Blog for Rural America

The Center for Rural Affairs, a private, non-profit organization, is working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities. Permission to reprint items from this web log is hereby granted, on the condition that clear credit is given to the original source of the material. If the blog provides information for a story, please let us know by sending an email to johnc@cfra.org.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Organic Transition Program Announced

Organic Transition Program Announced

Hartington – The Center for Rural Affairs, Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Nebraska Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA), will host an organic transition information meeting. The meeting is scheduled for Monday, February 13th from 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. at the Prairie Winds Community Center in Bridgeport, NE. NRCS staff will explain the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) application and program process while a local organic farmer will address organic farming concepts, requirements and practices.

The NRCS has added an Organic Transition Incentives Program to the EQIP to provide financial incentives for farmers and ranchers to convert cropland and pasture to certified “organic” status.

The program authorizes an annual payment of $50 per acre for 3 years, for up to 160 acres of cropland. The pasture payment is $10/acre on a maximum of 320 acres. Operators can apply for either or both programs. Since EQIP allows for more local control to meet local needs, some details of the program may vary between counties and Natural Resource Districts. Application deadline for the program is February 28, 2006 at your local NRCS office.

Organic prices are usually 100-200% of conventional grains. But, to sell products in the “organic” market, farmers and ranchers must comply with certain restrictions and rules known as the National Organic Rule. The biggest obstacle for many farmers and ranchers is the 36-month transition period, where no unauthorized inputs can be applied, yet the product does not qualify for the organic premiums.

The EQIP program provides financial incentives to offset possible financial risks, from yield reductions, and/or lender/landlord agreements during the transition phase. Incentives can also help offset expenses for additional machinery and facilities not now a part of many conventional farms’ portfolio such as additional tillage or weed control equipment, storage facilities, and equipment needed to manage a more diverse crop mixture.

Transition to organic production is much more than adding a single practice. It is about changing the production system. To provide local expertise and instruction, applicants to the Organic Incentive Program can participate in a three-year education program sponsored by the Center for Rural Affairs, designed to provide detailed information on what is required to certify organic and the practices needed to qualify.

For details on the National Organic Program (NOP) rules, visit the USDA’s home page: www.usda.gov, click on “Agriculture”, then Organic Certification. For more information on the NRCS EQIP Program, contact your local NRCS office, Marva Holt, organics@sktdalton.net 308-377-2121, or Martin Kleinschmit at the Center for Rural Affairs, martink@cfra.org , 402-254-6893.

Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.

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