August 22, 2022
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Laura Zaks
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Washington, DC, August 22, 2022 – Today, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) issued the following comment, attributable to Mike Lavender, NSAC Interim Policy Director, in response to USDA’s announcement of an up to $300 million investment into the new Organic Transition Initiative.
“The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition applauds the Department of Agriculture’s commitment to supporting organic producers and the growing market demand for organic products. Today’s announcement of new investments for organic agriculture will help provide organic producers, as well as producers transitioning to organic production, with farmer-to-farmer mentorship opportunities, expanded market opportunities, and new organic-specific tools that will help them more easily engage with USDA programs. Overall, these investments help address the mounting need to assist farmers learning and adopting organic production systems if they are to meet growing consumer demand for organic and adopt practices that mitigate and build resilience to climate change. We look forward to working with USDA as they continue to develop, finalize, and implement the details of these new initiatives.”
In line with NSAC’s recommendations for a new organic transition initiative, today’s USDA announcement targets funding, in part from the American Rescue Plan, toward several hurdles that organic and prospective organic farmers face. Through the establishment of partnership networks in six different regions across the country, USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will seek to create new opportunities for mentorship and technical assistance for organic producers. Furthermore, the announcement details $75 million for a new organic management conservation practice standard through Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and $25 million for a new Transitional and Organic Grower Assistance Program at the Risk Management Agency (RMA) to reduce insurance premiums for organic producers. The announcement also names a new $100 million AMS initiative that will focus on organic market development, including processing and access issues, which USDA will begin gathering stakeholder input on later this year.
Several priorities from NSAC’s recommendations, including investments in organic research and procurement, were unfortunately not included as a part of this announcement yet remain priorities for NSAC’s membership. Further, new producers transitioning to organic who hope to benefit from RMA’s new Organic Grower Assistance Program will face challenges because eligibility for organic insurance products is dependent on possession of an Organic Systems Plan – which newly transitioning producers do not yet have. However, given the challenges organic programs have faced, including the funding shortfall of the National Organic Certification Cost-Share program, USDA’s renewed commitment to supporting organic producers will help boost productivity and consumer confidence in the organic standard and markets.
About the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a grassroots alliance that advocates for federal policy reform supporting the long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability of agriculture, natural resources, and rural communities. Learn more and get involved at: https://sustainableagriculture.net