanical methods that support farm resource cycling, promote ecological balance, and protect biodiversity.

Organic Farming in USA
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Many agricultural scientists, environmentalists, government officials, farmers, and the general public, both urban and rural, are alarmed by the potential threat to the energy-intensive food and fiber production system that now characterizes US agriculture. Many factors, such as future research and education programs, public policies, and the cost and availability of conventional agricultural production inputs, will greatly influence the rate at which organic farming technologies and management practices Are adopted.

However, current trends and conditions suggest that organic farming systems will play an increasingly important role in the United States and global agriculture. Demand for organic food is growing in the United States. Despite a steady increase in demand for organic products, most American farmers are reluctant to switch to conventional crops. Maize, Soybeans, and Cotton have the lowest levels of organic adoption. Switching to organic is not an easy transition.

For the past three years, farmers have not been able to use pesticides or synthetic fertilizers on their land for organic labeling of crops. It is one of the main reasons why so much organic food is coming to the United States from other countries. Organic farming methods can improve water quality, conserve energy, increase biodiversity, and contribute to soil health. Organic farming uses cultural, biological, and mechanical methods that promote resource cycling and ecological balance and protect biodiversity.

USDA has available programs and services, whether you are an established organic operation or considering converting to organic. As a feed and nurturing force for the population, agriculture is one of the most important industries in the US economy. Agricultural practices have developed to become more efficient and able to meet the population’s daily needs reliably. However these efficient methods also come with environmental costs, and many farmers and consumers are increasingly looking for more sustainable alternatives. 

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Different practices in organic farming in USA

Each country has its own set of laws and regulations for organic farming. Based on this, different types of organic farming include different methods. However, for most organic farmers, there are some popular methods of common organic farming;

  • Crop rotation is used to maintain soil fertility from various pests. 
  • Cover crops are the main practice for controlling insects and weeds, preventing soil erosion as well and improving soil nutrients
  • Reliance on natural predators as a protective crop protection measure, such as selection of resistant varieties, adaptation to planting or sowing, and harvest time 
  • Anaerobic soil disinfection that kills or reduces soil-borne pests
  • Proper placement between crops 
  • Mechanical soil cultivation 
  • Recycling materials 
  • Reliance on renewable resources 

Organic crop producers practice crop rotation by rotating the crops they grow in a field or planting beds over time to interrupt insect life cycles, suppress soil-borne plant diseases, fix nitrogen, and increase farm biodiversity. 

To effectively reduce pests and diseases, farmers usually bring one crop from another crop family, and then wait several years before replanting the initial crop. While many traditional farmers also practice crop rotation, organic producers must comply with USDA organic regulations.

Organic crops are grown in the USA

  • Field crops – The top organic crops in Texas were Peanuts, Cotton, and Rice. They makeup 61.7% of the state’s organic farm produce sold. Nationwide, 51% of all organic farm crop sales were in the Corn, Grain, Hay, and Wheat. 
  • Vegetable crops – Onions, Snap Beans, Broccoli, Spinach, Lettuce, Bell Peppers, Tomatoes, and Squash.

Organic production states in the USA

The top 10 states selling organic farms were California, Washington, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Wisconsin, New York, Texas, Michigan, Colorado, and Arizona. These states accounted for 78% of the total value of all US-certified organic products sold. California alone accounted for 39% of total American organic farm sales. 

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Peanut Farming
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During this period, sales of Texas organic vegetables, fruits, crops, and livestock increased from $ 149 million to $ 199 million, while the organic area decreased by 187,640 acres. Other top organic foods in terms of selling price include eggs, Poultry, Apples, Lettuce, Strawberries, Grapes, Tomatoes, and Corn. 

California is the nation’s leading state in agricultural sales as a whole, so it’s no surprise that the state is also a leader in organic production. In relative terms, many other states dedicate a larger portion of their farmland to organic farming than to California, where organic farms represent only 4% of the state’s agricultural area. Instead, the northeastern states on the list of relatively top states for organic farms include Maine, New York, and Vermont, which are runaway leaders, with an organic area of ​​about 17% of its total. 

The highest number of certified organic farms at 2,713 in California. Its approximately 1.1 million acres of organic farms represent 21% of all US-certified organic land. In organic production, Wisconsin (1,276 farms) and New York (1,059) are the second and third-largest farm states in the USA. California was the only state other than with more than 1,000 certified organic farms. 

Six other states in the USA that had more than 500 farms are Pennsylvania (803), Iowa (732), Washington (677), Ohio (575), Vermont (556), and Minnesota (545). Maine was behind with 494 organic farms. Organic farms also have a much higher level of direct and value-added marketing for consumers than traditional farms.

One reason is that crops marketed directly to consumers — fruits, vegetables, and other specialty crops claim a much larger share of the organic sector than the entire American farm sector. Value-added products processed on the farm are important farm diversification types in the organic sector.

National Organic Standards in the USA

National Organic Standards refer to the methods, techniques, and materials used to produce and handle crops, livestock, and processed agricultural products. Standards indicate that, in general, all-natural (non-synthetic) substances are allowed in organic production, and all synthetic substances are prohibited. It is according to the USDA National Organic Program (NOP). Organic Crop Production Standards state; 

No contaminants will be applied to the soil for at least three years before harvesting the organic crop. Using ionizing radiation, genetic engineering, and sewage sludge are prohibited. Soil fertility and crop nutrients will be managed through farming methods, crop rotation, and crop cover, animal and crop waste materials and synthetic materials are permitted.

