Apr 11, 2023
NRCS investing $75 million to help producers transitioning to organic

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is dedicating $75 million to help farmers transitioning to organic production adopt an organic management standard.

As part of the multi-agency Organic Transition Initiative, NRCS will provide $70 million in direct aid to farmers and another $5 million to create six technical expert positions responsible for developing regional networks and support services.

The investment, which includes funds from the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, will help build new and improved markets and income streams, strengthen local and regional food systems and increase affordable food supply while promoting climate-smart agriculture and ensuring equity for all producers, according to a news release.

“Producers transitioning to organic can count on NRCS for assistance through the process,” Terry Cosby, NRCS chief, said in the release. “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 help producers under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which includes workshops and a mentor network. 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, according to the release.

Eligible producers include farmers, ranchers, forest landowners and other producers beginning or in the process of transitioning to organic.

More information is available online. After NRCS announces state-specific deadlines later this year, producers can apply at their local USDA Service Center.

The six technical experts will work in five-year agreements, while one organic research position will also support the network. NRCS will post a Notice of Funding Opportunity on grants.gov this week outlining requirements for proposals from regional organizations and partners.

The Organic Transition Initiative is a $300 million effort to support organic and transitioning producers that includes farmer-to-farmer mentoring, crop insurance and market development projects.

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