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USDA Efforts for Coexistence

U.S. farmers in the 21st Century engage in many forms of agriculture, including conventional, organic, identity-preserved, and genetically engineered (GE) crop production. USDA is unequivocal in its supports for all these forms of agriculture. We need all of them to meet our country's collective needs for food security, energy production, carbon offsets and the economic sustainability of rural communities. Our goal is to promote the coexistence of all these approaches through cooperation and science-based stewardship practices.

Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)

The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) provides the agriculture industry with valuable tools and services that help create marketing opportunities. AMS ensures the quality and availability of wholesome food and agricultural products for consumers in domestic and export markets. Services are available to producers of all types and sizes, from conventional and organic producers to international agricultural businesses.

Through the AMS Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, USDA awards State departments of agriculture funds to distribute to both conventional and organic stakeholders to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops, including projects that develop local and regional food systems, and foster organic and sustainable production practices. Through the AMS National Organic Program (NOP), USDA has helped organic farmers and businesses achieve $35 billion annually in U.S. retail sales.

The organic community includes over 25,000 organic businesses in more than 120 different countries around the world. The NOP has supported the continued growth of the organic sector by developing clear standards, enforcing a level playing-field, and expanding trade opportunities to create new markets for U.S. organic businesses. The NOP also provides support and input to the Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21). Organic stakeholders are well-represented on AC21.

USDA has a number of new and expanded efforts to connect organic farmers and businesses with resources that will ensure the continued growth of the organic industry domestically and abroad. During this Administration, USDA has signed four major trade agreements on organic products, and is also helping organic stakeholders access programs that support conservation, provide access to loans and grants, fund organic research and education, and mitigate pest emergencies.

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) provides oversight of genetically engineered organisms under research and development. Through compliance oversight and risk assessment programs APHIS regulates GE organism through science-based risk assessments and risk management to ensure proper confinement of GE organisms and separation from other agricultural commodities including organic commodities. APHIS supports USDA's coexistence effort by actively engaging in interagency efforts to address issues related to coexistence such as, researching and recommending stewardship and education best practices to promote coexistence, and recommending voluntary outcome-based solutions to promote coexistence such as pinning maps and incentives.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS)

As the chief intramural research agency of USDA, the Agricultural Research Service plays a foundational role in supporting American agriculture. ARS works cooperatively with farmers, producers, industry, universities, and other Federal partners both nationally and internationally to identify major agricultural issues and challenges to producing and sustaining a high-quality robust food, fiber, feed, and fuel production system. ARS research supports agricultural co-existence and takes an integrated approach of developing and identifying production practices that are productive, efficient, sustainable, and economically viable for a variety of farming systems--from conventional to organic farming practices and techniques to non-traditional approaches.

Scientists represent a diverse body of scientific disciplines. Some projects focus on developing and evaluating non-traditional approaches that include biotechnology techniques, genomics, genetics, and other cutting-edge approaches needed to respond and adapt quickly and efficiently to unique, new and emerging problems that face our food production system. Research efforts are supported by many unique and innovative partnering tools to ensure that our research moves from lab to market to the American consumer. ARS Investment in long-term and short-term research has helped strengthen and ensure we maintain a safe, secure, and affordable food system, and that American farmers remain competitive in a global farming economy.

Economic Research Service (ERS)

The Economic Research Service (ERS) conducts research on the economic characteristics of genetically engineered crops and organic farming systems in the United States. The ERS website contains biotechnology information with links to ERS data, research, and analysis on the extent of GE adoption, the economic effects of GE adoption, and other agricultural biotechnology issues. The ERS Organic Agriculture site contains links to data, research, and analysis on the extent of certified organic acreage and livestock, consumer demand for organically produced goods, the economic characteristics of organic production, and other organic production and marketing issues.

ERS routinely updates a number of Data Products on the economic characteristics of genetically engineered crops and organic farming systems, including:

Genetically Engineered Crop Data: This data product summarizes the adoption of herbicide-tolerant and insect-resistant crops since their introduction in 1996. Tables include data on corn, cotton, and soybeans, and provide data obtained by USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service in the June Agricultural Survey for 2000 through 2014.

Organic Price Data: Historical wholesale and retail organic prices and price premiums for selected fruits, vegetables, poultry, eggs, dairy, and grains.

Organic Production Data: ERS has been tracking the adoption of certified organic farming systems in the United States since the late 1990s. ERS collaborates with over 50 State and private certification organizations and other USDA agencies to make estimates of the extent of certified organic farmland acreage and livestock, by commodity and by State, between 1997 through 2011.

Organic Commodity Costs and Returns: Annual cost and return estimates are reported for the United States and major production regions for corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, grain sorghum, rice, peanuts, oats, barley, milk, hogs, and cow-calf based on historical prices. These estimates are based on data from the Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) survey results. Since 2005, the organic dairy, soybean, apple, wheat, and corn sectors have been included with their conventional counterparts in the ARMS survey which enables comparisons of production costs, revenues, yields, energy intensiveness, structure, marketing, and other economic and environmental aspects.

