California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF), one of the largest U.S. organic certifiers, said Wednesday that based on the findings in its new report, state and local policymakers, community leaders, and nonprofits should work together to boost California’s acreage of organic food production from 4 percent today to 10 percent by 2030.
The new report, released at the organic certifier’s annual meeting, distills the findings of more than 300 peer-reviewed scientific studies documenting economic, environmental, and public health benefits that an expansion of organic farming could bring to the state, which is the only state with its own program to support the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP).
“At present, organic farmland makes up only 4 percent of California’s agricultural land,” said the report. “If California were to increase organic acreage to 10 percent by 2030, and eventually to 100 percent of agricultural land, then the economic, environmental, and social benefits would also increase.”
Among the environmental benefits of going organic for California is fighting the negative impacts of climate change. For example, the report said increasing organic acreage to 10 percent would reduce emissions equivalent to 601,500 cars.
“Going fully organic would be the equivalent of removing 7.8 million cars from the road,” said the report, titled “Roadmap to an Organic California.”
The report, which was funded by California-based outdoor clothing manufacturer Patagonia, which entered the food business in 2012, and the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation, showed that the opportunities for economic growth extend far beyond the fields and pastures of organic farmers.
In 2017, the gross value of organic processed foods in California was $11.7 billion, up 17 percent over 2016, the report said, while sales of organic condiments grew by 18 percent and organic beverages by 10 percent.
California’s sales of organic commodities and processed foods totaled $14.6 billion in 2017. California produces 38 percent of the country’s organic farmgate value.
“Representing a district with so much organic produce has given me the opportunity to see the benefits of organic farming first hand,” said Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Santa Cruz). “Since California is the largest producer of organic foods, it is important to understand the economic, public health, and environmental benefits of organic farming. I hope California can utilize this report to encourage this organic farming trend. Not only does the market for organic produce keep growing, the environmental and consumer benefits of organic farming equal healthier soil and waterways and healthier produce.”
Santa Cruz, Calif.-based CCOF, founded in 1973, and representing more than 3,600 certified organic members in 44 states and three countries, said it plans to release a policy report in January 2020 laying out recommendations for increasing organic farmland in California.
“Organic food production is an opportunity to stimulate the state’s economy, promote public health, and protect our natural resources,” said CCOF’s new CEO, Kelly Damewood. “The report finds that organic agriculture provides evidence-based solutions to the nation’s complex challenges by promoting healthy, carbon-storing soils while also driving strong economic returns and improving public health and prosperity.”