The goal of this project is to increase the knowledge and skills of veterinarians regarding the NOP livestock standards and best herd health practices for organic animals, and to give them greater confidence in treating certified organic livestock. The project also delivers educational programming to extension educators, USDA staff, animal nutritionists and other professionals who routinely work with organic livestock herds and flocks. Programming consisted of webinars, conference workshops, on-farm training and tours, and full-day trainings on dairy herd and poultry flock health management. Networks of organic livestock health professionals and a farmer advisory council were established convening at trade conferences and on conference calls. An on-line discussion forum was created to facilitate peer-to-peer learning.
At the conclusion of the 24 month performance period for this grant there were remaining funds. In keeping with the original project goals, the aim was to build agricultural professionals’ capacity to work with organic producers by increasing their knowledge of the National Organic Program standards, organic production practices, and the process of organic certification. Additionally, recognizing that many of these professionals have limited knowledge of how their counterparts in other agencies and organizations were working with organic producers, we targeted increasing communication and collaboration among these professionals as an additional goal under our modified scope. We requested a no cost extension as well as a modified scope as follows:
· Extend our trainings on organics to other agricultural professionals, including those from Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Ohio, Farm Service Agency (FSA) in Ohio, Ohio State University (OSU)-Extension, and others, in order to build their respective staffs’ capacity to serve organic producers.
· Facilitate formation of an inter-agency and multi-stakeholder “organic team” for the state in order to foster communication, coordination, and collaboration.
The modified objectives were achieved, as detailed below.
Project objectives are to provide webinar based trainings on National Organic Program standards, on-farm audits to assess risk, parasite management and control, pain management treatments, and poultry flock health to 75 veterinarians, Extension personnel, and other consultants. In collaboration with IOIA/OMRI provide education to 25 veterinarians on organic livestock input materials. Establish a functional education network for peer-to-peer support and informal information sharing. Establish a farm advisory council to provide guidance and expertise to project personnel, veterinarians, and farmers.
During the project extension period, we targeted three agencies for potential trainings on organics and inclusion in an “organic team” for the state: OH-NRCS, OH-FSA, and Ohio land-grant universities.
On-site and webinar based trainings, on-demand phone support, and on-line discussion forums were the approaches chosen to provide a learning environment appropriate to individual preference. Attendance at trade shows and conferences to promote the project provided additional opportunities for specific questions and requests individualized custom support.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
Provide an introduction to NOP history, codified standards, and certification process, with and emphasis on Livestock management. The goal is to create a comprehensive understanding utilizing shared language and terms.
The webinar included in-class discussion, exercises, and question and answer opportunities. This training included self-study aspects and subsequent evaluation.
Provide insight on what is emphasized during an organic inspection, what is included in NOP standards relative to livestock healthcare, approved materials, and how materials are evaluated for inclusion as approved inputs.
The webinar included a pre-assessment test, in-class discussion, exercises, and the opportunity for questions and answers. In addition there were self-study, evaluation, and exam components. Those participants successful in completing all aspects received an IOIA 200-level certificate on Organic Livestock Inputs.
Provide trainings appropriate for veterinarians as well as organic producers, emphasizing dairy herd management, yet also addressing concerns related to other species.
A series of eight one-hour webinars were presented on: mastitis and somatic cell count management; parasite control; science-based treatments, pain management and regulatory medicine; poultry flock health; nutritionally-related diseases; on-farm audits to assess risk factors; health event Best Management practices; and how management and labor effect quality and quantity.
Demonstration of auditing techniques to assess herd risk factors.
OSU Veterinary staff conducted on-farm trainings on tools, protocols, and documentation systems that can help manage within-herd risks. his interactive workshop explored examples and scenarios providing opportunity for questions and answers and shared ideas.
Create a forum where veterinarians, educators, nutritionists, consultants, and certification agency staff can discuss issues, share experiences, collect feedback, and disseminate knowledge and best practices.
In-person meetings were organized for the 2014 and 2015 OEFFA conferences. An on-line listserv was created in 2014 to facilitate timely communication, and provide on-demand support.
Build capacity of NRCS, FSA, OSU-Extension staff to serve organic producers
In collaboration with each of these respective agencies, we provided training to their staff regarding organic standards, organic inspections, and the certification process. We were also able to support 15 agricultural professionals, in all or part, to attend OEFFA’s 2017 and 2018 conferences to further their knowledge of organics.
