#Understanding biodiversity requirements
Certified organic operations are required to take a comprehensive approach to conserve biodiversity by maintaining or improving all natural resources including soil, water, wetland, woodlands, and wildlife.
The USDA National Organic Program’s (NOP) guidance encourages farmers to implement or expand a range of practices to conserve and improve biodiversity. Consider reviewing your current farm management activities to find opportunities to incorporate conservation practices in different areas of your farm.
The guidance addresses several sample activities that qualify for USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service assistance:
- Control erosion and filter pollutants to protect water quality (e.g., filter strips, terraces, etc.)
- Enhance water quantity (e.g., managed tile systems to “bank” soil moisture, etc.)
- Create wildlife habitat, shelter and food sources (e.g., for pollinators, beneficial insects, etc.)
- Conserve wildlife corridors and habitat to reduce fragmentation
For more, see the USDA NOP’s Guidance on Natural Resources and Biodiversity Conservation.
#Benefits of on-farm biodiversity
The USDA National Organic Program’s (NOP) Guidance on Natural Resources and Biodiversity Conservation upholds core principles of conservation-minded production on organic farms. These practices yield benefits beyond improvements to local biodiversity and natural resources.
Interested in increasing pollinator habitat? Check out Bee Better Certified™, our new pollinator certification program offered in partnership with the Xerces Society.
Upon implementation of conservation practices, many farmers have often experienced increased soil health, soil with superior water holding capacity, reductions in pest pressures provided by beneficial insects, and improved pollination, as well as yields. Additionally, farmers report reductions in fertigation costs and newfound eligibility for federal funding support.
Farms work in partnership with birds, enjoying increased pollination and pest control. Check out our Lessons Learned on Birds and Biodiversity.
#Recordkeeping and documentation
The Organic System Plan (OSP) for your operation details planned production practices, including efforts that maintain or improve natural resources on-site.
All certified organic operations must keep records (e.g., activity logs for mowing, pest monitoring, limits on livestock access to waterways, reseeding areas, grazing rotations, water test results, observation surveys, conservation maps, etc.) that will enable an inspector and certification reviewer to determine compliance.
#Financial and technical resources
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) can provide technical and financial assistance to agricultural producers who are implementing conservation projects on certified organic farms. You can learn more through your local conservation district.
Some NRCS programs include:
Conservation Activity Plan (CAP) 138
A CAP can be developed for producers to identify conservation practices needed to address a specific natural resource need. Producers are eligible to apply for NRCS financial assistance (see below) to implement the recommended conservation practices.
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program Organic Initiative (EQIP)
The EQIP program provides technical and financial assistance (up to $20,000 per year) to help farmers implement conservation planning and practices such as establishing buffer zones, improving soil quality while minimizing erosion, and more.