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Organic Transition Initiative

A new market has developed in the Caribbean Area – customers are willing to pay more for organic and nutritional products. To help local farmers meet increased demand for specialty and organic products, the NRCS Caribbean Area (CB) has launched a new EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) Organic Transition Initiative to assist producers. The Organic Transition (OT) Initiative is a voluntary programs that provide financial and technical assistance to farmers.

Organic Transition helps farmers to move from standard to organic production by addressing natural resource concerns and implementing new practices to meet the requirements of the National Organic Program (NOP, specifically reduction or elimination of chemical pesticides and fertilizers). Under the controlled conditions used in seasonal high tunnels and organic farming, farmers can greatly reduce water, energy, pesticide and fertilizer use. These practices save resources and are less complex to manage than outdoor/field conditions, where even climate change can affect crops. 

NRCS-CB has received many applications for this new program. Most include roof gutters for water catchment facilities. Assistance for tanks and irrigation was also provided. Chayote is a runner plant that can be planted with support stakes. Once established, it provides a canopy that protect soil from sheet erosion and shades out weeds.These new initiatives have helped create several success stories of young farmers starting new agri-businesses and learning to be both employers and farmers.

The new OT farmers are learning from each other and sharing ideas, clients and even physical labor! Many of the new OT farmers are also using High Tunnels to help their transition to organic. Some of the farmers had previously planted under outdoor field conditions, and decided to move to producing in a controlled environment. Others are new farmers with experience in professional fields (organizing, writing proposals, record keeping) but with little experience in farming. Both groups of farmers were fast learners, and took several workshops about planting organically under a shade roof (hoop houses).

NRCS-CB thanks our partners in these initiatives: our sister agencies (FSA) that provided operational loans to supplement the farmers’ budgets, as well as the PR Department of Agriculture, UPR Agricultural Extension Service and Agricultural Experiment Station who provided training and technical assistance to farmers.

More Information

Contact

Mario Rodríguez, State Resource Conservationist, at 787-766-5065 or Mario.Rodriguez@usda.gov.