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Organic Trade Association welcomes launch of USDA's Organic Transition Initiative

OTA says investment will have lasting positive impact on organic

Maggie McNeil
(202) 615-7997
August 22, 2022
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Washington DC — The Organic Trade Association (OTA) on Monday welcomed the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) launch of its new $300 million Organic Transition Initiative, saying the program takes real steps to build the next generation of organic producers and strengthen organic supply chains. 

"Today’s announcement is the largest single investment in organic by USDA and is a big step in the right direction," said Tom Chapman, CEO and Executive Director of OTA. "For too long, organic agriculture has been underrepresented in government programs and support, and farmers wanting to transition to organic face steep hurdles in accessing tailored organic-appropriate programs and resources at USDA.  OTA has long advocated for better resources to help farmers overcome barriers to transitioning to organic, and we look forward now to helping to ensure that implementation of these programs meet the needs of organic and transitioning farmers and support the goals of the overall sector."

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack on Monday detailed the new initiative, which is funded in part by the American Rescue Plan, in a teleconference with organic stakeholders. In a press release, USDA said the department hopes the program will reverse a trend of slow growth in farmers transitioning to organic, open opportunities for new and beginning organic farmers and expand consumer access to organic foods. "The 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," according to the release. 

OTA identified components of the initiative anticipated to have the most impact on organic:

  • Strengthening USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff expertise in organic agronomy and certification. OTA said this will help expand access to organic experts for organic and transitioning farmers nationwide and is critical for growing organic production in historically underserved areas. 
  • Investing in regionally-specific technical assistance for transitioning organic farms, which will contribute to building communities and organic economic hot spots. 
  • Providing direct support and incentives to help farmers participate in crop insurance, which is an important step towards making risk management programs work better for organic and transitioning farmers.   

"This initiative will have lasting positive impacts on organic agriculture. And that will mean an expansion of climate-smart agriculture practices, more economically sound rural communities, more help for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers and increased access to organic foods for consumers. We're eager to support USDA's initiative and to continue to advance organic," said OTA's Chapman.