Final Report for ENE02-067

Educating Agricultural Professionals about USDA National Organic Program Requirements and Approved Materials for Certified Organic Crop Production

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2002: $111,893.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2005
Matching Federal Funds: $8,000.00
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $50,000.00
Region: Northeast
State: New Jersey
Project Leader:
Emily Brown Rosen
Organic Research Associates
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Project Information

Summary:

The purpose of this project was to provide information and resources to agricultural professionals regarding the USDA National Organic Program and organic farming practices. A project in two phases was undertaken to: 1) provide regional training at three one-day workshops as well as five additional presentations made at other training events; and 2) develop resource material on effective organic strategies and materials for pest and disease control of organic vegetable crops.

Performance Target:

Target 1: A total of 75 Extension educators attend trainings and workshop presentations. Of these 50 will increase their knowledge base of essential organic practices. Of those 35 will report after two years of increased quality and quantity of contact with organic producers.

Response: The project succeeded in reaching 102 agricultural professionals for the full day workshops, and 132 at regional workshops, plus 120 at a conference in the Northeast and 85 at two additional conferences in the Southeast and Midwest. This total (439) far exceeded expectations. 82 completed evaluations for the full day workshops, and all indicated that they had a better understanding of organic regulations and practices after the workshop. Almost all of the respondents described the workshops as informative and providing a good basic overview. The registration question asked each attendee about the number of requests received for information about organic practices in the last 6 months For the registrants from March 2003, 27 indicated a “moderate” number of questions (62%), one indicated a “large” number (2%), and 11 had received no requests (25%). For the later workshops in 2005, 56 out of 90 registrants (62%) indicated a “moderate” number of questions, 5 indicated a “large” number (5.5 %), and 7 had received no requests (7.8 %). Although these two groups were not the same individuals, they are in similar positions in the different states. The number of requests for assistance appears to be increasing (as indicated by the reduction in percentage reporting no requests) as a general trend. Comments from later attendees (see appendix) indicate that the demand for information and interest in specific aspects of organic production seems to be growing over the last few years.

Target 2. At least one and up to five Extension Educators in each state in the Northeast region will be identified as a knowledgeable provider of organic information and devote a portion of education programming to organic information.

Response: During the planning phase and through interactions before and during the workshops, a number of individuals were identified as knowledgeable information providers. They helped select topics, sites, and promoted the trainings to their colleagues. This contact list is provided in the appendix.

Introduction:

The expansion of organic markets and acreage in organic crops has been well documented as a continuing trend in the United States, including the Northeast, and represents a good opportunity for Northeast farmers. The USDA National Organic Program regulations were fully implemented on Oct. 21, 2002. This has changed the regulatory environment for organic and transitional organic farmers, and affected the ability of organic farming associations that are accredited certification agencies to provide consultation on approved practices. Extension personnel are in a key position to guide new and transitional farmers toward sustainable practices, and avoid inadvertent use of materials or practices that could prevent certification for as long as three years. Organic systems are based on principles designed to foster sustainable production methods, have a positive effect on farmland and surrounding environment, use resources wisely, and produce healthful food.

This project included two inter-related phases. One phase was the development of in-service training opportunities in the Northeast that are targeted specifically to the needs of the participants. Three regional one-day regional trainings occurred, with five additional presentations made at existing in service programs to reach more participants. These sessions provided agricultural professionals with the background, history, and most recent developments relating to structure and implementation of the new USDA National Organic Program and provide specific information regarding permitted methods and materials for crop, livestock and on farm value-added processing operations. Local farmers and regional experts in organic production systems and regulations provided instruction.

The second phase of the project was aimed at the development of further training information on effective strategies and materials for pest and disease control of organic vegetable crops. Organic production systems strive to reduce the need for off farm inputs by relying on multiple strategies for crop pest and disease control, such as crop rotations, cover crops, use of biological control, and emphasis on biodiversity in cropping systems. This objective of this phase of the project was to publish a user friendly guide on organic pest and disease management and resulted in publication of the Resource Guide for Organic Insect and Disease Management.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Eric Sideman

Educational Approach

Educational approach:

At the beginning of the project, a plenary presentation was given to approximately 100 participants at the September 27, 2002 Professional Development Conference (Working With Organic Farmers, Enhancing Agency Involvement in the Northeast) in Kerhonkson, NY. This provided a brief introduction to many issues related to organic regulations, and promoted future trainings available by the presenters (Eric Sideman, Emily Brown Rosen). Planning for further trainings occurred that fall, and a contact list was developed of interested individuals, who were contacted and informed of availability of training opportunities. Five regional in-service workshop presentations were given: Feb. 5, 2003 in Portsmouth NH, March 6 in Lewiston Maine; March 11 in Bangor Maine; April 1 in State College PA, attended by 45 agents, and June 15 in Peterborough, NH. for 20 extension agents and specialists.

