COLUMBUS — Ohio farmers who are transitioning to organic agriculture or who are currently 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 over six years.
The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Ohio, which administers EQIP, is setting aside a separate pool of EQIP money to help Ohio organic farmers and those that 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 their local NRCS office by May 8.
Terry Cosby, state conservationist in Ohio, says EQIP applicants will need to include their organic system plan (OSP) reviewed by a USDA accredited organic certifier when applying for financial assistance in the Organic EQIP.
“Farmers with an OSP have typically accomplished much of the work needed to develop an NRCS conservation plan,” said Cosby. “Participating in Organic EQIP will result in a complete conservation system.”
What can be funded
A number of conservation practices may be funded through the Organic EQIP, including cover crops, conservation crop rotation, fencing and watering for rotational grazing, pest management, and field borders.
All conservation practices available under the Organic EQIP are also available under the “General” EQIP. Some participants are eligible to receive a higher payment rate; those are limited resource farmers, beginning farmers, and socially disadvantaged groups.