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organic certification cost share program

Sharing the Costs Helps Farmers and Businesses Explore Organic Options

The organic community needs more farmers, ranchers and handlers to produce everything from organic vegetables to organic grains to organic meats. Consumer demand for organic products continues to grow, with retail sales hitting over $39 billion in the United States in 2014 and over $75 billion worldwide.

USDA’s National Organic Program, part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), has overseen the organic sector since 2002. Since that time, the number of certified organic operations in the U.S. has increased to more than 21,700 — nearly a 300 percent increase.

Transitioning to Organic Certification

More and more farmers are entering the organic market. Just last year, the number of certified operations in the U.S. grew by almost 12 percent - more than double the growth rate of 2014. So how do farmers, ranchers, and food processors make the transition to organic? We talked to one farming family about their experience, learning how they used USDA programs to help with the transition process.

Conner Voss got his family farm certified organic in 2015. Diggin’ Roots Farm is a diversified fruit, vegetable, and livestock operation in Molalla, Oregon, midway between Portland and Salem. “We sell our product direct – through a CSA, at a local farmers market, and direct to restaurants – and our customers kept asking about our growing practices,” said Conner. “We wholeheartedly believe in the practices and philosophy of organic production, and certification offers a quick and easy starting place for our conversations with our community. Beyond that, being certified is a way for our small farm to actively engage in the larger organic movement by helping define and shape what organic is.”

Assisting the Organic Community through Cost Share Programs

Consumers are increasingly looking for organic products when they visit the supermarket.  Last year, organic products reached a record number of sales, accounting for over $39 billion in U.S. retail sales.  To meet consumer demand, the industry needs more organic operations to produce everything from organic milk to organic granola bars. 

Thanks to support from the 2014 Farm Bill, USDA has two cost share programs that assist organic farms and businesses with about $11 million per year in certification assistance– making it possible for producers and handlers of all sizes to consider organic certification.  Cost share programs support certified operations across the organic supply chain by making certification more affordable.

Organic Cost Share Assistance Expands Opportunities for Farmers

The cost of organic certification is becoming more affordable for many certified producers and handlers.  Thanks to support from the 2014 Farm Bill, cost share and assistance programs are available to organic producers and handlers through fiscal year 2018.

Cost share programs benefit certified producers and handlers across the organic supply chain, providing critical support to the organic community and rural America.  USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) administers these funds—which total almost $13 million this year—through grants to participating states. In 2012 alone, USDA issued nearly 10,000 reimbursements that totaled over $6.5 million.

Farm Bill Listening Session: New and Expanding Opportunities for the Organic Industry

Organic agriculture serves as an engine for rural development, representing a $35 billion industry in the United States alone. USDA is committed to protecting the integrity of organic products, and ensuring that all of our agencies work together to help the organic sector continue to grow.

Members of the organic community are important partners in these efforts. As Administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which includes the National Organic Program, I have had the privilege of getting to know our organic stakeholders – visiting their farms and talking to them about their priorities – and I have been very impressed. Thanks to the recently passed Agricultural Act of 2014 (Farm Bill), USDA is now even better equipped to support the success of organic operations.

Organic 101: Organic Certification Cost Share Programs

This is the seventh installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.

Annual organic certification fees allow certifiers to carry out their responsibilities. These fees vary according to an operation’s size and other variables. In light of that, the USDA organic cost share programs help to ensure that these costs don’t discourage those wanting to pursue organic certification. The programs make certification more affordable by reimbursing producers and handlers for as much as 75%—up to a maximum of $750 a year—for their certification costs. Eligible costs include application fees, inspection fees, travel for certification inspectors, and even postage.