Growing the Field for Organic Conservation: Training on NRCS CAP 138 and NOP Conservation Standards

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2015: $73,447.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2017
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
Sarah Brown
Oregon Tilth

Information Products


Not commodity specific


  • Production Systems: organic agriculture, transitioning to organic

    Proposal abstract:

    Oregon Tilth seeks funding for a project to improve understanding of natural resource conservation on organic and transitioning farms in Oregon and California. The project will provide training and educational materials for NRCS and other conservation professionals, organic certification staff, and Technical Service Providers (TSPs), who all play important roles in educating farmers about conservation.

    Requested funding will support Oregon Tilth and our partner Wild Farm Alliance to develop and deliver on-site workshops, e-Organic webinars, and toolkits on two topics:

    1) the newly revised NRCS Conservation Activity Plan (CAP) 138 supporting organic transition, which will now serve as a substantial portion of a farmer's Organic System Plan (OSP); and

    2) the National Organic Program's (NOP's) natural resource conservation standards and upcoming technical guidance on conservation. Oregon Tilth and Wild Farm Alliance have worked closely with NRCS and the NOP to develop the CAP 138 and conservation guidance, designed to improve coordination between the conservation and certification systems and make conservation programs more accessible, affordable, and effective for organic and transitioning farmers. Our organizations are in a unique position to foster integration and communication between traditional agriculture service providers and the organic sector and to recruit and train TSPs that can help farmers complete the CAP 138. Publication of the revised CAP 138 and conservation guidance present a timely opportunity to expand these educators' knowledge of soil health and conservation on organic and transitioning farms, reduce the barriers to organic certification, and increase organic and transitioning farmers' participation in conservation programs.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The purpose of this project is to advance conservation and organic professionals' understanding of organic conservation so they can educate and assist organic and transitioning farmers to improve conservation outcomes. We will develop a suite of training and resources for NRCS staff, certification staff, TSPs, and other providers to increase their knowledge of organic conservation practices and how certification and conservation programs work together, and grow their shared capacity to help organic and transitioning farmers meet their conservation, production, and certification needs and goals. The project builds on our past WSARE-supported projects targeting organic conservation, but distinctly addresses the timely need for targeted education on the revised CAP 138 and the new NOP conservation guidance.

    Objectives include:

    a. Increase conservation professionals' understanding of the role of conservation requirements in organic certification and the use of the revised CAP 138 as a conservation and transition tool that reduces paperwork and supports an integrated plan for transition. We'll develop toolkits with information and reference material to support conservation staff in working with organic and transitioning farmers and certifiers. The toolkits will be available electronically for all NRCS staff and others" use. (November 2015- March 2016)

    b. Increase certification staff understanding of NOP conservation requirements and the use of CAP 138 as a conservation and transition tool; and improve their ability to identify and evaluate conservation problems, provide allowable technical assistance, and direct and encourage farmers to access resources for help. We'll develop toolkits for certification staff that contain information, tools including photo series to guide assessment, and reference materials. (November 2015- March 2016). We'll develop a train-the-tra iner eOrganic webinar for certification managers on the organic-conservation interface and how to train and guide their inspectors and reviewers in working with farmers and conservation staff. (May 2016). Toolkits will be distributed to the 27 organic certifiers working in California and Oregon and the webinar will be recorded for subsequent on-demand access. Wild Farm Alliance will provide technical assistance to certifiers as they train staff members and encounter questions and situations requiring individualized support. (March 2016-November 2016).

    c. Increase the number of qualified TSPs available to assist farmers with the CAP 138, which also can serve as the core contents of the OSP. We'll recruit current and potential TSPs (targeting crop advisors, contract organic inspectors, recent agriculture graduates, etc.) and provide on-site workshops in Oregon and California (November 2016). We'll also develop two eOrganic webinars that prepare TSPs for certification and equip them to help transitioning farmers identify resource concerns and select options to address them. (September 2016-0ctober 2016). We expect eight to ten participants in each workshop. Webinars will be publicly accessible and recorded for subsequent on-demand access.

    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.