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Wisconsin leads in organic farming

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows Wisconsin remains second in the U.S. for the number of organic farms, despite increasing competition from other states.

The number of organic farms in Wisconsin increased by 6 percent to almost 1,300 operations between 2015 and 2016, Wisconsin Public Radio reported .

"I think 6 percent growth is fairly good," said John Mesko, executive director of the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Services.

New York had a 13 percent increase in organic farms last year, bringing the state's total up to more than 1,000. It's the first time a state other than Wisconsin or California has reported having more than 1,000 organic farms.

"New York is coming on in large part because of the market and the capacity they have there to meet it," Mesko said.

The increase in farms will strengthen the industry, said Erin Silva, an organic production specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"The more organic farms that we have across the U.S. and the more organic expertise that is compiled and the more that we can tap into various markets, the stronger the entire organic community is," Silva said.

Growing consumer demand for organic products means there's room for more farms in the industry, Silva said.

"There is more room for growth in certain farming sectors than others. For instance in dairy, the supply in demand is a bit more matched at this point, with supply even exceeding demand in some cases," Silva said. "In other sectors, such as organic grain, we are seeing a lagging of supply particularly in domestic markets."

Mesko said more farms in Wisconsin, particularly commercial operations, will likely transition to organic to meet the growing demand for organic grain.

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