Expanding Organic Horizons: New USDA Initiatives to Foster Growth and Opportunities for Organic Producers

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently revealed new initiatives to further develop the organic market. This includes enhancing domestic organic goods’ markets, aiding producers transition to organic farming, and making organic certification more affordable.

Vilsack believes that by offsetting organic transition costs, more farmers can enjoy higher profit margins sooner. This also leads to consumers having more readily available organic products. Partnership, technical support, and grant investments are the key factors to reduce dependence on imported organic goods, lower cost barriers for businesses making the shift to organic farming, and addressing vital infrastructure needs.

One arm of USDA, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), awarded about $24.8 million to 23 grant projects under the Organic Market Development Grant (OMDG) program. These projects aim to generate new and existing organic markets to elevate the consumption of domestic organic agricultural products. An estimated 49,000 producers and over 118 million consumers benefit from these projects.

AMS has, to date, awarded a total of $75.2 million to 93 projects across the country to increase the demand and availability of domestically produced organic agricultural products. An additional $10 million has been made available for this program, with the awards for this funding to be announced in the summer.

AMS prioritized projects that addressed particular market needs for organic grains and livestock feed, organic dairy, organic fibers, organic legumes and other rotational crops, and organic ingredients that are currently not available in organic form.

The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) awarded $5 million to Oregon Tilth and the Organic Farming Research Foundation to boost organic expertise for conservation program assistance. These programs will also enhance connections among producers wanting to shift to organic farming.

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Through the Organic Certification Cost Share Program (OCCSP), the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) intends to ease the financial burden of achieving organic certification by covering up to 75% of organic certification costs, capped at $750 per certification category. Eligible OCCSP applicants include certified organic producers or handlers who have paid organic certification fees to a USDA-accredited certifying agent.

Applications to the OCCSP are open for eligible expenses incurred from Oct. 1, 2023, to Sept. 30, 2024, with a deadline of Oct. 31, 2024. Applications can be submitted to USDA or through participating state departments of agriculture.

These initiatives signify a bold move for the USDA, channeling resources and support to build an expanding organic market that caters to the needs of both producers and consumers.

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