October 5, 2012
On Thursday, October 4, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released the results of its 2011 Certified Organic Production Survey. NASS conducted the survey in conjunction with USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) in order to collect data that RMA requires to develop certain organic crop insurance products. The survey focused on some — but not all — certified organic crops and livestock throughout the U.S.
Organic farmers face a number of barriers when trying to access federal crop insurance, including a 5% premium surcharge, the lack of organic price elections, and the lack of good crop insurance options for diversified farms. Without organic price elections, an organic producer who participates in crop insurance and who suffers a loss, gets paid back based at the conventional and not organic price. Organic crops often have a higher value than their conventional counterparts, and the lack of organic prices, in combination with the tacked-on surcharge, has deterred most organic growers from participating in crop insurance.
In 2010, RMA dropped the surcharge on a limited number of organic tree crops and announced price elections for four organic crops. The new survey results should facilitate the development of price elections for more organic crops. Congressional concern about this issue is reflected in a 2008 Farm Bill directive to USDA to fix the problems and a pending 2012 Farm Bill provision to direct RMA to develop and publish more organic price elections championed by Senator Merkley (D-OR) and approved by the full Senate. This survey lays more groundwork for RMA to deliver on that provision.
The survey released yesterday is different from the 2008 Organic Production Survey conducted as a follow-on to the 2007 Census of Agriculture. The follow-on survey was a broader, more comprehensive survey, while the just-released 2011 survey focused on certified production of certain organic crops and livestock primarily for the development of improved organic crop insurance options.
This week, RMA also launched a webpage for organic farmers with information on policies and handbooks, publications, and a report on organic farm performance from Minnesota, a state that has been a leader in collecting data on organic farm performance.