Form an inter-agency and multi-stakeholder "organic team" for the state in order to foster communication, coordination, and collaboration
- We hosted an inaugural meeting of the “organic team” for Ohio and included in that meeting the expertise of Jim Riddle, Minnesota organic farmer whose career includes work as an organic inspector, educator, policy analyst, and author, and who also serves as the Chair of the Minnesota Organic Advisory Task Force, and Vicki Morrone, Michigan State University organic field crop and vegetable specialist, and current North Central Region SARE Administrative Council member. They were able to share the ways in which inter-agency cooperation is fostered in their respective home states. We had representatives at that meeting from: Ohio State, Ohio State Extension, Ohio State School of Veterinarian Medicine, Central State University Extension, FSA, NRCS, USDA-Rural Development, and the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
- Following this inaugural meeting, in which participants indicated that continued communication and cooperation would be very helpful, we hosted (roughly) bi-monthly conference calls, with the aim to foster understanding of the programs of each agency that were important to organic producers, answer questions about these and related issues, identify common needs, and share additional information. Participants included many of the same agencies described above. Topics included: an overview of FSA programs of interest to organic growers; NASS state statistics data gathering and organic needs; organic issues in the upcoming Farm Bill; and an overview of Ohio’s Sensitive Crop Registry.
- The group is currently discussing whether a more formalized structure would be appropriate.
Educational & Outreach Activities
Documented achievements during the original portion of the grant period include an increased level of knowledge and skills of veterinarians, Extension personnel, and other consultants.
- Webinar participation includes 108 veterinarians, 54 Extension agents, 63 educators, and 41 consultants/nutritionists, plus 132 farmers.
- 28 veterinarians participated in the IOIA/OMRI organic livestock input materials webinar.
- Farm tours
- Organic dairy with 75 participants.
- Multi-species grazing with 115 participants.
- Diversified livestock management with 34 participants.
- Pasture based livestock management with 124 participants.
- Full-day workshops
- Dairy herd health served 9 veterinarians, 4 educator, 9 consultant/nutritionist, plus 32 farmers.
- Poultry flock health served 4 veterinarian, 15 educators, plus 40 farmers.
- Organic livestock and poultry care network inaugural meeting drew 8 veterinarians and 14 farmers.
- Scholarship opportunity to attend the annual OEFFA conferences was extended to 12 veterinarians and 15 agricultural professionals.
· The farmer advisory council consisted of 6 members, representing organic livestock producers.
· An Organic Livestock Healthcare on-line discussion forum was established with 53 active participants.
During the project extension period, we had substantive and productive meetings and trainings with multiple representatives of each of these groups of stakeholders. As a result:
- We provided trainings on organic standards and the certification process to the NRCS local working group in Franklin County Ohio. Approximately 20 people attended.
- We provided trainings on organic standards and the certification process to NRCS district personnel in each of the five NRCS regions of Ohio. A total of approximately 175 NRCS personnel were trained.
- We provided two trainings for the FSA. One training was local to Seneca County (NW Ohio), and one state-wide webinar training was conducted from the state FSA office. An estimate of 80+ FSA county staff and insurance Loss Adjusters tuned in.
- An organic training for Ohio State University county extension educators was conducted in October 2017. Approximately 40 attended.
- After an inaugural in-person meeting in February 2017, conference-call meetings of the “organic team” for Ohio were convened approximately every-other month. Representatives from Ohio State University, Ohio State Extension, Ohio State School of Veterinary Medicine, Central State University Extension, FSA, NRCS, USDA-Rural Development, and Ohio Department of Agriculture participate.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes:
Established or strengthened relationships with key personnel, which has led to
- A continuance of OEFFA being a welcomed resource on organics to agricultural staff for on-demand education and assistance;
- A more positive attitude toward organic agriculture and working with organic farmers or those considering transitioning to organics;
- Increased understanding of programs offered by these agencies and increased promotion of these opportunities to OEFFA members;
- OEFFA taking a leadership role in connecting agriculture professionals across government programs and extension services in Ohio to build a network of support and information-sharing.
- Opportunities for continuing education for agricultural professionals through workshops organized for the OEFFA conference.
- Increased USDA programs’ understanding of OEFFA staff expertise and availability for consultation
- Facilitating communication related to organics among various USDA agencies
- Continued collaboration with NRCS staff to increased applications for CAP 138 transitional assistance.
- Continued effort to recruit qualified individuals for accreditation to provide technical service to those farmers seeking assistance under CAP 138.
- OEFFA having a greater understanding of USDA agency programs in order to better connect organic and transitioning producers with resources available through NRCS and FSA.
- Continued work in forming the “organic team” for Ohio through an unaugural in-person meeting, followed by bi-monthly conference calls with an expanding group of participants.
A veterinarian from northern Indiana sent in a response to the conference experience:
“Thank you for extending me a scholarship to attend the 2016 OEFFA conference. What a wonderful & overwhelming list of topics! I commend your organization for the incredible program. I have much to learn in relation to organic livestock & management practices and am grateful for the opportunity. I learned a great deal, met many wonderful people, enjoyed the trade show and savored the most amazing conference food I’ve ever tasted! Thank you for providing me with such an incredible network of resources. I am very indebted to you and most grateful.”