USDA Announces Improvements to Organic Crop Insurance
May 18th, 2013
This week, USDA Secretary Vilsack announced additional crop insurance options for organic farmers available in 2014. Earlier this year, USDA made progress on organic crop insurance options by removing the premium surcharge for organic producers and making other adjustments. In this week’s announcement, Vilsack discussed plans for releasing additional organic price elections as well as a contract price option for a number of crops.
USDA is evaluating all crops for the potential to establish organic price elections. USDA estimates that 6-10 new organic price elections will be offered in 2014. So far, oats and mint will be offered in 2014, and apricots, apples, blueberries, millet, and possibly other crops are under consideration.
USDA also announced that, beginning in 2014, contract pricing options will be available to organic farmers who grow crops under guaranteed contracts. Under this option, farmers will be able to choose to use their contract price as their price election or use existing price elections. Vilsack said that this option will be available for 60-70 crops beginning in 2014.
In his announcement, Vilsack noted that one of the biggest barriers to improved crop insurance options for organic producers was lack of data, and he emphasized the need to provide funding for the Organic Production and Market Data Initiatives (ODI) through the farm bill so that data collection on organic could continue. ODI was one of the programs left stranded by the 9-month farm bill extension. The farm bill passed out of the Senate Agriculture Committee this week provides funding for ODI at the 2008 Farm Bill level — $5 million in mandatory funding over the life of the bill with a $5 million annual authorization for appropriations — but the House Committee-passed bill does not provide any funding for organic data collection.
Additionally, Vilsack also announced that USDA is providing guidance to its agencies on organic agriculture. The guidance directs USDA agencies to:
- Determine whether a valid National Organic Program certificate can suffice as third-party verification or proof of compliance for other practices or processes where compliance is required;
- Whether an Organic Systems Plan will satisfy certain requirements for land or livestock management practice documentation;
- Ensure that USDA employees are fulfilling goals on organic training;
- Review and report actions toward meeting USDA’s goals for growth in the organic sector, as laid out by USDA’s Strategic Plan;
- Identify data collection needs; and
- Respond to specific organic research needs, and examine organic production as a model in studies on the effects of different production systems.