Credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture
Farmers looking for organic certification can apply for share of $70M in USDA assistance
LISTEN: The department's Organic Transition Initiative is meant to help farmers afford education on and implementation of organic agricultural practices. GPB's Benjamin Payne reports.
A fresh batch of federal funding is being made available to Georgia farmers who are in the process of transitioning to organic crop production and seeking USDA-certified organic status.
The deadline to apply is June 15.
Meant to help farmers cover the cost of education — such as attending workshops and clinics — as well as putting conservation practices into use on their own farms, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Organic Transition Initiative is offering up $70 million nationwide.
“That seems like a lot of money, but when you start receiving a lot of applications, that money could go pretty fast,” said USDA State Conservationist Terrance Rudolph. “So, it is a competitive process.”
To help bolster one's application, Rudolph urged Georgia farmers to contact their nearest Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) field office to meet with a USDA conservationist.
Farmers who are eligible include those working to earn USDA-certified organic status for their crops — a three-year-long process that prohibits certain substances such as synthetic pesticides — as well as those who have recently earned their certification. It also provides funds for helping producers overcome technical, cultural, and financial shifts during and following certification.
Similar USDA financial assistance programs typically cover about 75% of a farmer's educational costs. For historically underserved producers — including Black and Hispanic farmers, among other groups — that rate could go up to 90%.
“It's our job to make sure that we give all of our customers the opportunity to be successful,” said Rudolph, who leads Georgia's NRCS network. “Just to have the opportunity to put this announcement out there — it's exciting within itself, because we have the opportunity to help someone that wants to transition to organic. So, it's a good feeling.”