NRCS Champions to Assist Organic Producers

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As the demand for organic products continues to grow, more farmers and ranchers are becoming certified organic producers and transitioning all or part of their operations to organic production. In response, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is developing a network of field-level staff to help newer farmers understand and leverage resources. The position is designed to help improve field capacity in assisting organic and transitioning-to-organic producers.

On November 1, 2016, NRCS sent a bulletin to all state offices informing them of the opportunity to appoint an “organic champion." States have until November 11 to submit the name of their selected organic champion to NRCS.

Organic champions will receive training to become familiar with the overall scope of USDA organic resources, so they can serve as a resource and dissemination network. Once trained and in place, the organic champions will be able to address local questions on conservation planning, applications and programs for organic and transitioning-to-organic producers. Although responsibilities may vary slightly from state to state, suggested core activities include the following:

• Develop knowledge of USDA resources for organic producers.
• Increase NRCS staff members’ understanding of organic farming systems.
• Improve delivery of conservation assistance to address resource concerns on organic farms and help producers meet USDA organic regulations.
• Provide timely organic conservation technical assistance in response to field staff requests • Provide specific guidance to field staff when questions arise regarding organic farming.

Additional responsibilities may include the following:

• Assist with statewide organic trainings.
• Conduct outreach to the general public about NRCS programs and conservation services.
• Share information about resources related to organic standards.
• Participate in statewide organic events.
• Participate in the State program advisory committees (CSP, EQIP, AMA).
• Attend State Technical Meetings (STCs) and encourage others from the organic community to participate.
• Meet other state and local needs related to organic agriculture .  

Photo: NRCS Arkansas district conservationist Derinda Smith speaks with a local resident about conservation practices for optimizing vegetable production under a high tunnel. Credit: USDA.