USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Massachusetts State Conservationist Christine Clarke reminds local organic farmers and those transitioning to organic farming production practices to contact their local NRCS office soon to find out if they are eligible for the agency's Organic Initiative.
March 30 is the cut-off date for applications to be considered in the second ranking period of 2012. But applications are always accepted on a continuous basis.
Farmers interested in applying for EQIP Organic Initiative funding must submit applications through their local NRCS Service Center. Learn more about the Organic Initiative at www.ma.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/organic.
"We hear from many Massachusetts organic growers who are looking for help implementing conservation practices," Clarke says. "The Organic Initiative allows farmers to get help protecting the natural resources on their land and creating conditions that foster organic production."
In Massachusetts, NRCS currently has $132,000 in financial assistance available to certified organic producers, those who want to make the transition to organic farming production and producers who sell less than $5,000 in organic products annually.
As part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the Organic Initiative offers a wide array of conservation practices specifically designed for organic farming production. The top six conservation practices are cover crops, nutrient management, integrated pest management, seasonal high tunnels, crop rotation and fencing.
"These practices will help the selected applicants meet many requirements of their USDA Organic System Plans and stay in compliance with USDA's National Organic Program," Clarke said.Changes for 2012 include three ranking periods for current and transitioning producers; a threshold ranking score that can speed up approval for qualified applicants; required conservation practices that promote the consistent use of those practices; and an expanded list of conservation activity plans.