Crop pests and diseases will be controlled through physical, mechanical, and biological methods. When these exercises are insufficient, approved biological, botanical, or synthetic substances may be used in the national list. Organic methods improve the overall condition of the soil and prevent soil erosion. 

Developing an organic system plan in the USA

The Organic System Plan is the basis of the organic certification process. Created by a certified producer or handler, it details how the operation will comply with the rules and regulations based on its unique features.

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Soy Farming
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While plans vary depending on the type of operation and the needs, they focus on all methods of farming or handling systems, such as farming, grazing, harvesting, storage, and transportation. They also describe approved substances used during the growing or handling process, monitoring methods for organic systems, record-keeping systems, and barriers to inorganic products or contact with prohibited substances. 

Get a certified organic farm in the USA

Organic farming is one of the fastest-growing sectors in USA agriculture, creating jobs and promoting economic growth and opportunities in rural America. More than 28,000 certified organic farms in the USA are growing as consumer demand for organic grows. Each country has its own rules that are required for organic certification. Typically, relevant agencies in each country publish information on their web pages, such as the USDA (US Department of Agriculture).

Sometimes, there are also consulting services that help farmers in the process of obtaining a certificate. The Organic Certification Form allows you to sell, label, and represent the product as organic. The organic brand gives consumers more choices in the market. The USDA protects consumers’ rights by protecting the organic seal. Organic foods certified by the USDA are grown and processed per federal guidelines, including several factors: soil quality, animal husbandry practices, pest and grass control, and additives.

Organic producers rely on natural materials and physical, mechanical, or biological farming methods as much as possible. Certified organic farms also adhere to specific animal health and well-being standards, not treat the soil with any contaminants for at least three years before harvest, and for the total annual organic sales. 

The USDA Organic Regulations describe how “organic” or USDA organic seal can be used on food, feed, or fiber products. These clear rules create business opportunities for producers and processors who want to benefit from consumer growth in the organic sector. Being certified organic helps producers and handlers;

  • Get premium prices for their products
  • Access the rapidly growing local, regional, and international markets
  • Support local economies
  • Access additional funding and technical support
  • Consumer market products 

The United States is an exporter and importer of organic products

In recent years, a growing organic export market has emerged. The United States currently tracks only a small set of exported organic commodities. Organic apples, grapes, and lettuce topped the list of organic exports and accounted for about 12% of total exports. The value of these three exports is that the United States is the largest foreign supplier of organic products to Canada and a major supplier to Mexico.

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Organic Tomato Farming
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However, many destinations for US organic exports do not appear in our US trade data because organic products are not being tracked. EU imports from the United States are for consumer goods, such as processed products, but the USA does not track organic exports of most processed products. The United States also imports organic products that it does not produce in large quantities, such as bananas, coffee, olive oil, and mangoes.

According to the US Census Bureau, selected US organic imports were worth about ً 1.6 billion. Imported organic products, such as bananas, have remained relatively stable for geographical advantages, while imports of organic animal feed, such as corn and soybeans, have increased rapidly. 

Fertilizers used in organic farming

Organic farming methods avoid synthetic chemicals in their fertilizers instead of using natural substances to provide nutrients to their plants. Natural fertilizers such as compost (broken organic matter), animal manure, and green manure (crops left to rot in the fields) help revitalize the soil with nutrients in preparing new crops. 

National Organic Program in the USA

The National Organic Program (NOP) is the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) marketing program within the Agricultural Marketing Service. This agency sets marketing standards. NOP’s mission is: 

  • To implement national standards that govern the marketing of organic produce. 
  • Facilitate trade in fresh and processed food that is prepared organically. 
  • Assures consumers that such products meet consistent standards.

Challenges in limiting organic production in the USA

Organic farmers face unique costs compared to their traditional counterparts. Organic farmers spend less on commodities than conventional farmers, but their labor and food costs are much higher. Organic farming is also based on knowledge because it relies on a systematic approach rather than using inputs outside the farm to manage fertility, weeds, and pests. 

Organic farmers have also been accused of protecting biodiversity, managing complex grazing systems, and maintaining animal health without antibiotics. Despite good profits, organic grain production lags. Organic cropping systems often involve the rotation of six or more crops, which build healthy soil and provide other environmental benefits. Although price premiums may be significant for organic corn and soybeans, market and price premiums for other crops may be less certain, or even non-existent, in the circulation of a wide range of organic crops. 

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Wheat farming
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High potential capital costs associated with grain production and social factors, such as opportunities for farmers to start production and other specialized operations in peri-urban areas, are other possible factors. Access to land and capital is especially difficult for new farmers who want to grow organically and for existing farmers who want to convert. 

USDA Organic Standards require proper land management for up to three years before certification. Buying land that has already undergone this transition is very expensive. However, land transfers are also expensive, as crops and livestock cannot be sold organically during the three-year transfers. However, the operation will incur higher costs of managing the land systematically. In addition, farmers who choose to lease land without access to capital cannot invest in organic certification without a secure land tenure.

Conclusion

Organic farming in the United States has gained popularity in recent years. If you develop a proper organic cultivation business plan suitable for states in the US, this would be the best profitable farming business idea.

1 COMMENT

  1. I am happy to read about organic farming which could be ideally embraced by any human being because its a solution to environmental conservation
    I am also saying, keeping rabbit will provide excellent solution to the organic farmers in a shortest time.
    Rabbit product like; fermented rabbit urine, droppings are 3 in 1 solution in organic farming.
    It repels pests, fertilizes the folia and soil and above all source of food

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