Many organic advocates might describe their fight for increased federal attention to organic production as an uphill battle. Yet, on Tuesday organic advocates received a standing “O”vation, so to speak, from USDA – or at least a big announcement regarding a great deal of money soon to be available for organic transition. Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan shared the exciting news during a semi-annual meeting of the National Organic Standards Board – a 15-member board appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture to assist USDA in developing standards and implementing the organic program.
Administered through USDA's Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the Natural Resource Conservation Service plans to provide $50 million in 2009 to help farmers and ranchers wanting to transition to organic production as well as certified organic farmers wanting to implement further conservation practices.
According to the Organic Farming Research Foundation, a Farm Aid funded-group and partner organization that played a central role in advocating for organic transition funds, "the USDA funding is historic. It signals federal recognition of the tremendous contributions organic agriculture makes to the health of our environment. Better water quality, enhanced bio-diversity, protection of bees and other pollinators, and increased carbon storage in our soil are all benefits of organic production."
But, don't sit there and celebrate for too long. We've got to spread the news, and fast! Beginning May 11, 2009, farmers and ranchers will have just eighteen short days to apply for the funds. Those interested in the opportunity will need to visit their local Conservation District Country offices to apply. (To find your local office, click here). In the meantime, please make sure to get the word out about this extraordinary opportunity – one of the greatest policy successes to date for organic agriculture!