Friday, February 06, 2009

Signs of Progress from the Census of Agriculture

HildeI know for many folks this week's release of the 2007 Census of Agriculture data came and went without a moment's notice. But for those of us who rely on these numbers to inform policy and support our campaigns, the Feb 4 announcement by the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) felt deserving of a national holiday, a party, or, in the very least, a blog post!

Updated every five years, the Census of Agriculture provides a snapshot of the ins and outs of farming in America. Comprehensive and county-specific facts and figures ranging from number and type of farming operation to organic food sales provide a valuable tool for farmers, farm advocates, policymakers, researchers and other stakeholders working toward a viable network of family-farmed agriculture in this country.

Some exciting results:

  • Organic farm sales more than tripled to $1.7 billion in 2007 from $393 million in 2002. A clear indication of growing consumer demand and great justification for organic and other sustainable production methods to get their fair share of government research dollars, which currently make up just 2% of total Agricultural Research Service funding.

  • Direct farm sales rose 49% to $1.2 billion in 2007 from $812 million in 2002. More proof that consumers are clamoring for family-farmed food they can trust and production practices that support their communities, their health and the health of the environment.

  • Fruit and vegetable sales are on the rise by 35% and 15% respectively. Great news for nutritionists and pubic health workers fighting growing epidemics of chronic disease, nutrition advocates and policymakers working to get locally grown fresh fruits and veggies into schools and government funded child nutrition programs, as well as family farmers looking to diversify their income stream by selling fresh produce.

So cheers to all the statisticians at NASS, cheers to our hard working family farmers, and cheers to keeping up this great momentum for the next round of number tallying in 2012!

For more information, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov.

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