The National Organic Initiative, funded through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), is a voluntary conservation program that provides technical and financial assistance for organic farmers and ranchers, or those interested in transitioning to organic.
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
National Organic Farming Initiative
Under PA EQIP and National EQIP, eligible farmers and landowners can receive financial and technical assistance to install conservation practices needed to protect natural resources as part of their certified organic, or transitioning to organic operation. In addition, there is an option for farmers transitioning to organic production to receive funding to hire a certified Technical Service Provider (TSP) to develop a Conservation Plan Supporting Organic Transition. (NOTE: a Conservation Plan Supporting Organic Transition is not the same as an Organic Transition Plan or OSP. See USDA-Agricultural Marketing Service's web site on the National Organic Program for more information about Organic System Plans and organic certification.)
Information on Organic Farming
USDA maintains a centralized web resource center on USDA.gov with links to programs, services, and data to support organic agriculture.
PA NRCS has additional information pertaining to Organic Agriculture under Organic Agriculture FAQs.
Conservation Funding to Support Organic Farming
Farmers can apply for and receive funding for all of the regular EQIP program offerings, along with special EQIP options available only to certified organic farmers or farmers who are transitioning to organic farming. This special organic initiative funding allows contracts of up to $20,000 per year, not to exceed $80,000 total over a 6-year period. Producers with organic operations do not compete against non-organic farmers for these special funds.
Payments are not authorized for activities or practice components which are solely production related and are not associated with an identified resource concern.
Additional information about the EQIP Organic Initiative is available at the National EQIP Organic Initiative website.
There is an “Organic-Transition” option and a “Certified Organic” option. Farmers who have land that is already certified organic should apply under the Certified Organic category, and be able to present a current copy of their certified Organic System Plan. Farmers who sell less than $5,000.00 per year of organic products are considered to be certification exempt according to National Organic Program (NOP) regulations and should apply under the Organic-Transition category.
Farmers who are transitioning their operation to organic production, should apply under the Organic-Transition option and agree to develop and implement conservation practices for certified organic production that are consistent with an OSP.
Applicants must meet basic EQIP Eligibility Requirements and be a Certified Organic operation, qualify as exempt from certification or be transitioning to Organic Certification. For information about program eligibility, visit the Pennsylvania EQIP webpage.
Applications for the EQIP Organic Farming Initiative are accepted continuously throughout the year to be evaluated, ranked, and prioritized. To apply, you will need to complete an application form and contact your local NRCS office at a USDA Service Center (See "Find Your Local Service Center" at the bottom of this page.) or Get Started with NRCS.
What is the Contract Period?
EQIP offers contracts with a minimum term that ends one year after the implementation of the last scheduled practice and a maximum term of ten years. Contracts provide pre-determined program payments to the producer for the implementation of the planned practices according to a schedule developed with the producer.
The schedule lists the conservation practice extent (amount), date to be installed, and payment. Practices are subject to NRCS technical standards adapted for local conditions. Deviation from the contract schedule is considered a contract violation unless approved in advance.
Assistant State Resource Conservationist for Programs
EQIP Program Manager
Ready to get started?
Contact your local service center to start your application.
How to Get Assistance
Do you farm or ranch and want to make improvements to the land that you own or lease?
Natural Resources Conservation Service offers technical and financial assistance to help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners.
To get started with NRCS, we recommend you stop by your local NRCS field office. We’ll discuss your vision for your land.
NRCS provides landowners with free technical assistance, or advice, for their land. Common technical assistance includes: resource assessment, practice design and resource monitoring. Your conservation planner will help you determine if financial assistance is right for you.
We’ll walk you through the application process. To get started on applying for financial assistance, we’ll work with you:
- To fill out an AD 1026, which ensures a conservation plan is in place before lands with highly erodible soils are farmed. It also ensures that identified wetland areas are protected.
- To meet other eligibility certifications.
Once complete, we’ll work with you on the application, or CPA 1200.
Applications for most programs are accepted on a continuous basis, but they’re considered for funding in different ranking periods. Be sure to ask your local NRCS district conservationist about the deadline for the ranking period to ensure you turn in your application in time.
As part of the application process, we’ll check to see if you are eligible. To do this, you’ll need to bring:
- An official tax ID (Social Security number or an employer ID)
- A property deed or lease agreement to show you have control of the property; and
- A farm tract number.
If you don’t have a farm tract number, you can get one from USDA’s Farm Service Agency. Typically, the local FSA office is located in the same building as the local NRCS office. You only need a farm tract number if you’re interested in financial assistance.
NRCS will take a look at the applications and rank them according to local resource concerns, the amount of conservation benefits the work will provide and the needs of applicants.
If you’re selected, you can choose whether to sign the contract for the work to be done.
Once you sign the contract, you’ll be provided standards and specifications for completing the practice or practices, and then you will have a specified amount of time to implement. Once the work is implemented and inspected, you’ll be paid the rate of compensation for the work if it meets NRCS standards and specifications.