Mar 1, 2021Strengthening partnerships between USDA NRCS, organic producers eyed
Organic Farming Research Foundation has announced a three-year agreement with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The agreement focuses on strengthening conservation partnerships between USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) field staff and organic producers. It will leverage Organic Farming Research Foundation’s (OFRF) unique expertise to expand knowledge and outreach focusing on the best science-based organic practices.
OFRF, organic producers, and NRCS conservationists share a commitment to restore and protect natural resources through agricultural conservation. The USDA National Organic Program Standards require certified organic growers to maintain and improve soil and water quality, species diversity, woodlands, wetlands, wildlife, and other resources to help in these efforts. And, organic producers and NRCS both recognize the urgent need to address the climate crisis through conservation systems that mitigate climate change and build resilience.
However, organic farmer participation in NRCS programs has been limited to date. Though historically NRCS has worked primarily with conventional producers, the agency’s conservation practices fit all kinds of production – from organic to conventional, large to small, and all regions, nationwide. Increased technical and financial assistance for organic and transitioning producers is necessary to support widespread adoption of NRCS conservation practices standards related to soil health, tillage, and nutrient, pest, and weed management.
“We applaud recent positive steps to ensure programs work effectively for the organic sector,” said Brise Tencer, Executive Director at OFRF. “However, there is a continued need to build the capacity of NRCS field offices to effectively serve organic farmers. We are very excited to launch this new partnership. By creating science-based materials for NRCS staff and helping increase understanding of organic soil health practices such as practical conservation tillage and nutrient management, we are taking an active role in fighting climate change, and supporting the success of organic producers and others who want to adopt more sustainable practices.”
“The Organic Farming Research Foundation is a leader in science-based research in organic agriculture and its benefits on natural resources,” said NRCS Acting Chief Terry Cosby. “This partnership will ensure NRCS field staff better understand organic farming practices and are equipped to support more organic farmers’ conservation efforts.”
“The agreement comes at a critical time as climate change – with intensified droughts, heat waves, and storms – creates new challenges for farmers and ranchers,” Tencer said.
The partnership includes provisions for research analyses, guidebooks, webinars, and case studies – with a particular focus on sustainable growing practices that promote soil health, conserve natural resources, and prevent environmental degradation while producing a healthful, and secure food supply.
NRCS helps America’s farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners conserve the nation’s soil, water, air, and other natural resources. All programs are voluntary and offer science-based solutions that benefit both the landowner and the environment. For more information on NRCS assistance for organic producers, visit nrcs.usda.gov/organic.