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Sales of organic products in the United States reached a new record of $49.4 billion, $45.2 billion of which were organic foods ( Organic food sales in the 20 years between 1997 and 2017 increased from $3.4 billion in 1997 to $45.2 billion in 2017. While the rate of growth for organically produced agronomic product sales remains significantly higher than total agronomic product sales, this rate has slowed, indicating a maturation of the organic product market.

In 2016 North Carolina became one of the top 10 states in total organic sales at $145 million, up from $82.5 million in 2015 (USDA-NASS, 2017). This growth in North Carolina’s certified organic sales has been driven by a strong organic egg sector, which generated over $55 million in sales. In addition, sales of certified organic sweetpotatoes and tobacco combined exceeded $59 million and represented a total production area of 9,626 acres (USDA-NASS, 2017).

To be certified as organic, livestock must be fed organic grains as required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Plan Rules. This requirement leads to more opportunities for production of organic grains. In North Carolina, organic grain producers have expanding opportunities to market their products to manufacturers that create foods for human consumption as well as for livestock feed markets.

This guide provides farmers, Extension personnel, and other agricultural educators with information about organic production, certification, and marketing of commodity crops as well as references to further information (see the “Resources” section). More resources and information on organic commodity production in North Carolina can be found at the Organic Commodities portal. This guide does not cover all aspects of commodity crop production. Instead we focus on specific techniques relevant to organic systems. Comprehensive guides to commodity crop production can be found in the latest editions of these Extension publications:

The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) publishes a list of commercially available products that can be used in certified organic operations for pest control and fertility. However, some materials accepted by the 2000 National Organic Plan (NOP) are not listed in OMRI. Each farmer is responsible for determining if any input is allowed for use on his or her organic farm. Conditions for use of an approved pesticide must be documented in the organic system plan, as described by the NOP.

We have made every effort to accurately cite NOP regulations, production information, and marketing information. Always consult your certification agency when you have questions about certification requirements specific to your farm.


Extension Organic Production Systems Specialist and Assistant Professor
Crop & Soil Sciences
Associate Professor and Extension Organic Cropping Specialist
Crop & Soil Sciences
Extension Assistant
Crop & Soil Sciences

Find more information at the following NC State Extension websites:

Publication date: June 24, 2019

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