Historically, USDA has done a good job in reaching the medium and large agribusinesses. On the other hand, it has been difficult to share program information with small farmers and even more difficult to engage potential program participants who may be interested in farming and who could benefit from the assistance. This is especially true of socially disadvantaged, limited-resource, and beginning farmers and ranchers who are hesitant to seek assistance from or work with federal agencies. NRCS in Louisiana is dedicated to overcoming this barrier through targeted outreach at the local level. Locally led outreach has proven to be an effective tool to engage farmers and ranchers, provide program information, and increase program participation.
Hence, the stated purpose of this partnership is, "To increase participation in NRCS programs and services by socially disadvantaged, limited resource, beginning farmers and ranchers in Louisiana in support of USDA's Outreach Initiative." By doing so, we can provide farmers and ranchers both technical and financial assistance to start or grow their farm in a manner that is beneficial to the natural environment. This partnership between NRCS and the farmer is one that has helped us to conserve our natural resources while feeding those in our community and is one we are enthusiastic to facilitate.
This is our fourth year collaborating with NRCS to conduct outreach. In the first two years, we did five-parishwide outreach events and a conservation and soil health field day. In 2017, we added the Sustainable Agriculture Education Series that would allow us to delve deeper into conservation practices like the season extending high tunnel, building soil with cover crops, and the importance of pollinators. This was an exciting addition to the program and feedback was positive. In 2018, we are expanding to 12 outreach meetings statewide, a 3-day conference, an Art & Agriculture Festival and a 2-week youth agripreneurship summer workshop.
Organic farming is one of the fastest growing segments of agriculture. To be "certified organic," producers must follow regulations outlined by the USDA National Organic Program (NOP). Managed by USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service, the NOP develops, implements and administers national organic production, handling, and labeling standards.
Organic agriculture is an ecologically based system that relies on preventative practices to deal with weeds, insects, and disease, using nontoxic methods for any problems that arise. Organic practices require the use of cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that support the cycling of on-farm resources, promote ecological balance, and preserve biodiversity. Organic producers avoid synthetic fertilizers and do not use sewage, sludge, irradiation, or genetic engineering on their operations.
Healthy soil is the foundation of organic farming. Early leaders of the organic farming movement emphasized that successful farming depends on the health of all natural resources on the farm and in its surroundings. Organic producers strive to develop farming systems that mimic nature and utilize natural processes.
More and more farmers and ranchers will be transitioning to organic to meet growing consumer demand, which currently outpaces U.S. growers' supply. NRCS looks forward to providing conservation assistance to today's and tomorrow's organic producers.
For more information on Growing Organic and NRCS resources to assist you click here.
National Organic Farming Handbook click here.
Other Resources for Farmers, Ranchers and Value-Added Producers
USDA NRCS Home Page
USDA NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
USDA NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) Home Page
USDA FSA Microloan Program
USDA FSA Organic Certification Cost Share
USDA Rural Development (RD)