News from the USDA about organic farming:
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack this week announced a number of changes and initiatives concerning organic agriculture during a meeting of the Organic Trade Association.
One announcement concerned the USDA's Risk Management Agency's federal crop insurance program will increase coverage options for
organic producers this year and provide even more options in 2014.
Additionally, the Risk Management Agency will remove the current
5 percent organic rate surcharge on all future crop insurance
policies beginning in 2014.
Vilsack also said USDA will be providing new guidance and direction
on organic production to all USDA agencies in support of organic
agriculture and markets. USDA is now asking each agency to routinely
address the needs of the organic sector in their programs and services
The National Organic Program has supported the
continued growth of America's organic sector, which has been increasing
market share each year and now is a more than $30 billion industry.
Vilsack noted that accurate data is the biggest obstacle for developing
better crop insurance options for organic farmers and expressed his
desire that Congress help USDA make further progress by renewing the
2008 Organic Data Initiative as part of a new Food, Farms and Jobs bill.
New crop-insurance pricing options
will be available to organic producers who grow crops under guaranteed
contracts beginning with the 2014 crop year. This contract price option
allows organic producers who receive a contract price for their crop to
get a crop insurance guarantee that is more reflective of the actual
value of their crop.
All crops are being evaluated for establishing organic prices for the
2014 crop year. Current pricing options only allow farmers to insure
organic crops at the conventional prices, with the exception of eight
crops (corn, soybeans, cotton, processing tomatoes, avocados, and
several fresh stone fruit crops) that already have premium organic price
elections. The Fisk Management Agency is working to provide organic price elections for six to
ten crops in 2014. Oats and mint are two crops that have already been
selected for organic price elections in 2014, and apricots, apples,
blueberries, millet and others are still under consideration.
USDA's Agriculture Marketing Service last year announced the Organic Literacy Initiative,
a public outreach and employee training program to help connect current
and prospective organic operations with appropriate USDA resources concerning all organic agriculture issues, including organic certification.
Organic certification allows farmers and ranchers to receive premium
prices for their value-added products. Over the past 10 years, the
number of certified organic farms and businesses in the United States
has expanded to nearly 17,750, representing a 240 percent
increase since USDA first began collecting this data.
retail value of the organic industry grew almost 9.5 percent in 2011 to
$31.4 billion. Organic foods continue to gain market share in the food
industry, climbing to 4.2 percent of U.S. retail food sales in 2011.
USDA is responsible, under the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, for establishing national standards for organically-produced
agricultural products. These
standards assure consumers that products with the USDA organic seal meet
consistent, uniform standards.
Go to www.ams.usda.gov/NOP for more information about the
USDA National Organic Program.