The U.S. Department of Agriculture is expanding a federal program designed to aid organic farms. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program was originally authorized as part of the 2002 Farm Bill and sought to give aid to farmers who voluntarily participated in conservation programs. The EQIP Organic Initiative seeks to add to that program, offering additional incentives to farms that engage in conservation programs while committing to organic farming.
The USDA has recently decided to increase funding to the EQIP Organic Initiative program, expanding its budget by $50 million. The program will offer up to 70% cost-sharing for farmers who switch to organic farming and up to 90% for limited resource and socially disadvantaged farmers. Last year, the government provided $24 million to organic farmers and ranchers, and the increased funding represents and major commitment by the USDA to encourage organic farming.
This expansion of EQIP comes on the heels of a major scientific report on American agriculture. According to the National Research Council, the agricultural industry needs to undergo significant changes in order to remain both sustainable and viable in the long-term. One of their recommended changes was the encouragement of organic farming. That, plus the USDA’s recent commitment to renewable energy and local agricultural outreach, represents major efforts on the part of agricultural leaders to guarantee a thriving, sustainable industry into the future.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer