EQIP Organic Initiative Bulletin Published
November 17th, 2011
On Monday, November 14, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) released the fiscal year (FY) 2012 National Bulletin on the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Organic Initiative.
This bulletin provides guidance to State Conservationists for administering the EQIP Organic Initiative in FY 2012. The Organic Initiative provides funds and technical assistance to certified organic, exempt organic, and transitioning organic producers to instal conservation practices related to organic production. A number of changes have been made to the National Bulletin for FY 2012:
- The Organic Initiative will now require transitioning producers and exempt organic producers to self-certify that they agree to develop and implement an Organic Systems Plan in order to receive assistance through the Organic Initiative. Transitioning producers must also prove that they have contacted a certifying agent and begun the process of transitioning to certified organic production.
- National Headquarters has created a list of 64 conservation practices and Conservation Activity Plans that states must offer. This differs from the previous two years, when each state determined which practices it chose to offer. However, a state conservationist can request a waiver to omit individual practices if they are deemed unnecessary. We expect that many states will request exemptions for a least some of these 64 practices.
- National Headquarters will determine national ranking criteria for the Organic Initiative, and the national office will essentially eliminate state ranking criteria by rolling the state criteria in with the national criteria. National ranking criteria will account for seventy-five percent of available ranking points. States will develop local ranking questions, which will account for twenty-five percent of available ranking points.
- NRCS has established three application periods for the Organic Initiative in FY 2012, which is a change from the single application period that existed in previous fiscal years. National Headquarters will establish a threshold ranking score for each application period, and all EQIP applications with scores that meet or exceed the threshold score in a given application period may receive funding. Period 1 ends on February 3, 2012, Period 2 ends on March 30, 2012, and Period 3 ends on June 1, 2012. The threshold ranking score will change with each successive application period, and any eligible applications below the threshold score in a given application period will be considered for funding during future application periods.
- National Headquarters will initially allocate only a portion of the total available Organic Initiative funds to states, which states can then use to obligate funds to contracts in Period 1. If states need additional Organic Initiative funds during any application period, the state conservationist can submit a request for an allowance change. It is our understanding that NRCS National Headquarters will make it easy for states to receive additional funding when needed.
- NRCS plans to develop a national web site for the EQIP Organic Initiative, which will include information on application periods and national bulletins. Each state will have a web page that links to the national web site.
- Each state will update their state contact person for the Organic Initiative.
State conservationists must complete the required actions by November 25, 2011, four working days from today. The National Bulletin expires on September 30, 2012, when NRCS will publish updated guidance on administering the EQIP Organic Initiative.