Healthy Soils Organic Transition Option Moves Forward: Comment Opportunity

Numerous scientific studies show that organic farming improves soil health and builds soil organic matter, which sequesters carbon in the soil and helps mitigate climate change. 
 
This makes organic farming a good match for the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) Healthy Soils Program, which offers three-year grants to farmers and ranchers to implement conservation practices that build soil health, sequester carbon, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 
 
CCOF has been working since last year to gain approval from CDFA to add an Organic Transition Option to the Healthy Soils Program. CDFA currently is accepting comments on CCOF’s proposal through August 31.
 
CCOF’s proposed Organic Transition Option would
  • Offer a small stipend to farmers and ranchers who want to transition to organic to help them develop an organic system plan. The stipend would be in addition to payment for conservation practices.
  • Help offset the financial risk of the three-year transition period, especially important for small-scale, beginning, and limited resource farmers.
  • Increase the likelihood that the grant recipient will continue using conservation practices after the term of the grant because they will be required to under the organic standards.
 
CCOF has been working tirelessly to move this proposal forward. We have presented to CDFA staff, met with Secretary of Food and Agriculture Karen Ross, and presented the concept to the Environmental Farming Act Science Advisory Panel, which advises the secretary on the Healthy Soils Program. 
 
Now, CDFA has opened a public comment period on CCOF’s proposed Organic Transition Option and the panel is likely to make a final decision at its October meeting.
 
We encourage CCOF members to submit a comment to CDFA supporting the Organic Transition Option. Suggested points to make in your comment include:
  • The Healthy Soils Program needs to include an organic transition option because organic farming sequesters carbon and helps mitigate climate change in addition to numerous other environmental and economic benefits.
  • Transitioning to organic is challenging and a little bit of support will go a long way to helping more farmers and ranchers become organic.
  • Any other thoughts you have on the challenges of developing an Organic System Plan and transitioning to organic.
 
Submit comments by email to cdfa.oefi@cdfa.ca.gov by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 31, 2020.
 
Contact Jane Sooby with questions or comments at jsooby@ccof.org or by phone at (831) 425-7205.
 

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