Survey gauges N.Y. farmers’ feelings on converting to organic farming

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ALBANY, N.Y. — New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker announced the results of a survey that asked conventional farmers about their level of interest in transitioning to organic agriculture.

The survey, conducted in conjunction with the New York Field Office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service, found that 40 percent of conventional farmers who responded to the survey have some level of interest in becoming involved in organic production.

The survey, the first of its kind in New York, found 6 percent of those surveyed have a high level of interest in organic production, while 15 percent have a moderate interest and 19 percent a slight interest.

Sixty percent of respondents indicated that they have no interest in transitioning to organic farming. A copy of the entire survey report can be found at www.agmkt.state.ny.us/AP/organic/.

Hindrance

The survey also found the number one barrier amongst those interested and not interested in organic production to be disease- related production losses.

Conventional farmers with an interest in organic production also indicated the need for a variety of information and services that would be useful in the transition.

They include: directories of organic product buyers, organic-specific written production guidance, local/regional organic market development, organic consulting services and university research on organic challenges.

The top service indicated by organic and transitioning farmers was clearly ongoing university research on organic challenges.

Resources

To assist organic producers and those interested in transitioning, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, in cooperation with the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program, has recently developed 13 organic production guides, which address some of the barriers by providing some of the information and services identified in the survey.

The guides, available for free at http://nysipm.cornell.edu/organic_guide/, provide information for farmers on how to produce a number of certified organic fruits and vegetables.

They also list pests and diseases along with research-based methods of control and their effectiveness, highlighting production issues that remain a challenge to New York growers.

In the last seven months, more than 24,000 copies of the guides have been downloaded; the apple guide receiving the largest number of downloads with 4,000.

Organic growth

New York State ranks among the top ten states in the country for the number of organic farms. In 2008, the U.S. census identified 827 certified organic farms in New York State with nearly 168,400 total acres in production.

The 2008 census also found that 77 farms were transitioning another 2,806 acres to organic production.

In 2009, the Organic Trade Association reported organic sales of fruits and vegetables rose to more than 11 percent of all fruit and vegetable sales nationwide.

While the rate of organic food sales has slowed significantly from 2008 to 2009, organic food sales still grew by 5.1 percent in 2009, while total U.S. food sales grew by only 1.6 percent.

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