Organic is about integrity and commitment to sustainable farming. CROPP farmer-members sign the CROPP membership agreement and are bound to abide by any additional standards approved by the CROPP Board of Directors. As a pioneer in pasturing, the CROPP Board and the Dairy Executive Committee decided in 1997 that adequate pasture is a critical organic principle within organic livestock production. In 2009, access to pasture became a federal requirement for all USDA Certified Organic dairy operations.
CROPP has a Pasture Committee that is made up of dairy farmer-members who make recommendations for policy updates, approve farmer-members’ pasture plans, and assist the staff in communicating pasture information to the farmer membership.
The following policy is a requirement for all CROPP dairy farmer-members.
Pasture consists of a mixture of nutritious grasses, legumes and variable plant species attached to their respective root systems. Pasture must be managed to prevent degradation of soil and water quality.
The Grazing Season is a period of time when pasture is available for grazing and must total at least 120 days per year. Grazing season dates vary due to each region’s unique climate and weather events, so the grazing season may or may not be continuous.
1. All cows—lactating, dry, or youngstock—must be provided a minimum of 120 days on pasture during each grazing season.
2. A minimum average of 30 percent dry matter intake for dairy livestock must come from grazed pasture during that region's grazing season. Youngstock must receive a minimum of 30 percent of their dry matter intake from pasture after six months of age.
3. The stocking rate for pasture may not exceed 4,000 pounds of livestock per acre (approximately three to four full-grown cows). If a farmer-member can demonstrate a higher stocking rate is sustainable on his/her farm (such as in the case of youngstock), that will be acceptable.
4. The producer of ruminant livestock may be allowed temporary exemption to pasture for the following reasons:
a. Conditions under which the health, safety, or well-being of the animal could be jeopardized
b. Inclement weather
c. Temporary conditions which pose a risk to soil and water quality
5. The producer of ruminant livestock may be allowed exemption to pasture during the following stages of production:
a. Dairy stock under the age of 6 months
A Farm Pasture Plan demonstrating compliance with the Pasture Standards must be part of each farmer-member’s overall Farm Plan, which is on file with the Cooperative. The pasture plan must illustrate how the producer will maximize the pasture component of the total feed used in the farm system and quantify how the CROPP Pasture Standards will be met. Any members who do not satisfy the pasture standard will be enrolled in a Work Improvement Plan in order to come into compliance within one year.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS): offers guidelines specific to a producer's home locale. Cost-sharing may be available.
Farmer-members demonstrating high-quality pasture plans will be available to serve as mentors to help farmer-members in need of guidance and expertise to expand their pasturing operations.