The first one-day training was held in southern New Jersey on March 11, 2003. Notification and registration was accomplished through email notices sent through a university list serve and NRCS contact lists. The registration form included questions to gauge the needs and interests of the attendees. Two additional full day training workshops for extension professionals were held Feb. 8, 2005 in Syracuse NY, and Feb. 10, 2005 in Manchester, NH. These were advertised also through university, extension, NRCS and Department of Agriculture contacts in New York and New Hampshire. Due to attendee interest, the NY session included a breakout on organic dairy production, including an organic dairy farmer and dairy educator from NOFA Vermont (see appendices for complete programs). Education credits for certified crop advisors were offered for the NY and NH sessions, by request from registrants. A presentation was given at the New England Vegetable and Berry Growers annual meeting on Dec. 18, 2003 on the preliminary results of the phase II work on materials efficacy. This session attracted over 120 attendees, including at least 20 agricultural educators.

Phase II of the project is a Resource Guide on efficacy of materials used for pest and disease control in organic agriculture. This work proceeded concurrently with the training (Phase I) of the project. The team was broadened for this phase to collaborate jointly with a group funded through the Northeast Organic Network (NEON) and included Dr. Anthony Shelton and Dr. Chris Smart of Cornell University, who add expertise in entomology and plant pathology, and Brian Caldwell of NOFA-NY, an experienced organic farmer and educator. Team members divided the topics and shared drafts in a multi-stage research and writing effort, with all team members contributing to all sections. Drafts were also circulated for comments to a number of researchers active in organic projects, and their comments incorporated. The final draft was completed by December 2004, and is scheduled for publication by mid-June 2005.

This Guide includes approximately 160 pages of text, plus it includes color plates of crop damage and pest identification. It will be made available in hard copy and also posted on a website sponsored by Cornell University Publications, and linked to the OMRI site. It includes four major sections: 1) an introductory section describing objectives and regulatory background issues, 2) a cultural practices section that discusses cultural practices and alternatives for management of pests in key crop families including crucifers, solanaceaous crops, cucurbits, other vegetable families and small fruits, and 3) a section covering generic materials permitted in organic farming under the USDA National Organic Program (NOP), including botanical, microbial, mineral, and inorganic compounds. Included in this section is a synopsis of regulatory status, health and environmental effects, mode of action, guide for use, formulations available, and reported efficacy. The efficacy data was obtained from published peer reviewed reports. The fourth section contains appendices that address useful cultural practices, such as trap cropping, induced resistance, encouraging beneficial habitats, as well as tips for small farm applicators and explanation of pesticide regulations. The Guide will be distributed free to all full day workshop participants, and available at a modest price (approx. $5.00) to the public. The initial printing run will be for 2000 copies.

Milestones

Milestone #1 (click to expand/collapse)
Accomplishments:

Publications

All workshop trainings and presentations were delivered, and well received, with attendance well over the targets, as noted. Due to the timeliness of the topic, there appeared to be considerable interest and all sessions featured significant question and answer sessions. The most common suggestion for improvement was for a longer program, as “too much information” was being presented. This tradeoff on length and in-depth coverage was to be expected, as an objective was to provide introductory training, allowing agricultural professionals to participate without an overnight stay or lengthy time commitment. This format seemed to be more suited for the NJ and NH trainings, where travel time was on average less and the attendees had less initial background on organic systems. In New York, the extra programming and coverage of livestock as well as crop issues would have been more suited to a two-day program. Some attendees traveled quite far for the NY workshop, with some from western Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

Other original projected milestones included obtaining impact from Extension on regional needs, farmer guidance on extension needs, identification of focal organic educators, and positive interaction between certification agencies and agricultural professionals. The meeting planning provided input from Extension and NRCS professionals, as identified in the expert list (see appendix). Five farmers participated at the workshops, and all provided ideas for research and support needs that were well received by attendees. Three different certification agencies participated (NOFA-NJ, NOFA-NY, NH Dept. of Agriculture) and responded favorably to the training and opportunity to contact ag professionals.

