(Beyond Pesticides, September 16, 2010) Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it will make available $6.37 million in federal funds for organic certification cost-share reimbursements for the fiscal year 2010. Recipients must receive initial certification or continuation of certification from a USDA accredited certifying agent and may be reimbursed for up to 75 percent of their organic certification costs, not to exceed $750 per year.
According to a press release from the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), these funds will be available through two cost-share programs that AMS manages: the Agricultural Management Assistance Program (AMA) and the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program. Each program provides cost-share rebates to eligible organic producers and/or handlers receiving or renewing organic certification by a USDA accredited certifying agent through funds allocated to their respective state agriculture agencies. The states, in turn, review applications submitted by eligible producers and/or handlers and distribute funds accordingly.
The 2008 Farm Bill, (the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (7 U.S.C. 6523)), authorized $22 million in federal funds towards the National Organic Cost-Share Program to be distributed for five years following the passage of the bill. Coupled with the authorization provided by the Federal Crop Insurance Act in 2001 for the management of the AMA, they enable USDA‚Äôs Agricultural Marketing Service to offer reimbursements, without regard for type or size of the operation, to those who participate in the organic agriculture market.
The annual inspection/certification fee for organic farms was initially estimated to be about $750 per farm by the National Organic Program (NOP) when the program began. However, the fees will vary depending on the certifying agent, and also depend on the size of the farm and costs of inspection. Examples of what a potential fee might be based on the state and farm can be found the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service‚Äôs (ATTRA) website.
The costs of certification and inspections are often cited by small farms as one road block to participating in organic certification. This program helps to alleviate some of those costs, giving more farmers the option to become organic. Additionally, small farms (making less than $5,000/year on organic products) are exempt from getting certification. Farmers are encouraged to shop around for a certifying agent that will be the most cost-effective for their operation. For more information on organic certification and regulation, see Beyond Pesticides Organic Program Page.
For organic producers and handlers to receive cost-share rebates, they must submit their applications to the representative agency of the state in which their farm/operation is located. Eligible organic producers and handlers must also comply with the USDA National Organic Program regulations for organic production or handling. They should have received certification or continuation of certification by a USDA accredited certifying agent within the above timeframe.
As organic agriculture continues to grow and evolve, researchers are continuing to find new evidence of the benefits of choosing and growing organic foods, and the benefits of organic agriculture extend to everyone. On conventional farms, dangerous pesticide use is a danger to farmworkers, wildlife including endangered animals, as well as the water supply, and people especially children living in the area. For more information about why organic is the right choice see our Organic Food: Eating with a Conscience guide.
Additional information on the cost-share programs, as well as a list of participating states, is available on the National Organic Program home page at www.ams.usda.gov/NOPCostSharing.