Iowa farmers must apply by March 4 to receive financial assistance in fiscal year 2011 through the USDA's Environmental Quality Incentives Program Organic Initiative. This year nearly $1.4 million is available statewide for applying organic farming practices. In the last two years, Iowans received nearly $5 million through the Organic Initiative, which is part of the EQIP program administered by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Through this initiative, farmers who transition to organic agriculture can receive special assistance for meeting their conservation goals. In addition, previously certified organic producers can receive EQIP assistance for applying new conservation practices to their operation to treat a natural resource concern.
Applying soil and water conservation practices to working lands
Under EQIP, the NRCS helps farmers apply soil and water conservation practices to optimize environmental benefits on working agricultural lands. These practices include, but are not limited to, cover crops, nutrient and pest management, prescribed grazing, residue and tillage management, and seasonal high tunnel systems for crops.
Applicants with certified organic operations must submit a copy of their current Organic System Plan, or OSP, to NRCS. Producers who apply for assistance to transition their operation to organic production will be required to submit a self-certification letter stating the applicant agrees to develop and implement conservation practices consistent with an OSP. All Organic Initiative applicants must provide the name and contact information of the USDA-accredited certifying agent who certified the organic operation.
Organic producers can receive up to $20,000 per year or $80,000 over six years through this initiative. To apply for an EQIP contract, visit NRCS at your local USDA Service Center. More information about the Organic Initiative is available online at www.ia.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/OrganicInitiative.html.