Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack wants all agencies under his jurisdiction to make it standard operation procedure to address the needs of the organic sector.

In remarks to officials with the Organic Trade Association during their annual visit to Washington D.C. May 14, Vilsack announced changes to support organic growth.

Initiatives include increasing coverage options for federal crop insurance for organic producers through the Risk Management Agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture this year, with more options on tap in 2014. The RMA will also remove the 5% organic rate surcharge on future policies beginning in 2014.

USDA pumps up organic servicesBeginning with the 2014 crop year, some organic growers who have guaranteed contracts will be able to use their personal contract price as their price election. The RMA is also changing organic transitional yields to be more reflective of actual experiences.

All crops are being evaluated for establishing organic prices for the 2014 crop year, according to the USDA website. The RMA is working to provide organic price elections for six to 10 crops in 2014. Apricots, apples and blueberries are among those under consideration.

The USDA is also providing new guidance on organic production to all of its sub-agencies. One initiative has already trained more than 14,000 USDA employees on the agency’s role in organic agriculture, according to a USDA news release on Vilsack’s presentation to OTA.

Vilsack said the lack of accurate data is the biggest obstacle for developing better crop insurance options for organic producers and said Congress should address that problem in the new farm bill that is under consideration now.