The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is taking additional steps as part of its commitment to strengthen the market for domestically grown organic products, and to aid producers seeking organic certification. These funding opportunities are part of the USDA Organic Transition Initiative, a suite of offerings launched last fall to help both existing organic farmers and those switching to organic production and processing.
“As USDA works to help make our nation’s food system more resilient and create more options for producers and consumers, we recognize the important role the organic industry can play in expanding opportunities for value-added agriculture, strengthening supply chains and generating revenue for farmers,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “For many farmers, the transition period before attaining organic certification can be cost-prohibitive, so USDA is also helping mitigate the risk involved for farmers who want to be able to grow and market organic crops.”
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Through the new Organic Market Development Grant (OMDG) Program, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will award up to $75 million in competitive grants. Eligible entities include business entities that produce or handle organic foods, nonprofit organizations, tribal governments, and state and local government entities to fund projects designed to expand and improve markets for domestically produced organic products. AMS will accept applications for the program now through July 11.
Additionally, this year, the Farm Service Agency (FSA) increased the cost share amount under the Organic Certification Cost Share Program (OCCSP), which helps organic producers cover organic certification costs, to the maximum amount allowed by statute. Specifically, FSA will cover up to 75% of costs associated with organic certification, up to $750 for crops, wild crops, livestock, processing/handling and, in California only, state organic program fees. OCCSP will cover costs incurred from Oct. 1, 2022, through Sept. 30, 2023. FSA begins accepting applications for OCCSP on May 15, with applications due Oct. 31.
Other programs offered under USDA’s Organic Transition Initiative range from conservation assistance to improved crop insurance options.
Sales of organically produced products surpassed $67 billion in 2022, according to the 2023 Organic Industry Survey from the Washington, D.C.-based Organic Trade Association. The survey also found that organic produce, often the entry point for new organic buyers, had maintained its position as the top seller of all organic categories, with sales totaling $22 billion, accounting for 15% of all U.S. fruit and vegetable sales.