Dairy farmers to get up to $200 million in USDA aid
The Biden administration expanded a pandemic relief program for dairy farmers on Monday to cover up to 9 million pounds of milk produced during the second half of 2020, up from the original 5 million pounds. The Agriculture Department also announced a new assistance program for organic dairy farmers, who face sharply higher feed expenses.
Stronger tools for enforcing U.S. organic standards
The USDA gained “a significant increase” in its power to prevent fraud and protect the integrity of the National Organic Program with the publication of the Strengthening Organic Enforcement rule, said Agriculture Undersecretary Jenny Moffitt on Wednesday. The rule will take effect in 2024.
Organic sales climb 13 percent in two years
California leads the nation with $3.55 billion in sales of organic agricultural products, one-third of the U.S. total, said the USDA on Thursday. The 2021 Organic Survey listed total organic sales of $11.2 billion, an increase of 13 percent in two years.
U.S. disaster payments are needed, say organic livestock producers
Abnormally high feed costs, partly the result of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, are ruining organic livestock producers and federal relief payments are vital to keep farmers in business, said organic trade groups and businesses. "A perfect storm of trade disruptions, international conflicts and acute drought conditions has created a situation no farmer could have planned for or foreseen," said the 13 groups in a letter to lawmakers released on Monday.
Organic transition package includes mentors, crop insurance subsidies
The Agriculture Department will spend $300 million on an initiative to help farmers transition to organic production and on "pinpointed" market development projects, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Monday. It would be the single largest investment ever in organic agriculture by the USDA "and a big step in the right direction," said the Organic Trade Association.
Danone needs to do more, say organic dairy farmers
Organic agriculture groups challenged Danone North America on Monday to match the USDA commitment to support organic dairy farming in the Northeast. "We urge Danone to invest at least $20 million in this region, matching the USDA taxpayer investment to aid organic dairy farmers overcome this crisis," said six organic groups on the anniversary of Danone's decision to terminate contracts with 89 dairy farms in the region.
Vilsack: Transform food system with more processors and local marketing
The pandemic exposed the weaknesses of a food system built around large-volume production and national supply chains, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday. As a remedy, he said, the USDA would help independent processors start up or expand their operations and encourage local marketing.
Novel partnership to bolster organic dairy in Northeast
To help organic dairy farms survive in the Northeast, a first-of-its-kind partnership is asking consumers to pledge to buy dairy products from 35 brands that agreed to expand their purchases of milk from the farms. The Northeast Organic Family Farm Partnership was a response to decisions by processors to pull out of the region, said Gary Hirshberg, a co-founder of Stonyfield, on Wednesday.
Opinion: Unlike the U.S., Europe is setting ambitious targets for producing more organic food
Recent polls show that a majority of Americans are concerned about climate change and willing to make lifestyle changes to address it. Other surveys show that many U.S. consumers are worried about possible health risks of eating food produced with pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones. One way to address all of these concerns is to expand organic agriculture. Organic production generates fewer greenhouse gas emissions than conventional farming, largely because it doesn’t use synthetic nitrogen fertilizer. And it prohibits using synthetic pesticides and giving hormones or antibiotics to livestock. (No paywall)
Report: Fertilizer responsible for more than 20 percent of total agricultural emissions
As the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) gets underway in Glasgow, a new report finds that synthetic nitrogen fertilizers are responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than previously thought, outpacing even the commercial aviation industry. The report, from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Greenpeace and GRAIN, urges a swift transition toward more sustainable food production in order to avert the most catastrophic effects of climate change.(No paywall)
Batcha to step down from OTA in early 2022
After seven years as chief executive, Laura Batcha plans to leave the Organic Trade Association next spring as the industry enjoys record food sales. With sales of $56.5 billion last year, certified organic food accounts for nearly 6 percent of the total U.S. grocery market.
Green, farm groups offer their plan for conservation spending in reconciliation bill
Congress should provide $30 billion for climate-friendly agricultural practices and organic production in the upcoming reconciliation bill, said five dozen farm, environmental, and food groups in a letter to Democratic leaders on Wednesday.
Organic agriculture sales up 31 percent in three years
While still a small sector of U.S. agriculture, organic agriculture is booming, reported the USDA on Thursday. Sales totaled $9.9 billion in 2019, an increase of 31 percent in three years, and 29 percent of organic farmers say they plan to expand production. There are more farms and more land in organic production — 16,585 farms and 5.5 million certified acres — than ever before.
Judge tells USDA to move quickly on organic livestock rule
The USDA admitted to flaws in the analysis it used to kill a regulation setting animal welfare standards for organic farms, and now faces a Sept. 8 deadline to publish a final rule with the updated cost-benefit analysis. “After these many efforts, the department should move quickly,” wrote U.S. district judge Rosemary Collyer granting voluntary remand to the USDA.
Ibach: Gene editing might fit in organic agriculture
The USDA official overseeing organic agriculture said the sector, which rejects GMO crops along with the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, might benefit from gene-edited varieties. “There is the opportunity to open the discussion,” said Agriculture Undersecretary Greg Ibach.
How’s organic faring in the farm bill?
In FERN's latest audio report, reporter Barry Yeoman delves into the fast-growing organic food sector and explores how organic agriculture is faring in the 2018 farm bill. The piece was produced for Nebraska Public Media's "On the Table" Podcast. (No paywall)
USDA kills the proposed organic checkoff program
The Agricultural Marketing Service of the Department of Agriculture issued a preliminary notice Friday morning terminating the proposed organic checkoff program. The program, which was controversial among organic industry stakeholders, would have funded research and marketing for organic products. No paywall
USDA says aeroponics are still eligible for sale as organic
Two months after an advisory board voted to deny organic certification to aeroponic agriculture, the USDA said aeroponic crops remain eligible for the organic seal. "USDA will consider this [advisory] recommendation; aeroponics remains allowed during this review," said the Agricultural Marketing Service in a bulletin to organic growers.