State urges farmers to participate in first major organic farming survey

April 21, 2009

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) encourages all organic farmers in the state to participate in the first wide-scale survey of organic producers and producers transitioning from traditional to organic production methods.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service, an office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will conduct the survey in May, June and July . The survey will look at all aspects of organic agriculture during the 2008 calendar year – from production and marketing practices to income and expenses. The 2007 Census of Agriculture counted more than 20,000 U.S. farms engaged in organic production, more than 300 of them in Virginia.

“The Organic Production Survey comes in direct response to the growing interest in organics among consumers, farmers, businesses and others,” said Herman Ellison, director of the NASS Virginia Field Office. “This is an opportunity for organic producers to share their voices and help ensure the continued growth and sustainability of organic farming in the United States.” He added that survey results will help shape future decisions regarding farm policy and funding allocations, such as the way that organic cost share funds will be allocated among the states.

Todd Haymore, VDACS Commissioner, noted that a big part of the strength of Virginia agriculture is its diversity, including organic production. “According to the 2007 Ag census, Virginia had nearly 315 organic farms, comprising 13,500 acres. Sales from those farms were more than $14 million in that year. If our farmers are going to keep agriculture as the state’s No. 1 industry, they need to adapt constantly to market demands. Organic food, milk, plants, seeds and tobacco are currently in demand by many segments of the buying public, and our organic farmers help keep the industry strong.”

The organic production survey will help agriculture officials at state, federal and local levels to learn more about how the growth of organic production is changing the face of U.S. agriculture. NASS will mail the Organic Production Survey in early May to all known organic producers in the United States. Producers are required to respond by June 17. NASS expects to publish the results in the winter.

“Participants may mail back their forms, but we encourage them to complete the survey online at www.agcensus.usda.gov,” said Ellison. “It’s convenient, it’s secure, and it saves the government money on return postage and data entry.” He added that survey participants are guaranteed by law that their individual information will be kept confidential. NASS uses the information only for statistical purposes and publishes data only in tabulated totals.

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