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Organic Farming Resources and Information from Organic Farming Forum November 12, 2012

Resources, information and networking opportunities for existing and beginning organic farmers was the focus of the November 13, 2013 Organic Farming Forum in Salina, Ks.  Speakers included Dr. Michel Cavigelli, USDA ARS Farming Systems Research Project lead scientists on the status of long term field studies in organic agriculture; Ib Hagsten, independent certification inspector; Ed Reznicek, organic farmer and General Manager of Kansas Organic Producers Marketing Association; and Lyle Frees, USDA NRCS.
Their PowerPoint presentations are posted below.

Dr. Michael Cavigelli: Organic Grain Cropping Systems to Enhance Ecosystem Services

Ib Hagsten: Basics of Organic Certification    Organics Through the Eyes of the Inspector

Ed Reznicek: Challenges & Opportunities in Organic Field Crop Production

Lyle Frees: Organic Planning for the Natural Resources Conservation Service

ATTRA Webinars on Organic Farming

The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service , or ATTRA, has a series of 60 to 90 minute long webinars available to provide information on organic farming. These were designed for farmers and conservation professionals, and cover whole farm crop insurance options as well as Organic Crop Rotations, Biodiversity in Organic Systems, and pest management in organic systems. You can visit the general ATTRA website at https://attra.ncat.org/ or see the links below.

EQIP ORGANIC INITIATIVE PROGRAM

USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced a second sign up this spring for taking applications for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Organic Initiative Program. Deadlines for 2013 have not yet been established, but applications are accepted anytime at Kansas county NRCS offices.

Established nationwide in the 2008 Farm Bill, USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Organic Initiative under the existing Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provides financial and technical assistance to farmers transitioning to organic production and certification. It also provides assistance to existing organic farmers who need to adopt conservation measures to make environmental improvements to already certified organic farms.

Transitioning farmers must develop an Organic System Plan (OSP). The OSP is the management plan for organic production that meets certification requirements that were established with the National Organic Program. EQIP payments are for implementation of conservation practices that help growers meet their OSP and organic certification, or help existing organic growers address identified natural resource concerns. Both transitioning or existing certified organic farmers can apply for the EQIP Organic Initiative.

Program assistance is limited to $20,000 per year and $80,000 over a six-year period. The Kansas State Conservationist and NRCS staff have developed a list of conservation practices offered through the initiative. Kansas’ list is fairly inclusive of possible practices, including conservation crop rotations, cover crops, nutrient management, pest management, prescribed grazing, forage harvest management, plus many more.

One new practice included in the 2010 and 2011 program in Kansas is the Seasonal High Tunnel System for Crops or hoop houses. (See www.hightunnels.org for more information on high tunnels.) Funds are limited to $4,000 per agricultural operation.

Eligibility:

  • Farmers who produce an annual minimum of $1000 of agricultural products. (There are no minimum acreage requirements to apply for EQIP).

  • Farmers just beginning or in the process of transitioning to organic production;

  • Existing certified organic farmers who want to transition additional acres or animals;

  • Existing certified organic farmers who need to adopt additional conservation measures;

  • Producers who sell less than $5,000 in agricultural products and are thus exempt from formal certification are still eligible for Organic Initiative payments:

Application Deadline:
Applications can be submitted anytime throughout the year.

To Apply:
To apply for the EQIP Organic Initiative, farmers and ranchers must contact their local NRCS office and submit the general EQIP application and a screening criteria worksheet for either “Transition to Organic” or for a “Certified Organic Operation”.

Producers who have not participated in federal farm programs (such as some market garden operations) will need to sign up with their local Farm Services Administration Office to determine eligibility for federal farm programs. Forms for the EQIP Organic Initiative plus the FSA eligibility are available at the local NRCS office or FSA office, or online. The important thing is to contact the local county NRCS office and sign up! Details of the application can be developed later.

Farmers already certified organic who are applying must submit a copy of their current organic system plan (OSP) and maintain certification through the length of the EQIP contract. Transitioning organic farmers must certify that they are in the process of obtaining organic certification, and submit a self-certification letter stating that they agree to develop and implement conservation practices for certified organic production consistent with an organic system plan, and that they are working with an organic certifying agency.

According to the national NRCS guidance, applications will be treated as two separate ranking pools, one for transitioning farmers and ranchers without any current certified organic production and another for certified organic farmers who need additional conservation practices. Funding is not guaranteed, as EQIP is a competitive program. But the separate EQIP Organic Initiative allows applicants to be ranked against other organic or transitioning to organic farmers, and not against the much larger pool of all EQIP applicants.

Resources of Concern
The purpose of USDA NRCS programs is to address conservation, environmental and resource concerns or problems.

The EQIP Organic Initiative, like all EQIP provisions, must address a significant resource of concern on your farm. In Kansas these include: water quality, water quantity, soil quality or condition, plant condition, pest management, air quality, pollinator habitat, and fish and wildlife.

How to Apply:

  • Contact your local USDA NRCS office to fill out the EQIP application forms and the screening applications for the Organic Initiative to begin the process.

  • Producers who have not participated in federal farm programs (such as many market garden operations) will need to sign up with their local Farm Services Administration Office (often housed in or near the NRCS offices) to determine eligibility for federal farm programs. These include the Conservation Program Application (CCC-1200), an Adjusted Gross Income Certification form (CCC926); and a Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation Certification (AD-1026).

  • Screening Criteria Worksheet for the EQIP Organic Initiative.
    There are separate worksheets for
    transitioning farmers and for those already certified organic.

  • Transitioning farmers must submit a self-certification letter stating that you agree to develop and implement an organic system plan; and existing organic farmers must provide a copy of their OSP (Organic System Plan).

