Tri-State Organic Certification and Conservation Planning Cross-Training

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2008: $86,137.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
Chris Schreiner
Oregon Tilth

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: barley, canola, corn, potatoes, wheat, grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Fruits: apples, berries (other), berries (blueberries), berries (cranberries), grapes, melons, peaches, pears, berries (strawberries)
  • Animals: bovine, goats
  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, feed formulation, free-range, feed rations, herbal medicines, manure management, mineral supplements, grazing - multispecies, pasture fertility, pasture renovation, preventive practices, probiotics, grazing - rotational, watering systems
  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: decision support system, demonstration, mentoring, networking, study circle, technical assistance
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, new enterprise development, budgets/cost and returns, agricultural finance, risk management, value added
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, hedges - grass, grass waterways, habitat enhancement, hedgerows, indicators, riparian buffers, wetlands, wildlife
  • Pest Management: allelopathy, biological control, botanical pesticides, competition, compost extracts, cultural control, disease vectors, economic threshold, field monitoring/scouting, flame, integrated pest management, mulches - killed, mulches - living, mating disruption, physical control, mulching - plastic, cultivation, prevention, row covers (for pests), sanitation, trap crops, traps, mulching - vegetative, weather monitoring, weed ecology
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, holistic management, organic agriculture, transitioning to organic
  • Soil Management: green manures, organic matter, soil analysis, composting, nutrient mineralization, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, partnerships, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    This project will develop training sessions and tools to help natural resource professionals align the different assistance, guidance, and technical standards provided to organic producers. Traditionally, farmers and ranchers seeking conservation assistance through USDA and the Farm Bill receive guidance from professionals schooled in USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) standards. At the same time, growers seeking organic certification through USDA’s National Organic Program are required to meet a different set of standards with guidance and assistance from other sources. This effort will improve coordination between natural resource professionals who assist organic producers and those who typically serve producers with more traditional systems. It will also help natural resource professionals (NRCS, conservation districts and organic certifiers, in particular) recognize where discrepancies between standards and recommendations for traditional and organic growers may exist. In addition, the project will bring professionals together to find solutions and develop successful, localized organic versions of conservation practices that currently pose a challenge for organic certification. This higher level of coordination and conservation practice alignment will ultimately benefit local producers who are trying to navigate the maze of regulations and requirements to develop sustainable agricultural systems. To accomplish this, Oregon Tilth, in cooperation with the Washington State Department of Agriculture, Washington State University, Oregon State University, NRCS offices in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho and other key partners will improve cross-coordination between conservation program delivery and organic certification by implementing professional training sessions in the tri-state area. The audience for this project includes in-the-field conservation planners and organic inspectors. Just as importantly, the program will also train managers (organic certification professionals and NRCS/conservation district managers) so they can create the environment necessary for the development of flexible, innovative solutions for organic-certified farms and ranches. Training will focus on identified areas of need, including soil quality, nutrient management, pest (insect, weed and disease) management and habitat management.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Increase awareness and understanding amongst conservation planners of the process for and requirements of organic certification and USDA’s National Organic Program. Increase awareness and understanding amongst organic professionals of NRCS conservation planning, assessments, practices and USDA Farm Bill programs that may relate to organic certification.

    The intended audience includes NRCS, conservation district and tribal conservation planners, along with other natural resource professionals. The audience also includes organic field inspectors and organic certifiers. The proposed courses will cover NRCS and conservation planning standards, programs (as established by the new Farm Bill), conservation practices and other tools that are beneficial for organic certification. In addition, coursework will focus on the process for and requirements of certification under the National Organic Program, along with any new tools established as a part of the Farm Bill. Existing materials include the ‘Cross-Compliance Matrix’ developed by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) which will be updated to reflect changes in both conservation and organic trends and in-field practices.

    2. Improve understanding of areas where NRCS technical standards and organic certification requirements have common goals but divergent approaches/pathways to achieve those goals.

    Soil quality, nutrient management, pest (insect, weed and disease) management and habitat management have been identified as potential areas where the goal of organic and traditional conservation methods are the same, however, their management approaches may differ. This training will facilitate dialogue regarding these practices to begin the process of developing innovative, locally based solutions to address differing management techniques.

    3. Enhance the ability for both organic certifiers and conservation planners to implement field-based tools and solutions for certified organic producers.

    Through networking between organic inspectors and field-level conservation planners, this course will expand the ability for both professionals to develop high quality conservation and organic certification plans in a manner that effectively meets the goals of both. The training will also bring conservation planners and organic inspectors up to date on the latest technologies available.

    4. Improve the capacity of organic inspectors and certification staff by providing tools to ensure that natural resource concerns are addressed when meeting organic certification. Improve the capacity of conservation planners by providing tools to ensure organic certification requirements are met when addressing resource concerns.

    Many producers work with both organic certifiers and conservation planners. Other producers may only be in contact with one or the other. By cross-training conservation and organic professionals, staff in both areas can provide additional expertise when working with local landowners. This enhanced knowledge and expertise will only serve to benefit the producers with whom they work by streamlining service delivery.

    5. Train potential trainers/leaders to assist others in developing conservation plans that meet organic certification requirements.

    Planning team members will recruit local leaders in both conservation planning and organic certification professions to attend the training sessions. These individuals will be provided with materials to assist them in training others in their local regions.

    6. Provide the opportunity for organic certification and natural resources professionals to network with one another, forming regional connections as appropriate.

    By bringing organic inspectors and certification professionals together with conservation planners and managers, this training provides a unique opportunity to develop regional networks to strengthen the link between organic certification and conservation. When this network is strengthened by the programs and directives outlined in the new Farm Bill, the tri-state area will be well-positioned to meet and exceed the needs of local organic and transitioning producers.

    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.