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.
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. If your State has not extended, ask them to consider doing so.
The National NRCS office has issued this list of States that have pushed back their deadline including AK, CO, DE, FL, IN, KY, LA, ME, MD, MN, NE, NV, OH, OR, SD, VA, and WI. We have also had reports that PA, HI, SC and NC have extended. Other reports are that the NRCS list is not entirely accurate. Again, the best way to find out if your state has extended is to call your State office.
NRCS is working hard to ramp up this new national initiative passed in the 2008 Farm Bill. While first time program implementation can be frustrating for applicants, keep in mind that the program is in it's pilot stage and represents a substantial Farm Bill win for sustainable agriculture. Be patient!
Farmers just beginning or in the process of transitioning to organic production;
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.
The program will be available in every state and county. Sign up begins for this special pool of funds on Monday, May 11th and continues through May 29th. Organic or transitioning farmers who have already applied for EQIP funding may choose to move their application into the special organic pool which will have higher payment rates for some practices than the regular EQIP program and a $20,000 per year ($80,000 over 6 years) payment limit. Costs of technical assistance provided by NRCS will not count against the payment limitation.
Transitioning farmers are also being offered an opportunity to develop a "conservation activity plan" as part of their EQIP Organic Initiative contract. A conservation activity plan can help with the development of an Organic Systems plan.
All applications received during this sign up period will be ranked using national and in some cases state level criteria related to how well the proposed contract contributes to conserving soil, water quality and other resource concerns. Farmers who are awarded a contract will then be eligible for technical assistance to assist with implementation of the practices. NRCS has set aside an additional $5 million for technical assistance for this initiative.
You can find contact information for your local local NRCS office here.
A number of NSAC Member organizations are available to answer producer questions about the Organic Initiative. Visit their websites for more inforamtion: Midwest Organic and Sustainable Agriculture Education Service, Organic Farming Research Foundation, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, ATTRA, Center for Rural Affairs, Agriculture and Land Based Training Association, Practical Farmers of Iowa, Kansas Rural Center, Florida Organic Growers.
For additional detail on the Organic Initiative see this NSAC Memo and this May 5th directive from NRCS.
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
110 Maryland Avenue NE
Washington, DC 20002
Application Deadline Extended in Some States for Organic Initiative Funds
An Alert from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, May 28, 2009
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