CCOF has long recognized the importance of protecting natural resources and conserving biological diversity on certified organic operations. The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) regulations agree, requiring certified operations to maintain and improve their natural resources and integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of nutrients, promote ecological balance, and conserve biological diversity. We have developed this page as a resource for clients to meet the NOP’s conservation standards and enjoy the benefits of doing so along the way.
The NOP defines “Natural Resources” as the physical, hydrological, and biological features of an operation, including soil, water, wetlands, woodlands, and wildlife. Conserving resources and supporting biological diversity lead to a myriad of benefits, including an increase in pollinators and other beneficial insects, more effective pest control, improved water quality, and healthier soils. Conserving natural resources also improves the farm’s overall stability and resiliency.
CCOF’s Organic System Plan (OSP) form G4.2 Natural Resources is designed to describe our producers’ strategies to maintain and improve the natural resources of their operations. Our OSP G4.2 form includes conservation practices in the areas of water management, preservation and development of wildlife habitat, control of invasive species, enhancement of biological diversity, and natural resources planning and monitoring.
Review the On-Farm Conservation Strategies: Natural Resources & Biodiversity Conservation flyer for additional information about this requirement.
NOP 5020 Guidance on Natural Resources and Biodiversity Conservation
On January 15, 2016, the NOP issued Guidance 5020 to help certifiers and organic operations understand their respective obligations concerning natural resources and biodiversity conservation. Appendix A of the Guidance provides examples of activities that organic operations can implement to comply with the standard. The NOP requires producers to monitor how their practices are maintaining or improving natural resources. CCOF has developed recordkeeping tools to assist growers with monitoring. The Guidance also instructs certifiers to consider whether you have developed a conservation plan with your NRCS or RCD office, or other local or non-governmental conservation organization, when assessing compliance with the natural resources standard. See below for information on how to develop a conservation plan with one of these entities.
Below are additional resources to help you plan and implement a conservation strategy for your operation.
Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
The Natural Resources Conservation Service works with landowners to conserve natural resources on private lands and ensure that they are managed for sustainability and resiliency in the face of drought, erosion, climate change and other environmental challenges. Experts at NRCS work directly with organic growers through the Conservation Activities Plan 138 (CAP 138) program to develop farm resource inventories and conservation plans. Funding for conservation planning is available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Learn more about NRCS and the services they provide. The NRCS brochures below provide additional information on these programs and other services provided by the NRCS.
CCOF encourages you to contact your NRCS field office for professional assistance with conservation planning. Find your local NRCS office.
National Association of Conservation Districts
Use the National Association of Conservation Districts' "Locate Your Local District" interactive map and click on your state to find your local district and their contact information.
Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs)
Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs) are locally governed agencies whose experts provide landowners with assistance and resources for conservation and sustainability projects. Projects are funded through grants and private contributions, and include habitat improvement, water conservation, fire prevention, community education, hedgerow installation, and more. The California RCD’s trade association, the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts, works with CCOF on education and policy issues. Find your California Resource Conservation District. If you are not located in California, use the National Association of Conservation Districts' "Locate Your Local District" interactive map to find your RCD district and contact information.
Biodiversity Continuum Chart
This chart created by the Wild Farm Alliance lays out a progression of activities that increasingly support biodiversity and the benefits it provides to the farm. Each farm has a unique set of circumstances and will begin at different places in the continuum, 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, the farm can start with small steps or take big strides to integrate biodiversity.
Biodiversity: What it is and How to Increase it on Your Farm
This brochure, created by Wild Farm Alliance (WFA) in collaboration with Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), explains the concept of biological diversity, why it is important to organic agriculture, and how growers can promote diversity on their farms.
Biodiversity Conservation: An Organic Farmer’s and Certifier’s Guide
This guide, also published by WFA, provides an in-depth exploration of natural resources conservation and biological diversity as it applies to organic agriculture. The guide illustrates many conservation methods and strategies to ensure success, while also explaining how activities on farm relate to compliance with the NOP standards. Contact WFA to request a copy.
Wild Pollinators: Agriculture’s Forgotten Partners
This WFA briefing paper explores the historic role of native pollinators in food production and discusses methods to attract these beneficial insects to your farm.
Farming for Pollinators: Native Bees and Your Crops
This guide, published by the Xerces Society, explores the critical requirements of native bees, why they are such effective pollinators, and how to ensure they find your farm. Additional pollination resources published by the Xerces Society can be found at Xerces Society - Pollinators.
Farming for Bees: Guidelines for Providing Native Bee Habitat on Farms
This in-depth brochure from the Xerces Society examines why conserving native bees is essential to sustainable agriculture and how other farmers have successfully attracted these invaluable pollinators to their farms.
Hedgerows: Benefits to Farmers, Benefits to Wildlife
This brochure, published by the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County and CAFF, explains in quick fashion the benefits and functions of hedgerows. The authors discuss important considerations for successful plant establishment, potential problems and how to avoid them, and examples of typical hedgerow composition.
Hedgerows for California Agriculture
This resource guide from CAFF provides an in-depth look at how to choose and care for regionally-appropriate hedgerow plants that will attract beneficial insects to your farm while also preventing erosion. Included are lists of native plant nurseries, consultants, and contractors specializing in hedgerow and other restoration projects.
Conservation Buffers: Design Guidelines for Buffers, Corridors, and Greenways
USDA National Agroforestry Center/NRCS has compiled a synthesis of information around design and planning of buffers in this easy-to-understand guide.
Water Quality Resources
Handbook of Agricultural Conservation Practices
The Resource Conservation District of Monterey County published this guide to serve as a first step in exploring resource conservation management options. The handbook explores options for water conservation and management and contains photos and descriptions of both engineered and non-engineered practices including, but not limited to, vegetated waterways, filter strips, tailwater recovery systems, irrigation water management, and road seeding.
History of CCOF and Natural Resources Conservation
Since its inception, CCOF has recognized the value of, and advocated for, organic standards that embrace the conservation of natural resources and biological diversity. Over the years we’ve continuously worked with the Wild Farm Alliance to make its resources available to you, through both mailings and our website. We also worked closely with WFA to develop our OSP G4.2 Natural Resources form, designed to help you identify and implement the right conservation measures for your farm. Lastly, our inspectors are highly trained to observe and accurately record your efforts to maintain or improve the natural resources of your operation, as well as areas that require improvement. We are all in this together, and together we will lead the way in promoting sustainable, resilient, and environmentally sound organic agriculture.