Educating Agricultural Professionals about USDA National Organic Program Requirements and Approved Materials for Certified Organic Crop Production
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.
This project is conceived in two inter-related phases. Phase I is 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 are planned, with five additional presentations made at existing in service programs to reach more participants. These sessions will provide 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.
Phase II of the project is aimed at the development of further training information on effective strategies and materials for pest and disease control of organic crops. Organic production systems strive to reduce the need for off farm inputs by relying on multiple strategies for crop fertility needs such as crop rotations, cover crops, biodiversity in cropping systems, on farm integration of livestock and use of animal manure, and on farm compost production. This phase of the project will strive to identify the supplemental and interventional materials needed to complement a whole farm management program.
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.
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.
1. A full day workshop training for agricultural educators was held March 11, 2003 in Clayton, NJ. The 43 participants included 20 from agricultural extension and 20 from NRCS as well as several from local organic farmer organization and Department of Agriculture. Initial evaluations were all positive with participants stated that the information provided was useful. A binder containing reference information about organic regulations and practices was distributed. Two more full day trainings will be held in spring of 2004, likely to be near Ithaca NY and another site to be determined in southern New England.
2. Six regional workshop presentations were given: Feb. 5, 2003 in Portsmouth NH, attended by 42 agricultural educators; March 6 in Lewiston Maine, attended by 15 NRCS staff; March 11 in Bangor Maine, attended by 10 NRCS staff; April 1 in State College PA, attended by 45 agents, and June 15 in Peterborough, NH. for 20 extension agents and specialists. 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.
3.Work is progressing on development of the Phase II guide on efficacy of materials used for pest and disease control in organic agriculture. The project team has been broadened to collaborate jointly with a team funded through the Northeast Organic Network (NEON) that is working on similar issues. The combined group now includes 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. The Organic Resource Guide to Pest Management is in development and will include three key 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 of will be a synopsis of regulatory status, health and environmental effects, mode of action, guide for use, formulations available, and reported efficacy. This information is being obtained from published, referred reports. The following materials are under review:
Plant Extracts – Botanicals:
Inorganic elements and substances:
Clay particle films
Appendices will also be included to address certain useful cultural practices, such as trap cropping and induced resistance.
Due to the large number of generic materials and expanded cultural sections provided in the Guide, the project will not be able to review plant fertility products as originally envisioned. The scope is now focused primarily on vegetable crops, with some additional inclusion of small fruit information. Additional funding has been obtained through an EPA region 2 grant to provide additional funds for hard copy publication (to allow for color photographs) and website development. Publication is anticipated in July 2004. Currently, fact sheets on spinosad, neem, Bt, pyrethrum and Beauveria are close to final. Cultural sections on cucurbits, solanaceae, and brassica crops are also in final draft form.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
195 agricultural professionals have attended trainings and workshop presentations.
A binder of information about organic regulations, practices, and resource information has been developed for training purposes. This will be updated for the 2004 trainings.
A power point presentation based on the Organic Resource Guide has been developed and is available.