Survey Season for Organic Farmers

January 21, 2015 - Important questionnaires will be landing in rural mailboxes and inboxes in the coming weeks, aimed at helping the organic community take stock of the past year, and strategize for the future. Surveys distributed by Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) and the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) are designed to capture very different types of data, from every organic farmer in the U.S.

OFRF’s electronic survey will ask organic farmers and ranchers to help set priorities for its 2015 National Organic Research Agenda (NORA), an update of the foundation’s groundbreaking report first issued in 2007. The NORA survey will be supplemented by presentations and listening sessions at four regional farming conferences this spring. 

Organic and transitional farmers and ranchers will also be asked to fill out NASS’s much-anticipated 2014 Organic Survey with information from last year’s growing season. The inaugural Organic Survey was taken six years ago, and follow-up data captured by this year’s questionnaire will provide vital information on industry growth, trends and opportunities.

National Organic Research Agenda

Organic farming and organic farming research have expanded dramatically since 2007, when the first NORA report defined which areas of scientific research were most critical to the success of organic farmers, and to the budding organic industry. This year’s survey will ask farmers and ranchers what types of research they wish to see conducted in the coming years, and how those efforts should be prioritized.

The survey will be delivered electronically to every known organic producer in the U.S., and paper survey forms will be provided upon request. OFRF staff will also make presentations and conduct listening sessions at four regional farming conferences this spring, including the Virginia Association of Biological Farmers, Jan. 29 – 31 in Richmond; Organicology, Feb. 6 – 7 in Portland, OR; Organic Agriculture Research Symposium (OARS), Feb. 25-26 in LaCross, WI; and the Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES), Feb. 26-28, also in LaCrosse, WI. 

OFRF expects to release the completed report in late 2015.

Organic Survey

The NASS 2014 Organic Survey was mailed in early January to every known organic producer in the U.S., whether certified, exempt (grossing less than $5,000 annually from organic sales), or transitioning to organic production. The questions in the survey will be substantially the same as those asked in 2008, and responses will be kept confidential.

Types of questions in the survey will include: amount of land transitioning into organic, methods used to control pests and weeds, and practices used to maintain soil fertility, conserve water and manage livestock. Producers will be asked to include price and value data, and to share production challenges related to organic practices.

The NASS Organic Survey was funded by Congress under the 2014 Farm Appropriations Bill, and is intended to help determine the economic impact of organic production at the national and state levels. The data will also help the U.S. Department of Agriculture establish and evaluate crop insurance programs for organic producers, calculate disaster payments, direct marketing efforts, and evaluate research proposals.  

Recipients of the survey are legally required to respond, with paper surveys due by Feb. 13, and online responses due by April 3, 2015. Online respondents will need to log in using the ID number listed on the mailing label of the survey document. 

Written by Maria Gaura