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An organic incentive
 Program offers assistance to farmers who go organic
by Jill Aho, Herald and News 1/7/10

followed by Conservation money available

     Randy Wallace already has a full-time job, but farming always has been a part of his life.

   Wallace and his wife, Debbie, are transitioning into farming the land they have leased for the past 13 years, with an emphasis on organic practices. Of their 320 acres, 160 are farmable. The rest of the Merrill-area property is made up of dry and cattle rangelands.

   “I’m slowly taking it over,” Wallace said. “The last couple years, we’ve been increasing what we do on the farm.”

   Financial assistance

   The learning curve is steep, as is the financial investment. The Wallaces have participated in a Natural Resources Conservation Service program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture the past three years. They have received guidance on   transitioning to organic farming and financial assistance to get them on their way.

   In the past, their farmland has produced potatoes, beets, alfalfa and oats. Wallace hopes to grow organic grain and alfalfa as well as organic pasture for his cattle. Part of his land could currently be certified organic, but other fields have had chemical fertilizers applied within the past three growing seasons.

   The cost of chemical fertilizers, the marketability of organic hay and beef and a desire to get away from chemical applications contribute to Wallace’s motivation to go organic.

   “We want to eventually   increase the productivity of all the acres we can — dry land and irrigated — and be self-sufficient,” Wallace said.

   Getting started

   The NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) has helped Wallace get started on the road to organic certification, including guidance on crop rotation that will provide beneficial nutrients to the land without chemical fertilizers.

   “Austrian peas add a lot of nitrogen to increase alfalfa production,” Wallace said. “They work almost as well as chemical fertilizers.”

   NRCS District Conservationist Evelyn Conrad said she tries to pass along   information she gleans from the Internet, producers who are already certified and cooperative extensions.

   “It is an experimentation process. What works for one landowner might not   work for another,” Conrad said. “The payment rates are a really good incentive to help people transition. I’ve been very impressed with that aspect. It helps landowners try things that they would not otherwise been able to try because they could not afford it not working.”

   Wallace said without the support of the EQIP program, he could not have afforded irrigation upgrades.

   “It is extremely expensive to do any of this stuff. Improving our irrigation system, no way,” he said. “There’s no way we could have (afforded the upgrades) without some   assistance.”

   Wallace’s eventual goal is to retire from his job as manager of Knife River’s gravel pits and devote himself to farming. He is hoping to find a balance between production on his agricultural lands and livestock.  

  H&N photo by Jill Aho

   Randy Wallace is converting his farmland to organic production with financial and technical assistance from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Sign-ups are ongoing for the program, which includes an organic component for producers in transition.


Conservation money available     

A new program available to Klamath Basin ag ricultural and forestry producers offers financial incentives to adopt additional conservation activities on their land.

   The Conservation Stewardship Program is a voluntary program that encourages producers to maintain existing conservation activities and add new ones, according to a press release.

   Payments are mostly based on the conservation activities already on working lands, which include cropland, grassland, pastureland, rangeland, nonindustrial private forest land and agricultural land under the jurisdiction of an Indian tribe.

   Eligible applicants include individual landowners, Indian tribes and legal entities.

   “ There has been a lot of conservation work done by producers in the Klamath Basin . T hose that have most of their land in good working condition in regards to soil, water and wildlife conservation should qualify for CSP,” said David Ferguson, Tulelake district conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

   Stewardship payment rates are based on a combination of points determined by the producer’s current and additional conservation work.

   Payment rates have not yet been established, but the estimated range of payments is expected to be $5 to $35 an acre for cropland; $3 to $21 an acre for pasture; $2 to $14 an acre for range; and $1 to $14 an acre for forests.

   Contracts will cover the entire agricultural operation and be for five years.

   Payments to an individual or legal entity may not exceed $40,000 per year and $200,000 in a five-year period.

   Butte Valley and Tulelake - are a producers interested in applying are encouraged to contact the NRCS office in Tulelake. Applications can be accepted anytime. In Oregon, producers can apply to the Klamath Falls NRCS office.

   For information, go online to  www.nrcs.usda  . gov/new_csp/csp.html, call the Tulelake NRCS office at 530-667-4247, or call the Klamath Falls NRCS office at 541-883-6924.



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