The Resource Guide was completed in more depth and greater length than initially planned, due to the additional contributions of the expanded writing team. Collaboration of this group greatly enhanced the final publication, which includes the following topics:

Resource Guide to Organic Insect and Disease Management

I. Introduction: How to Use this Guide

II. Crop families: major insect and disease pests, cultural methods and control options
Brassica
Cucurbits
Lettuce
Solanaceous
Sweet corn

III. Generic Material Factsheets
Bacillus subtilis
Bacillus thuriensis
Beauveria sp.
Coniothyrium minitans
Copper
Kaolin clay
Neem
Oils plant and petroleum based
Potassium bicarbonate
Pyrethrum
Rotenone
Soaps
Spinosad

IV. Appendices
Host plant resistance
Habitat for beneficials
Trap crop techniques
Induced Systemic resistance / acquired SR
Spray tips for small-scale applicators
Understanding Pesticide Regulations
Summary of more research needed
Additional Resources

Performance Target Outcomes

Performance target outcome for service providers narrative:

Outcomes

The project was targeted to agricultural professionals and exceeded expectations for the number of participants. All full-day workshop attendees received a resource binder containing information about the standards and regulations, general information about organic farming practices plus reference material for finding more information. These binders included a recent edition of the Organic Materials Review Institute Generic Materials Lists and Brand Name Product List. The regional and full day workshops provided an opportunity for attendees to meet and interact with other agencies as well as the nonprofit groups traditionally providing services to organic farmers. The information provided about the funds available and extent of current NRCS programs was useful to the non-NRCS attendees. Many attendees seemed most impressed by the presentations of the experienced and successful farmers, who described various innovative production schemes. One NH attendee remarked to the farmer presenting – “I’m right down the road from you and I had no idea what you were doing, it was eye opening. I will be sure to visit to find out more.”

Evaluations cited interest in more advanced training on many topics, and this introductory training seems to have piqued the interest of many for more details. The participants have expressed great interest in the forthcoming Resource Guide, as a needed compilation of current knowledge for management of organic pest and disease control of vegetables, and have indicated they want notification as soon as it is available.

Additional Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

All workshop trainings and presentations were delivered, and well received, with attendance well over the targets, as noted. Due to the timeliness of the topic, there appeared to be considerable interest and all sessions featured significant question and answer sessions. The most common suggestion for improvement was for a longer program, as “too much information” was being presented. This tradeoff on length and in-depth coverage was to be expected, as an objective was to provide introductory training, allowing agricultural professionals to participate without an overnight stay or lengthy time commitment. This format seemed to be more suited for the NJ and NH trainings, where travel time was on average less and the attendees had less initial background on organic systems. In New York, the extra programming and coverage of livestock as well as crop issues would have been more suited to a two-day program. Some attendees traveled quite far for the NY workshop, with some from western Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

Other original projected milestones included obtaining impact from Extension on regional needs, farmer guidance on extension needs, identification of focal organic educators, and positive interaction between certification agencies and agricultural professionals. The meeting planning provided input from Extension and NRCS professionals, as identified in the expert list (see appendix). Five farmers participated at the workshops, and all provided ideas for research and support needs that were well received by attendees. Three different certification agencies participated (NOFA-NJ, NOFA-NY, NH Dept. of Agriculture) and responded favorably to the training and opportunity to contact ag professionals.

The Resource Guide was completed in more depth and greater length than initially planned, due to the additional contributions of the expanded writing team. Collaboration of this group greatly enhanced the final publication, which includes the following topics:

Resource Guide to Organic Insect and Disease Management

I. Introduction: How to Use this Guide

II. Crop families: major insect and disease pests, cultural methods and control options
Brassica
Cucurbits
Lettuce
Solanaceous
Sweet corn

III. Generic Material Factsheets
Bacillus subtilis
Bacillus thuriensis
Beauveria sp.
Coniothyrium minitans
Copper
Kaolin clay
Neem
Oils plant and petroleum based
Potassium bicarbonate
Pyrethrum
Rotenone
Soaps
Spinosad

IV. Appendices
Host plant resistance
Habitat for beneficials
Trap crop techniques
Induced Systemic resistance / acquired SR
Spray tips for small-scale applicators
Understanding Pesticide Regulations
Summary of more research needed
Additional Resources

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Potential Contributions

The Resource Guide will be promoted and available to organic and transitional farmers as well as to agricultural professionals.

Future Recommendations

The Resource Guide research identified a lack of efficacy studies for many products used in organic pest and disease control. This is summarized in table form in the Guide and in the appendix. Another area needing research is efficacy of combinations of pesticides. Combinations or alternating use of some of these products has good potential and needs to be explored further.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.