Aug 22, 2022
USDA announces Organic Transition Initiative investment

Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the initial details on a historic $300 million investment in the Organic Transition Initiative.

As part of its Food System Transformation Framework, the USDA is taking important steps toward supporting both organically-certified farmers, and ranchers and producers who wish to transition into organic production. Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) has been working alongside policymakers and industry partners to advocate for this crucial investment that supports producers’ adoption of organic management while building a resilient and equitable food system.

“Organic farming brings environmental and economic benefits to communities across the country, but has historically been under-invested in,” said Brise Tencer, OFRF executive director. “This is a meaningful investment in key programs to support organic and transitioning farmers. We have advocated for these goals for many years and it is exciting to see them come to fruition.”

“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,” said  Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The USDA’s announcement proposes four primary Organic Transition Initiative investments:

  • Transition to Organic Partnership Program: Up to $100M in wrap-around technical assistance for organic transition across six regions and includes farmer-to-farmer mentoring. This program will be managed by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)
  • Organic Pinpointed Market Development Support: Up to $100M in organic supply chain improvements that provides more and better market options for producers seeking support in areas such as organic processing capacity and infrastructure, market access, and insufficient supply of certain organic ingredients. This program will be managed by USDA’s AMS.
  • Organic Management: $75M for Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to develop a new Organic Management conservation practice standard and offer financial and technical assistance to producers who implement the practice.
  • Transitional and Organic Grower Assistance (TOGA): $25M for USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) to support transitioning and certain certified organic producers in reducing cost related to crop insurance coverage.

The USDA’s Organic Transition Initiative programming directly responds to research findings in OFRF’s 2022 National Organic Research Agenda (NORA). Overwhelmingly, organic and transitioning-to-organic producers surveyed found “farmer-to-farmer networks and mentoring are by far the most effective ways to obtain and share information.” Additionally, finding and developing markets for organic products was a leading non-production challenge among organic farmers surveyed in the 2022 NORA report.

“We are thrilled to see this investment,” said Gordon N. Merrick, OFRF Policy & Programs manager, but also added, “Importantly though, we must remember that this is Agency action with a limited time table. We are committed to making sure we see meaningful support for organic agriculture be codified in the Farm Bill in 2023, which is just around the corner.”

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