USDA Offers Conservation Assistance to Maryland’s Organic Producers
Maryland's organic producers, and those who are transitioning to organic production, once again have an opportunity in 2013 to receive technical and financial assistance through USDA's Organic Initiative – a program which has provided $1.2 million over the past four years to Maryland agricultural producers.
USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service or NRCS accepts program applications on a continuous basis, but makes periodic funding selections as program dollars allow. The next signup deadline is January 18, 2013. You are encouraged to apply well ahead of the deadline. Additional 2013 signup deadlines are February 15, March 15, and April 19.
NRCS helps farmers apply soil and water conservation practices to optimize environmental benefits on working agricultural lands. These practices include cover crops, nutrient and pest management, prescribed grazing, crop residue management and tillage management, and the construction and use of seasonal high tunnels for crops. Seasonal high tunnels are hoop buildings that allow vegetables and other food crops to be grown "indoors" during the colder weather months.
Applicants with certified organic operations must submit a copy of their current Organic System Plan or OSP to NRCS. Producers who apply for assistance to transition their operation to organic production will be required to submit a self-certification letter stating the applicant agrees to develop and implement conservation practices consistent with an OSP. Organic exempt producers selling less than $5000 of organic products annually may also apply for the Organic Initiative.
Organic producers can receive up to $20,000 per year or $80,000 over six years through the Organic Initiative. To apply for a contract, visit your local NRCS office. More information about the Organic Initiative is available at the NRCS website, http://www.nrcs.usda.gov.