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USDA Encourages Producers in Nebraska to Apply for NRCS Organic Transition Assistance by March 9
Nebraska Ag Connection - 02/12/2024

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is encouraging farmers and ranchers in Nebraska to participate in the Organic Transition Initiative (OTI), a department-wide effort to support agricultural producers interested in transitioning to organic. Producers beginning or in the process of transitioning to organic certification are encouraged to apply at their local USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Service Center by March 9, 2024. If a state ranking date is missed, applications will be considered for the next future funding period.

“If you’re growing organic, it means you’re probably growing with conservation in mind, which means our conservation programs are probably a good fit for your farm. Agricultural producers transitioning to organic are a natural fit for us,” Nebraska State Conservationist Rob Lawson said. “The Organic Transition Initiative can also assist producers in gaining organic knowledge through education and mentoring. Right now, it’s a great time to apply for conservation assistance as we have additional funding for our popular programs from the Inflation Reduction Act.”

NRCS and Organic Transition Initiative

NRCS introduced a new organic management conservation practice in fiscal year 2023 as part of the initiative. It allows flexibility for producers to get the assistance and education they need, such as attending workshops or requesting help from experts or mentors. It also supports organic conservation activities and practices required for organic certification and may provide foregone income reimbursement for dips in production during the transition period. Higher payment rates and other options are available for underserved producers including socially disadvantaged, beginning, veteran and limited resource farmers and ranchers.

In 2023, NRCS invested $12 million in 22 states to work with 100-plus transitioning operations.

Other USDA Organic Assistance

In addition to NRCS, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and Risk Management Agency are the primary agencies that have supported OTI. For example, in January, AMS awarded $9.75 million in Organic Market Development Grants to support the development and expansion of new and existing organic markets and the agency’s Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP) is a network assembled by the USDA’s National Organic Program to support transitioning and organic producers with mentorship and resources. TOPP is segmented into six regions that span the United States and territories working together to grow the network of organic producers.

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