Organic Conversion Assistance

Program Basics

Agricultural producers can receive conservation financial and technical assistance for organic systems through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Organic Initiative. Prior to the 2008 Farm Bill, a few pioneering states had been using their EQIP programs to provide special assistance to organic producers for years. The 2008 Farm Bill now authorizes nationwide use of EQIP funding for organic production and transition to organic production. Farmers who are transitioning to organic production for the first time, as well as existing certified organic farmers, are eligible for EQIP assistance for the implementation of conservation practices.

Following the passage of the 2008 Farm Bill, NRCS created the Organic Initiative within EQIP for transitioning and certified organic farmers. For the most up-to-date information on the Organic Initiative, visit You can also visit the NRCS Organic Initiative webpage.

Farm Bill Changes

The 2008 Farm Bill includes new provisions within EQIP for organic and transitioning farmers to implement conservation practices that are consistent with conservation measures implemented on organic and transitioning operations. In 2009, NRCS created the Organic Initiative to implement these farm bill provisions. EQIP in general provides technical and financial assistance for the implementation of conservation practices. Financial assistance can cover up to 75 percent of the costs associated with planning, design, materials, equipment, installation, labor, management, training, or income forgone, except that beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers are eligible for up to 90 percent. EQIP operates on a continuous sign-up basis throughout the year, with applications ranked and contracts awarded at specific intervals.

Under the Organic Initiative, transitioning and certified organic farmers can receive up to $20,000 per year with payments not to exceed $80,000 during any 6-year period for financial assistance in implementing conservation practices.  Applications from transitioning and organic farmers will be ranked separately from applications from other producers.

The $20,000 a year limit does not include any payments the producer may receive for technical assistance. Technical assistance can be provided directly by the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), indirectly through a cooperative agreement with other agencies and nongovernmental organizations, or through a payment to the producer to use for an approved third-party Technical Service Provider.  However it is provided, USDA is required to make available an adequate and appropriate range of technical assistance for those involved with organic production.

Legislative Authority

Section 2503 of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act (FCEA) of 2008 amends Section 1240B of the Food Security Act of 1985 to add a new subsection concerning payments for conservation practices related to organic production, to be codified at 16 U.S.C. Section 3839aa-2(i).


No specific dollar amount was set aside out of the total EQIP funding to provide organic conversion assistance in the 2008 Farm Bill, but to ensure that the provision is implemented nationwide, USDA allocated $50 million annually for the Organic Initiative in 2009 and 2010.  

The 2008 Farm Bill substantially increases the total funding available for the EQIP program, which should bode well for there being more than adequate funding for the Organic Initiative. Total funding provided by the new farm bill for EQIP is as follows:

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Funding






5 year cost

10 yr cost

$1,200 M

$1,337 M

$1,450 M

$1,588 M

$1,750 M

$7,325 M

$16,075 M

Please note: The funding levels in the chart above show the amount of mandatory funding reserved by the 2008 Farm Bill for this program to be provided through USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation. However, Congress does at times pass subsequent appropriations legislation that caps the funding level for a particular year for a particular program at less than provided by the farm bill in order to use the resulting savings to fund a different program. Therefore, despite its “mandatory” status, the funding level for a given year could be less than the farm bill dictates should the Appropriations Committee decide to raid the farm bill to fund other programs under its jurisdiction.

Implementation Basics

The Natural Resources Conservation Service will manage the implementation of this new authorization through the Organic Initiative as part of EQIP. An EQIP interim final rule, which includes some details on organic production and organic transition assistance, was published in the Federal Register on January 15, 2009.  The Directive from the Chief of NRCS establishing the Organic Initiative was sent to NRCS state offices in early May, 2009.

USDA Contact Information

The Natural Resources Conservation Service’s website for the EQIP Organic Initiative is:

Mark Parson, NRCS EQIP Specialist, , .

Julie Malvitz, OI Program Manager, , .