The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced yesterday that it will be investing up to $300 million to support farmers transitioning to organic. The funding is part of a wider set of financial support measures from USDA aimed at building resilience in the US food system in the wake of pandemic and amid the shock waves from the war in Ukraine.
In a statement, the USDA said: “Up to $300 million [will be available to support] a new Organic Transition Initiative to provide comprehensive support for farmers to transition to organic production. Organic production provides producers with the ability to demand a premium in the marketplace and thus take home a greater share of the food dollar; there can also be climate and environmental benefits. This initiative will deliver wrap-around technical assistance, including farmer-to-farmer mentoring; provide direct support through conservation financial assistance and additional crop insurance assistance and support market development projects in targeted markets.”
An additional $75 million as been earmarked to support urban agriculture. USDA says city farms and community gardens are playing an “increasingly important role in connecting producers and consumers to food, agriculture, and one another while contributing to the local economy”.
Jumpstart for organic growth
Welcoming the development, Tom Chapman, executive director of the Organic Trade Association, said: “Organic has grown from a niche industry to a $63 billion plus market – but for the industry to continue meeting demand and providing economic opportunity to U.S. farmers, production must be scaled up.
“USDA’s new Organic Transition Initiative will jumpstart that growth by making the organic transition process more accessible and impactful”
“USDA’s new Organic Transition Initiative will jumpstart that growth by making the organic transition process more accessible and impactful; particularly for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, who experience unique challenges to accessing resources and support programs. This historic investment in food production, which increases options for American farmers to ‘adopt practices that are both good for their businesses and the climate,’ is a significant win for our industry.”
Abby Youngblood, executive director at National Organic Coalition (NOC), commented: “Organic agriculture is a systems-based approach to transforming the food system that has scientifically proven climate, soil health, biodiversity, and public health benefits.
“The National Organic Coalition is thrilled to see USDA invest in helping more farmers transition to organic production. The creation of this transition program, in addition to increased support for existing organic farmers, is essential to create a more sustainable food system that protects the health of farmworkers, rural communities, and eaters.”