Jun 16, 2021
$20M coming for additional organic cost-share assistance, Vilsack says
Stephen Kloosterman

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on June 15 put a number to an earlier commitment to give more government money supporting farms transitioning to certified-organic production.

As much as $20 million in additional organic cost share assistance, “including for producers who are transitioning to organic,” will be available within the next 60 days, according to the announcement.

“USDA is honoring its commitment to get financial assistance to producers and critical agricultural businesses, especially those left out or underserved by previous COVID aid,” Vilsack said in a released statement.

The money is part of more than $5 billion in available funds through Pandemic Assistance that was announced earlier in the month.

In a June 8 call with media, Vilsack described a pilot program to study how much assistance small-to-medium growers needed to transition their farms to organic:

“There are a number of producers who have expressed interest to me, and to the department, a willingness and interest to retain their size, but recognizing that as a small and mid-sized producer, they may have a difficult time generating sufficient profit to maintain their farm,” Vilsack said. “So, they’re looking for a way to increase value. One way of increasing value is to become an organic producer, but of course, to be able to do that, you’ve essentially got to go through a three-year period of time. And during that three-year period, as you’re transitioning your land so you can satisfy the requirements of the organic program, you’re obviously going to see even less income than you were experiencing before. So what we’re looking at doing is taking several hundred million dollars and creating a program that would essentially be a pilot so that we could learn how we could provide a level of transition assistance that would allow folks to make that transition without necessarily sacrificing the capacity or the ability to keep the farm, stay on the land.

“The goal of this of course is to respond to the challenge, if you will, of the supply chain, and the resiliency of our system, based on the fact that we have an aging farming population, and again as I mentioned so many farms currently have generated the majority of income that are farm families,” he added. “At the farmer’s side, we’ll look for ways we can provide new and additional revenue streams. We recently announced an incentive on cover crop insurance We’ll continue to look for ways we can provide additional help and support for farmers.”

In a blog post, National Organic Coalition Executive Director Abby Youngblood called the annoucnementa big win for organic operations and the organic community.”

Stephen Kloosterman is the managing editor for Organic Grower.

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