New USDA Program Makes It Easier for Farmers to Farm Organically

published Jan 19, 2017
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Organic produce is generally more expensive — according to Consumer Reports, it’s 47 percent more expensive than conventional produce — which is why it can be a bit of a head-scratcher as to why more farmers are not jumping on the organic bandwagon. Sure, the cost and time is higher than traditional farming, but so are the financial rewards.

So, what gives?

Why It’s Hard to Transition to Organic Farming

Unfortunately for farmers, there is a financial obstacle: current laws require crops to undergo three “transition” years before they can be retailed as certified organic, reports NPR’s The Salt. This rule can be a fiscal nightmare for farmers, who invest more time and money in organic farming but cannot receive its market value for three years.

(Image credit: Francesco Gallarotti)

The Solution to the Problem

Now, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) is trying to change the existing system to encourage farmers to dive into the multi-billion dollar organic industry. In a proposal, which has been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the OTA calls for special certification of organic food produced during the transition years.

In theory, this would allow farmers to earn more than conventional farming but less than organic farming. According to estimates by the OTA, the certification program for transitioning crops can generate more than $30 million annually.

Certification programs already exist in many markets. In California, for example, the California Certified Organic Farmers has a statewide transition program and label for transitional organic produce. But with the National Certified Transitional Program, a standard can be set across the board for such produce.

“This program will facilitate the investment in transitional agriculture, and ultimately support the continued growth of organic agriculture in the United States,” a USDA spokesperson told ABC about the program.

Read more: Why Going Organic Just Got Easier For Farmers from NPR’s The Salt