Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Press Release

USDA Forms New Partnerships to Support Organic Transition, Conservation Assistance

Publish Date
NRCS-Organic-Transition-Initiative-website

USDA invests $5 million in five-year partnerships with Oregon Tilth and Organic Farming Research Foundation for Organic Transition Initiative, strengthening organic expertise and expanding relationships among producers.

May 16, 2024 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is partnering with Oregon Tilth and Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) to strengthen organic expertise for conservation programs and expand relationships among producers wanting to transition 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 transitioning to organic. Additionally, NRCS encourages organic and transitioning producers to apply for assistance through its conservation programs that currently have boosted funding from the OTI as well as the Inflation Reduction Act. 

“Organic standards are closely aligned with NRCS conservation practices, so producers transitioning to organic are a natural fit for us,” said Mellowdee Tibbs, NRCS Acting State Conservationist in Louisiana. “These new partnerships will enable us to raise our organic proficiency so we can better assist producers with organic transition.” 

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

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

Conservation Assistance 

As part of OTI, NRCS introduced a new organic management standard in 2023 to allow producers flexibility to get assistance and education, such as attending workshops or requesting help from experts or mentors. The management standard supports conservation practices required for organic certification and may provide foregone income reimbursement for dips in production during the transition period.  

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

In addition to the new standard, NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to help with conservation plans supporting organic transition and organic management, cover cropping and crop rotation, field borders and hedgerows, high tunnels, irrigation practices, nutrient management, mulching and pest management. Many of these practices are NRCS’ Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Activities and eligible for Inflation Reduction Act funding.

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

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

More Information

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

OTI complements existing assistance for organic producers, including the Farm Service Agency’s Organic Certification Cost Share Program, (OCCSP) that provides cost share for producers who obtain or renew their organic certification. Sign-up for 2024 OCCSP begins on May 15 and runs through October 31.

For more information on organic agriculture, visit farmers.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 by logging into their farmers.gov account. If you don’t have an account, sign up today

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

#

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.