NOFA-NY Field Notes


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Conservation Buffers

Conservation Buffers

Thanks, Adrianne Traub, NOFA-NY Certification Specialist, for this helpful information on conservation buffers:

Borders around the edges of crop fields, also known as buffers, are an essential practice in many organic farming systems. As many farmers know, the exact requirements of the buffers are notoriously tricky to pin down. The National Organic Program, Section 205.2 defines a buffer zone as “an area located between a certified production operation or portion of a production operation and an adjacent land area that is not maintained under organic management. A buffer zone must be sufficient in size or other features (e.g., windbreaks or a diversion ditch) to prevent the possibility of unintended contact by prohibited substances applied to adjacent land areas with an area that is part of a certified operation.” Now this can mean different things depending on the geography of the specific site. Wind direction, topography, buffer vegetation type, and crop varieties all play a role in determining what is needed. The organic inspectors are well trained to help determine what is needed in each circumstance.


Installing a conservation buffer may seem daunting in the face of all of the other tasks that need to be accomplished in a short growing season, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) is trying to make it easier. A program called the Continuous Sign-Up Conservation Reserve Program (CCRP) now provides farmers with rental payments and certain incentive payments on land set aside for conservation buffers for 10-15 years. It also provides up to 50% cost-share payments to help establish the buffers. It is voluntary, non-competitive, and,

as the name suggests, enrollment occurs on a continuous basis. For more information on this program, visit reserve-program/index.

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