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Baldwin, King, Kuster, Pingree Introduce Bill to Support Organic Farmers and Producers to Meet Growing Demand

Legislation would increase support for popular grant program utilized by organic farmers and businesses

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Angus King (I-ME) and Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-ME-01) and Annie Kuster (D-NH-02) introduced legislation to give organic producers the tools they need to increase their capacity, reach new markets, and grow their businesses. The Organic Market Development Act would codify and increase support for a newly announced U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program, which aims to solve supply chain gaps for the organic market through grants to farmers and businesses as demand increases for organic products. In 2021, U.S. sales of organic food products reached $52 billion, nearly double the sales done in 2010.

“Wisconsin’s organic farmers and businesses are stepping up to meet the growing demand for organic products, and I’m committed to delivering the support they need to grow their businesses and reach new markets," said Senator Baldwin. “This legislation will build on the success of the Organic Market Development Grant program and allow more producers to access these resources and tools to grow our agriculture economy and ensure Wisconsin remains a leader in the organic food industry.”

“As Maine’s organic farmers face increasing challenges from changing global markets, climate change, and more, we must continue to provide resources and support to help them evolve with the times,” said Senator King. “The Organic Market Development Act would codify an existing, and highly in demand, grant program to ensure the continuance of grant funding to Maine’s organic farmers so that they can respond to these challenges and pave the way for the future of the organic food industry. Thanks to my colleagues, Senator Baldwin, and Representatives Pingree and Kuster, for supporting Maine farmers and the entire American agriculture industry.”

“Organic agriculture is the fastest growing sector in the United States food industry – we need to support our farmers and producers as they grow more healthy food to meet rising demand,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “I am proud to introduce the Organic Market Development Act to help our local communities and organizations expand existing organic markets and establish new ones to meet the demand for organic goods.”

“Organic agriculture sales reached over $60 billion in 2022 and continues to grow, building a more resilient and sustainable food system. As more farmers consider making the transition from conventional to organic farming, we must strengthen organic processing and storage and enhance market opportunities,” said Congresswoman Pingree, a longtime organic farmer and member of the House Agriculture Committee. “I’m proud to introduce the Organic Market Development Act alongside Congresswomen Kuster and Salinas and Senator Baldwin to expand and create new markets for organic products.”

In May of 2023, USDA announced a $75 million investment in the Organic Market Development Grant through the Commodity Credit Corporation. The program aims to support the development of new and expanded organic markets by building and expanding capacity for certified organic production, aggregation, processing, manufacturing, storing, transporting, wholesaling, distribution, and development of consumer markets. Businesses will be able to purchase new equipment, study new product formulations, and expand and upgrade their facilities to accommodate new products.

Retail sales of organic fresh fruits and vegetables were an estimated $19.2 billion in 2021 and have steadily trended upward for the past two decades. In 2021, Wisconsin ranked second in the nation for the total number of organic farms with 1,455. Wisconsin also had the seventh-highest total sales in certified organic commodities at $313 million.

The Organic Market Development Act will codify the Organic Market Development Grant program that is currently administered by Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), building on the initial $75 million annual authorization by maintaining the base Commodity Credit Corporation investing and authorizing an additional $25 million in appropriations for 2024 and each fiscal year thereafter. The development program will:

  • increase the capacity of the domestic organic product supply chain for producers, handlers, suppliers, and processors of certified organic products;
  • modernize manufacturing, tracking, storage, and information technology systems;
  • improve the capacity of eligible entities to comply with applicable regulatory requirements or quality standards required to access markets;
  • expand capacity for processing, aggregation, and distribution of certified organic products to create more and better markets for producers of certified organic products; facilitate market development for domestically produced certified organic products;
  • conduct feasibility studies and market viability assessments to inform organic transition strategies and opportunities;
  • address barriers to entry to organic product certification for historically underserved entities; and
  • support market and promotional activities that help build commercial markets for certified organic products in the United States.

“The Organic Market Development Act will enable businesses and farmers to solve persistent supply chain gaps and move more value-added organic commodities to market. This organic infrastructure bill is aimed at creating the right-sized processing and market strategies that bring organic goods to more consumers who can decide to make that organic food choice. We are hopeful this bicameral legislation can ultimately be realized in the next farm bill. It is good policy and a big thanks to Senator Tammy Baldwin and Representative Annie Kuster for championing the bill with other congressional leaders,” said Adam Warthesen, Senior Director of Government & Industry Affairs for Organic Valley.

“Consumer demand for organic continues to grow, but too much of this demand is being met by imported organic food and fiber. The Organic Market Development Act ensures that we will have the infrastructure in place here in the US to process organic products, so that more American farmers can benefit from this market opportunity,” said Britt Lundgren, Senior Director of Sustainability, Stonyfield Organic.

“With the strategic investments offered in the OMD Act, the organic community can unlock the potential of the organic marketplace and continue the growth trend and capitalize on the recent investments made by USDA in organic farming,” said Tom Chapman, CEO of the Organic Trade Association. “Passage of this legislation is key to ensuring transition and growth of organic at the farm level is carried through to the marketplace.”

"We are thrilled Congresswomen Kuster and Pingree and Senators Baldwin and King have introduced a bill to make the Organic Market Development Grant Program permanent," said Julie Davenson, Board President of Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Hampshire. "Expanding organic market access will provide new opportunities for NH producers to access premium markets, helping to expand organic production in the state and boost revenue for farmers. This grant will complement NOFA NH's Transition to Organic Program (TOPP), which provides free support to farmers transitioning to organic. Organic agriculture boosts our local economy and increases the production of nutrient-dense food while building soil health."

“The Organic Produce Association is pleased to support the Organic Market Development Act.  Consumer demand for organic produce is at an all-time high.  The Organic Market Development Act will continue current USDA efforts to make it easier for producers and others along the organic supply chain to break down current barriers and get more fresh, sustainable healthy organic food to American families,” said Theojary Crisantes, Chairman of the Organic Produce Association.

In addition to Senators Baldwin and King and Representatives Kuster and Pingree, the Organic Market Development Act is co-sponsored by Senators Peter Welch (D-VT) and Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) and Representative Andrea Salinas (D-OR-06).

The Organic Market Development Act is endorsed by Organic Trade Association, Organic Valley, Stonyfield, Organic Farmers Association, Clif Bar, Whole Foods Market, Organic Produce Association, General Mills, Organically Grown Company, Natural Resources Defense Council, California Certified Organic Farmers, Sustainable Strategies LLC, Organic Farming Research Foundation, Danone, PURIS Proteins, Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Oregon Tilth, Diestel Family Ranch, Organics Unlimited, Pennsylvania Certified Organic, and MOSA Certified Organic.

A one-pager on this legislation can be found here. Full text of this legislation can be found here.