The Organic Trade Association (OTA) today expressed delight that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is offering $50 million in new funding to encourage greater production of organic food in the United States.
A portion of the funding has been allocated for every state and is available exclusively through a special signup under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, administered by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service. To qualify, a producer must be certified through the National Organic Program or be in the process of transitioning to organic production.
"The Organic Trade Association is pleased to see this support and recognition from USDA that organic farming practices represent positive environmental practices. OTA believes that this funding will further encourage farmers to use such practices and help increase the U.S. production of organic food to meet growing consumer demand," said Christine Bushway, OTA's Executive Director.
Under the initiative, new contracts for organic production are being offered for six core practices, which include conservation crop rotation, cover crops, nutrient management, pest management, prescribed grazing, and forage harvest management. Funding is capped at $20,000 per year. . The sign-up period for the special organic contracts begins May 11 and ends on May 29.
Earlier today, Kathleen Merrigan, USDA's Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, announced to the National Organic Standards Board that USDA intends to create a division within the agency that is dedicated to organic agriculture. Currently, the National Organic Program is part of the Transportation and Marketing Program within USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service.
Barbara Robinson, Deputy Administrator of Transportation and Marketing, had told attendees at OTA's Policy Conference in late March that she believes the National Organic Program is now ready to stand on its two legs.
"OTA is also very pleased to here this news, and will eagerly await further word on how this will take place," Bushway said.
The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is the membership-based business association for organic agriculture and products in North America. Its 1,600 members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers' associations, distributors, importers, exporters, consultants, retailers and others. OTA's mission is to promote and protect the growth of organic trade to benefit the environment, farmers, the public and the economy ( www.ota.com).