WASHINGTON — U.S. Agriculture Secret ary Tom Vilsack on Tuesday discussed his vision for U.S. organic agriculture and USDA’s efforts to ensure its continued success during remarks to the Organic Trade Association.
Vilsack announced a number of changes and new initiatives to support the continued growth of organic agriculture, including increased coverage options through the Risk Management Agency’s federal crop insurance program this year and even more options in 2014.
These will include a contract price addendum and new premium price elections for organic crops. Additionally, RMA will remove the current 5 percent organic rate surcharge on all future crop insurance policies beginning in 2014.
Vilsack also said USDA will be providing new guidance and direction on organic production to all USDA agencies in support of organic agriculture and markets.
USDA is now asking each agency to routinely address the needs of the organic sector in their programs and services where appropriate.
The National Organic Program has supported the growth of America’s organic sector, which is now a more than $30 billion industry.
Vilsack noted that accurate data is the biggest obstacle for developing better crop insurance options for organic farmers and expressed his desire that Congress help USDA make further progress by renewing the 2008 Organic Data Initiative as part of a new Farm Bill.
“Organic agriculture is one of the fastest growing segments of American agriculture and helps farmers receive a higher price for their product as they strive to meet growing consumer demand,” Vilsack said.
“These new options will extend the safety net provided by crop insurance and provide fair and flexible solutions to organic producers,” he said.
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. RMA 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 allow farmers to insure organic crops only at the conventional prices, with the exception of eight crops — corn, soybeans, cotton, processing tomatoes, avocados and several fresh stone fruits that already have premium organic price elections.
RMA is working to provide organic price elections for six to 10 more crops in 2014. Oats and mint are two that have already been selected for organic price elections in 2014, and apricots, apples, blueberries and millet are still under consideration.