Washington, D.C.—The launch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) $300 million Organic Transition Initiative takes real steps to build the next generation of organic producers and strengthen organic supply chains, according to the Organic Trade Association (OTA). Tom Chapman, CEO and Executive Director of OTA, said this is the largest single investment in organic by USDA.
“For too long, organic agriculture has been underrepresented in government programs and support, and farmers wanting to transition to organic face steep hurdles in accessing tailored organic-appropriate programs and resources at USDA,” Chapman said in a press release. “OTA has long advocated for better resources to help farmers overcome barriers to transitioning to organic, and we look forward now to helping to ensure that implementation of these programs meet the needs of organic and transitioning farmers and support the goals of the overall sector.”
Organic Farmers Association also welcomed the program. “We are pleased to see the details of this investment in organic and transitioning organic farmers from the USDA and are excited for the program to be implemented,” said Kate Mendenhall, Executive Director. “There are some important fixes and expanded programs to crop insurance in this program, expanded support for organic producers through NRCS, support for technical assistance and mentoring for farmers interested in transitioning to organic, and support for building better infrastructure. Organic Farmers Association is pleased to see USDA identify the important role organic farmers play in a growing $60-billion domestic organic market and in curtailing climate change.”
The new initiative is funded in part by the American Rescue Plan. USDA explained in a press release that it hopes the program will:
- reverse a trend of slow growth in farmers transitioning to organic
- open opportunities for new and beginning organic farmers
- expand consumer access to organic foods
Components of the initiative expected to have the biggest impact on organic:
- Strengthening USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff expertise in organic agronomy and certification. According to OTA, this will help expand access to organic experts for organic and transitioning farmers nationwide. OTA noted that it is critical for growing organic production in historically underserved areas.
- Investing in regionally specific technical assistance for transitioning organic farms. OTA said this will contribute to building communities and organic economic hot spots.
- Providing direct support and incentives to help farmers participate in crop insurance. OTA explained that this is an important step towards making risk management programs work better for organic and transitioning farmers.
“This initiative will have lasting positive impacts on organic agriculture,” said Chapman. “And that will mean an expansion of climate-smart agriculture practices, more economically sound rural communities, more help for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers and increased access to organic foods for consumers. We’re eager to support USDA’s initiative and to continue to advance organic.”