As 2019 comes to an end, we look back on all the ways farmers, consumers, scientists, and organizations have grown the organic movement in the past year.
2019 was a record year for the organic agriculture industry. This year, organic commodity farmers in the United States harvested a record number of acres (3.1 million—a 7% increase from 2018), driven in large part by a surge in new certified organic crop operations.
Across the world, organic food, farming, and products have taken center stage. For the first time in American history, regenerative organic agriculture has become a part of Presidential platforms, bringing the issue to a forefront like never before (including as part of a Q&A with Senator Bernie Sanders).
Here are some other updates from the organic industry in 2019:
- Rodale Institute opened three new Regional Resource Centers in agricultural heartlands like Iowa, Georgia, and California. This expansion puts boots on the ground to provide organic research, training, and education to a new audience of farmers interested in adopting organic practices.
- 2019 marked the first year that industrial hemp was fully legalized as an agricultural commodity after the 2018 Farm Bill—paving the way for organic farmers across the country to begin integrating hemp into their crop rotations or as cash crops. In November, the USDA announced that industrial hemp can be officially certified as organic.
- Numerous groundbreaking studies were released about chemicals in our food, environment, and bodies, including dramatic findings such as:
- Families that ate an organic diet for only one week saw a dramatic drop in their pesticide levels.
- Eating an organic diet can reduce the risk of cancer by up to 25%.
- The overuse of agricultural fungicides may be leading to a rise of new drug-resistant fungal infections in humans.
- Glyphosate, the active ingredient in the weed killer Roundup, was found in 89% of major restaurant chain food samples, including from establishments like Panera Bread, Dunkin’ Donuts, and McDonalds.
- Conventional milk was found to contain traces of antibiotics, growth hormones, and pesticides that were not found in organic milk.
- U.S. agriculture is 48 times more toxic to insect life than it was 25 years ago, largely due to the rise of neonicotinoids.
- The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that agriculture and forestry now account for nearly 25% of greenhouse gas emissions, underscoring the need for agriculture to consider regenerative methods for carbon sequestration potential.
- The Regenerative Organic Certification has completed its pilot program, testing the new standard that goes above and beyond organic in 9 countries. Pilot program participants include brands like Nature’s Path and Patagonia, as well as Apricot Lane Farms, the subject of the breakout documentary The Biggest Little Farm.
- Researchers from Penn State have made the connection between soil health and human health even more explicit by observing a compound called ergothioneine in mushrooms that may help combat neurodegenerative disorders.
- Rodale Institute Approved products began to hit store shelves, placing a seal of approval on products that were grown and sourced with methods that go above and beyond the organic standards, making strides in consumer education and informed choice.
- In Rodale Institute’s home state of Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf signed the first ever state-level Farm Bill, identifying the growth of organic agriculture a major priority and collaborating with Rodale Institute to offer a year of consulting services to Pennsylvania farmers for free.
- We launched The Truth About Organic, a new guide that confronts some of the most common myths and questions about organic farming in a direct, easy to understand resource.
If you’ve supported Rodale Institute this year, with your dollars, your time, or your voice, thank you for taking an active step in growing the organic movement. The advances we’ve seen this year are due to supporters like you.
We’re looking forward to making the 2020’s the decade of organic!
We can’t grow the organic movement without the support of the organic community. Help fuel even more growth in 2020 by donating to Rodale Institute here.