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Organic farm report shows fairly strong performance last year

ST. PAUL, Minn. - A new report issued by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) shows that 2011 was generally a good year for certified organic crop producers in the state, and somewhat challenging for organic dairy farms, although there was a high degree of variability across farm types and sizes.

The 2011 Minnesota Organic Farm Performance report summarizes financial data reported by 61 certified organic farmers, for both whole farm and for individual cropping and dairy enterprises. It also includes historical data for the four previous years.

For key financial measures, such as rate of return on assets, rate of return on equity, and liquidity, organic farms performed, on average, in the acceptable to strong range. Average and median net farm income were higher for crop farms in 2011 compared to 2010, but dairy profits declined, likely due in large part to feed and forage prices that climbed throughout the year.

MDA's organic program administrator, Meg Moynihan, says the report is primarily intended for organic producers and those who may be considering a transition to organic production.

"Farmers can really find it helpful to compare their farm's performance against a group of peers, to see where the farm is doing well, and where it may be falling short," said Moynihan. "Similarly, farmers thinking about going organic in the future can use the report to get an idea of what they might expect."

The MDA's systematic collection of organic farm data started in 2006 with funds provided by the USDA Risk Management Agency to reduce the cost of tuition for organic farms and is unique to Minnesota. All farms participate voluntarily and their privacy is strictly protected. The report can be viewed on the MDA website at

The farms in this report, along with several thousand other nonorganic operations, participate in farm business management education programs offered by Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. Their data is analyzed and published by the Center for Farm Financial Management at the University of Minnesota in a public database called FINBIN