PANNA: U.S. Organic Farmer Survey


Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)

U.S. Organic Farmer Survey

February 15, 1999

Consumer support for organic products continues to rise, according to a survey of U.S. organic farmers. Over 77% of the 1,200 farmers surveyed stated that they plan to increase their organic acreage and the number of crops they grow organically. This is the third survey conducted by the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) in the past six years.

At least 45% of the farmers responding said that they use the naturally-occurring bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) for pest management. Organic growers are greatly concerned that due to a dramatic increase in crops genetically engineered to contain Bt within their cells, pests will soon become resistant to it even when it is applied externally as an organic pest control tool. Respondents also indicated a lack of faith in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) ability to publish a strong organic rule and added that the Department fails to provide them with useful information. OFRF cites this as an indication that the USDA is woefully out of touch with a new generation of environmentally sound, consumer friendly farmers.

Highlights of the OFRF survey include:

** Organic farmers are family farmers -- 87% of the respondents are single family operations or family partnerships.

** 62% farm full time.

** Average farm size is 140 acres.

** 56% of the respondents have college degrees.

** Farmers' average age is 47 years and 25% are under 40.

** 14% grossed over US$100,000 in organic product sales.

Commodities produced:

** 57% are organic vegetable, flower and ornamental crop producers.

** 40% are organic fruit, nut and tree crop producers.

** 52% produce organic field crops.

** 27% produce livestock or livestock products organically.

OFRF has conducted the biennial surveys to help serve organic farmers' research and information needs. Founded by certified organic farmers in 1990, OFRF's primary mission is to fund research and education projects that benefit organic farmers, and to cultivate a broader network of support for organic farming systems research. OFRF's 1997 report, "Searching for the 'O-Word" revealed that USDA and land grant institutions responsible for agricultural research have largely ignored organic systems research and information development. According to the report, out of 30,000 agricultural research projects analyzed by OFRF on USDA's Current Research Information System, only 34 projects were rated as having a strong organic focus.

As part of the survey, respondents were asked to list their research priorities. Overall, farmers ranked weed management as their major concern. Second and third priorities were "relationship between fertility management and crop health, pest and disease resistance" and "relationship of organic growing practices to nutritional value of product." Soil biology, crop rotations and cover cropping were also high on the list.

Copies of the Third Biennial National Organic Farmers' Survey results are available from OFRF. A US$10 donation is requested. The Executive Summary is available on the OFRF web site: http://www.ofrf.org.

Source/contact: OFRF, P.O. Box 440, Santa Cruz, CA 95061; phone (831) 426-6606; fax (831) 426-6670; email research@ofrf.org.

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