Organic Conservation Program Training for NRCS and Extension

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2009: $75,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: North Central
State: Nebraska
Project Coordinator:
Kathie Starkweather
Center for Rural Affairs

Annual Reports


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: networking
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture, transitioning to organic
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Extension staff in MN, IA, ND, SD, NE will learn how to help farmers and ranchers become eligible for and apply for new USDA organic and related conservation programs.

    Experienced organic farmers need NRCS help with program signups while new organic farmers need NRCS and Extension advice on organic benefits and procedures, yet NRCS and Extension have little experience with organic practices and how they fit into conservation programs. Center for Rural Affairs (CFRA) and state partners will host webinar and farm-tour training sessions for these ag educators about Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) rules, organic certification, organic farming practices, information resources, and local contacts. State NRCS offices and state PDP Coordinators will help recruit participants. Organic farming/ranching experts and other crop advisors will be encouraged to certify as NRCS Technical Service Providers to assist with organic and other conservation planning. CFRA developed a web-based curriculum for a pilot program in Nebraska and hosted 40 NRCS participants in May 2009. This curriculum will be modified for use in the target states. Evaluation of training participant knowledge of programs and organic procedures will be conducted with pre/post-participation questionnaires and second-year follow-up. Results will include NRCS participants able to provide effective program assistance to applicants, Extension participants able to conduct their own programs for farmers/ranchers based on materials and contacts initiated in this project, and Technical Service Providers certified to provide planning and advising services.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Primary outcomes are 1) NRCS and Extension staff who understand organic farming practices and are able to help farmers and ranchers apply those to conservation programs, and 2) enrollment of Technical Service Providers to assist with organic transition plans.

    This project will produce a curriculum and training materials for NRCS staff to assist farmers/ranchers with applying organic practices to EQIP and CSP program eligibility. These materials will be localized to specifics of MN, ND, SD, IA, and NE state rules. These materials will be archived electronically for use throughout the project period and will be transferred to state –based websites as needed.

    Application guides for Technical Service Providers (TSP) will be developed to assist their application process. These materials will be archived electronically for use throughout the project period and will be transferred to state–based websites as needed.

    Networks between NRCS, Extension, state organizations that support organic production, and organic farmers/ranchers will be developed in each of the five states to facilitate continued discussion and technical assistance with organic farming and federal conservation programs.

    A number of trained personnel will result from this project:
    • 40 NRCS and 5 Extension attendees in each state at web seminars
    • 30 NRCS and 5 Extension attendees in each state at farm tours
    • 10 TSP candidates in each state; 3 TSP applicants/state

    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.