cows in field

Organic Initiative Sign-Up Extended in Some States

Added June 1, 2009. The Natural Resources Conservation Service has given States the option to extend their sign-up period for Organic Initiative funds beyond the initial deadline of May 29th. NSAC has posted a new alert for producers on state extensions. The best way to find out if your State has extended is to call your state office. To find contact information for your state office click on this link.

The Organic Initiative is a special $50 million pool of funding under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). The Initiative will provide payments and technical assistance to transitioning and existing organic farmers who adopt NRCS conservation practices used in organic production systems. Sign up began on May 11th. The new initiative addresses the special “organic conversion assistance” component of EQIP in particular. Funding under the organic conversion section of the farm bill is capped at not more than $20,000 per farm per year, and not more than $80,000 per farm in any 6-year period. Organic farmers may opt to compete in this special pool, with the tighter payment caps, or may opt instead to compete in the regular EQIP pool for which the 6-year cap is $300,000. However, under the terms of the new initiative announced, farmers will receive higher payments, relative to conventional EQIP rates, for five of the six national core practices for organic conversion option. The higher payment rates reflect the higher management costs associated with the mandatory three-year organic transition period and the higher ongoing management costs associated with organic farming.

Eligible Farmers:

  • Farmers just beginning or in the process of transitioning to organic production; farmers will be required to self certify that they have the intention of transitioning to organic over the next 5 years
  • Existing certified organic farmers who want to transition additional acres or animals;
  • Existing certified organic farmers who need to adopt additional conservation measures;
  • Producers who sell less than $5,000 in agricultural products and are thus exempt from formal certification are still eligible for Organic Initiative payments.

Eligible Core practices include:

Conservation Crop Rotation, Cover Crop, Nutrient Management, Pest Management, Prescribed Grazing, and Forage Harvest Management. The criteria for deciding on what practices are eligible and how much each practice might receive is different from the regular EQIP payments. There are also payments offered for practices which have already been established on the farm, for example the regular EQIP may not pay for multiple fields to have cover crops but this initiative will.

The practice are laid out below:

1. Conservation Crop Rotation
Code: Practice Number 328
Rate Increase: 34% bump up over regular State EQIP payment rate
NRCS Conservation Crop Rotation Practice Standard:

2. Cover Crop
Code: Practice Number 340
Rate Increase: 46% bump up over regular State EQIP payment rate
NRCS Cover Crop Practice Standard:

3. Nutrient Management
Code: Practice Number 590
Rate Increase: 30% bump up over regular State EQIP payment rate
NRCS Nutrient Management Practice Standard:

4. Pest Management
Code: Practice Number 595
Rate Increase: 60% bump up over regular State EQIP payment rate
NRCS Pest Management Practice Standard:

5. Prescribed Grazing
Code: Practice Number 528
Rate Increase: 2% bump up over regular State EQIP payment rate
NRCS Prescribed Grazing Practice Standard:

Job Sheet

6. Forage Harvest Management
Code: Practice Number 511
Rate Increase: 2% bump up over State EQIP payment rate
NRCS Forage Harvest Management: (PDF)

Other online resources include Organic Farming Research Association, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and Mass NRCS.