$300M organic transition initiative includes financing, crop insurance

Farmers who want to go organic will receive a $300 million grant from the USDA on Monday.

The effort includes funding to help farmers switch to organic production, use training networks, and pay for crop insurance. It also includes funding to identify new markets and help build supply chains. The USDA announced the total amount available in June but he gave more details on Monday.

“Organic production gives producers a unique advantage in the market and thus captures more money for food,” but the number of farms that are actively converting to organic production has dropped nearly 71% since 2008, the USDA said.

Using funds from the American Rescue Plan passed by the Democratic Congress in March 2021, the Agricultural Marketing Service will provide $100 million to “build a network of partnerships in six regions across the US with trusted local organizations providing direct training to farmers, training , and outreach services,” the department said in a news release. “These organizations will connect innovative farmers with mentors, building networks of paid educators to share information and practical advice.”

In an interview on Monday, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said the department will hire a national coordinator in six areas, which are defined by AMS. “We think there is an opportunity to create several locations in the United States and make the location compatible with a producer who wants to be an organic producer” and a person who has experience in this process, “as well as providing financial support to create a consultant agreement,” he said.

Another $100 million will help improve supply chains for “popular markets,” the USDA said. This part of the exhibition will “focus on key markets where the demand for domestic products is high, or where there is a need to improve and distribute energy in order to create high energy supply chains,” the department said. “Examples of markets seeking support include grain and food; beans and other edible crops; and livestock and milk.”

The USDA said it will begin approving the tests next month and announce specific plans by the end of the year. Vilsack said the money could be used for guaranteed loans, subsidized loans or grants, or integrated equipment, but, “We’re going to learn from the community what’s really needed.”

The USDA also announced that the Natural Resources Conservation Service will develop a new organic management system and provide financial and technical assistance to producers who follow the practice. Vilsack said the NRCS is “very close to getting there.”

“Payments will be made to those already available to producers who are meeting existing food and pest management standards,” the USDA said. The amount of 75 million dollars allocated to do this “will also include technical expertise in all its areas, and create organic experts in all its technical support areas. These experts will train employees who provide direct service to USDA customers. These activities include conducting organic training for employees in the state and in the NRCS field and answer staff-related questions.”

Finally, USDA will provide $25 million to the Risk Management Agency to create a new Transitional and Organic Grower Assistance Program to help producers purchase crop insurance. The money will help to reimburse part of the farmers’ wages.

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