The 20,000 growers who identified themselves as having some organic or transitional acreage have until June 17 to respond to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's first-ever Organic Production Survey.


The Greenfield, Mass.-based Organic Trade Association said the survey is the result of years of lobbying from many sources, said Barbara Haumann, press secretary.


"This is one of the surveys that OTA was definitely advocating for," she said.


Data collection such as this, Haumann said, will help shape future farm bills and allocations and was a vital part of the OTA's mission for the 2008 farm bill.


Organic grower-shippers are happy to see this survey come to fruition, said Samantha Cabaluna, director of communications for San Juan Bautista, Calif.-based Natural Selection Foods, which markets the Earthbound Farm brand.


"Obviously we're pleased to see the increased attention that the USDA is giving to organic production," Cabaluna said.


Maureen Royal, sales director at CF Fresh, Sedro-Woolley, Wash., said she thinks the survey will provide a lot of good information to for a wide variety of uses.


"It's about time. It is overdue, but it's good to see it being done now," she said. "I believe it will help bring more attention to organic agriculture and keep many more well informed about what is actually going on in organic agriculture."


The survey covers the 2008 calendar year and seeks information on current organic and transitional producers, such as production, marketing, income and expenses. Responses are confidential.


The USDA said it intends to use the results to determine future decisions for farm policy, funding allocations, availability of goods and services and community development, among other issues.


Growers who did not identify themselves as organic or transitional producers on the 2007 Census of Agriculture will not be able to participate in this survey, said Krissy Young, public affairs specialist for the USDA.


Young said growers can goto www.agcensus.usda.gov and sign up to be included on future surveys.


Interest in organics among consumers, farmers and businesses prompted the survey, according to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.


"This is an opportunity for organic producers to share their voices and help ensure the continued growth of organic farming in the United States," Vilsack said in a news release.