Organic Agriculture Across Texas
Current estimates show that Texas has taken 3rd place in the U.S. for organic agriculture acres and value. Over 300,000 organic acres produce agricultural commodities on 386 organic farms across the state.
The economic impact of organic grains, cotton, oilseeds, vegetables, fruits and other organic crops is about $241.7 million annually. Meanwhile, Texas organic livestock and poultry sales are estimated at $75.3 million annually, and organically produced livestock products like milk and eggs contribute an additional $621.9 million in total output. These organic sales contributed to $938.9 million in total output, $377.4 million in value added, $247.6 million in labor income, and about 8,320 full- and part-time jobs across the Texas economy.
Texas organic production has continued to increase, and the number of organic producers has more than doubled since 2016.
Organic agriculture continues to grow!
A total of 386 organic producer entities represents farms with over 300,000 acres in 80 out of 254 Texas counties. The major organic commodities produced in Texas are peanuts, cotton, rice, vegetables, citrus, wheat, milo, corn and dairy. Producers are geographically scattered across the state, but the region spanning Seminole in the South Plains up to Dalhart in the Panhandle encompasses a large concentration of organic producers.
More than 428 organic buyers in Texas located in 91 different counties, known as “handlers,” purchase raw organic commodities and add value to wholesome consumer goods sold all over the world.
Organic is big business in Texas!
Organic Agriculture and AgriLife Extension
Organic agriculture is big business in Texas and a big part of the scope of Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Bob Whitney is AgriLife Extension’s first-ever state organic program specialist, enlisted to work across Texas with organic producers and buyers.
Located at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Stephenville, Whitney has worn many agricultural “hats” across AgriLife Extension and AgriLife Research over a nearly three decades. He has worked in a variety of settings that have included long-term international assignments abroad. He contributes a lifetime of experience with commercial agriculture in Texas and throughout many countries of the world where has worked to develop agricultural systems, largely in subsistence agriculture.
As AgriLife organic program specialist, Whitney guides individuals and entities seeking organic certification. His teachings include technical assistance on organic agriculture production for clientele, and he serves as a liaison connecting organic operators to other AgriLife Extension and AgriLife Research scientists.
Organic Agriculture and AgriLife Research
The Stephenville Center is one of four AgriLife centers that are USDA organic certified. The others are at Lubbock, Vernon and Uvalde. The Texas A&M AgriLife Center at Vernon also houses a 99-acre research farm that is in transition to becoming certified organic.
These organic certified research facilities breed new organic varieties of peanuts, cotton, milo, vegetables, corn, wheat, forage crops and specialty crops like cowpeas, guar, and hemp.
Waltram Ravelombola, Ph.D., AgriLife Research organic specialty crop breeder, is now located at the Vernon center, where he conducts numerous organic projects in process and grant applications for many more.
In addition to Ravelombola, research faculty working to build the state’s organic agriculture sector across Texas A&M AgriLife include:
John Cason, Ph.D., assistant professor
Emi Kimura, Ph.D., assistant professor and extension agronomist
Fugen Dou, Ph.D., associate professor
Jourdan Bell, Ph.D., assistant professor and extension agronomist
Katie Lewis, Ph.D., associate professor
Luis Ribera, Ph.D., associate professor and extension economist
Francisco “Pancho” Abello, Ph.D., assistant professor and extension specialist
Peter Dotray, Ph.D., professor and extension specialist
Reagan Noland, Ph.D., assistant professor and extension agronomist
Ronnie W. Schnell, Ph.D., associate professor and extension specialist
Russell Wallace, Ph.D., professor and extension vegetable specialist
Xin-Gen “Shane” Zhou, Ph.D., associate professor