NOP Offers Producers Transitioning to Organic New Resource: Transitional Production Plan

The USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) has posted a new Transitional Production Plan (TPP) template on the AMS website. This new public resource was developed under the Organic Transition Initiative’s (OTI) Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP).

The TPP template helps new crop producers who are transitioning to organic production to develop the supporting documentation needed to qualify for OTI services provided through the USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) and Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). The template will also help transitioning farmers learn how to document their organic practices in preparation for the Organic System Plan (OSP) process required when they apply for certification. By learning these practices and documenting their use of materials, farmers can feel more confident that they are on the right track early in the process.

Use of the transitional plan will ultimately streamline the organic transition process and help producers take advantage of all USDA programs more easily. For example, the TPP can serve as OSP documentation when applying for transitional crop insurance through RMA and may also meet some of the application requirements for the Conservation Activity Plan 138 under the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program’s Organic Initiative.

The transitional plan can also be used by producers who are not using prohibited substances and are implementing practices that are expected to lead to compliance with the USDA organic regulations. When the TPP is reviewed and signed by a USDA-accredited certifier, the operation will be listed as transitional in the Organic Integrity Database. The transitional operation status will be visible to certifiers and USDA employees, including RMA staff reviewing eligibility for organic transitional crop insurance. Transitional operation status is not publicly available.

View the Transitional Production Plan: https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/TransitionalProductionPlanCrops.pdf.

About the Organic Transition Initiative

The Organic Transition Initiative (OTI) is a $300 million multi-agency USDA effort to provide comprehensive support for farmers transitioning to organic production. This initiative delivers wrap-around technical assistance, including farmer-to-farmer mentoring; provides direct support through conservation financial assistance and additional crop insurance assistance, and supports market development projects in targeted markets.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Risk Management Agency are the primary agencies supporting the initiative. AMS leads the Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP): https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/organic-certification/topp.


USDA Announces New Steps to Enhance Organic Markets and Support Producers

Washington, May 10, 2023—Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is taking additional steps as part of its commitment to strengthen the market for domestically grown organic goods, and to support producers seeking organic certification. These funding opportunities are part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Organic Transition Initiative, launched in fall 2022, which is a suite of offerings to help existing organic farmers and those transitioning to organic production and processing.

“As USDA works to help make our nation’s food system more resilient and create more options for producers and consumers, we recognize the important role the organic industry can play in expanding opportunities for value-added agriculture, strengthening supply chains, and generating revenue for farmers,” Vilsack said. “For many farmers, the transition period before attaining organic certification can be cost-prohibitive, so USDA is also helping mitigate the risk involved for farmers who want to be able to grow and market organic crops.”

Consumer demand for organically produced goods surpassed $67 billion in 2022, and multi-year trends of strong growth in the sector provide market incentives for U.S. farmers across a broad range of products. However, through public comment and listening sessions USDA has heard that producers may be less willing to commit to the three-year transition to organic certification because of risks related to inadequate organic processing, storage, and handling capacity, cost barriers due to limited markets for rotational crops, a lack of certainty about market access, and insufficient supply of certain organic ingredients. The organic livestock and processed product markets depend heavily on imported agricultural products for feed grains and key ingredients. These are longstanding market issues that were brought into sharp focus due to the impacts of the pandemic and international conflicts in critical overseas organic supply regions, resulting in limitations on certain domestic organic products in the face of rising demand. Both opportunities announced today help to address these challenges.

Organic Market Development Grants Program

Through the new Organic Market Development Grant (OMDG) Program, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will issue up to $75 million in competitive grants. Eligible entities include business entities who produce or handle organic foods, non-profit organizations, tribal governments, and state and local government entities to fund projects designed to expand and improve markets for domestically produced organic products. OMDG is intended to increase the consumption of domestic agricultural commodities by aiding in the expansion of markets or development of new markets, marketing facilities, and uses for such commodities. For example, applicants may seek funding to develop and launch new consumer products using rotational grains, or invest in infrastructure like processing equipment to give producers better access to markets.

Through OMDG, AMS encourages applications that serve smaller farms and ranches, new and beginning farmers and ranchers, underserved producers, veteran producers, and underserved communities.

AMS is accepting applications for the program now through July 11, 2023.

Cost Share for Organic Certification

As part of USDA’s broader effort to support organic producers and in response to stakeholder feedback, this year the Farm Service Agency increased the cost share amount under the Organic Certification Cost Share Program (OCCSP), which helps organic producers cover organic certification costs, to the maximum amount allowed by statute.

Specifically, FSA will cover up to 75% of costs associated with organic certification, up to $750 for crops, wild crops, livestock, processing/handling and state organic program fees (California only). OCCSP will cover costs incurred from Oct. 1, 2022, through Sept. 30, 2023.

