By John Crabtree

LYONS, Neb. — The steady growth of organic farming and ranching in North Dakota and the economic affects of organics on rural communities cannot and should not be ignored.

USDA recently reiterated its commitment to organic production by making available another $50 million in funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program Organic Initiative, which provides a 75 percent share of the cost of implementing organic conservation measures to those who qualify — and a 90 percent cost share for beginning, limited-resource and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

Benefit to North Dakota

In North Dakota, more than $1.2 million was awarded out of the $24 million distributed nationally last year.

That total funding helped 44 North Dakota farms and ranches either get started in organic production or enhance their established operations, making the state fourth in the nation for funding awarded.

Farmers and ranchers involved in organic production or transitioning to organic have until March 4 to apply for EQIP Organic funding for 2011 through their local Natural Resources Conservation Service office.

The Center for Rural Affairs has provided an EQIP Organic Initiative fact sheet at and a farm bill help line — 402-687-2100 — to assist farmers and ranchers in applying for funding.

With $50 million in national funding available this year, farmers and ranchers have a tremendous opportunity to take the leap into organic production. The rewards to farmers, ranchers, rural communities and our food system will be with us for a long time.

    Crabtree is media director at the Lyons, Neb.-based Center for Rural Affairs, a nonprofit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches and rural communities.

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