In an effort to support farmers in the transition from conventional to organic farming, the USDA will invest $300 million in a new Organic Transition Initiative.
On the pathway to certified organic farming, growers are required to adopt organic practices—such as restricted inputs and a ban on synthetic pesticides—for at least 36 months before the crops can be considered for certification. During this often challenging time for farmers, the USDA’s new program, announced earlier this week, aims to support growers in hopes of strengthening the organic market.
The plan aims to create more streamlined pathways from conventional to organic farming and “allow for new and better streams of income for farmers and producers,” according to the USDA’s announcement.
The department has a three-pronged plan to support the growth of the organics industry—allotting $100 million for each portion of the plan.
First, mentoring, advice and education will be available to farmers through the Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP) in the form of regionally based training and workshop options.
Second, the program will enact direct farmers’ assistance, providing both financial and technical support to growers throughout the transition process, as well as help with crop insurance.
The final piece of the initiative involves finding innovative ways to build the organic market and supply chain through partnerships and stakeholders, with the goal of mitigating current market development risks in part due to “inadequate organic processing capacity and infrastructure, a lack of certainty about market access, and insufficient supply of certain organic ingredients,” according to the press release.
The initiative comes in reaction to a sharp drop in farms attempting to transition to organic practices, a number that has plummeted by 71 percent since 2008.
“Farmers face challenging technical, cultural and market shifts while transitioning to organic production, and even during the first years after successful organic certification,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in the initiative’s announcement. “Through this multi-phased, multi-agency initiative, we are expanding USDA’s support of organic farmers to help them with every step of their transition as they work to become certified and secure markets for their products.”