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USDA Organic Transition Initiative helps Florida farmers beginning certification process

Apply for assistance from USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service by June 15
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Florida agricultural producers and farmers in the process of transitioning to organic certification can now sign-up for assistance through the Organic Transition Initiative offered by the United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service.

GAINESVILLE, Florida – May 9, 2023 – Florida agricultural producers and farmers in the process of transitioning to organic certification can now sign-up for assistance through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Organic Transition Initiative (OTI), announced Nathan Fikkert, acting state conservationist for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Florida. Farmers can sign-up for OTI through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program at their local USDA NRCS office.

This Florida NRCS sign-up follows a recent national announcement detailing the USDA’s multi-agency approach to assist producers beginning or in the process of transitioning to achieve organic certification. Only those producers are eligible to apply for this sign-up. While NRCS accepts applications for conservation programs year-round, those interested should apply by June 15, 2023, to be eligible for this funding batch.

“Producers who are transitioning to organic production can take comfort in knowing the NRCS is here to help them through this process,” said Fikkert. “NRCS will dedicate financial and technical assistance to a new organic management standard and partner with new organic technical experts to increase staff capacity and expertise.”

The new organic management standard gives producers the flexibility to get the assistance and education they need, such as attending workshops or requesting help from organic production experts or mentors. It supports conservation activities and practices required for organic certification and may provide foregone income reimbursement for dips in production during the transition period.

The OTI-specific practices included in this sign-up are as follows:
•    Organic Management (Practice Code 823)
•    Conservation Plan Supporting Organic Transition (Practice Code 138)
•    Transition to Organic Design (Practice Code 140)
•    Conservation Cover (Practice Code 327)
•    Conservation Crop Rotation (Practice Code 327)
•    Cover Crops (Practice Code 340)
•    Field Borders (Practice Code 386)
•    Nutrient Management (Practice Code 590)

Flexible education and training activities can include field days, working alongside organic experts and more. You can work with NRCS field staff, approved technical service providers, and other approved organic partners.
This funding is part of the $70 million in American Rescue Plan funding for technical and financial assistance as part of the OTI.

Higher payment rates and other options are available for historically underserved producers including socially disadvantaged, beginning, veteran, and limited resource farmers and ranchers.  

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Hilary Barnhart, ASTC for Partnerships and Initiatives,
Diana Avellanet-Echevarria, Acting ASTC for Financial Programs,
Cynthia M. Portalatin, Public Affairs Specialist,