Oregon Feeding Europe’s Hungry Masses

In February, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a new report suggesting that American farmers should increase their “organic” crop output, as pretentious diners from the European Union’s 28 member countries have created an increased demand for healthier foods. Hong Kong and numerous other Asian nations are also on the lookout for more organic options, according to the report.

This is good news for Oregon’s agricultural sector, as our state produces nearly all of the United States’ organic hazelnuts. Other high volume Oregonian crops are finding increased demand, as well.

Organic Production Increasing Worldwide

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Oregon farmers won’t be able to just waltz across the finish line in this one. Other prominent growers of popular organic produce are increasing the acreage dedicated to these crops. Turkey, the world’s leading hazelnut producer, is stepping up their filbert game, while most European countries are creating new or converting existing farm acres to focus on organic fruit, vegetable, nut, and meat production.

Nuts, hazel.

Nuts (hazel).

Two years ago, the European Union reported more than 24 million acres of “organic” farmland, primarily in France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. This is a 100 percent increase from a decade earlier. Most of Europe’s dedicated organic acreage is used to grow cereals, grapes, nuts, and olives.

Still Plenty of Room for US Exports

Despite the massive growth in organic farmland, there is still a high demand in Europe for US-grown crops. Last year, the European Union imported $4.7 million worth of American organic grapes. High demand also persists from US-grown organic blueberries, carrots, cauliflower, peppers, strawberries, and other produce.

The USDA report suggests that America’s organic farmers take advantage of Europe’s growing eating trends, such as an ever-increasing love of sweet potatoes. Other potential areas of growth play directly into Oregon’s agricultural specialties: apples, pears, cherries, tree nuts, and baking grains.

Just what makes “organic” organic was not discussed in the report. It is widely assumed that, just like at the grocery store, “organic” simply refers to fruit, veggies, nuts, etc., with more dirt on them.

Photo credit: Lamees (L.Y.S) / Foter / CC BY