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Published January 07 2011

Signup open for organic initiative in North Dakota

BISMARCK – North Dakota producers have until March 4 to apply for funding through an organic agriculture initiative.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will provide funding to help organic producers and those transitioning to organic production implement resource conservation practices on their operations, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service State Conservationist Paul Sweeney stated in a news release.

In North Dakota, $1.2 million in financial assistance is available to producers.

Organic Initiative funding is provided through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, a voluntary conservation program administered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service that promotes agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible national goals. The 2008 farm bill provided assistance for organic farm operations and those converting to organic production.

Fiscal year 2011 marks the third year of USDA’s Organic Initiative, and up to $50 million nationally is available this year for producers to plan and implement conservation practices that address natural resource concerns in ways that are consistent with organic production.

Sweeney stated that organic producers can use the funding to plant cover crops, establish integrated pest management plans or implement nutrient management systems consistent with organic certification standards.

Eligible producers include those certified through USDA’s National Organic Program, those transitioning to certified organic production, and those who meet organic standards but are exempt from certification because their gross annual organic sales are less than $5,000.

Under Organic Initiative contracts, producers are paid 75 percent of the cost for the organic conservation measures they implement. Beginning, limited resource and socially disadvantaged producers are paid 90 percent.

The program provides up to $20,000 per year per person or legal entity, with a maximum total of $80,000 over six years.

For more information about this initiative and other NRCS conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov or your local USDA Service Center.