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Farm bill provisions ease organic transition process


Kansas 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. They can receive up to $20,000 per year or $80,000 over six years. The USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service in Kansas, which administers EQIP, is setting aside a separate pool of EQIP money to help Kansas 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 April 10.

Eric Banks, State Conservationist in Kansas, says EQIP applicants will need to include their organic system plan 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," says Banks.

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 are also available under the "general" EQIP.

"Dedicating EQIP funds to organic transition will hopefully result in more organic crop acres across the state," says Banks.

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/SLB_Farmer/.

Visit your local USDA Service Center and talk to the NRCS office staff for more details about EQIP, conservation planning, and other programs to help you protect your farm. For more information about EQIP, go to www.ks.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/eqip/ and click on Kansas 2009 EQIP Information.

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