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MDA survey: Organic farmers are optimistic

ST. PAUL -- Many of the state's farmers find organic farming to be profitable and satisfying, and they are optimistic about the future of their operations.

A new Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) survey asked certified organic Minnesota growers about their experiences with and opinions about organic. Most reported multiple motivations for using organic practices, including price premiums (86 percent); environment and conservation (80 percent); health and safety (79 percent); and personal satisfaction, or "I enjoy farming this way" (81 percent).

"These insights help us better understand what we can do to help the organic agriculture sector continue to thrive here in Minnesota," said MDA Organic and Diversification Specialist Meg Moynihan

About 9 in 10 farmers who returned the survey said they think organic is equally or more profitable than farming non-organically, even as half said they thought production costs were as high, or higher, than conventional farm practices.

Slightly over 40 percent said their gross annual income from farming was $100,000 or greater.

Organic farmers also reported a number of challenges and frustrations. Weed control retained its spot as farmers' top problem. Other major concerns included competition from imported organic products, insect pest management, pollen drift from genetically modified crops, and public confusion about what the term "organic" means.

"From my perspective, the best news in the survey is that more than half of the respondents said they thought they or a family member would be involved in farming in 20 years," said Moynihan.

"By and large, these farmers feel good about what they do and plan to encourage their kids to go into the business."

Minnesota currently has about 560 certified organic farms, according to MDA estimates, and is one of the nation's leaders in organic farms and acres.

Survey results are summarized in a nine-page report, Overview: Experiences and Outlook of Minnesota Organic Farmers 2007, available by calling 651-201-6012, or online at the MDA Web site