Organic Transition Initiative

Before crops can be certified organic, farmers must carefully manage their land without using prohibited inputs like synthetic pesticides for 36 months. During this transition period and during the first years after certification, farmers often face many technical and market challenges. The Organic Transition Initiative (OTI) is a $300 million multi-agency USDA effort to support this transition and build and strengthen organic markets. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service both have a major role in the Organic Transition Initiative. 

How USDA helps through the Organic Transition Initiative 

USDA will provide support in three main areas: mentoring and advice, direct farmer assistance, and organic market security.  

Mentoring and Advice

Through the Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP), USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service provides regionally-based farmer training and education. Partnering organizations in six regions connect farmers with local mentors and provide education and technical assistance on agronomy, certification, extension, conservation planning, business development regulations, and marketing.

Direct Farmer Assistance

Assistance from the Natural Resources Conservation Service

NRCS offers financial and technical assistance to farmers choosing to implement a new organic management standard.

NRCS will also increase organic expertise throughout the organization with new organic experts at each of its regional technology support centers. These positions train NRCS field staff who serve farmers. This is in addition to the existing NRCS assistance for organic and transitioning producers including conservation planning, conservation practice implementation and financial assistance for all offered conservation practices.

Organic Partnerships Organizations

USDA is partnering with Oregon Tilth and Organic Farming Research Foundation to provide the latest in organic research and training. These organizations will establish six organic specialists who will develop regional networks, provide hands-on organic training for producers, and support NRCS staff who assist farmers transitioning to organic. Learn more about the partnerships by contacting Marina Oriel, Organic Conservation Specialist.

Assistance from the Risk Management Agency

RMA’s Transitional Organic Grower Assistance Program (TOGA) provided premium assistance to agricultural producers who purchased crop insurance for crops in transition to organic or a certified organic grain or feed crop for sales closing dates from July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023. TOGA reduced a producer’s overall crop insurance premium bill and helped them continue to use organic agricultural systems.

Pinpointed Organic Market Development

The Agricultural Marketing Service’s Organic Market Development Grant Program (OMDG) will help improve 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. OMDG funds businesses transitioning to organic or initiating new organic production or processing and supports new, improved and expanded markets for domestically produced organic products with a focus on processing capacity, market access, and product development.

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