Growers in the three-year transition period from conventional to organic production methods have new crop insurance options from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Growers in the transitionn phase can use the agency’s contract price addendum to cover crops at a higher price than conventional crops, according to a news release.
“Consumer demand for organic products continues to increase and the industry has experienced remarkable growth, representing more than $39 billion in U.S. retail sales,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in the release. “Expanding the safety net for farmers wanting to enter the organic market ensures they have the tools and resources they need to meet this growing demand while protecting their operation.”
In response to expanding production of all agricultural products — up 72% compared with 2008 — USDA’s Risk Management Agency also has expanded organic premium insurance options to 57 crops, up from four in 2011. That provides organic producers the option to protect 2016 crops closer to their market value, according to the release.
The list of commodities eligible for the contract price addendum is available online, with more than two dozen fresh fruits and vegetables included. Many of the new items are citrus, including mandarins and different varieties of oranges and grapefruit.
Laura Batcha, CEO and executive director of the Organic Trade Association, said in a statement that the group welcomes the new USDA policy on transitional crops.
“Organic supply in the U.S. is falling short of the robust demand for organic products, and farmers need to have the proper tools and incentives to transition to organic production,” Batcha said in the statement. “This announcement is a small but important tool in what needs to be a full tool kit for transitioning to organic.”
The association has proposed a voluntary transitional organic certification program to the USDA. Under the plan, commodities produced on the transitional acreage would not be identified with a USDA shield or be permitted to use “organic” in marketing to the consumers, but producers could benefit in business-to-business relationships and with technical support in moving from conventional to organic production systems.
That plan is geared more to the grain, industry. In grains, farmers are having a hard time with cash flow during the transition period, whereas market challenges for the organic produce growers more related to production challenges, Nate Lewis, senior crops and livestock specialist with the OTA, told The Packer in December. About a dozen of the commodities covered by the transitional crop insurance program are grains.