USDA Update on Federal Funding for Organic


Betsy Rakola, Organic Specialist for Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, made a presentation on federal funding for organic programs at the 30th annual Natural Products Expo East Tradeshow and conference in September. Over 25,000 people attended the conference.

Rakola provided an update of the Organic Working Group, the federal funding available for organic programs and the USDA strategic plan for organic agriculture. Her presentation covered the many hats the USDA wears for organic farmers, including risk management, conservation and research. These efforts are monitored by the USDA Organic Working Group chaired by AMS Administrator, Anne Alonzo, and includes staff from various agencies.

The Organic Working Group coordinates with organizations focused on local and regional sustainability and food waste, beginning farmers and veterans efforts. They often feature external speakers at OWG meetings to keep them up-to-date on efforts in the field.

During her presentation, Rakola shared two interesting resource documents available from USDA.

1) From the National Institute for Food and Agriculture, "Making the Transition to Organic: Ten Farm Profiles." The report features livestock, field crop, and vegetable producers who, during 2012-2015, were in the process of transitioning or who had been recently certified organic.

2) The other report featured was, “Profit Potential of Certified Organic Field Crop Production" released by the Economic Research Service (ERS) this past summer. Two interesting findings: organic farmers are less likely to work off-farm; despite higher per-acre costs, organic has greater returns.

Rakola’s presentation provides a good roadmap of the commitment USDA has made in funding and programing for organic agriculture. You can view it here.