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USDA Forms New Partnerships to Support Organic Transition and Conservation Assistance

USDA Forms New Partnerships to Support Organic Transition and Conservation Assistance

 


PORTLAND, Ore., May 17, 2024 The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) partners with Oregon Tilth and the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) to strengthen biological expertise for conservation programs and expand relationships between producers wishing to switch to organic. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is investing $5 million in these five-year partnerships, which are part of USDA's Organic Transition Initiative (OTI), a department-wide effort to support agricultural producers interested in the transition to organic farming. Additionally, NRCS encourages organic and transitioning producers to seek assistance through its conservation programs which have currently increased funding for OTI as well as the Inflation Reduction Act.

The organic standards are closely aligned with NRCS conservation practices, so producers transitioning to organic farming are a natural fit for us, said David Rose, NRCS interim state curator in the Oregon. These new partnerships will allow us to increase our skills in organic matters in order to better support producers in their organic transition.

These OTI partnerships were part of a broader organic announcement made by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on May 15, 2024, which also included the Organic Market Development Grant Program and the Organic Certification Cost Share Program .

OTI partnerships include seven new positions. An OFRF organic research specialist will disseminate the latest biological research and national training to NRCS staff and Oregon Tilth will establish six organic agriculture specialists across the country who will develop regional networks, will provide hands-on training on organic farming to growers and support NRCS staff who will assist them. Farmers are turning to organic. Organic agriculture specialist positions will be filled by Oregon Tilth staff working with organic partners including Marbleseed, the California Certified Organic Farmers Foundation and the Organic Agronomy Training Service.

Conservation aid

Under the OTI, the NRCS introduced a new organic management standard in 2023 to allow growers to get help and education, for example by attending workshops or applying for assistance experts or mentors. The management standard supports the conservation practices required for organic certification and may provide reimbursement for lost revenue for production declines during the transition period.

In 2023, NRCS allocated $12 million across 22 states, signing 112 contracts with transitioning producers.

In addition to the new standard, NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to assist with conservation plans supporting organic transition and organic management, cover crops and crop rotation, field edges and hedges, tunnels irrigation practices, nutrient management, mulching and pest control. Many of these practices are NRCS climate-smart agriculture and forestry activities and are eligible for Inflation Reduction Act funding.

Higher payment rates and other options are available to underserved producers, including socially disadvantaged, beginning, veteran, and resource-constrained farmers and ranchers.

Growers who are beginning or in the process of transitioning to organic certification are encouraged to apply through their local.USDA Service Center. If a state deadline is missed, applications will be considered for the following fiscal year.

More information

These NRCS partnerships are part of OTI's multi-agency effort to support organic and transitioning producers, including farmer-to-farmer mentoring, direct support for 2023 crop insurance, and development projects Steps.

OTI supplementsexisting aid to organic producersincluding agricultural service agencies Organic Certification Cost Sharing Program,(OCCSP) which offers cost sharing to producers who obtain or renew their organic certification. Registration for OCCSP 2024 begins on May 15 and closes on October 31.

For more information on organic farming, visitfarmer.gov/organic or contact your local USDA Service Center. Producers can also apply for NRCS programs, manage conservation plans and contracts, and view and print conservation maps online. log in to their farmers.gov account. If you don't have an account, register today.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans in many positive ways every day. Under the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming the U.S. food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe food , healthy and nutritious in all communities, creating new markets and flows. income for farmers and producers using climate-smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in clean energy infrastructure and capacity in rural America, and committing to equity across the department by removing systemic barriers and creating a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit usda.gov.

Sources

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2/ https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/news/usda-forms-new-partnerships-to-support-organic-transition-conservation-assistance-0

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