USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack Tuesday addressed the Organic Trade Association's Policy Conference, offering his "new vision" for organic agriculture: improved crop insurance coverage options and new premium price elections.
Specifically, Vilsack said the USDA Risk Management Agency's federal crop insurance program will increase coverage options in 2014, including a contract price addendum.
Additionally, RMA will remove the current five-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
U.S. organic products are now a $30 billion industry, Vilsack said, noting that the biggest obstacle for developing better crop insurance options for organic producers is the lack of information.
"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. Coupled with the new guidance for agencies to support this growing sector, USDA recognizes that organics are gaining market share and is helping boost this emerging segment."
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.
RMA is also changing organic transitional 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.
RMA 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.
The Organic Trade Association welcomed Vilsack's announcement, noting the difficulty the sector had with "fitting in."
"This recognition and guidance mean that organic no longer has to be a square peg trying to fit in a round hole," said Christine Bushway, OTA executive director. "On behalf of the 6,500 certified businesses that OTA represents, we thank the Secretary Vilsack and USDA staff for their leadership and vision."
News Source: USDA, OTA