Iowa'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 nearly $7 million the past four years to Iowa agricultural producers.
USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) accepts program applications on a continuous basis, but makes periodic funding selections as program dollars allow. The next signup deadline is Dec. 21, followed by Feb. 15, 2013.
NRCS helps farmers apply conservation practices to optimize environmental benefits on working agricultural lands. These practices include cover crops, nutrient and pest management, prescribed grazing, residue and tillage management, and seasonal high tunnels for crops.
Earl Hafner, who grows organic crops and grazes livestock on more than 2,000 acres in Guthrie County, says USDA's Organic Initiative has been a tremendous help in reducing weed pressure and improving soil health. "The Organic Initiative provided me extra funding to try different cover crops and planting techniques, such as flying over and drilling after harvest," he said.
Applicants with certified organic operations must submit a copy of their current Organic System Plan (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. All Organic Initiative applicants must provide the name and contact information of the USDA-accredited certifying agent who certified the organic operation.
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 online at www.ia.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/OrganicInitiative.html