The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced details of a $75 million investment in conservation assistance for growers transitioning to organic production. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will dedicate financial and technical assistance to a new organic management standard and partner with new organic technical experts to increase staff capacity and expertise. The effort is part of the multi-agency Organic Transition Initiative.
The investment includes funds from the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. It will help build new and better markets and income streams, strengthen local and regional food systems and increase affordable food supply for more Americans. It will promote climate-smart agriculture and ensure equity for all growers.
“Producers transitioning to organic can count on NRCS for assistance through the process,” said NRCS Chief Terry Cosby. “By strengthening our technical proficiency and providing technical and financial assistance through new tools and practices, we can better support producers through the challenges of organic transition.”
NRCS will dedicate $70 million to assist growers with a new organic management standard under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
NRCS will help growers adopt the new organic management standard, which allows flexibility for producers to get the assistance and education they need, such as attending workshops or requesting help from experts or mentors. It supports conservation practices required for organic certification and may provide foregone income reimbursement for dips in production during the transition period.
Higher payment rates and other options are available for underserved producers, including socially disadvantaged, beginning, veteran and limited-resource farmers and ranchers.
Eligible producers include farmers, ranchers, forest landowners and other producers beginning or in the process of transitioning to organic certification.
NRCS will announce state-specific deadlines later this year, after which producers can apply through NRCS at their local USDA Service Center.
NRCS will dedicate $5 million to partner with six organic technical experts through five-year agreements. The organic experts will develop regional networks and support NRCS staff who provide services to USDA customers.
A Notice of Funding Opportunity, closing on June 11, outlines requirements for proposals from regional organizations and partners.
For more information, visit farmers.gov/organic.