Farmers converting to 'USDA organic' will benefit from technical assistance, mentoring, financial support and insurance assistance as the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) wants to ‘build new and better markets and streams of income’ for organic farmers and producers through a new program.
The Organic Transition Initiative is aiming to improve the number of US farmers who want to obtain organic certification by the USDA. It complements other initiatives such as FSA’s Organic Certification Cost Share Program and Organic and Transitional Education and Certification Program.
The number of farmers transitioning to USDA organic certification has plummeted by 71% since 2008, according to official figures. This is due to a host of reasons, including the cost of certification and the relatively long period that it takes for a farm to obtain certification.
But the USDA is trying to make certification more appealing to producers by offering a number of support measures. This includes technical assistance, farmer-to-farmer mentoring, financial assistance and market development.
Particularly key for the dairy sector, the 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,’ including dairy. The USDA is set to invest US$100m to help improve organic supply chains and will seek stakeholder input on these pinpointed initiatives beginning in September.
The initiative will also see the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) launch partnerships with local organizations in six regions to offer direct farmer training, education and outreach activities. Each regional team will also provide mentorship, technical assistance, workshops and advice on organic production practices, regulations, business development, and more. Up to $100m will be spared for the activities.
Also as part of the program, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will develop a new Organic Management conservation practice standard and provide financial and technical assistance to producers who implement the practice, with up to $75m made available by the USDA.
The department will also spare US$25m for a Transitional and Organic Grower Assistance Program, which will cover crop insurance, including a portion of the participating farmers’ insurance premiums.