Smaller organic farming operations can receive federal funding and technical help without being officially certified organic. Iowans who produce and sell organic products with annual sales of less than $5,000 may be eligible for federal financial and technical assistance even if their operations are not certified organic. But they must apply for assistance by May 20.
Rich Sims, state conservationist with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Iowa, says this is a good time for small-scale, certification-exempt organic producers, as well certified and transitional producers, to take advantage of the program that pays up to $80,000 over six years to help them plan and implement conservation practices for their organic farms or gardens.
"You don't have to be a large-scale farmer who has gone through the organic certification process to benefit from this program," Sims says. "This organic funding is designed to assist anyone involved in organic food production."
Small organic operations can get funding without certification
Sims says the funding is available through NRCS' Environmental Quality Incentives Program or EQIP. In addition to small-scale producers, those certified through USDA's National Organic Program and those transitioning to certified organic production are eligible.
EQIP promotes resource conservation and environmental quality. Through EQIP, NRCS helps producers install structural soil and water conservation practices and implement management systems that promote conservation. Practices could include planting cover crops, constructing seasonal high tunnels, or implementing nutrient and pest management systems consistent with the USDA's organic certification standards.
"I encourage anyone who produces organic foods to contact their local NRCS offices right away to see how they might benefit from this program," Sims says.
To apply for EQIP or to get more information about EQIP and other NRCS programs, call or visit your local NRCS office. Look in the phone book under "U.S. Government, Department of Agriculture," or access this website: http://offices.usda.gov.
Apply for USDA Organic Initiative funding now, PFI can help
In Iowa, Practical Farmers of Iowa's research and policy director Sarah Carlson is available to help. She can answer questions, provide farmers with information and guide farmers through the application process. Those who are interested are encouraged to call Sarah at the PFI office in Ames at 515-232.5661 or by email at email@example.com.
Founded in 1985, Practical Farmers of Iowa is an open, supportive and diverse organization of farmers and friends of farmers, advancing profitable, ecologically sound and community-enhancing approaches to agriculture through farmer-to-farmer networking, farmer-led investigation and information sharing. Farmers in PFI's network produce corn, soybeans, beef cattle, hay, fruits and vegetables, and more. For information call 515-232-5661 or visit www.practicalfarmers.org.