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Who are the organic growers of Texas?

Organic farming in Texas has struck many observers as stunted or underdeveloped, but published estimates and descriptions of this sector have varied widely. A new report reviews all available USDA data—including newly available reports and tools—to arrive at an accurate picture of organic farming in Texas.

The report's authors conclude that there are at most 305 certified organic crop and livestock operations in Texas, although many of these are very small and probably less than 200 farms have sold any organic products at all in recent years.

About two thirds of these farms raise field crops and Texas is a national leader in organic cotton, rice, and peanuts, but Texas has a lower percentage of certified organic farms than any other state and the number of organic farms has not changed much in the past decade. Only 61 farms of any size are growing organic specialty crops. These farms are experiencing high turnover and their number may be decreasing.

The gap between consumer demand and the supply of Texas grown organic food is wide and growing. Texas consumers spend over a billion dollars per year on organic food, and only a tiny percentage of this is grown within the state. This represents a large missed economic opportunity.

Around half of Texas producers are open to the idea of organic farming and thousands of farms are already using at least some organic methods. However, the higher prices for organic products alone have not been enough to convince most producers to become certified. They will need more technical and financial support from universities, agencies, and other institutions before they are willing to attempt the risky transition process.

Overall, the level of institutional support for organic farming in Texas is low compared to other states. While many resources already exist in the state, most of these are under-utilized. Retailers can help by accepting the fact that organic produce grown in Texas will never be as cosmetically perfect as that grown in California. New crop insurance options for organic farms are an extremely promising development. There are many other steps that could be taken to stimulate the growth of the Texas organic sector.

Click here to download the report.

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