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Farm bill provisions ease organic transition process

Kansas farmers who are transitioning to organic agriculture or who currently are certified organic can receive special assistance for meeting their conservation goals under new provisions in the 2008 Farm Bill.

Farmers may apply for financial assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). They can receive up to $20,000 per year or $80,000 during a six-year period. The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Kansas, which administers EQIP, is setting aside a separate pool of EQIP money to help Kansas organic farmers and those who are transitioning to organic production. While EQIP has always been available for organic producers to treat resource concerns on their land, with the provisions of the new Farm Bill, specific funds are being set aside to assist organic producers.

Applications for EQIP are taken continuously throughout the year, however to be considered for fiscal year 2009 funding, producers need to have an application signed and returned to Marion County NRCS office by April 10.

Eric Banks, state conservationist, said EQIP applicants would need to include their organic system plan (OSP) when applying for financial assistance to transition to organic agriculture.

“Farmers with an OSP have typically accomplished much or all of the work needed to develop an NRCS conservation plan,” Banks said.

A number of conservation practices may be funded through the EQIP organic ranking category, including cover crops, crop rotations, fencing and watering for rotational grazing, pest management, and field borders.

All conservation practices available under the organic ranking category EQIP also are available under the “general” EQIP.

“Dedicating EQIP funds to organic transition will hopefully result in more organic crop acres across the state,” Banks said.

Some participants are eligible to receive a higher payment rate; those are limited resource farmers, beginning farmers, and socially disadvantaged groups.

For more information, go to www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs.

Last modified March 25, 2009

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