This week, Oregon's Senator Jeff Merkley will introduce an amendment to the farm bill that would improve crop insurance for organic farmers. Currently, when organic farmers face losses and file an insurance claim, they are not paid based on the price of the organic crop but instead based on the price for the non-organic equivalent crop, which is often considerably lower. Merkley's amendment would ensure that organic farmers will be compensated for losses at the relevant organic prices within three years of the enactment of the 2012 farm bill.
"Organic farmers are producing higher value crops, and they need to be compensated accordingly when disaster strikes," Merkley said. "Oregon is a leader in growing organic products, and our organic farmers deserve the same level of protection that other farmers get."
Organic farmers currently pay a higher premium for crop insurance than non-organic farms, and the additional cost combined with lower payouts is a main factor organic producers cite for not purchasing crop insurance. In the 2008 farm bill, Congress directed USDA's Risk Management Agency to study how to set insurance payment levels for organic farmers at appropriate prices. However, in four years, USDA has only fulfilled this instruction for four organic crops out of dozens of crops on the market.
Senator Merkley's amendment would require USDA to set appropriate payment levels for organic farmers within three years. The amendment is endorsed by the following organizations:
National Farmers Union
National Organic Coalition
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides
Organic Farming Research Foundation
Organic Trade Association
Organically Grown Company
Tilth Producers of Washington
California Certified Organic Farmers
Northeast Organic Farming Association
Florida Organic Growers
Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Services