The Natural Resources Conservation Service has announced a sign-up deadline of May 20, 2011, for a conservation initiative available specifically to organic farmers.
Through the Organic Initiative, NRCS will provide funding to help organic producers and those transitioning to organic production implement natural resource conservation practices on their agricultural operations. Interested participants may sign-up at any time, but applications received after May 20 will be considered in the next funding allocation.
Funding for the Organic Initiative is being made available by NRCS as part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. EQIP offers financial and technical assistance to help eligible producers install or implement conservation practices on eligible agricultural land.
This is the third year of the Organic Initiative. In 2010, NRCS obligated $24 million nationally, with nearly $1 million going to Nebraska producers.
For this current sign-up, $1.5 million is available for Nebraska producers to plan and implement conservation practices that address natural resource concerns in ways that are consistent with organic production. Organic producers may use the funding to plant cover crops, establish integrated pest management plans, or implement nutrient management systems. Several additional conservation practice options are available. NRCS employees will work with producers to design a conservation plan that will work best for their operation.
Eligible producers include those certified through USDA's National Organic Program, transitioning to certified organic production, and those who meet organic standards but are exempt from certification because their gross annual organic sales are less than $5,000.
Under Organic Initiative contracts, producers are paid a portion of the cost for the organic conservation measures they implement. Beginning, limited resource and socially disadvantaged producers are paid a higher rate. The program provides up to $20,000 per year per person or legal entity, with a maximum total of $80,000 over six years.
Those interested in applying for Organic Initiative funding can visit their local NRCS Service Center.