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USDA Announces New Opportunities to Strengthen Organic Market

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is taking further steps to support domestically grown organic goods and to help producers seeking organic certification

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is taking further steps to support domestically grown organic goods and to help producers seeking organic certification. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced two funding opportunities as part of the USDA’s Organic Transition Initiative, launched in the fall of 2022.

The Organic Market Development Grant (OMDG) Program, managed by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), will provide up to $75 million in competitive grants to eligible entities, including business entities that produce or handle organic foods, non-profit organizations, tribal governments, and state and local government entities. The program is designed to expand and improve markets for domestically produced organic products, such as investing in infrastructure and developing new consumer products using rotational grains.

AMS encourages applications that serve smaller farms and ranches, new and beginner farmers and ranchers, underserved producers, veteran producers, and underserved communities. The OMDG is open for applications from now through July 11, 2023.

The second program, the Organic Certification Cost Share Program (OCCSP), helps organic producers cover organic certification costs. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) increased the cost share amount to the maximum allowed by statute, covering up to 75% of costs associated with organic certification, up to $750 for crops, wild crops, livestock, processing/handling, and state organic program fees (California only). OCCSP will cover costs incurred from Oct. 1st, 2022, through Sept. 30th, 2023. Producers and handlers can apply for OCCSP through their local USDA Service Center, and the FSA will accept applications from state departments of agriculture to administer OCCSP.

These two programs build on several other USDA initiatives under the Organic Transition Initiative, such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s $75 million assistance for conservation practices required for organic certification and the AMS’ Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP), which builds mentorship relationships between transitioning and existing organic farmers to provide technical assistance and wrap-around support in six U.S. regions.

Consumer demand for organically produced goods surpassed $67 billion in 2022, and the multi-year trend of strong growth in the sector provides market incentives for U.S. farmers across a broad range of products. However, the transition period before attaining organic certification can be cost-prohibitive for many farmers. In addition, the organic livestock and processed product markets heavily rely on imported agricultural products for feed grains and other ingredients.

The USDA is committed to transforming America’s food system with a focus on resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy, and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and income streams for farmers and producers using climate-smart food and forestry practices, and committing to equity across the department. The USDA is making great efforts to support the organic market. These funding opportunities will provide a boost to farmers seeking organic certification and will help expand and improve markets for domestically produced organic products.

Image provided by the USDA

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