The USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service has extended the application deadline for a special $2M Organic Initiative, available through EQIP, the agency's Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Organic producers and those transitioning to organic now have until March 12, 2010, to apply for the current round of funding consideration during fiscal year 2010.

Producers awarded contracts under this initiative will receive 75% of the average cost of conservation practices, rather than the usual 50%. Beginning farmers, limited resource farmers, and individuals who are members of socially disadvantaged groups may receive the even higher 90% cost share. Organic and transitioning producers can receive up to $20,000 per year or $80,000 over six years through this initiative. Organic producers may also apply for assistance under general EQIP.

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The Organic Initiative includes cost sharing for more than two dozen conservation practices, including conservation crop rotation, cover crop, nutrient management, pest management, prescribed razing and high tunnels, which are a new pilot practice.

The NRCS encourages applicants to contact their local USDA Service Centers as soon as possible.