Press Release: RAFI-USA encouraged by new USDA initiatives for organic crop insurance


firefly farm, elizabeth gibbs, scott paquin,

For Immediate Release

Contact: Scott Marlow
Phone: (919) 542-1396 x210
Email: smarlow@rafiusa.org
May 15, 2013

Yesterday, the USDA announced Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s “vision for U.S. organic agriculture.” According to a USDA press release, this would include new initiatives to support the growth of organic agriculture through increased crop insurance coverage options this year and more in 2014.

We are encouraged by the news of the USDA’s continued progress of making crop insurance work for organic farmers, something we have advocated for years.

“RAFI and our allies have urged USDA action on many of these points,” says RAFI’s Michael Sligh. “These were some of the top priorities for USDA after our National Organic Action Plan collaboration. We are glad to see these recommendations now being implemented.”

In 2007, RAFI delivered a statement to Congress urging a move in this direction. The statement’s author, current Executive Director Scott Marlow, then served as RAFI Farm Sustainability Coordinator. He wrote:

In our experience, there is currently no crop insurance that provides effective risk management for the value that farmers add through either specialized production or marketing. The lack of risk management for value-added products, and the reduction in access to credit and other disaster programs that accompanies it creates a financial disincentive for farmers to make the transition, and increases the risk and vulnerability of those that do.

Since that time, USDA has taken significant steps in filling the crop insurance needs of organic farmers. This announcement continues the process, begun in 2012, of providing an organic price option for specific crops in existing crop insurance policies. In addition, the use of actual contract prices to determine coverage levels is a major leap forward and recognizes the diversity of prices across the country.

We also applaud the Organic Literacy Initiative and USDA’s significant steps to train employees to better serve the organic sector and increase the public awareness of the multiple benefits of organic agriculture.

As we continue to work toward a fair agricultural system that provides equal benefits to organic producers, yesterday’s USDA announcement gives us a renewed sense of hope for greater crop insurance and risk management solutions for organic producers.

“We have long advocated for crop insurance that recognizes the price of organic and other markets,” says Marlow.  “Organic crop insurance is key for both disaster risk management and access to operating credit for organic producers, especially those who sell in wholesale markets. This addresses those needs of producers for organic wholesale markets. We look forward to working with the USDA on revision of whole farm revenue insurance to address the needs of direct market producers and encourage diversification.”

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