California agricultural producers who are certified organic or transitioning to organic production may qualify for technical and financial assistance through a special initiative administered by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

About $2 million dollars in funding is available to eligible producers in California as part of the agency's Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

Organic producers must submit applications by Jan. 31, for funding consideration during fiscal year 2010.

"Organic producers tend to be new to USDA and NRCS procedures and it is a learning process on both sides. Getting in early allows for a quality conservation planning experience," Forkey said.

Organic producers can receive up to $20,000 per year or $80,000 over six years through the initiative. The Organic Initiative targets core conservation practices including conservation crop rotation, cover crop, nutrient management, pest management, prescribed grazing, and forage harvest management.

"In addition to the six core practices, in California there are more than a dozen additional practices that can qualify for funding through this initiative," Forkey said.

This is a nationwide special initiative to provide financial assistance to certified organic producers plus producers transitioning to organic production.

Applicants must either have an organic system plan or certify that they are working toward one. Organic producers may also apply for assistance under general EQIP.

For more information, contact a USDA Service Center.

A fact sheet on the organic program is available at ftp://ftp-fc.sc.egov.usda.gov/CA/programs/FarmBill/organic_ag.pdf.