Organic farming has had a steady increase in acreage in North Carolina in the past few years and two new cost sharing programs promise to be a boon to the state’s organic farmers.

Organic grain production, in particular, has shown a big increase in acreage in the past couple of years as organic livestock producers seek local sources of organic grain to feed their animals.

Ongoing success in breeding programs for organic grains continues to provide farmers with optimism for increasing organic grain operations in North Carolina in the coming years.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs’ Organic Cost-Share Program will pay growers up to $750, or 75 percent of certification costs. Applications for the funding, which run until Sept. 30, 2011 are being accepted and grants awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Growers hoping to get into the certified organic program can find application forms at www.ncdaorganic.org or by contacting Heather Lifsey at 919-707-3127.

North Carolina organic producers and those transitioning to organic farming have until March 4, 2011 to sign up for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Organic Initiative.

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) administers the initiative. Under the EQIP Organic Initiative. Approved applicants can receive up to $20,000 per year or $80,000 over six years.

Molly Hamilton, Extension assistant and project coordinator of the North Carolina State organics program, says, “A number of "core" organic conservation practices may be funded through the initiative including cover crops, conservation crop rotation, prescribed grazing, pest management and nutrient management.

All conservation practices offered under "general" EQIP are also available through the EQIP Organic Initiative including, but not limited, to fence and watering facilities for rotational grazing, erosion control practices, field borders, etc,” she says.

Applicants who are currently certified organic will need to include their organic system plan (OSP) reviewed by a USDA accredited organic certifier when applying for financial assistance in the EQIP Organic Initiative. 

Applicants who are transitioning to organic will need to submit a self-certification form to the NRCS acknowledging they agree to develop and implement conservation practices for certified organic production that are consistent with an organic system plan. 

The self-certification form may be obtained at time of application from any NRCS Service Center. Or, for more information on NRCS, programs and the EQIP Organic Initiative contact your local field office or visit www.nc.nrcs.usda.gov.