Thursday, January 28, 2010

Organic farmers can get conservation financial assistance in 2010

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will be repeating a conservation assistance program first offered for organic farmers in 2009. This assistance comes under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), a program that has provided roughly $20 million a year in recent years for financial assistance to Missouri farmers. EQIP payments support a wide variety of conservation-related practices on either a cost share basis or a per acre payment, depending on the particular practice. Dozens of different practices are eligible for crops, livestock, and agroforestry. Farmers or land owners can apply through their local NRCS office for EQIP funds. Generally an application the includes a combination of conservation practices is more likely to be funded than requesting support for a single practice, such as planting cover crops.

The organic portion of the EQIP program is intended to particularly support farmers who are already certified organic or who are transitioning to organic. A specific amount of funds is likely to be set aside in each state just for organic practices. Also, a higher level of cost share is provided, expected to be 75% for any conservation practice; the slight exception will be historically- underserved program participants, who can receive a 90% cost share.

This is a great program for anyone involved in organic agriculture or transitioning to organic to take a look at. For example, farmers can receive a substantial payment per acre for planting cover crop seed, or might be able to receive partial support for pasture improvements or manure management. More details are expected to be on the Missouri NRCS website by about mid-February.

A total of $50 million in organic EQIP funds will be available nationally, and Missouri will have a set portion of those funds. The time window to apply for these funds will probably be short - late February and early March. The deadline may be as early as March 12 to apply or soon thereafter (a definite deadline will be announced later in February). Interested producers should plan to contact their local NRCS about this program in the next few weeks to learn about what is involved in an application. Filing an application does not guarantee funds, but a high percentage of applicants who file for payments are likely to receive them, provided the application is done appropriately.

Submitted by Rob Myers

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