Hearing undercurrents within the Ag industry is one of the things that, as I am out and about with both farmers, brands, and buyers, I hear often. Some may be considered “buzz words,” some need an interpretation between what a brand may define as an essential sourcing strategy or requirement and how we as farmers might think of the term and others are a current topic that has been around and now has an increasingly raised focus on the topic.
Biodiversity and Conservation Programs
The most current word that I am hearing is biodiversity. To simplify things, a brand might use that word to mean bringing back bees, wildlife, a diverse mix of trees and crop plantings to farmland. To a farmer, that means conservation programs.
What I have noticed is that some brands are interested in knowing about the farms they source from, as well as the plans in place to support and enhance nature and surrounding native wildlife.
National Organic Program
The NOP (National Organic Program) has also been urging ways to include goals and plans each year to increase biodiversity on our farms. We put a blog together titled, Biodiversity Calculator to highlight an available resource tool.
NOP Guidance on Natural Resources and Biodiversity Conservation
The National Organic Program (NOP) in 2016 established biodiversity as a tenant by publishing a Biodiversity Guidance Compliance document to help organic producers develop as part of their Organic System Plan (OSP) steps they can take for conservation and be more biodiverse. Since no farm is the same, it was not realistic to try to standardize a format of practices. As a result, the NOP Biodiversity Guidance Compliance Tool was created to help encourage people to look at their farms to engage with conservation practices and have a way to track it.
Even though biodiversity is critical for healthy, functioning organic farms, and is central to the NOP Guidance on Natural Resources and Biodiversity Conservation, the burden of designing and implementing biodiversity plans still falls on the farmer.
To help with this, the biodiversity guidance compliance tool was built to guide structured decision making, choose targets, and set goals based on the behaviors and outcomes the farmer wants to see adopted.
The USDA, also being interested in adding conservation programs to our organic farms, have made USDA programs available. The trick is sometimes knowing those programs exist and what they are.
If you are headed to the MOSES (Midwest Organic Sustainable Education Services) conference and tradeshow this year, one of the Organic University classes is Conservation Programs to Support Organic Farms. The topics they will be covering are:
- Programs to support organic transition and conservation practices for farms
- How to access these programs
- Application of conservation practices in farm production
- Create a personalized plan for your own land or farm
The expert group of presenters are:
Brian Pillsbury, USDA-NRCS
Brian has been the State Grazing Lands Specialist for USDA-NRCS in Wisconsin for 22 years. He was raised on a dairy farm in Shelburne, Vermont. He is active in GrassWorks, American Forage and Grassland Council, the Society for Range Management (SRM), and many organizations in his community.
Karin Jokela, Xerces Society
Karin Jokela is a Xerces Society pollinator conservation planner and partner biologist based in southeast Minnesota. She collaborates with NRCS staff in Minnesota and Wisconsin to help farmers with habitat restoration and pollinator-friendly farm management practices. She and her husband are also organic vegetable farmers in Cannon Falls, Minnesota.
Mark is a 4th generation farmer who transitioned his family farm to organic after his father died of cancer in 2011. Doudlah Farms Organics now is a biological organic farm with more than 1,750 acres. He served more than a decade as president of Agrecol Corporation, one of the largest producers of native eco-type species in the Midwest.
Kevin Mahalko has an organic dairy herd in Gilman, Wisconsin, producing milk for the Organic Valley Grassmilk program. Kevin is President of Grassworks, a grazing educator for River Country RC&D, and an educator for the Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship Program. He is on the MOSES team of organic specialists.