The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in California is making federal funding available to assist California’s agricultural producers transition to organic production. Through the new Organic Transition Initiative (OTI), NRCS California is accepting applications until June 15, 2023, from interested landowners for eligible conservation practices.
“Producers transitioning to organic can count on NRCS for assistance,” said NRCS California State Conservationist Carlos Suarez. “This funding will help support producers through the challenges of organic transition and address their conservation needs.”
Eligible practices in California includes conservation planning, crop rotation, cover crops, nutrient management, and field borders. Interested landowners should speak to their local NRCS Service Center, which can be found at https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/contact/find-a-service-center.
NRCS staff will first start by creating a free conservation plan with the landowner to assess what conservation practices are best applied for organic transition. Applications for funding assistance will be later screened and ranked, after June 15, to determine which projects have the highest conservation benefits. Those approved will be provided cost share assistance.
OTI was authorized in the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), to help build new and better markets and income streams, strengthen local and regional food systems, and increase affordable food supply for more Americans, while promoting climate-smart agriculture and ensuring equity for all producers.
Nationally, NRCS is dedicating $70 million to assist producers with a new organic management standard under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
NRCS will help producers 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.
How to Apply
Eligible producers include farmers, ranchers, forest landowners, and other producers beginning or in the process of transitioning to organic certification.
Higher payment rates and other options are available for underserved producers including historically underserved customers, Tribes, beginning farmers and ranchers, veterans, and limited resource farmers and ranchers.
This article was written by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Since its inception in 1935, NRCS has worked in partnership with private landowners and a variety of local, state, and federal conservation partners to deliver conservation based on specific, local needs. Please visit www.ca.nrcs.usda.gov for more information about NRCS.