WASHINGTON – The Environmental Working Group today applauds Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for announcing a new program to help farmers and ranchers make the transition to organic farming.
Vilsack said the Department of Agriculture plans to spend up to $300 million to help farmers obtain crop insurance when switching to organic farming. He said farmers could receive more technical assistance, if needed to make the transition.
“Organic still makes up less than 1 percent of farmed acres in the U.S.,” said EWG’s Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Scott Faber. “Today’s announcement will help more farmers transition to practices that no longer rely on toxic pesticides.”
The USDA organic transition program is part of a larger initiative Vilsack unveiled to make our food system fairer and more resilient, and to help consumers build healthy diets.
“EWG applauds Secretary Vilsack for making the organic transition a priority, and for proposing new steps to help farmers earn a fair price, keep food and farm workers safe, and help consumers choose healthier diets,” Faber said.
To switch to organic, farmers must forgo toxic pesticides and adopt other practices for three years before they are able to earn the USDA organic certification for their farm products. In 2019, 5.5 million acres of farmland had transitioned to organic methods.
“Unless we make a bigger commitment to organic, farmers in other nations, not our farmers, will be meeting the growing demand in the U.S. for organic food,” Faber said. “Organic sales in the U.S. now top $60 billion a year, but the opportunity to earn the benefits of USDA’s organic certification could be lost to farmers from other countries if we fail to act.”
The European Union plans to transition 25 percent of its farmland to organic production by 2030 as part of its “Farm to Fork” strategy.
EWG also applauds the USDA initiative’s plan for helping consumers build healthy diets, including steps to address inequitable access to healthy food, improve school meals and support farmers’ markets. More than half of Americans have chronic diseases tied to unhealthy eating habits.
The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.