FSA begins accepting applications for OCCSP Monday, May 15. Applications are due Oct. 31, 2023. To apply, producers and handlers should contact the FSA at their local USDA Service Center. As part of completing the OCCSP application, producers and handlers will need to provide documentation of their organic certification and eligible expenses. Organic producers and handlers may also apply for OCCSP through participating state departments of agriculture.

FSA is also accepting applications from state departments of agriculture to administer OCCSP. FSA will post a synopsis of the funding opportunity on grants.gov and will send more information to all eligible state departments of agriculture. Additional details can be found on the OCCSP webpage.

Other USDA Organic Assistance

These two programs build on several others offered under USDA’s Organic Transition Initiative, which range from conservation assistance to improved crop insurance options.

For example, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service recently announced $75 million in assistance for conservation practices required for organic certification. AMS’ Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP) builds mentorship relationships between transitioning and existing organic farmers to provide technical assistance and wrap-around support in six U.S. regions.

Additionally, as announced earlier in 2023, the Organic Dairy Marketing Assistance Program (ODMAP) will provide marketing assistance to organic dairy producers facing a unique set of challenges, such as significant increases in marketing costs, compounded by increases in feed and transportation costs and the unavailability of organic grain and forage commodities. FSA will announce program and application details soon.

More information about these initiatives and more can be found at farmers.gov/organic-transition-initiative.

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To learn more about the work of the United States Department of Agriculture, visit usda.gov.


USDA Launches New Organic Transition Initiative

WASHINGTON, Aug. 22, 2022 — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced details of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) $300 million investment, including with American Rescue Plan funds, in a new Organic Transition Initiative that is intended to help build new and better markets and streams of income for farmers and producers.

According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, the number of non-certified organic farms actively transitioning to organic production dropped by nearly 71 percent since 2008. Through the comprehensive support provided by this initiative, USDA hopes to reverse this trend, opening opportunities for new and beginning farmers and expanding direct consumer access to organic foods through increased production.

The initiative will deliver wrap-around technical assistance, including farmer-to-farmer mentoring; provide direct support through conservation financial assistance and additional crop insurance assistance, and support market development projects in targeted markets.

“Farmers face challenging technical, cultural, and market shifts while transitioning to organic production, and even during the first years after successful organic certification,” said Vilsack. “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.”

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), Risk Management Agency (RMA) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) are the primary agencies supporting the Initiative, which will focus on three areas.

Transition to Organic Partnership Program

Through this initiative, USDA aims to ensure that farmers transitioning to organic have the support they need to navigate that transition, including a full supply chain to U.S. consumers who demand organic choices in their supermarkets daily. AMS will build partnership networks in six regions across the United States with trusted local organizations serving direct farmer training, education, and outreach activities. The organizations will connect transitioning farmers with mentors, building paid mentoring networks to share practical insights and advice. Each regional team will also provide community building, including train-the-mentor support; as well as technical assistance, workshops, and field days covering topics including organic production practices, certification, conservation planning, business development (including navigating the supply chain), regulations, and marketing to help transitioning and recently transitioned producers overcome technical, cultural, and financial shifts during and immediately following certification. USDA will provide up to $100 million for this program.

Direct Farmer Assistance

NRCS will develop a new Organic Management conservation practice standard and offer financial and technical assistance to producers who implement the practice. Payments will be modeled on those already available to producers meeting the existing nutrient and pest management conservation practice standards. USDA will provide $75 million for this effort. This will include an increase in organic expertise throughout its regions, creating organic experts at each of its regional technology support centers. These experts will train staff who provide direct services to USDA customers. These services include hosting hands-on organic training for state and field NRCS staff and fielding organic-related staff questions.

USDA will provide $25 million to RMA for the new Transitional and Organic Grower Assistance Program (TOGA) which will support transitioning and certain certified organic producers’ participation in crop insurance, including coverage of a portion of their insurance premium.

Organic Pinpointed Market Development Support

Stakeholders have shared that specific organic markets have market development risks due to inadequate organic processing capacity and infrastructure, a lack of certainty about market access, and insufficient supply of certain organic ingredients. This AMS initiative will focus on key organic markets where the need for domestic supply is high, or where additional processing and distribution capacity is needed for more robust organic supply chains. Examples of markets seeking support include organic grain and feed; legumes and other edible rotational crops; and livestock and dairy. USDA will invest up to $100 million to help improve organic supply chains in pinpointed markets. The Department will seek stakeholder input on these pinpointed initiatives beginning in September, resulting in an announcement of specific policy initiatives later this year.

For additional information about MCIA’s Organic Services, please visit https://www.mncia.org/services-programs/organic-services.