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Organic Industry News

Organic Crop Insurance

Organic farming has become one of the fastest-growing segments of U.S. agriculture. USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) recognizes organic farming practices as good farming practices and continues to move forward in improving crop insurance coverage for organic producers and producers transitioning to organic production to make viable and effective risk management options available.

Several insurance alternatives exist to help organic farmers manage risk. For example, the Contract Price Addendum (CPA) allows you, as a certified organic or organic-transitional producer who has a written contract from a buyer by the acreage reporting date, the ability to insure your crop at the contract price. You can now buy a federal crop insurance guarantee that is more reflective of the actual value of your organic or organic-transitional crop.

Whole-Farm Revenue Protection provides a risk management safety net for all commodities on the farm under one insurance policy and is available in all counties nationwide. This insurance plan is tailored for any farm with up to $8.5 million in insured revenue, including farms with specialty or organic commodities (both crops and livestock), or those marketing to local, regional, farm-identity preserved, specialty or direct markets.

For more information, visit the RMA website at: www.rma.usda.gov.

Certification for Growers in Transition

The Organic Trade Association Transitional Certification Task Force continues to work with the National Organic Program to establish certification standards for growers transitioning from conventional to organic production. The goal is to ease the financial burden incurred by farmers during the transitional period.

The OTA task force continues to examine ways that a workable transitional certification program could be put in place, while also working to identify risks that a harmonized transitional program could pose to the certified organic industry.

Organic Checkoff

The Organic Trade Association, in collaboration with the GRO Organic Core Committee, has formally petitioned the USDA for an organic research and promotion checkoff program. As proposed, the organic checkoff would be a full supply chain checkoff program, promoting the organic brand and organic production practices.

At this point, we don’t have details on precisely what the checkoff will look like—for example, how checkoff funds would be assessed, how much money would be generated, and what the funds would be spent on. This is an issue that we will be watching.

Gene Editing

The National Organic Standards Board is likely to issue a guidance document this spring on several new plant breeding techniques. CRISPR/Cas is the breeding technique most often in the news, due to its profound implications for genetic therapy. But many related techniques such as RNA-dependent DNA methylation, reverse breeding and synthetic genomics also pose questions for organic plant breeders and certifiers. Mac Ehrhardt and Matt Leavitt attended a listening session on this subject at the Organic Seed Alliance Conference. Look for a comment period to open up soon on the USDA NOSB website. For details, visit http://tiny.cc/usda.

Organic Involvement

Mac Ehrhardt is now serving as the Chairman of the Organic Committee for the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA). The ASTA was formed in 1883 and consists of over 700 companies involved in the production and sale of seed. More information can be found at www.amseed.org.

Matt Leavitt presented at the Organic Seed Growers Conference in Corvallis, Oregon, on cover crop seed production. There was a strong turnout at the conference and ample opportunities for networking with leaders in organic seed advocacy from across the nation.

Elia Romano has been invited to take part in the 2016 Seeds & Breeds Summit as a speaker in Raleigh, North Carolina. The summit is an offshoot of the National Association of Plant Breeders annual meeting, with a specific focus on how best to address intellectual property rights issues in the public plant breeding sector, how to address challenges and come up with solutions.

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