Today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the details of a $300 million investment to support organic and transitioning farmers, and to address targeted organic market challenges. The Organic Transition Initiative is consistent with many recommendations made to USDA by the National Organic Coalition (NOC) to increase support for organic agriculture to help build a more ecologically sound, resilient, and climate-friendly food and farm system.
“We applaud the Secretary for this public commitment to organic agriculture, and for recognizing that organic farming is critical to building a more resilient food system,” said Abby Youngblood, Executive Director at NOC. “The National Organic Coalition is thrilled to see USDA embracing ideas that have been promoted by our members, including farmer-to-farmer mentorship programs, new technical assistance resources, and changes in crop insurance programs, to help expand domestic organic production in a sensible manner.”
The USDA Organic Transition Initiative is a multi-agency collaboration between USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the Risk Management Agency (RMA). The plan includes:
- $100 million for a Transition to Organic Partnership Program, to be administered by the Agricultural Marketing Service, to build partnership networks in six regions around the United States. USDA will sign cooperative agreements with a local organization in each of the six regions to play a leadership role in building paid mentorship programs to connect existing organic farmers with farmers transitioning to organic, and a host of other financial and technical assistance actions to help farmers with the transition process. The lead organization in each region will work closely with USDA to partner with other organizations and individuals in the region to bring needed expertise and perspectives to build a regional team to implement the program.
- $100 million in direct farmer assistance, to be administered jointly by the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Risk Management Agency. $75 million of this will go to an NRCS effort to develop a new organic management conservation practice standard and offer financial and technical assistance to producers who implement the practice, with a focus on using existing nutrient management and pest management conservation practice standards in a more targeted way to relate to organic production. This NRCS funding will also be used to build organic expertise within USDA and to hire organic experts in each NRCS regional technology support center to train NRCS state and field staff to better service organic farmers. $25 million will be used by the Risk Management Agency to create a new Transitional and Organic Grower Assistance (TOGA) Program to provide crop insurance premium subsidies for current and transitioning organic farmers.
- $100 million for “pinpointed” organic market development support, to be administered by AMS, to address organic market challenges, such as:
- where there are shortages in domestic supply of an organic crops, such as organic grain and feed;
- where markets need to be developed to support resilient organic farming practices, such as building markets for some of the lesser-known crops grown as part of complex, soil-building organic crop rotations;
- or where processing capacity limitations have hindered the ability to meet market demand, such as for organic livestock, poultry, and dairy.
This part of the overall Organic Transition Initiative is the least developed of the three-pronged plan, and USDA is seeking more stakeholder input to ensure its effectiveness.
Today’s announcement from USDA fleshes out the details of a plan the Secretary first announced in summary on June 1st of this year.
This article was adapted from a press release from the National Organic Coalition.
The National Organic Coalition (NOC) is a national alliance of organizations working to provide a "Washington voice" for farmers, ranchers, conservationists, consumers and industry members involved in organic agriculture. NOC seeks to advance organic food and agriculture and ensure a united voice for organic integrity, which means strong, enforceable, and continuously improved standards to maximize the multiple health, environmental, and economic benefits that organic agriculture provides. The coalition works to assure that policies are fair, equitable, and encourage diversity of participation and access. NOC has been instrumental in training the next generation of leaders for the organic movement by pairing new leaders with veterans of the organic movement.
For more information, contact Abby Youngblood at firstname.lastname@example.org or (646) 525-7165.