NRCS sets aside money for organics
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recently announced that in fiscal year 2010, $50 million has been set aside for organic producers and those transitioning to organic production nationwide. Of that $50 million, $1.2 million has been allocated to NRCS in Colorado which is in its second year of identifying objectives and goals specific to the organic production agricultural community. Last year’s initiative in Colorado funded applications totaling over $500,000 and treated more than 5,700 acres.
“The Obama administration set a high priority on providing assistance to organic agriculture production, resulting in increased support for the organic community within the 2008 farm bill,” says Tim Carney, NRCS assistant state conservationist for programs, Lakewood, CO. “The 2010 organic initiative’s funding is made available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) which is managed and administered by NRCS and offers financial and technical assistance to producers to help install or implement structural and management practices on eligible agricultural land as well as to address identified natural resource concerns.”
Through the EQIP program, organic producers can receive technical and financial assistance to plan and install conservation practices to address many of the resource concerns identified in their organic systems plans (OSP), including water quality, nonpoint source pollution, plant and soil condition, soil erosion, and domestic animals.
NRCS conservation practices such as irrigation water management; nutrient and pest management; cover crops, conservation crop rotation; residue and tillage management; field borders; filter strips; and prescribed grazing can be planned and applied to address OSP resource concerns.
Organic producers interested in applying for enrollment into the organic EQIP initiative should first visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/pro grams/eqip/organic/index. html for eligibility requirements and other informa tion.
Producers may apply at any time by contacting their local NRCS field office located within the USDA Service Center that services their county.
“Organic producers should also be aware that they are not limited to applying for assistance just through the organic EQIP initiative,” Carney goes on to say. “They may also apply for enrollment into our traditional EQIP program or any other for which they feel they may be qualified.
No matter which program they may choose, it is highly recommended they work with their local NRCS field staff to develop a conservation plan.”
Conservation plans are not mandatory for enrollment into any NRCS program; however, agricultural operations with qualified conservation plans receive priority when competing for conservation financial assistance program funds.