Nebraska NRCS Training Boosts Farmer Enrollees in EQIP Organic Initiative


Project title: Increasing the adoption of organic farming practices through NRCS training
Coordinator: Kathie Starkweather, Center for Rural Affairs, Lyons, Nebraska
Project location: Nebraska and North Dakota

This project was designed to address an unmet need: to provide training in organic practices to USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff to help implement new provisions contained in the 2008 Farm Bill. These new provisions offer organic growers access to cost share programs through the EQIP Organic Initiative.

NRCS staff, responsible for administering the program, while dedicated to natural resource conservation and knowledgeable of conservation programs, were not familiar with the Organic Initiative program. That lack of understanding created barriers for development of successful cost share contracts with organic producers. As a result, organic producers were not participating in NRCS cost share programs.

We approached this need by designing a web-based training in organic practices for Nebraska NRCS to build fluency in organic systems, in turn allowing them to successfully write and administer contracts with organic growers. The training was held in May 2009. We included organic farm tours to help ensure full understanding was achieved.

Thirty-five NRCS field staff participated in the web-based training, representing 17 out of Nebraska's 23 districts (or 74% of districts).