USDA is making $1 million available to defray producers' annual organic certification costs in the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming. The funding is particularly important to small producers to meet the voluntary uniform standards set forth by the National Organic Program regulations for the production of organic products that are to be labeled as "100 percent organic," "organic" or "made with organic ingredients," notes USDA Secretary Mike Johanns.
"Without this assistance, many farmers wouldn't be able cover the costs of organic certification because the process is lengthy and costly," he says. "In the 2007 Farm Bill proposal, the Administration recommends that this program be re-authorized and expanded to include all 50 states and permit food producers and handlers to be eligible as well as increase the cost share reimbursement which will help small organic farmers meet these costs."
The Agricultural Management Assistance Program, authorized by the Federal Crop Insurance Act (7 U.S.C. 1524); will allocate funds to the 15 states in proportion to the number of organic producers in each state. The states, in turn, will reimburse each eligible producer for up to 75 percent of its organic certification costs, not to exceed $500. Each state is allowed to retain 4 percent of the total amount granted as an administration fee.
This program is in addition to and separate from the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program, which also is administered by USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service. The National program, part of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, received one-time funding of $5 million, which was obligated to participating states through cooperative agreements.
In order to be eligible for reimbursement, an organic production operation must be located within one of the 15 designated states, meet the USDA national organic standards for organic production, and have received certification or update of certification by a USDA-accredited certifying agent during the period of Oct. 1, 2007, through Sept. 30, 2008.
A notice announcing the program was published in the Aug. 29, 2007 Federal Register.
Applications by states for federal assistance and cooperative agreements must be requested from and submitted to: Robert Pooler, Agriculture Marketing Specialist, National Organic Program, USDA Stop 0268, Room 4008-S, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington DC 20250-0268; tel. (202) 720-3252; fax (202) 205-7808.