The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, has released the results of the 2008 Organic Production Survey.
The survey, which is a follow-up to the Census of Agriculture, is USDA’s first-ever, wide-scale survey of organic producers in the United States.
The survey counted 180 Virginia farms and ranches that were either USDA certified organic or were exempt from certification because their sales totaled less than $5,000. These operations consisted of 12,308 acres of land, of which 7,144 acres were cropland and 5,164 acres were pasture or rangeland.
Virginia producers reported organic sales of $19.2 million, or about one percent of all U.S. organic sales. Nationwide, 2008 organic sales totaled $3.16 billion, including $1.94 billion in crops sales and $1.22 billion in sales of livestock, poultry and their products.
Virginia’s certified and exempt organic farms had average sales and production expenses that were higher than those of Virginia farms overall. Organic operations had an average of $106,617 in sales, compared with $61,334 for all farms as reported in the 2007 Census of Agriculture. Production expenditures averaged $100,291 per organic farm, compared with the statewide average of $57,226 for all farms.
Most Virginia organic producers sold their products regionally, with about 50 percent of sales taking place more than 100 miles, but less than 500 miles from the farm. More than 69 percent of organic sales were to wholesale channels, including distributor, wholesaler, broker or re-packer.
Survey respondents indicated that they face various challenges. Virginia producers cited regulatory, production and management issues as areas of their greatest concern. Despite these challenges, more than 77 percent indicated that they plan to maintain or increase their organic production over the next five years.