What Is The Organic Initiative?
The Organic Initiative provides financial assistance to help organic producers plan and implement a broad set of conservation practices to address resource concerns and support the environmental sustainability of their operations. This assistance includes, but is not limited to:
- Developing a conservation plan
- Establishing buffer zones
- Planning and installing pollinator habitat
- Improving soil quality and organic matter while minimizing erosion
- Developing a grazing plan and supportive livestock practices
- Improving irrigation efficiency
- Enhancing cropping rotations and nutrient management
Organic provisions in the 2014 Farm Bill and requirements for participation in the program include:
- Financial and technical assistance to implement conservation practices and planning to address resource concerns associated with organic operations
- Funding limits of $20,000 maximum per fiscal year AND no more than $80,000 over a rolling six year Farm Bill for ALL contracts approved through this authority
- Compliance with all the other eligibility requirements associated with EQIP
Participants who are not certified or exempt from certification also agree to develop and work towards implementing an Organic System Plan (OSP) to meet NOP organic certification through USDA.
Who Can Apply
Applicants must demonstrate control of eligible crop-, pasture-, and other farm lands in agricultural production. Interested individuals should should identify their current or future production system in one of the following categories:
- Certified Organic: Certified organic producers shall provide NRCS with a copy of their USDA NOP Organic Certificate or proof of good standing from a USDA accredited certifying agent and certification must be maintained for the life of the EQIP contract.
- Exempt from Certification of the National Organic Program (NOP): Exempt producers who are selling less than $5,000 a year in organic agricultural products are exempt from NOP’s certification. Exempt organic producers are eligible for the EQIP Organic Initiative provided that they self-certify that they agree to develop and implement an OSP.
- Transitioning to Organic: Participants who are transitioning to organic production shall self-certify that they agree to develop and work toward implementing an Organic System Plan (OSP).
How To Apply For EQIP
If you have never worked with NRCS, please see Getting Started with NRCS to learn more about next steps. If you are familiar with NRCS, contact your local Virginia field office for more details about eligibility requirements. Our staff will work with you to develop a conservation plan and an EQIP plan of operations, which will become the basis of the EQIP contract between you and NRCS.
When to Apply
Applications for financial assistance are accepted year-round. Virginia NRCS has established one ranking period for FY2016. All applications should be received by close of business on February 19, 2016.
Applicants agree to develop and implement conservation practices for certified organic production that are consistent with their USDA certified organic system plan (OSP). Organic system plans certified non-USDA groups or agencies are not acceptable. Certified organic producers must provide NRCS with a copy of their OSP, in accordance with the standards established in the Organic Foods Production Act (7 U.S.C. Sections 6501 to 6522) and regulations of the National Organic Program (NOP) (7 CFR Part 205) before an EQIP contract can be approved.
When developing an EQIP schedule of operations for organic production, NRCS or the TSP will address NOP requirements in the practice design to assure that planned practices are consistent with OSP standards. Organic certification must be maintained for the life of the contract. If organic certification is not maintained throughout the life of the contract, the contract may be subject to termination.
Transitioning Operations must self-certify that they agree to develop and implement an OSP. When developing an EQIP schedule of operations for organic production, NRCS or the TSP will address NOP requirements in the practice design to assure that planned practices are consistent with OSP standards. Applicants must provide NRCS with the contact information of the applicant’s USDA accredited organic certifying agent before an EQIP contract can be approved.
NRCS will annually determine whether the participant is implementing practices consistent with an OSP. If a participant is not implementing practices consistent with an OSP, the contract may be subject to termination. NRCS is not authorized to enforce the provisions of the NOP, so organic certification at the completion of the EQIP contract is not required.
Special Funding Pools
Farmer applications for this special Initiative will be reviewed in two separate ranking pools, one for transitioning farmers without any current certified organic production and one for existing certified organic farmers who are either adding new transitional production or adopting new conservation measures on existing organic production. In both cases, those in these special funding pools will be competing only against others in the special pool rather than in the much, much larger general EQIP pool. As provided by law, there is a $20,000 per year ($80,000 over 6 years) payment limit for applications within this special pool.
Available Practice for the Organic Initiative
Please contact the District Conservationist in the USDA Service Center nearest the location of your property.
Virginia Organic Initiative Program Manager:
Phone: (804) 278-1660
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