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Temporary Variance for Drought + Organic Grants

The National Organic Program (NOP) is providing additional drought relief to organic ruminant livestock producers. The NOP is also pleased to announce fourteen grants supporting research and marketing of organic agriculture.

November 2, 2012

The National Organic Program (NOP) is providing additional drought relief to organic ruminant livestock producers. 

The NOP is also pleased to announce fourteen grants supporting research and marketing of organic agriculture.  

Drought Relief: Organic Ruminant Producers


As of October 31, 2012,  Secretary Vilsack had designated 2,190 U.S. counties as primary natural disaster areas and 386 counties as contiguous disaster areas. While these conditions affect all farms in these counties, organic ruminant livestock operations--unless their pasture has access to irrigation--may not be able to meet the organic pasture requirements in the USDA organic regulations.

On August 9, Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator David Shipman granted a temporary variance to livestock producers in counties designated as primary natural disaster areas. On November 2, Administrator Shipman granted a second variance for counties designated as contiguous disaster areas.

Which Producers are Included?

Certified organic ruminant livestock producers in counties designated as either primary or contiguous natural disaster areas at any point in calendar year 2012.

Which Sections of the USDA Organic Regulations are Affected?

USDA is granting a temporary variance from the organic pasture requirements (Sections 205.237(c) and 205.240) of the USDA organic regulations with the following restrictions:   
  • Applies only to organic ruminant producers in counties declared as primary or contiguous natural disaster areas by Secretary Vilsack.
  • Applies to non-irrigated pasture only.
  • Instead of 30 percent, producers must supply at least 15 percent of their dry matter intake (on average) from certified organic pasture.  
  • Applies to the 2012 grazing season only.
Additional Variance for Organic Ruminant Operations in New Mexico

After a prolonged severe drought, the pasture conditions in New Mexico have severely deteriorated, risking permanent soil damage. Resource conservation experts have recommended a shorter grazing season in order to protect soil quality and rangeland/pasture health. Especially when coupled with reduced access to irrigation water, Administrator Shipman has granted an additional variance with restrictions:
  • Applies only to organic ruminant producers in the State of New Mexico.
  • Includes irrigated and non-irrigated pasture.
  • Instead of 120 days, ruminants must graze organic pasture at least 80 days during the grazing season.
  • Instead of 30 percent, ruminants must consume at least 15 percent of their dry matter intake (on average) from certified organic pasture.
  • Applies to the 2012 grazing season only.         

2012 Temporary Variances 

USDA Drought Relief Efforts + List of Affected Counties 

Organic Research + Marketing USDA Grants


The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has awarded $19 million to research and extension programs, helping organic producers and processors grow and market high quality organic agricultural products through the following programs:

The Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) supports efforts to solve critical organic agriculture issues and problems through research and extension activities.
2012 Total Awards: Approximately $15 Million 

The Organic Transitions Program (ORG) strives to improve the competitiveness of organic livestock and crop producers, as well as those who are adopting organic practices, through research, extension, and higher eduction.
2012 Total Awards: Approximately $4 Million

Additional Info and List of Grantees 

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