Helping expand the market for organic products grown in Texas. AgriLife Today

Experts from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service work to expand international export markets for Texas-grown organic fruits and vegetables by partnering with growers and industry.

Texas A&M AgriLife will lead research on a new project to evaluate export opportunities for organic fruits and vegetables grown in Texas. (Photo)

Luis Ribera, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension Economist at Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences Department of Agricultural Economicswill lead research on the Export Market Analysis of Selected Texas Organic Fruits and Vegetables project, which will be overseen by the Texas International Growers Association, TIPA.

Other Texas A&M AgriLife staff involved in the project include Bob Whitney, state organic program specialist, AgriLife Extension, Stephenville, and Landyn Young, program coordinator Center for North American StudiesCNAS, part of the Department of Agricultural Economics, Bryan-College Station.

The project is funded by a grant from the Texas Department of Agriculture’s ACES Agricultural Commodity Export Support Program. ACES is a pilot program for Texas agricultural trade organizations, cooperatives and producer organizations that want to export to expand the presence of Texas agricultural products in the international market.

“In the past, organic has been overlooked as a marketing opportunity for Texas growers,” Ribera said. – This new project will provide a great opportunity to get more information about Texas organic production and how we can expand the export market for Texas products. organic fruits and vegetables.’

About the project

The number of acres in Texas devoted to organic production — including cropland, rangeland and rangeland — increased by about 97% from 2014 to 2019, while the number of U.S. certified organic acreage increased by about 51% over the same time period.

The goal of the project will be to analyze current and potential export markets for selected Texas organic products. In collaboration with CNAS, Young and Ribera are gathering data from a variety of government, community and private sources to analyze which Texas organic products will do best in the global market.

Organically grown row crops in South Texas.
Organically grown crops in South Texas. (Photo by Texas A&M AgriLife)

“We’ll start by identifying the top five Texas organic fruits and vegetables with the greatest potential for export markets,” said Ribera, who is also director of CNAS. “Once the commodities have been selected, the market analysis will begin with a review of international trade for each particular commodity, and then identify three or four leading markets, as well as the main competitors in those markets. We will analyze export trends for leading import markets, looking for opportunities to gain access or increase market share for selected Texas organic products.”

He said another aspect of the project would be to identify and analyze common border measures and trade barriers, such as sanitary and phytosanitary requirements. The project will also examine import tariffs and technical barriers to trade to assess the competitiveness of selected Texas organic products.

“If Texas does not participate in leading import markets, the reasons for the lack of participation in those markets will be identified and we will make recommendations on how to overcome trade barriers,” Ribera said.

In addition to helping producers learn what they can do to increase market share, another goal of the project is to help Texas industry get the most out of existing resources, he said.

Whitney’s role in the project will be to consult with growers and industry representatives about their needs and opportunities and help address the pros and cons of exporting Texas-grown organic produce. He will also bring his extensive knowledge of organic production to help determine which products are best suited for export.

“While most of the organic production in Texas is in the Rio Grande Valley, there is also production in Central Texas and elsewhere,” Whitney said. “There is growing interest among the state’s organic producers in identifying agricultural products for export.”

He noted that some of the other organic producers he has worked with in the past or will work on the project include Little Bear Produce and Terra Preta Farm in Edinburgh; Gearhart Farms in McAllan: Tropical Star Enterprises in Alamo; Resaca Grove Farm in Brownsville; Mid Valley Agriculture in La Feria; Triple J Organics and South Texas Organics on a mission; Rio Fresh in San Juan; and Greater Good Farms LLC in Weslaco. On the industry side, Whitney will also work with TPIA, Texas Citrus Mutual and other industry groups to help identify opportunities and challenges for growers and industry related to organic exports.

Manufacturer and industry support

Whitney noted the contributions of organic growers such as Jed Murray, owner of Tenaza Organics in Olmita, and industry leaders such as Dante Galeazzi, president and CEO of TIPA, in securing the ACES grant.

“Jed is an avid organic grower,” Whitney said. “He also serves on the TDA Organic Advisory Board and has been an exemplary employee with AgriLife Extension. “He gave some great ideas about what Texas organic products can be exported.”

American Vegetable Growers recently presented Murray with the Grower Achievement Award for his work promoting organic produce and educating consumers about its health benefits.

“Dante works diligently to promote the expansion of the Texas industry and provides valuable insights into marketing potential,” Whitney said. “And TIPA represents the business, economic and political interests of those who supply Texas-grown fruits and vegetables, including organically grown produce.”

Organic Crop Production in Texas

The sign that indicates an organic farm is No Chemical Spraying Organic Farm
The number of Texas acres devoted to organic production nearly doubled from 2014 to 2019. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Kay Ledbetter)

Organic Vegetable Sales in Texas Changed Dramatically Between 2014 and 2019 US Department of Agriculture surveys. Squashes and potatoes, two of the top five organic crops in 2014, dropped from the 2019 list, while outdoor tomatoes dropped from first to fourth. Spinach and watermelon were the top-selling organic vegetables in 2019, followed by lettuce, field tomatoes and broccoli.

As of 2019, the top organic field crops in Texas were peanuts, corn, cotton, rice, and wheat, which together accounted for 88.8% of organic field crops sold in the state.

Organic crop production provides a statewide total economic output of $241.7 million annually, including a contribution to the gross regional product of $129.8 million and labor income of $99 million, including full and part-time employment .

-30- Helping expand the market for organic products grown in Texas. AgriLife Today

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