Category Archives: Resources

Application Deadlines Coming Up Fast

This is a quick reminder that the deadline for the EQIP Organic Initiative, a program under the umbrella of the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and the USDA, is coming up very quick. November 16, to be exact, as Illinois has one of the earliest deadlines in the country.

EQIP, which stands for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, is a voluntary program catering to both existing organic farmers and growers transitioning to organic production systems who want assistance in developing a conservation plan, a transition to a organic production plan or many of the other similar requirements in the USDA’s Organic System Plan. What’s been described is in no way the extent of a typical OSP, which can be found here (some of the jargon can get a little complicated, but the point to take away is that you can get funding for a lot of different uses).

The Organic Initiative grant has a total fund of $50 million, and has a smaller pool of applicants and lower payments than the more general EQIP grant, which will have both higher payments and competition. However, organic farmers are still eligible and encourage to apply for both the EQIP and the EQIP Organic Initiative.

A full list of those that qualify for an EQIP Organic Initiative grant;

  • In the process of transitioning to organic
  • Already certified organic (or exempt) and interested in transitioning more acreage to organic.
  • Already certified organic (or exempt) and interested in adopting conservation measures on their farm.
  • Already certified organic (or exempt) and interested in transitioning more acreage to organic AND adopting conservation measures on their farm.

For full elgibility requirement information, and for more information in general on the EQIP Organic Inititative fund, please visit this page, which explains everything very nicely. Remember again, the Illinois dealing for the EQIP Organic Initiative is November 16. Write it down and get it done.

USDA Updates Drought Areas

As drought continues to rage across the Great Plains states and remains a concern at home in Illinois, the USDA released their map earlier this week,, which you can conveniently see below, detailing areas eligible  for additional ‘emergency funding’. As you can see, this area covers most of the United States, including the entirety of Illinois.

USDA’s updated drought disaster map

The money involved, when coupled with an additional $14 million that will be used courtesy the Emergency Conservation Program, will total roughly $30 million. According the the USDA’s website, the funds are intended for livestock and crop producers and “can be used to assist in moving water to livestock in need, providing emergency forage for livestock, and (rehabilitate) lands severely impacted by the drought.”  If you feel as though you may be elgible to receive some of these funds, you are urged to contact Scherrie V. Giamanco and Farm Service Agency branch of the Illinois USDA office.

Meanwhile, I’m going to enjoy the irony of posting this on a wet, gray central Illinois Friday afternoon.

Remember to Apply!

Just a reminder to all those out there, the USDA tweeted a few days ago, reminding that they can “help offset organic cert costs.” They certainly can, through a program called the “*Insert State Here* Organic Certification Cost-Share Program.” For us, that would be the Illinois Organic Certification Cost-Share Program. In order to get the financial aid from the program, producers and handles should apply before the November 1, 2012 deadline. You have time, folks, but not much. Don’t put if off! For more info, check out the Illinois Department of Agriculture page here.



The National Organic Standards Board

Earlier this week, we published an article on the gelling agent pectin and the restrictions against it, which are to be greatly relaxed come this November. Those restrictions can be found on the ‘National List’; a list of ‘allowed and prohibited substances’ used in organic food production, run by the USDA. The List is a sacred book of right and wrong in organic agriculture. But who is responsible for what goes in and out of this hugely important list?

That would be the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), a 15-member volunteer organization that advises the National Organic Program, which in turn is part of the Agricultural Marketing Service. They review and give a recommendation on all substances up for review for the ‘National List’. And who are these 15 members? They are a cross-section of all levels of organic agriculture, designed ‘to represent the diverse interests and composition of the organic industry’. The NOSB consists of:

  • 4 farmers/growers
  • 3 environmentalists/resource conservationists
  • 3 consumer/public interest advocates
  • 2 handlers/processors
  • 1 retailer
  • 1 scientist (toxicology, ecology, or biochemistry)
  • 1 USDA accredited certifying agent

Each member serves for a period of five years, the same amount of time that a restriction of a substance last on the ‘List’ before it comes up for a review, called a ‘sunset review’. This was the case for pectin, and the board, in its case, decided that pectin no longer deserved its ban. The board meets twice a year, once in the fall, then again in the spring. Members can be self-nominated or recommended by an outside source, with the entire board designed to represent ‘the diversity of the organic community’.

An organization that has so much power over the things that go or don’t go in our food needs to have more exposure, needs to be known to the public. The more we know about our food system the better, especially since, on the average, we know so little about it. If you’d like to know more about the nominating process for the NOSB, you can visit this site

all information on the NOSB found here

Webinar on June 14: ‘Risks and Returns of Renewable Energy’

On June 14 the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) will be hosting an online webinar presented by NCAT Energy Engineer Dave Ryan entitled ‘Risks and Returns of Renewable Energy’. The purpose of the webinar will be to show the possible advantages and pitfalls of renewable energy sources in a world of rising energy costs. Additionally, the program will “give participants the tools they need to better evaluate whether renewable-energy systems are good investments for their operations.” To do this, the webinar will help teach farmers to make good equipment selections and obtain sources of funding in the form of grants, loan guarantees and tax credits. The webinar will be presented June 14, at 1 p.m. Eastern Time/ 12 p.m. Central. If you’re interested, just follow the link below.

