New Organic Transition Initiative

Josh McGillIndustry News Release, Organic

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced details of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) $300 million investment in a new Organic Transition Initiative. The initiative will help build new and better markets and streams of income for growers.

Organic Transition Initiative
Organic orange tree at McGuire Groves in Apopka, Florida

The number of non-certified organic farms actively transitioning to organic production dropped by nearly 71% since 2008. USDA hopes to reverse this trend, opening opportunities for new and beginning farmers and expanding direct consumer access to organic foods through increased production.

The initiative will deliver technical assistance, including farmer-to-farmer mentoring; provide direct support through conservation financial assistance and additional crop insurance assistance; and support market development projects in targeted markets.

“Farmers face challenging technical, cultural and market shifts while transitioning to organic production, and even during the first years after successful organic certification,” said Vilsack. “Through this multi-phased, multi-agency initiative, we are expanding USDA’s support of organic farmers to help them with 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 initiative.

AMS will build partnership networks in six regions across the United States with trusted local organizations serving direct farmer training, education and outreach activities. The organizations will connect transitioning farmers with mentors, building paid mentoring networks to share practical insights and advice. Technical assistance, workshops and field days will be included. USDA will provide up to $100 million for this program.

NRCS will develop a new conservation practice standard for organic management and offer financial and technical assistance to producers who implement the practice. USDA will provide $75 million for this effort. This will include an increase in organic expertise, creating organic experts who will train staff that provide direct services to USDA customers.

USDA will provide $25 million to RMA for the new Transitional and Organic Grower Assistance Program (TOGA). TOGA will support transitioning and certain certified organic producers’ participation in crop insurance, including coverage of a portion of their insurance premium.

Another AMS initiative will focus on key organic markets where the need for domestic supply is high, or where additional processing and distribution capacity is needed for more robust organic supply chains. USDA will invest up to $100 million to help improve organic supply chains in pinpointed markets. The USDA will seek stakeholder input on these pinpointed initiatives beginning in September.

This USDA Organic Transition Initiative complements existing assistance for organic producers, including Farm Service Agency’s Organic Certification Cost Share Program and Organic and Transitional Education and Certification Program.

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

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