NRCS Funding Program for Organic
Posted: May 6, 2011
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has announced a second opportunity to apply for its Organic Initiative during fiscal year 2011. To be considered, eligible certified organic growers or those producers who are transitioning to organic production must submit a complete application by Friday, May 20, 2011.
The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 created a special provision for organic producers and those who are in the process of becoming organic producers. Certified organic producers, and those transitioning to organic, may be eligible to receive payments through the new Organic Initiative under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). There is an option for farmers transitioning to organic production to receive funding to hire a certified Technical Service Provider (TSP) to develop an Organic Transition plan. Applications for the EQIP Organic Farming Initiative are accepted continuously throughout the year to be evaluated, ranked, and prioritized. To apply, growers need to complete an application form and contact their local NRCS office at a USDA Service Center.
Under the NRCS Organic Initiative, farmers can apply for and receive funding for all of the regular EQIP program offerings, along with special EQIP options available only to certified organic farmers or farmers who are transitioning to organic farming. This funding allows contracts of up to $20,000 per year, not to exceed $80,000 total over a 6-year period. Producers with organic operations do not compete against non-organic farmers for these special funds, and payment rates for some core practices, e.g., conservation crop rotation, cover crop, nutrient management, pest management, prescribed grazing, conservation cover, field border, riparian herbaceous cover, riparian forested buffer, seasonal high tunnel system for crops, and windbreaks may be higher than rates for non-organic applications. Payments are not authorized for activities or practice components which are solely production related and are not limited to an indentified resource concern.
For 2011, there is an “Organic-Transition” option and an “Organic-Production” option. Farmers who have land that is already certified organic or in production should apply under the certified organic category, and be able to present a current copy of their certified Organic System Plan (OSP). Farmers who sell less than $5,000.00 per year of organic products are considered to be certification exempt according to National Organic Program (NOP) regulations, and they should apply under the Organic-Production category. Farmers who are transitioning to organic production, should apply under the organic-transition option and agree to develop and implement conservation practices for certified organic production that are consistent with an OSP. There is a continuous sign-up period, with set dates for funding. If an applicant is not funded in the current round, their application is rolled over for two years. For more information on the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Organic Farming Initiative, see http://www.pa.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/eqip/Organic/index.html.
Other conservation programs are available to all growers – both organic and conventional, including the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative (CBWI), the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP), Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and the Grassland Reserve Program (GRP). For more information, contact your local NRCS office, or visit online www.pa.nrcs.usda.gov.