If you are a transitioning farmer (moving toward organic in the 1st, 2nd or 3rd year) and are interested in applying for USDA EQIP funds you should read on... This info was shared by Renee from OEEFA in Ohio.
If you are considering applying for EQIP this article has some great tips.
Accessing EQIP, and responding to transitioning to organics question
Below I'll respond to David Saunders' question about transitioning
farmers being able to access EQIP funding. But here's the bottom line:
If the county NRCS staff are not helpful, then call the NRCS state
-office person who is in charge of EQIP. For Michigan that is Garry Lee, State Conservationist at the following:
If you want to locate your county office in Michigan, here is the list: (press control on your keyboard and click your mouse to follow this link.
Also generally, don’t take “no” for an answer until you are satisfied
with the answer you get. The National Center for Appropriate Technology
(NCAT), through its 1-800-346-9140 (English) and 1-800-411-322 (Spanish)
toll free hot-line, can (and want to) help as well. *_Remember many
field staff of NRCS may not know as much as you do about this program
and special initiative._*
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) wrote a
comprehensive explanation of the EQIP organic initiative, some of which
is included below. For (even more) detailed information about the
program (including an explanation of the 6 core practices, the
application process, accessing technical assistance, and so on [pretty
much everything-you-need-to-know-about-this-but-were-afraid-to-ask]), go
This is our understanding about transitioning farmers:
Transitioning farmers can apply to the
program without an Organic Systems Plan in place, and the process is
this: Farmers wanting to access the funds for transition to organic
production through EQIP must apply through their local District County
offices. Farmers should go into the offices and speak with a staff
person there. If they are unable to assist you then call the state office.
The staff person will fill out a “screening worksheet” that determines
basic eligibility and priority of the application for NRCS’ business tool, ProTracts. The screening worksheet will be available from the District County offices.
In order to complete a screening worksheet, transitioning farmers must
provide a “written self-certification” (i.e., a document stating their
intent to transition to organic production) to develop an Organic
Systems Plan (OSP) and implement one or more of the Core 6 practices
and/or facilitating practices.
For priority determination the categories are as follows:
High: Application will result in implementation of at least three of the
“Core 6” conservation practices; OR, application will result in
implementation of a suite of three or more “Core 6” conservation
practices”; OR, application is for development of an EQIP Conservation
Activity Plan (CAP) Supporting Organic Transition. (A CAP will pay for
the planning part of an Organic Systems Plan.)
Medium: Application will result in implementation of at least two of the
“Core 6” Management Practices.
Low: Application will not result in implementation of any of the “Core
6” Management Practices.
The application will then be ranked according to National Ranking
Criteria. If a farmer is awarded a contract, s/he will be in contact
with NRCS and other technical service providers to determine how to
It is true that an applicant cannot receive funds for already
established practices. However, if you seek to improve/build on those
practices, that can still keep you in the running. So, some tweaking can
make a difference for your eligibility.
The following is for those serious about throwing their hats into the
EQIP funding competition--here are the "guts"/pointers (many thanks to
NCAT and the NSAC for this guidance). Yes, it's a lot of paperwork, and
it may take time educating the people who are signing you up but this
can provide some great support for improvements on your farm.
1. KNOW the program, LEARN the lingo. See ATTRA publication Federal
Resources for Sustainable Farming and Ranching
(http://attra.ncat.org/other.html) for some general background.
2. Fill out the basic application form ASAP and get this into NRCS
office before May 29^th ; the form is at
*_Even if you don’t work out subsequent details regarding a
detailed contract you MUST get this in by the deadline to access
program funds. So if your serious DO it ASAP._*
3. Get cumbersome eligibility requirements (explained below) out of
the way ASAP. This is important because you don’t want to go
through the work without knowing you are eligible AND you don’t
want to miss deadline.
4. As stated at the beginning of this email, ASK questions of NRCS
field staff, if they are not helpful than call the NRCS state
office person who is in charge of EQIP (This is available on-line
at: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/contact/ ). Also generally, don’t
take “no” for an answer until you are satisfied with the answer
you get. NCAT through its 1-800-346-9140 (English) and
1-800-411-322 (Spanish) toll free hot-line can help as well.
*_Remember many field staff of NRCS may not know as much as you do
about this program and special initiative._*
5. Make sure you evaluate the FULL extent of the changes you wish to
make to improve conservation, meet organic certification
requirements *_AND MOST importantly to make sure you can succeed
at organic production (IT’S NOT EASY_*)
*Basic Eligibility and FORMS*
1. If you don’t have one, get a DUNS number IF YOU intend to apply
for more then $25,000 in benefits; this takes some time. Online
application is at_: http://fedgov.dnb.com/webform/displayHomePage.do_
2. You must be part of the Farm Service Agency (FSA) database and
file some level of farm records. Most commodity growers who access
FSA program already are part of this database. A web-base fact
sheet for accessing this is
3. Fill out the basic EQIP application form ASAP, you will need above
to do it plus the additional forms Adjusted Gross Income form
(CCC-902). There is an income eligibility test. Here’s the legal
language: /A person or legal entity shall not be eligible to
receive any benefit during a crop, fiscal, or program year, as
appropriate, if the average adjusted gross non-farm income of the
person or legal entity exceeds $1,000,000, unless not less than
66.66 percent of the average adjusted gross income of the person
or legal entity is average adjusted gross farm income. The amount
of any payment or benefit shall be reduced by an amount that is
commensurate with the direct and indirect ownership interest in
the entity of each person who has an average adjusted gross
income, average adjusted gross farm income, or average adjusted
gross non-farm income in excess of the applicable limitation
4. In order to be eligible a transitioning farmers must provide a
“written self-certification” (i.e., a document stating their
intent to transition to organic production) to develop an Organic
Systems Plan (OSP) and implement one or more of the Core 6
practices and/or facilitating practices (see section below on Core
6 and facilitating practices). Existing certified organic
producers will have to provide a copy of their current Organic
System Plan (OSP) and agree to implement conservation practices.
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