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Organic Agriculture

October 2012 marked the 10th anniversary of the USDA organic seal, which has become a leading global standard. In the United States, there are now 18,513 certified USDA organic operations, representing nearly a 245% increase since 2002. In 2013 alone, USDA helped an additional 763 producers and handlers become certified organic, an increase of 4.2%. Worldwide, there are over 25,000 certified organic operations in more than 120 different countries.

Growing New Markets for Organic Products & Ensuring Consumer Confidence

  • In 2013, organic products were a $35 billion industry in the United States.
  • USDA continues to expand markets for American organic products abroad. We work aggressively to break down barriers to trade and assist U.S. farmers and businesses with the resources needed to reach consumers in a global marketplace.
  • Equivalence arrangements are important for small and mid-sized operations that want to export products but cannot afford the time and money necessary for duplicative certifications, fees, and inspections. They allow organic products certified in one country to be sold as organic in each respective market.
    1. In 2009, USDA signed an organic equivalence arrangement with Canada. The United States exports close to $2 billion in organic products to Canada each year.
    2. In February 2012, we established a similar equivalence arrangement with the European Union, the second largest organic market in the world after the United States.
    3. In January 2014, we implemented the U.S. – Japan organic equivalency arrangement, opening up an emerging Asian organic market for U.S. farmers and processors. U.S. organic exports to Japan are currently estimated at $80 million, with growth due to the arrangement expected to reach at least $250 million in 10 years.
  • To make sure consumers can trust the organic seal, in fiscal year 2013, USDA completed 260 complaint investigations and issued 18 civil penalties for willful violations of National Organic Program regulations.
  • To keep mislabeled products out of the marketplace, USDA launched a new way to notify buyers when fraudulent organic certificates are identified. USDA also regularly conducts surveillance audits of certifiers and operations certified in foreign countries. In 2014, NOP will conduct foreign audits of certifiers in Mexico, Taiwan, South Korea, Australia, Turkey, France, England, Peru, Argentina, and Bolivia.

Strengthening Support for Organic Producers

  • To make organic certification accessible, attainable, and affordable for all operations, USDA has implemented a 'Sound and Sensible' approach to organic certification, which includes identifying and removing barriers to certification, streamlining the certification process, focusing enforcement, and working with farmers and processors to correct small issues before they become larger ones.
  • To help producers access information on organic programs and opportunities, USDA has established an online "one-stop-shop":
    1. Reimbursements for up to 75% of the costs of organic certification. In 2012, USDA issued 9,593 reimbursements to assist organic producers and handlers, for a total of over $6.5 million.
    2. Market and pricing information free of charge for approximately 250 organic products through USDA's Market News. USDA plans to expand its offerings in the future.
    3. Financial and technical conservation assistance to farmers to help address certain natural resource concerns in their existing organic systems and to help producers transitioning to organic crop and livestock production. Since 2009, more than 6,000 farms have benefitted from $106 million in assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program Organic Initiative.
  • USDA has also taken steps to provide effective insurance coverage for organic crops and better risk management tools for organic producers.
    1. In 2011, for the first time ever, USDA began offering crop insurance for organic producers that reflects prices for organic cotton, corn, soybeans, and processing tomatoes.
    2. In 2014, USDA eliminated the historical 5% surcharge on organic policy premiums for all crops, added more crops with organic prices for losses, and added a contract pricing option.
    3. A new Whole-Farm Revenue protection policy, recently approved by the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation Board of Directors, will be available as a pilot program in 2015. This policy option is designed to meet the needs of specialty crop growers and producers with highly diversified farms, including organic producers.
  • Since 2009, USDA has supported internal and university researchers through nearly $160 million in funding to improve the productivity and success of organic agriculture, including a number of successful seed-breeding projects.
  • In September 2012, USDA launched the Organic Literacy Initiative, a training and outreach program to help USDA employees better understand and serve organic operators. By spring of 2014, over 30,000 USDA employees had taken the "Organic 101" course and nearly 23,000 had taken the "201" course.