WASHINGTON — While the total number of US acres dedicated to organic production has declined year-over-year, there was a slight increase in acres planted to organic field crops in 2022, including sharply higher soybean acreage, according to a recent report from Mercaris, a market data service and online trading platform for organic and non-GMO certified agricultural commodities.

Mercaris data compiled by its proprietary Acreage Analyzer tool released Sept. 21 showed USDA-certified organic land use was expected to drop to approximately 8.7 million acres across nearly 20,000 farms in 2022, down 4.4% from 9.1 million acres utilized for organic production in the United States in 2021. Mercaris said the reduction was a result of a decline in certified organic pasture and rangeland, noting land dedicated to organic field crops was growing.

“Land utilized for organic field crop production is expected to increase 3% from 2021 totaling nearly 3.8 million harvested acres through 2022,” said Ryan Koory, vice president of Economics at Mercaris.

Not all organic crops showed an increase in acres for 2022. Certified organic wheat acres were expected to decline by 1% while a reduction of 2% was expected for certified organic corn acres, according to Mercaris.

“The decline we expect in organic wheat and corn harvested acres is attributed to a combination of challenging growing conditions and elevated organic soybean prices,” Mr. Koory said. “However, harvested acres of organic oilseeds are expected to increase by 16% year-over-year with organic soybean harvested acres alone expected to increase by an impressive 18% year-over-year.”

The Mercaris data follows a late August announcement by the US Department of Agriculture thatit will invest $300 million in the Organic Transition Initiative, a program that will offer producers assistance as they transition their operations to achieve USDA organic certification. Since 2008, there has been a 71% decrease in the number of farms actively transitioning to organic production, according to the USDA. Part of the decrease may be the result of the organic certification process, a three-year period where farmers must avoid using specific prohibited inputs.