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Organic Initiative Sign-up Deadline is May 20, 2011

January 20, 2011


The deadline to apply for the Environmental Quality Incentives (EQIP) Organic Initiative Program is coming up fast.   USDA has allocated $50 million for the Organic Initiative Program in 2011, which is available for all three of the following: certified organic growers, those transitioning to organic farming systems, and farmers exempt from formal certification.*

The Organic Initiative offers financial and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers to implement new conservation practices, like cover cropping, pest management, crop rotation, stream buffers, hedgerow planting, and various other practices.  First implemented in 2009, many farmers and ranchers have taken advantage of the program, including Iowa farmer Gary Otto who conventionally farmed corn and soybeans for 35 years before beginning the organic certification transition process in 2008. Read his success story with the Organic Initiative here.

Interested farmers and ranchers have until May 20, 2011, to sign up for the 2011 program.

To sign up, visit your USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) local service center.

Eligible ApplicantsThe Organic Initiative is available to agriculture producers who are:

•   Just beginning or already in the process of transitioning to certified organic production,
•   Existing certified organic farmers (or exempt*) who are transitioning additional acres or herds;
•   Existing certified organic farmers (or exempt*) who need to adopt additional conservation   measures to fully address particular natural resource and environmental concerns; and
•   Existing certified organic farmers (or exempt*) who want to both transition additional production AND adopt additional conservation measures on existing certified organic ground (a combination of the third and fourth bullet point).

*Also included are “exempt producers,” whose gross agricultural income from organic sales total $5,000 or less annually but who still comply with the applicable organic production, handling, and labeling requirements mandated for certified organic producers.

Payments

Farmers and Ranchers who receive EQIP Organic Initiative contracts with NRCS are paid 75 percent of the cost for the organic conservation measures they implement. Beginning, limited resource, and socially disadvantaged producers (those considered “historically underserved” by the USDA) are paid up to 90 percent. The program provides up to $20,000 per year with a maximum total of $80,000 over six years.
May 20, is the last day to submit your application for this year’s funding. The process can be complicated, so we urge you to start now.

For further and updated information on application instructions, the criteria for applying, information about the practices and payment schedules, and a list of organizations that assist growers in their state please visit NSAC member, Organic Farming Research Foundation’s (OFRF) EQIP Organic Initiative Resource Page.

Please see the NRCS 2011 Guidance Document, which is the USDA’s directive to each state’s NRCS office to implement the EQIP Organic Initiative in 2011.


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