Nebraska has made big gains in both the value of organic products sold and the number of certified organic operations in the state since 2016.
According to a USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service 2019 survey, Nebraska nearly doubled the value of organic products since 2016, selling a total of nearly $185 million in 2019. The number of certified organic operations also grew to 238, an increase of 47% since 2016.
Digging into the numbers, which are based on a special study from the 2017 Census of Agriculture, Nebraska reported 231,833 acres under organic production, with 146,803 acres of cropland on 225 operations — and 85,030 acres of pasture and rangeland on 66 farms.
A vast majority of organic farms land in the crops and nursery category, but 38 Nebraska operations also handle livestock and poultry.
The new growth could be attributed to producers looking for higher commodity value for their production, along with strong feelings about the purpose of organic products that they would like to carry out within their own operations.
“Some farms are investigating organic operations as a way to add value to their production,” says Jim Jansen, Nebraska Extension agricultural economist. “Certain farms that are already certified organic that have a place to market their products or a contract may be looking to expand.”
Being the Cornhusker state, 127 Nebraska organic farms raised nearly 4.8 million bushels of corn on 35,272 acres, with a value of nearly $41 million. Only Iowa raised more corn at just over 4.9 million bushels.
Wheat also is a big crop on organic farms in the state, with more than 27,000 acres planted on 76 farms, with production totaling 1 million bushels, valued at more than $9 million. Organic producers in the state planted almost 10,000 acres to soybeans, producing nearly 380,000 bushels valued at $7.3 million.
Nebraska is always ranked as one of the top popcorn-producing states, and in organic production the story is no different. Twenty-five Nebraska organic farms — the most of any state by far — planted almost 3,800 acres to popcorn, with sales valued at $5.9 million.
Organic hay was produced on 90 farms, covering 20,325 acres. Other crops with large amounts of acreage in the state included dry edible beans, oats, dry edible peas, proso millet, grain sorghum and sunflowers.
There are considerations for farmers looking into organic production. The survey found that almost half of the Nebraska organic producers were worried about regulatory problems. About one-third of the producers said that pricing issues and production problems also were challenges.
“Finding good markets or contracts for larger scale production can be a challenge for certain producers across the state, depending on their location,” Jansen says.
The breakdown of the farms included the largest group — 62 farms — selling between $100,000 and $249,999 in products. Fifty-four organic farms in the state sold more than $500,000 in organic products each.
More than half of the producers surveyed have been certified organic for more than 10 years, with 22% producing organically for five to nine years, and 26% as new organic producers for less than five years.
The entire report is available at nass.usda.gov.