DES MOINES, Iowa – There are millions of dollars Iowa farmers could tap into if they're thinking of transitioning to organic farming, through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program Organic Initiative. Last year, the Natural Resources Conservation Service had $50 million available nationally.

Traci Bruckner, policy analyst with the Center for Rural Affairs, helps beginning, limited-resource and socially-disadvantaged farmers with the sign-up process. She says only a fraction of the money has been requested for assistance.

"Out of the total $50 million that's available across the country, they obligated about $24 million last time. So, we're leaving some of that money sit on the table, actually, and so, we want to encourage farmers and ranchers to really get in and sign up for this, if they have an interest in organic farming."

She says of that total, $1.4 million went to Iowa farmers.

Bruckner says farmers who have already made the switch to organic can also qualify for funds. The Center for Rural Affairs can help with the sign-up process, and Bruckner says they would also like to hear from those already in the program about their experience.

"We also want to hear back from the farmers and ranchers who had experience working to access these programs, and what that experience was like, if they ran into some difficulties or barriers. That's the only way that we actually learn how these programs are working on the ground, is to hear from the farmers and ranchers that are trying to use them."

She says the Center has a "Farm Bill Helpline" with a 'real person' that producers can talk with to receive assistance, not only with this program but other, conventional farming programs.

The sign-up deadline is May 20. Farmers can apply for funds at their County Natural Resource Conservation office.

The Farm Bill Helpline number is 402-687-2100.

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