NASS to survey organic producers across U.S.

From left, Margaret Jensen and Stephanie Mills sell organic produce to a customer at a farmers' market in Redding, Calif., in 2013. The National Agricultural Statistics Service is sending out surveys to organic producers as a follow-up to the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

SACRAMENTO — The U.S. Department of Agriculture is conducting a survey of organic farmers and ranchers nationwide to learn more about the production method whose popularity has exploded among consumers.

The mandatory survey is a follow-up to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, which found that total organic product sales by American farms and ranches increased by 83 percent since 2007.

The questionnaire will examine various aspects of organic farming, including production and marketing practices, income and expenses, according to a news release.

“Organic farms are really a fast-growing segment of the agriculture industry,” said Vic Tolomeo, director of the National Agricultural Statistics Service’s Pacific Region office here. “This is just going to provide information on that industry, not only on how we can address their needs but how it’s changing (agriculture) itself.”

The survey comes as NASS is also conducting an economic survey called Tenure, Ownership and Transition of Agricultural Land (TOTAL), which asks agricultural landowners about farm costs, improvements made to farmland and buildings, demographics and other characteristics.

While the TOTAL surveys went to selected landowners, the organic survey was sent to every known organic producer in the U.S. as of the 2012 census, Tolomeo said. That’s more than 16,000 farms nationwide, about 3,000 of which are in California, according to census data.

Industry statistics show consumer demand for organically produced goods continues to show double-digit growth, with organic products now available in nearly 20,000 natural food stores and nearly 3-of-4 conventional grocery stores, the USDA’s Economic Research Service stated in a recent report.

U.S. sales of organic products were an estimated $28.4 billion in 2012 — over 4 percent of total food sales — and were expected to reach $35 billion in 2014, according to data the ERS attributed to the Nutrition Business Journal.

NASS will mail the organic surveys out in January and they’re due back Feb. 13. To fill it out online, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov.

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