Money available for organic initiative; deadline Jan. 22

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FARMINGTON – Juan Hernandez, state conservationist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), has announced that Maine has received more than $480,000 for fiscal year 2010 for an initiative (special sign-up) to encourage more organic agriculture production. Funding is being made available as part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). This is the second year for this initiative. Approximately $429,000 was committed to contacts statewide through this initiative in Fiscal Year 2009.

“The 2008 Farm Bill provided funding specifically to help organic farmers and those agricultural producers transitioning to organic farming,” said Hernandez. “This initiative will help make organic food producers eligible to compete for EQIP funds.”

Successful applicants will receive funding to implement up to five priority conservation practices designed to improve natural resource conditions. Not only do these practices offer significant environmental benefits, but they are also important to growers. The five practices are: (1) Crop Rotation, (2) Cover Crop, (3) Nutrient Management, (4) Pest Management, and (5) Mulching.

Applications, received from organic producers or producers in transition to organic farming, will be accepted under this initiative until January 22, 2010. Applications will be ranked at that time. If you are a certified organic producer you must submit an Organic System Plan (OSP) at the time of application along with proof of farm ownership. If you are a producer in transition to organic farming, you must provide proof of farm ownership and written self-certification agreeing to develop an OSP and implement conservation practices consistent with EQIP Statute and the OSP.

* Note: Applications can be taken at any time for this and any other NRCS program; however, only applications received by January 22, 2010 will be considered for this year’s funding for organic producers.

Interested producers should visit their local USDA Service Center to determine eligibility. The Franklin County USDA Service Center is located at 107 Park St in Farmington, Maine. Call Anna Kettle at 778-4767 ext 108 or Paul Hersey 778-4767 ext 105 for more information. For a complete list go to http://offices.usda.gov, or in the telephone book under United States Government, Agriculture Department. Additional information on the 2010 EQIP Organic Initiative is available at www.me.nrcs.usda.gov.

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