USDA WILL INVEST $300 MILLION IN NEW ORGANIC TRANSITION INITIATIVE
23 Aug 2022
The new US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Organic Transition Initiative will feature a $300 million investment to help build new and better markets and income streams for farmers and growers.
Organic farming allows producers to occupy a unique position in the market and therefore take home a greater share of food income.
According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, the number of non-certified organic crops transitioning to organic production has dropped by nearly 71% since 2008. Through the comprehensive support offered by the new Organic Transition Initiative , USDA hopes to reverse this trend, opening up opportunities for new and beginning farmers, and expanding consumers’ direct access to organic foods through increased production.
In a statement, the USDA said the Organic Transition Initiative will offer comprehensive technical assistance, including farmer-to-farmer mentoring; it will provide direct support through financial assistance for conservation and additional assistance for crop insurance, and will support business development projects in specific markets.
“Farmers face difficult technical, cultural and market changes during the transition to organic production, and even during the first few years after organic certification,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Through this multi-phase, multi-agency Organic Transition Initiative, we are expanding USDA’s support for organic farmers to help them through every step of their transition as they work to become certified and secure markets for their products.”
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), Risk Management Agency (RMA), and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) are the primary agencies supporting the Organic Transition Initiative, which will focus on three areas, the federal agency said.
Partnership Program for the Transition to Organic Agriculture
Through this Organic Transition Initiative, USDA intends to ensure that farmers transitioning to organic farming have the support they need to make that transition, including a complete supply chain for American consumers who demand choices every day. organic in their supermarkets.
AMS will create collaborative networks in six regions of the United States with trusted local organizations that provide direct farmer training, education and outreach activities.
The organizations will match transitioning farmers with mentors, creating paid mentor networks to share ideas and practical advice. Each regional team will also provide community building, including mentor training support, as well as technical assistance, workshops and field days covering topics such as organic production practices, certification, conservation planning , business development (including supply chain navigation), regulations, and marketing to help transitioning and recently transitioning producers navigate technical, cultural, and financial changes during and immediately after certification. USDA will allocate up to $100 million to this program.
Direct assistance to farmers
NRCS will develop a new standard on organic management conservation practices and offer financial and technical assistance to growers who apply it. Payments will be based on those already available to growers who adhere to existing standards for pest and nutrient management conservation practices.
USDA will commit $75 million to this effort from the Organic Transition Initiative. This will include increased organic expertise in all of its regions, creating organic experts in each of its regional technology support centers. These experts will train personnel who provide direct services to USDA clients. These services include hands-on organic farming training for NRCS staff, both statewide and in the field, and answering staff questions related to organic farming.
USDA will provide $25 million to the RMA for the new Transitioning and Organic Grower Assistance (TOGA) Program, which will support certified organic and transitioning growers’ participation in crop insurance, including coverage of a portion of their sure Prime.
Support for the development of the organic market
Stakeholders have shared that specific organic markets have business development risks due to inadequate organic processing capacity and infrastructure, uncertainty about market access, and insufficient supply of certain organic ingredients. This MGA Organic Transition Initiative will focus on key organic markets where the need for domestic supply is high, or where additional processing and distribution capacity is needed to achieve stronger organic supply chains.
Some examples of markets seeking support are those for organic cereals and feed; legumes and other edible rotating crops; and cattle and dairy products. USDA will invest up to $100 million to help improve green supply chains in select markets. The agency will seek input from stakeholders on these flagged initiatives beginning in September, leading to an announcement of specific policy initiatives later this year.
Other aid to organic farming from USDA
This USDA Organic Transition Initiative complements existing assistance for agricultural producers, including FSA’s Organic Certification Cost Participation Program (OCCSP) and the Organic and Transition Education and Certification Program (OTECP). The OCCSP helps growers obtain or renew their organic certification, and the OTECP provides additional funding to certified and transitioning growers during the pandemic.
NRCS offers conservation programs, such as the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), which can provide assistance to help manage weeds and pests, and establish high tunnels , improve soil health, and implement other key practices for organic operations. The RMA also manages the federal crop insurance options available to organic growers, including Microfarm and Whole Farm Income Protection.
The National Organic Program (NOP) is a federal regulatory program, administered by the AMS, that develops and enforces consistent national standards for organically produced agricultural products sold in the United States.