Written by Larry Limpf
Special financial assistance for conservation practices is available for growers transitioning to organic farming or who are already certified for organic agriculture under new provisions of the 2008 Farm Bill, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced.
Organic farmers may apply for funds through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to receive up to $20,000 annually or $80,000 over six years.
The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service offices will be administering the program, which has been reorganized to include a separate fund of EQUIP revenue to help the organic farmers and those who are beginning to undertake organic production.
Terry Crosby, of the Ohio office of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, said EQIP applicants will need to include their organic system plan reviewed by an agriculture department accredited certifier when they apply for financial assistance under the program.
“Farmers with an OSP have typically accomplished much of the work needed to develop an NRCS conservation plan,” he said. “Participating in Organic EQIP will result in a complete conservation system.”
Conservation practices that may be funded through Organic EQIP include cover crops, crop rotation, fencing and watering for rotational grazing, pest management, and field borders.
EQIP applications are taken continuously throughout the year, but to be considered for fiscal year 2009 funding, producers need to have an application signed and returned to the local NRCS office by May 8.
Josh Gerwin, district conservationist in the Ottawa Soil and Water Conservation District office, said the new EQIP provisions of the farm bill establish “a special pot of money” for certified organic growers and those who are going through the certification process.
This spring, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will conduct its first wide-scale survey of organic farming in the country in an effort to determine how organic production is changing the face of U.S. agriculture.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called the survey “an opportunity for organic producers to share their voices and help ensure the continued growth and sustainability of organic farming in the United States.”
The 2007 Census of Agriculture counted more than 20,000 U.S. farms engaged in organic production.
The survey will cover many aspects of organic farms during calendar year 2008, including production and marketing practices, to income and expenses.
Survey results will be used to help design farm policy and funding allocations.
The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will mail the survey in early May to known organic producers, who are being asked to respond by June 17.
The results will be published in the winter.
For information about the survey visit www.agcensus,usda.gov or call (800) 727-9540.