USDA Encourages Farmers to Go Organic with $300 Million Initiative

The agency announced multiple major funding projects last week including $550 million for underserved producers.

Organic berries at a farmer's market
Photo: Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The USDA had a busy week last week with the Department of Agriculture announcing several eight- and nine-figure funding initiatives to advance a diverse group of policy promises. Leading the charge last Monday was a new program that could have the biggest impact on consumers at-large: the Organic Transition Initiative.

Billed by the department as a way to "help build new and better markets and streams of income for farmers and producers" of organic products, the $300 million investment aims not only to increase the number of organic farmers, but also make it easy for shoppers to get their hands on organic foods. Despite the seeming ubiquity of "organic" labeling, the USDA says that the number of non-certified organic farms looking to switch to organic status has dropped by nearly 71 percent since 2008 — a trend this program hopes to reverse.

"Farmers face challenging technical, cultural, and market shifts while transitioning to organic production, and even during the first years after successful organic certification," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stated. "Through this multi-phased, multi-agency initiative, we are expanding USDA's support of organic farmers to help them with every step of their transition as they work to become certified and secure markets for their products."

For consumers, the results should be apparent not just in a greater volume of organic foods being produced, but also an increased presence of these items in more places as the initiative also includes "market development projects in targeted markets." The USDA further specifies that this includes building better supply chains for organic producers and offering better training on how to navigate them.

Then, two days later, the USDA announced $550 million in funding intended to help "the next, diverse generation of agricultural professionals" — organic or not. Included as part of the American Rescue Plan Act, the funds are earmarked "to help ensure underserved producers have the resources, tools, programs, and technical support they need to succeed," according to the USDA.

"These funding opportunities are historic and part of USDA's unwavering commitment to advancing equity for all, including people who have been underserved, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality," Vilsack stated. "Land access, heirs' property, affordable credit and access to reliable markets — along with consistent access to help from well-trained experts — are essential to strengthening our communities. USDA is equally committed to partnering with minority-serving institutions to establish exciting and fulfilling pathways for Next Generation leaders to have careers in agriculture, nutrition, food, development, and in the federal government."

And that wasn't all. Also on Wednesday, the USDA announced a $121 million investment in critical infrastructure to fight climate change in vulnerable communities in rural America, followed on Friday by the announcement that $65 million would be provided to the USDA's Forest Service to improve water quality, roads, trails, and fish habitats nationwide. These two initiatives were credited to the Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law respectively.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles