Vilsack unveils vision for organic agriculture, more
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack discussed in May his vision for U.S. organic agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) efforts to ensure its continued success during remarks to the Organic Trade Association.
Over the past 10 years, the number of certified organic farms and businesses in the United States has expanded to approximately 17,750, representing a 240 percent increase since the USDA first began collecting this data. Similarly, the retail value of the organic industry grew almost 9.5 percent in 2011 to $31.4 billion. Organic foods continue to gain market share in the food industry, climbing to 4.2 percent of U.S. retail food sales in 2011.
Vilsack, according to an USDA news release, announced a number of changes and new initiatives to support the continued growth of organic agriculture, including that the USDA’s Risk Management Agency’s federal crop insurance program will increase coverage options for organic producers this year and provide even more options in 2014, including a contract price addendum as well as new premium price elections for organic crops. Additionally, the Risk Management Agency will remove the current 5-percent organic rate surcharge on all future crop insurance policies beginning in 2014.
Vilsack also said the USDA will be providing new guidance and direction on organic production to all USDA agencies in support of organic agriculture and markets. Vilsack said that accurate data is the biggest obstacle for developing better crop insurance options for organic farmers and expressed his desire that Congress help the USDA make further progress by renewing the 2008 Organic Data Initiative as part of a new Food, Farms, and Jobs bill.
New crop-insurance pricing options will be available to organic producers who grow crops under guaranteed contracts beginning with the 2014 crop year. This contract price option allows organic producers who receive a contract price for their crop to get a crop insurance guarantee that is more reflective of the actual value of their crop. They will have the ability, where available and at their choice, to use their personal contract price as their price election or to choose existing crop insurance price elections. This contract price option will be available for between 60 and 70 crops in the 2014 crop year and this contract price feature will be available to the majority of insured organic crops.
The Risk Management Agency is also changing organic transitional yields (t-yields) so they will be more reflective of actual organic farming experience, starting with the 2014 crop year.
All crops are being evaluated for establishing organic prices for the 2014 crop year. Current pricing options only allow farmers to insure organic crops at the conventional prices, with the exception of eight crops (corn, soybeans, cotton, processing tomatoes, avocados, and several fresh stone fruit crops) that already have premium organic price elections. The Risk Management Agency is working to provide organic price elections for six to ten crops in 2014. Oats and mint are two crops that have already been selected for organic price elections in 2014, and apricots, apples, blueberries, millet, and others are still under consideration.
Crop insurance is sold and delivered solely through private crop insurance agents. Contact a local crop insurance agent for more information about the program. A list of crop insurance agents is available at all USDA Service Centers or on the RMA website at www.rma.usda.gov/tools/agents/.