November 3, 2016
Editor’s Note: We are pleased to share the following guest post from Wild Farm Alliance (WFA), an NSAC member organization. The post highlights two publications WFA recently released to support organic farmers as they incorporate biodiversity practices into their operations. There is a direct linkage between conservation practices on the farm and National Organic Program (NOP) standards, and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) can and should play a critical role in ensuring that conservation programs and support are accessible and appropriate for organic and transitioning-to-organic participants.
Just this week, NRCS put out a call for field-level “Organic Champions” in all states, and last year, in partnership with NSAC and ten NSAC members, published a handbook to support conservation on organic farms. The two WFA publications described below will complement these efforts, as they provide clarity regarding the Natural Resources and Biodiversity Conservation Guidance released earlier this year, as well as increase organic farmers’ and certifiers’ understanding of the wide ranging benefits providing by the conservation of biodiversity.
This year, Wild Farm Alliance (WFA) released two new publications to increase biodiversity practices on farms. WFA understands that each farm has a unique set of circumstances and will begin at different places, depending on its need and capacity for supporting nature. Whether the need is for building better soil health and clean water, ensuring more complete pollination and effective pest control, or enhancing habitat for wildlife, farms can start with small steps or take big strides to integrate biodiversity.
Our newest publication, “Biodiversity Conservation: An Organic Farmer’s and Certifier’s Guide“, clarifies the National Organic Program’s (NOP) new Natural Resources and Biodiversity Conservation Guidance (released January 2016). The WFA Guide also will increase organic farmers’ and certifiers’ understanding of the myriad of benefits provided by biodiversity conservation.
WFA also published a companion document to the guide, “How to Conserve Biodiversity on the Farm: Actions to Take in a Continuum from Simple to Complex.” This Continuum Chart lays out a progression of activities for farmers that increasingly support biodiversity and provide benefits to the farm.
Organic operations that use the USDA NOP label are required to conserve biodiversity and maintain or improve the natural resources, including soil, water, wetlands, woodlands, and wildlife. The NOP Natural Resources and Biodiversity Conservation Guidance was published to ensure uniform compliance of these regulations that have been in place since the NOP’s inception. Organic certifiers from across the country can use these publications to help their farmers be in compliance now that the Guidance is published.
Outcomes including enhanced pollination, improved pest control, and cleaner water sources will help an organic operation perform optimally. The new WFA Guide and the Continuum Chart provide farmers and certifiers with practical and effective information to not only be in compliance but also to take advantage of the ecosystem benefits related to biodiversity.
While conserving natural resources and biodiversity is a foundational principle of organic agriculture, many organic operations need to diversify more in order to comply with NOP regulations, and many organic certifiers need to update their Organic System Plans and their processes used for verification. The newly released WFA Guide reflects the NOP Guidance and the need for consistent implementation from operation to certification.
After years of hard work encouraging the NOP to publish their guidance, we are thrilled to release the comprehensive WFA Guide and the Continuum Chart that will help everyone from farmers to certifiers incorporate more biodiversity practices on the farm.
Wild Farm Alliance is a non-profit organization that works to promote a healthy, viable agriculture that helps to protect and restore wild nature. We work to empower farmers, connect consumers, and protect nature. WFA is a national organization and have been active in efforts to re-wild our farms for more than 16 years. Both publications can be downloaded for free at www.wildfarmalliance.org/biodiversity.
Categories: Conservation, Energy & Environment