Despite the fact that organic agriculture is one of the fastest growing sectors of American agriculture, the U.S. is currently experiencing a domestic shortfall of organically-produced food as consumer demand continues to outpace supply. Many producers are deterred from converting to organic production systems because of the high costs associated with conversion and organic certification. Considering the enormous potential organic practices have to increase farm revenue in our rural communities, preserve and enhance the environment, and provide nutritious food to our citizens, federal policies aimed at assisting farmers’ and ranchers’ transition to organic production should be a priority.
Fortunately, the 2008 Farm Bill takes significant steps to provide expanded assistance for organic producers and those who would like to transition to organic production. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and its members were successful in the fight to increase the funding level and maximum per-farm payments available for the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program. They also helped to create the new Organic Conversion Assistance program — implemented as the Organic Initiative — within the Environmental Quality Incentives Program that will provide funding and technical assistance for farmers wanting to transition to organic production.
Additional efforts were made by NSAC and others to remove penalties assessed to organic farmers in the federal crop insurance program, though rather than fixing the problem outright, the Farm Bill instead creates a process through which the penalties might be removed in the future. We hope, therefore, that future editions of this Grassroots Guide will be able to include a section on new crop insurance provisions for organic farmers.