USDA Makes Payments Available for Organic Field Border Buffers

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Conservation or ‘field border’ buffers provide multiple conservation and environmental benefits, and also help farmers meet USDA organic certification requirements, including protecting soil and water quality and enhancing biodiversity and habitat. In some circumstances, the buffers can also protect organic farms against pesticide or genetic drift from neighboring operations.

On Friday, February 26th, USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced cost-share and land rental payments for field border buffers through the Continuous Sign-up Conservation Reserve Program (CCRP). The organic buffer initiative, aimed at establishing up to 20,000 acres of new conservation buffers, was announced at the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) annual conference and begins next month.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) worked closely with FSA to develop the new initiative. “We congratulate FSA on the launch of the new organic field border initiative and applaud their commitment to do more outreach to organic farmers,” said NSAC Policy Director and OFRF Board member, Ferd Hoefner. “FSA leadership has made the right decision in seeking to tailor these types of programs to the specific needs of organic farmers. We encourage organic farmers to give this new option careful consideration. This new initiative has the potential to pay real dividends for farm balance sheets and for the environment.”

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.

FSA has also indicated that cost-share payments for installing organic field border buffers through the new initiative will be calculated based on the cost of organic seed and plants.

The availability of rental payments via 10 to 15 year contracts on land set-aside as field border buffers should help improve adoption of the conservation practices by making it financially more attractive to organic farmers.

For more information on CRP and CCRP enrollment, see the FSA CRP homepage.

Photo: Conservation buffer, Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative (CBWI). Photo credit: USDA.