FL NRCS: $1.325 Million Available for Florida Organic Producers

Gary Cooper Citrus, Florida, Specialty Crops, Sugar, USDA-NRCS, Vegetables

Applications Accepted Until May 29, 2009 – GAINESVILLE, May 8, 2009—The United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Florida announces over $1.3 Million in funding available for qualified applicants for a new Organics Initiative. The initiative meets the Obama Administration’s promise to encourage more organic agriculture production. Funding for the initiative is being made available as part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). “Assisting organic producers is one of the priorities of the 2008 Farm Bill,” said Carlos Suarez, State Conservationist for NRCS in Florida. The 2009 Organics Initiative is a nationwide special initiative to provide financial assistance to National Organic Program (NOP) certified organic producers as well as producers in the process of transitioning to organic production.
“NRCS and organic farmers have a mutual interest in conserving the land and natural resources,” said Suarez, “we emphasize the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for our future generations.”
As of 2007, there were 133 certified organic operations in Florida with an estimated 12,000 acres in organic farms. Organic vegetable production comprised 50% of the area with the remaining area mainly in citrus and livestock.
Under the Organic Initiative, required minimum core conservation practices will be determined by specific resource concerns. The practices are: Conservation Crop Rotation; Cover Crop; Nutrient Management; Pest Management; Prescribed Grazing; and Forage Harvest Management.
Applications received from organic producers or producers in transition to organic farming will be accepted under this initiative between May 11 and May 29.
To assist with eligibility questions there are two separate National Screening Tools for applicants (one for producers transitioning to organic production and one for certified organic operations). Ranking criteria has been established based on resource concerns that link to the NOP objectives and the core conservation practices.
Interested producers should visit their nearest USDA Service Center to determine eligibility, http://www.fl.nrcs.usda.gov/contact/index.html or contact Jeffrey Woods, NRCS Assistant State Conservationist for Programs at 352-338-9515. Additional information on the 2009 EQIP program is available at: www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/eqip/.