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USDA to Give Organic Farmers New Conservation Tool

Organic farmers can start applying for a program to help them pay for conservation buffers on their lands. (iStockphoto)
Organic farmers can start applying for a program to help them pay for conservation buffers on their lands. (iStockphoto)
March 7, 2016

RICHMOND, Va. – Organic farmers in Virginia and across the nation soon will have a new tool to help their bottom lines while protecting the environment.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced plans to help cover the costs of setting up about 20-thousand acres of new conservation buffers specifically for organic farms.

Ferd Hoefner, policy director of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, praises the USDA for expanding the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to better serve organic farmers.

"It's always difficult to set aside any portion of a farm's cropland to not be producing crops and not making money, but it's a good farming practice," he states.

Hoefner says setting up buffers on organic farms can help prevent soil erosion, which also helps keep waterways free of pollutants.

Chesapeake Bay advocates point out that agricultural runoff is one of the most important threats to waterways.

Hoefner is asking organic farmers to consider signing up for the program, because they already are required to set up conservation buffers as part of their organic certification process.

"This is kind of a win-win,” he points out. “It's something they need to be considering anyway to comply with their organic rule. And here, the Farm Service Agency is saying we've got a tool that can help you."

According to the USDA, the Conservation Reserve Program already has helped prevent about 9 billion tons of soil from being eroded.

Organic farmers can start signing up now to see if some of their lands qualify for rental payments or a cost-sharing program.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - VA