This month, more than 22,000 organic producers are expected to receive in their mailboxes letters from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). NASS is conducting its 2019 survey of certified or transitioning to certified organic farmers, asking for production, marketing, and transitioning information pertaining to their organic operations. The Organic Survey, which is conducted every five years, is hugely important for organic producers and policymakers – so is important that those that receive the survey respond. The results of the Organic Survey are used by Congress, USDA and sustainable agriculture organizations to make important decisions about programs and policies affecting organic producers.
All respondents will receive survey codes in the mail and will be asked to respond online with their unique code, via the NASS website. The deadline to fill out the survey is January 10, 2020.
Filling out the survey online is a great way to not only save paper, but valuable time. The online option will be able to calculate totals and automatically skip questions not applicable to the operation filling out the survey.
Leveraging data to improve organic agriculture
The 2019 Organic Survey comes on the heels of the 2017 Census of Agriculture, which was released earlier this year. The 2017 Census of Agriculture found significant growth in the organic sector, including a 39 percent increase in certified organic operations and increased sales for organic products. The Organic Survey aims to unearth even more data on organic agriculture by taking a deeper dive into several components, including estimates of organic crop production, costs, and management practices. These surveys are valuable sources of data for Congress, USDA and sustainable agriculture organizations, and also ensure we have accurate reflections of the health of and emerging trends in organic agriculture. The survey will include questions on acres planted and harvested, livestock produced and sold, expenses, and sales. The last Organic Survey was released in 2014.
With the growing interest and demand for organic food and fiber products, it’s clear that the industry must scale up supply to meet demand. To do this, however, farmers and policymakers need to be able to identify the best tools, technologies, and policies to grow the industry and keep it competitive. The data collected by the survey also helps inform how USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) can work on developing more organic prices elections for federal crop insurance policies.
NSAC weighs in
Earlier this year, NASS began to solicit feedback on its proposal for the 2019 Organic Survey. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), in partnership with their member organizations at the Organic Farming Research Foundation and the National Organic Coalition, submitted recommendations on how to improve this year’s survey. Their recommendations urged NASS to address several issues important to organic producers, including the challenges of organic contamination, organic production expenses, access to crop insurance and the availability of certified organic seeds.
NSAC was pleased that NASS included several of their recommendations for the 2019 Organic Survey, including retaining the question regarding unintended GMO presence in organic crops, and including a similar question regarding unintended presence of chemical crop protection. They also urged NASS to expand crop insurance questions in the survey in order to identify whether organic policies are available for certain crops, and whether crop insurance adjusters and agents are familiar with organic production and insurance policies, among other recommendations.
Results are expected to be available in October 2020.
For more information:
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition