“Farmers’ Guide” Helps Organic Producers Apply for USDA Buffer Initiative
May 20, 2016
New “Farmers’ Guide” Helps Organic Producers Apply for Buffer Initiative
Washington, DC, May 13, 2016 – Today, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) announced the publication of their Organic Farmers’ Guide to the Conservation Reserve Program Field Border Buffer Initiative. The guide is intended to assist organic farmers interested in accessing the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) new Organic Buffer Initiative, and is one of many free resources produced by NSAC for farmers and farm groups.
“Organic farming already provides many environmental benefits, including improved soil health and water quality,” said Greg Fogel, Senior Policy Specialist with NSAC. “The Organic Buffer Initiative is a great new tool that will help organic farmers looking to take their conservation efforts to the next level, and we hope that our farmers’ guide will help them seamlessly access and utilize the program.”
NSAC’s guide includes eligibility and application information, program basics, detailed descriptions of key conservation practices and associated payments, as well as two producer profiles and resources for additional information.
The buffer initiative, which is administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA) as part of the Conservation Reserve Program’s (CRP) Continuous Sign-up (CCRP), aims to establish up to 20,000 acres of new conservation buffers. Conservation buffers can come in many varieties, but are generally described as a small areas or strips of land in permanent vegetation that are designed to slow runoff, provide shelter for wildlife, and prevent erosion along riverbank areas.
Through the Organic Buffer Initiative FSA provides farmers with rental payments, cost-share payments, and in many cases incentive payments for land that is set-aside for conservation buffers for a period of 10-15 years. The initiative helps organic producers limit the impacts of pesticide drift, enhance their conservation systems, and meet National Organic Program (NOP) certification requirements for natural resource and biodiversity conservation.
Unlike the general sign-ups that occur under other CRP programs, CCRP producers may enroll at any time throughout the year. The program also has no bidding and ranking system, and the land is enrolled automatically if it meets the eligibility criteria.
CCRP eligible practices include: riparian buffers, wildlife habitat buffers, wetland buffers, filter strips, wetland restoration, grass waterways, shelterbelts, windbreaks, living snow fences, contour grass strips, salt tolerant vegetation, and shallow water areas for wildlife.
Under the new organic initiative, farmers are free to use whichever CCRP eligible practice or suite of practices that best suits their particular needs. However, in most cases, we believe farmers will be most interested in the following practices:
- If a field borders a stream, either the filter strip or the riparian buffer practice will be best suited to that particular border.
- If a farm is located in an area where trees are well suited and high winds a consideration, the windbreak option may be suitable.
- In most other instances, the two practices that are likely to be adaptable as field borders are the pollinator habitat practice or the upland buffers practice.
Click here to download the full guide.