By JEFF BURBRINK
Extension Educator, Purdue Extension Elkhart County
Without much fanfare, the USDA Census of Agriculture will be surveying two important groups of agricultural producers in the next few weeks, horticulture and organic growers. Some local growers may have already received surveys in the mail. More than likely, many may not receive a survey.
The Census of Horticultural Specialties will collect information to give us a picture of the horticultural sector of the U.S. economy. It is the only source of detailed production and sales data for floriculture, nursery and specialty crops. For the 2014 census, an operation is defined as any place that grew and sold $10,000 or more of horticultural specialty products during the census year. The response is due back to the census by Thursday, Feb. 5.
This horticultural survey covers growers of cut and potted flowers, Christmas trees, sod, nursery stock, foliage plants, bedding plants, seeds or plants grown for vegetable production, and vegetables grown indoors for protection.
Likewise, the 2014 Organic growers survey is a complete inventory of all known organic producers that are certified, exempt from certification in the Unites States, or those grossing less than $5,000 annually from organic sales, and those producers transitioning to organic production. This study serves as a census of all organic operations, as directed under the FY2014 Farm Appropriations Bill.
Data published from the 2014 Organic Survey will help provide the industry with a reliable source of timely information to use in justifying research projects and fund requests to benefit producers.
I have a feeling that many of our local growers horticulture and organic growers are falling under the radar for this survey. This is not good, because the information generated by these surveys is often used to develop decision makers in large companies or in the government to set priorities. The number of horticulture and organic growers seems to be increasing in our community, so if we are misrepresented, it does not help our growers collectively.
If you would like to provide input into either survey, you can visit www.agcensus.usda.gov. The actual surveys can be competed online.
There are also toll free numbers to call for more information. For the Organic Survey, the number is (888) 424-7828 and for the Horticultural Survey, you can call (800) 727-9540.