people apply. I wanted this to be not
just an internal search, but a full call
for all qualified applicants.
Given the resources that the NOP
has and its responsibilities, it really
merits this change in status. The NOP
is responsible for managing nearly $25
million; $23.5 million of that is cost-share money, $2.6 million is the operating budget.
If we have our way with the 2010
budget proposal and get the increase
we requested, it would end up being
almost a $30 million program. That’s
sufficient to justify a stand-alone program in my opinion and certainly
enough for someone to justify spending 100 percent of their time managing the program.
more at www.nrcs.usda.gov/program/equip/organic.
NRCS has been really great as they were shaping this program, and even had
a national teleconference with organic producer groups and other organizations. We’ll continue to work closely with the organic community as this program evolves over the years.
“The most recent census of agriculture
accounted for more than 20,000 U.S. farms
”engaging in organic production.”
OP: The USDA has recently developed a census specific to organic. How will this
positively impact the industry?
OP: In May, you released $50 million in
funding to encourage organic production.
Although the timeframe was very short
on this, did you have a good response
from farmers and do you think that this
kind of funding will be available again
Merrigan: It was a such a joyful day
when I was able to make that announcement! And, yes, we’ve had a
good response. It was a very short
turnaround because we are required
to get the funds out this fiscal year.
Between May 11th and June 1st, we
had 518 applications from producers
seeking funds to help them transition
to organic and 594 applications from
certified operations, a total of 1,112
applications nationwide. We think it’s
an excellent response in just a few
weeks, but because of the strong interest, the chief of the Natural Resources
Conservation Service (NRCS) directed
the state conservation offices to consider extending the May 29th application deadline to allow for greater
participation. Twenty-eight states
chose to extend the sign-up, with
some extensions as late as August
15th. Those interested can find out
Learn more at www.ota.com or call (413) 774-7511, ext. 19
i a st
Merrigan: The organic production survey is a direct response to the growing interest in organics among consumers, farmers, businesses and others. The most
recent census of agriculture accounted for more than 20,000 U.S. farms engaging in organic production. This kind of data will be used to shape what we do
here at the USDA and to inform congressional members who often ask us ques-
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