RESOURCES for the EQIP Organic Initiative:
These files are available as PDF downloads

What are the Basic Requirements for Organic Certification
by Jim Riddle, University of MN, and Miles Envoy, WA Department of Agriculture, Dec., 20, 2006.

Organic System Plan Overview
by Brian Baker Organic Materials Institute

ATTRA Certification Process
NCAT 2005

Loan Opportunity for Non-Organic Hoop Houses:

If organic production is not the strategy that you want to pursue for your farming operation, as is required by the USDA NRCS EQIP Organic Initiative, the Kansas Department of Commerce’s Agriculture Value Added Loan program is an excellent resource for expanding your operation. For those interested in greenhouses or hoop houses to extend their production season, the Value Added loan is available. This loan charges no interest for the first two years and then the rate is locked in at 1 percent over the prime rate for the remainder of the loan. There is no penalty for early payment. If you would like more information about the loan program, contact Mari Tucker at (785) 296-6080 or mtucker@kansascommerce.com

  Agriculture Value Added Loan program flyer

Links to other resources

Organic Certification Information and Production Practices

Organic Certifying Organizations in Kansas
While there are 57 or more accredited certifying entities around the country, only a few work in Kansas. The list here does not claim to be complete, as there may be others. But these three organizations work in Kansas. KRC will add more as we learn of them.

  Complete USDA list of accredited organic certifying agencies (2009)

USDA SARE “Transitioning to Organic Production”, January 2007
http://www.SARE.org/publications/organic/organic.pdf

Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA)
www.attra.ncat.org/
Click on Organic Farming in the menu list of topics. ATTRA has an extensive catalog of publications and bulletins on organic farming practices information as well as “how to’s” of certification and transition.

Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES)
www.mosesorganic.org/news.html
MOSES is an education-outreach organization working to promote sustainable and organic agriculture. MOSES serves farmers striving to produce high-quality, healthful food using organic and sustainable techniques. Board members are primarily from the upper Midwest. Their website has numerous publications, bulletins and guides for transitioning to organic, production and certification. MOSES is best known for organizing the largest organic farming conference in the country, the Organic Farming Conference. From its humble beginning with 90 attendees twenty years ago, our most recent conference in February attracted over 2,600 farmers, advocates, educators, and community members.

Rodale Institute
www.rodaleinstitute.org
Rodale has an extensive publication and resource directory on all things organic, including organizatins and research. They conduct research projects in organic farming practices including No-Till in Organic. Rodale published the online farm magazine the The New Farm which features an electronic online organic transition course, and online Organic System Plan tool at
http://www.rodaleinstitute.org/new_farm

National Organic Program
www.ams.usda.gov/nop
You can find the national organic standards here, as well as a listing of certifying agencies by state. Kansas is not home to any certifying agents or entities, but you can look to neighboring states.

Kansas NRCS Fact Sheet:
http://www.ks.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/eqip/2009/fs_organic.html

For forms and an overview of the program:

Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA)
Http://www.attra.ncat.org/eqip

Resources For Hoop House or Seasonal High Tunnel System Information

University and Extension and NGO specialists
www.hightunnels.org

Dan Nagengast
785-748-0959
nagengast@earthlink.net

ATTRA
www.attra.ncat.org

Contacts:

Kansas Rural Center
Mary Fund 785-873-3431, or ksrc@rainbowtel.net

Kansas Organic Producers Marketing Association
Ed Reznicek 785-939-2032 or amerugi@jbntelco.com

Jackie Keller, Eastern Kansas Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA)
785-633-4621 or keller7@hotmail.com

Bryce Stephens, Midwest (Western Ks.) Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA)
785-678-2475 or sfarms@ruraltel.net

Kansas USDA NRCS Office contacts:
Gaye Benfer, USDA Kansas Resource Conservationist, EQIP Program, Salina,Ks.
785-823-4569, or gaye.benfer@ks.usda.gov

Your local County Conservation District office.
Find your local office at the “Find a Service Center” link at
http://www.ks.nrcs.usda.gov/contact/


USDA Organic Certification Cost-Share Program in Kansas

Cost-share funds to help producers with the costs of certification, the USDA Organic Certification Cost-Share Program was authorized in the 2002 Farm Bill, but reauthorized in 2008 with expanded funding. The program makes direct financial assistance available to certifying organic farmers to reimburse part of the costs of organic certification through state departments of agriculture.

The Kansas Department of Agriculture administers the program in Kansas. About 50 to 55 producers have been participating annually in Kansas. Kansas has $40,000 for the October 1,2009 through September 30, 2010 fiscal year.

Any certified organic producer in the state can apply for these funds. Producers can receive up to 75% of their annual certification costs up to a maximum payment of $750/year.

The process is simple:

  • Submit an application which is available on the Kansas Department of Agriculture website at http://www.ksda.gov/kansas_agriculture/content/153

  • Include with the application, a copy of your certification form or continued certification with effective date; and

  • a copy of your invoice of what you paid for certification.

The KDA contacts at Kansas Department of Agriculture are Mark Heim at 785-296-3230, or Sarah Green at 785-296-4172 or Sarah.Green@kda.ks.gov

Resources For the USDA National Organic Cost-share for Certification Program Information in Kansas

Kansas Department of Agriculture
Stacey Woollington at 785-296-3230 or Stacey.woolington@kds.ks.gov

Kansas Rural Center
Mary Fund 785-873-3431, or ksrc@rainbowtel.net

Kansas Organic Producers
Ed Reznicek 785-939-2032 or amerugi@jbntelco.com

Jackie Keller, Eastern Kansas OCIA
785-633-4621 or keller7@hotmail.com


For more information on the Kansas Rural Center and farm and food policy, contact Mary Fund at 785-873-3431 or ksrc@rainbowtel.net .

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