ARMS Farm Financial and Crop Production Practices: The Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) is USDA's primary source of information on the financial condition, production practices, and resource use of America's farm businesses and the economic well-being of America's farm households. Data on the use of various production practices in major crops by farming system (organic and non-organic systems) is available in this product. Questions about the use of non-genetically engineered seed and crop production practices will also be included.

Recent ERS research has examined farmer motivations for adopting GE crops, the relationship between adoption of GE crops and yields, and the relationship between adoption of GE crops and pesticide use. See Genetically Engineered Crops in the United States (PDF, 144KB) and The First Decade of Genetically Engineered Crops in the United States (PDF, 543KB) for more information. Also see Off-Farm Income, Technology Adoption, and Farm Economic Performance for more information on economic effects of adoption of GE crops.

A 2009 ERS report, Emerging Issues in the U.S. Organic Industry, (PDF, 213KB) examined a broad spectrum of economic research on the profitability and market conditions in this rapidly changing sector. Research and analysis on organic consumer demand and imports is available in the ERS Organic Agriculture site. ERS is also collecting data on the increase in retail food products with labels indicating private verification that the products were made according to best practices to avoid use of genetically engineered ingredients.

Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS)

The Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) supports all U.S. agriculture. FAS partners with all producers-whether they are large, small, organic, or conventional-to facilitate the export of quality U.S. products around the world. From organic equivalency certifications to advocating for market access for GE crops, FAS is committed to serving the global interests of American agriculture.

Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA)

Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) facilitates the marketing of livestock, poultry, meat, cereals, oilseeds, and related agricultural products and promotes fair and competitive trading practices for the overall benefit of consumers and American agriculture. GIPSA supports co-existence through the High Quality Specialty Grain Temporary Waiver of mandatory inspection and weighing requirements for high quality specialty grain exported in containers, thereby facilitating the development of the high quality specialty grain export market, including business transactions for organic grains.

National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS)

The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is committed to providing timely, accurate, and useful statistics in service to all aspects of U.S. agriculture. As one of the official federal statistical agencies, NASS produces objective data on U.S. agriculture. To do this, hundreds of surveys are conducted every year as well as the every 5-year Census of Agriculture and prepare reports covering virtually every aspect of U.S. agriculture. Production and supplies of food and fiber, prices paid and received by farmers, farm labor and wages, farm finances, chemical use, organic agriculture, horticulture, equine, aquaculture, conservation practices, bees and honey, and the demographics of U.S. producers are only a few examples. NASS works to keep up with changes and diversification in U.S. agriculture by adding or deleting questions on the Census of Agriculture and by conducting special or new studies.

Some recent examples are an expanded study of organic agriculture and new Census questions covering renewable energy, direct-to-consumer marketing, and silvaculture for example. All personal identifying information provided by survey respondents is kept confidential by federal law and is used for statistical purposes only. We publish only aggregated data, ensuring that no individual operation or producer can be identified.

National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)

Research and extension can play important roles to strengthen understanding of coexistence between conventional, transgenic and organic production systems. There is a need to precisely evaluate the composition of agricultural products from diverse cropping systems for the presence of genetically engineered (GE) material, which then creates a need for enhanced communication and awareness of the implications of coexistence. Broad-based research and extension initiatives can provide innovative solutions to these challenges.

NIFA-supported research has contributed to the development and adoption of optimal mitigation techniques to minimize gene flow through genetic strategies, management practices, social systems, and producer cooperation. Cooperative Extension professionals have locally-specific roles in promoting the adoption of these techniques and strategies. NIFA-supported eXtension Communities of Practice ensure that science-based findings inform federal policy decision makers, consumers, and stakeholders as they develop agricultural practices based on economic, social, and environmental sustainability.

Risk Management Agency (RMA)

USDA's Risk Management Agency (RMA) provides Federal crop insurance coverage for America's farmers and ranchers. RMA continues to develop new and innovative insurance policies to better meet the needs of America's farmers and ranchers. We provide insurance policies for all farmers and ranchers and work to lower the cost of premiums so all have the ability to afford coverage for their operations.

In just the past few years, RMA has:

  • Removed the 5 percent surcharge on organic policies;
  • Used new technology to provide policies covering rangeland, pasture, forage, and beekeeping;
  • Worked with farmers to provide accurate planting and harvesting counts from the data that their planters and harvesters report to provide more accurate insurance coverage;
  • Combined insurance policies to make buying insurance coverage easier;
  • Continued to provide funding for risk management education around the country;
  • Offered coverage for the whole farm in most of the country encouraging insurance coverage on small and diverse farms; and
  • Developed a beginning farmer and rancher program that helps new farmers and ranchers start their businesses

These are just a few of the actions RMA has taken in just a few years to help all farmers and ranchers get insurance coverage on their businesses and manage their business risk so America's agriculture industry continues to be robust and productive as technology and the industry change in the 21st century.