To register for the webinar

Funding Available for Conservation Organic Farming Practices

The $50 million EQIP program, (a huge victory of the Organic Farming and Research Foundation’s policy efforts), is providing financial and technical assistance to growers who implement innovative conservation practices through the 2012 EQIP Organic Initiative. Eligible applicants include persons or entities who are certified organic, transitioning to organic production, or those producers selling less than $5000 organic products annually, and have related natural resource concern on the agricultural operation. The applicant must demonstrate control of eligible land in agricultural production. Eligible land includes cropland, rangeland, pastureland, and other farm or ranch lands.

The first application period ends on February 3, 2012. There are additional application periods ending March 30, 2012 and June 1, 2012, but the earlier you submit your application, the better are your chances of receiving funds.

To apply, visit your USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) local service center.

If you want to apply, consult the National Center for Appropriate Technology’s comprehensive info site for EQIP applicants, which has excellent instructions and includes links to all of the necessary documents for the program. See also

Apply for the Illinois Organic Cost Share Program by November 1

The Illinois Department of Agriculture has funds available for the 2010 – 2011 Illinois Organic Cost Share Program through funds from the United States Department of Agriculture. The program will provide cost share assistance to organic producers and handlers receiving certification or continuation of certification by a USDA accredited certifying agent commencing October 1, 2010 through September 30, 2011. Under the Act, cost-share assistance payments are limited to 75 percent of an individual producer’s or handler’s certification costs up to a maximum of $750.00 per year.

To be eligible for reimbursement, an organic production or handling operation must be located within Illinois, comply with the USDA National Organic Program regulations for organic production or handling and have received certification or continuation of certification by a USDA-accredited certifying agent between the eligible dates.

One year of certification reimbursement is available: October 1, 2010 through September 30, 2011

Under Illinois’ current agreement with the USDA, producers and handlers can make application for reimbursement to the Illinois Department of Agriculture by submitting the following documents:

  1. Illinois Organic Certification Cost-Share Program application
  2. W-9 form (Rev. 1/11)
  3. Proof of NOP certification issued or continued within the cost-share qualifying period, October 1, 2010 through September 30, 2011 such as a copy of the certificate or continuation of certification document from the USDA-accredited certifying agency with effective date within eligible range of 10/1/10 and 9/30/11
  4. Itemized invoice demonstrating costs incurred for NOP certification such as a copy of your paid, itemized invoice from your certifier

More details can be found on the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s website:

Based on the receipt of the completed application packet by the Illinois Department of Agriculture, reimbursements will be on a first-come, first-served basis until the limited program funds are exhausted.

For more information, contact Delayne Reeves at 217/524-9129 or

Raising Organic Family Farms

Lundberg Family Farms® has launched a new initiative that will award up to $50,000 total in grants and scholarships.

Raising Organic Family Farms will provide  grants and scholarships in 2011 for beginning or transitioning organic farmers – from college students interested in sustainable agriculture programs to beginning farmers in need of seed money. Beginning August 8, 2011, apply or nominate a student or an aspiring commercial organic farmer at Entrants submit a 500-word essay – along with optional photos and/or video content – in one of three categories:

• Seed money for equipment, supplies or repairs
• Education funding towards schooling or conference registration
• Mentorship with experts in business planning, marketing, retail, livestock
management or crop planning

The deadline for submissions is October 31, 2011.

A judging panel consisting of sustainable agriculture influencers will choose recipents in each category. Judges will determine the amount to be awarded for each winner based on need. Up to $50,000 total in grants and scholarships will be awarded.

Resource Conservation Funding for Illinois Organic Producers available through May 20, 2011

llinois USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announces another funding opportunity for certified organic producers and those transitioning to organic production to implement resource conservation practices on their agricultural operations. While applications are accepted on a continuous basis, the cutoff date for this application period is set for May 20, 2011.

Fiscal year 2011 marks the third year of USDA’s Organic Initiative, and in Illinois, nearly $1 million is available to help producers plan and install conservation practices that address natural resource concerns in ways that are consistent with organic production. For example, conservation practices might include planting cover crops, establishing integrated pest management plans, constructing seasonal high tunnels, or implementing nutrient management systems consistent with organic certification standards.

Eligible producers include those certified through USDA’s National Organic Program, those transitioning to certified organic production, and those who meet organic standards but are exempt from certification because their gross annual organic sales are less than $5,000.

Organic Initiative funding is provided through NRCS’ Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Beginning, limited resource, and socially disadvantaged producers may obtain additional assistance.

Producers interested in applying for EQIP Organic Initiative funding must submit applications through their local NRCS Service Center. Additional information about other conservation solutions and program options is available here.