Farmer survey gives insite into the U.S. organic market

SANTA CRUZ, California, July 22, 2004: The Organic Farming Research Foundation released the complete results of the Fourth National Organic Farmers' Survey: Sustaining Organic Farms in a Changing Organic Marketplace.

"The survey results show that there are many benefits for farmers in the organic marketplace, but also highlights areas of need," said OFRF Executive Director Bob Scowcroft. "Organic price premiums are key to organic farmers' economic success, and a primary goal of our industry should be to help farmers expand markets for organic product and obtain premiums that maintain economic success and stability."

OFRF's fourth national survey results comprise the most detailed set of data currently available about organic farming operations in the U.S. The survey gathered information on a wide variety of topics related to organic markets and marketing in 2002. The survey also focused on significant issues that effect organic markets, such as organic farmers’ perceived risk of contamination of certified organic crops by genetically modified organisms, and information and services most needed by organic farmers to help with marketing their farm products. As with past surveys, OFRF also collected key demographic and production information.

Key marketing results include:

  • Organic markets: Organic farmers reported steady and expanding markets. 33% of respondents noted that their markets had held steady. 44% reported market expansion.
  • Organic prices: 26% of survey respondents indicated an increase in prices received for their organic products. 52% reported that prices held steady, while 15% noted a decrease in the price received for their organic products.
  • Organic price premiums: 92% of respondents obtained organic price premiums on some portion of their organic products; 41% obtained organic price premiums on all their products. 30% obtained organic premiums on at least half the volume of their organic product.

In April 2002, OFRF mailed a 22-page survey to certified organic farmers throughout the U.S., with 1,034 farmers responding, an 18% response rate. The survey population was developed from producer certification lists voluntarily provided by organic certification agencies. The Fourth National Organic Farmers’ Survey: Sustaining Organic Farms in a Changing Organic Marketplace is OFRF’s first survey to focus specifically on organic farmers’ experiences in the organic market.

For More Information...
The survey results in booklet format are available to the public for a suggested donation of $10 to cover printing and postage. The complete results have also been posted on OFRF's website at

One ominous finding of the study was organic farmers’ observations regarding the adverse financial and operational impacts associated with contamination of organically certified crops by genetically modified organisms (GMOs). National standards for organic products as implemented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture exclude recombinant-DNA technologies from use in organic farming.

OFRF's survey included eight sections: Farm profile; Production and product detail; Marketing your organic products; Organic market conditions, 2001; Information and services; Marketing orders and organic; GMOs and organic; and More about you and your farm (demographics).

Erica Walz, OFRF Communications Program Manager, who coordinated the survey process stated, "We know of no other study like this in the nation. With over 1,000 fields of data, this survey should be of interest to policy makers, research scientists and consumers interested in receiving a high definition picture of organic agriculture in America."

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