USDA offers several programs that help organic farmers and ranchers meet the natural resources conservation requirements of organic agriculture. Take a look at the list below and review our Organic Resource Guide (PDF, 1.8MB) to find programs that will work for you.
The USDA Farm Service Agency offers two programs tailored for beginning, niche and small farmers. Qualified beginning farmers and ranchers can receive microloans for up to $35,000. This program guarantees loans for approved operating expenses, such as start-up costs and equipment purchases. These direct farm operating loans have a shortened application process and reduced paperwork. Additionally, beginning farmers and ranchers who are unable to obtain financing from commercial credit sources can access direct and guaranteed beginning farmer and rancher loans.
USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service has several programs that help people reduce soil erosion, enhance water supplies, improve water quality, increase wildlife habitat, and reduce damages caused by floods and other natural disasters.
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program Organic Initiative provides financial and technical assistance to certified or transitioning organic producers who voluntarily implement conservation practices. Beginning farmers and ranchers may also qualify for higher financial assistance payments.
Additionally, the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) encourages producers to address resource concerns in a comprehensive manner by undertaking additional conservation activities, and improving, maintaining, and managing existing conservation activities. Producers may initiate organic certification while participating in a CSP contract.
The Agricultural Management Assistance Program provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers who voluntarily address issues such as water management, water quality, and erosion control on their lands.
Through the Organic Certification Cost-Share Program, State departments of agriculture reimburse eligible operations for as much as 75 percent of their certification costs-up to a maximum of $750 a year. This program is currently open to producers in Northeastern states, as well as Hawaii, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming.
Additionally, the Agricultural Marketing Service's (AMS) Farmers Market Promotion Program provides funding to institutions to improve and expand domestic farmers' markets, roadside stands, community-supported agriculture programs, and other direct producer-to-consumer market opportunities.
USDA's Rural Business-Cooperative Service (RBS) offers Value-Added Producer Grants to independent producers to process their raw products into processed products, such as making applesauce from apples. Grants may be used for planning activities and for working capital, as well as for farm-based renewable energy.
Crop and Livestock Insurance
USDA's Risk Management Agency (RMA) offers federal crop and livestock insurance, supporting producers as part of the farm safety net. Risk management education and outreach partnerships ensure that producers get the information they need to effectively manage their risk through difficult periods and remain productive.