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National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
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National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Posted: 15 May 2015 07:30 AM PDT
On Thursday, May 14, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the availability of approximately $11.9 million in funding for organic certification cost-share assistance for organic producers and handlers through state departments of agriculture. Payments for certification-related expenses incurred from October 1, 2014 through September 30, 2015 can cover up to 75 percent of an individual producer’s or handler’s certification costs, up to a maximum of $750 per certification.
The certification assistance is available from two noncompetitive Organic Certification Cost Share programs: the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP) and the Agricultural Management Assistance Organic Certification Cost Share Program (AMA), both administered by the National Organic Program (NOP) at USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).
NOCCSP provides organic producers and handlers with certification assistance in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marina Islands, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the United States Virgin Islands.
AMA provides organic producers (but not handlers) with certification assistance in states that have a historically low participation rate in the Federal Crop Insurance Program: Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
While producers in AMA states are eligible for reimbursement under both the NOCCSP and the AMA, they may not receive reimbursement for the same certification costs under both programs. $11 million is available through NOCCSP while $900,000 is available through AMA. Applicants for cost share assistance through the AMA program are encouraged to apply early, as these funds are only available through Sept. 30, 2015.
To receive cost share assistance, USDA lays out four simple steps in a recent blog post:
- If you’re not yet certified, contact a certifier and get certified (either an initial certification or renewal of certification if you’ve previously been certified)
- If you are already have your certification, contact your state agency;
- Submit your information – a short application and tax form, proof of certification, and itemized expenses; and
- Get reimbursed by your state agency.
Because guidelines and requirements for reimbursement vary by state, organic producers and handlers must contact their State agencies, a listing of which can be found on the NOP Cost Share Website: www.ams.usda.gov/NOPCostSharing.
NSAC developed the original proposal for NOCCSP in 2001 and championed its passage as part of the 2002 Farm Bill. As the sector has grown, funding was increased in the 2008 Farm Bill and again in the 2014 Farm Bill. NSAC advocated for restoring and increasing funding for NOCCSP in the latest Farm Bill, securing $11.5 million in annual mandatory funding, more than double the just over $5 million annually that had been available under the 2008 Farm Bill. The program and its funding has been championed in Congress by many Senators and Representatives, led by former Senate Agriculture Committee chairmen Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Tom Harkin (D-IA).
“The organic industry saw record growth in 2014, accounting for over $39 billion in retail sales in the United States,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The organic certification cost share programs help more organic businesses succeed and take advantage of economic opportunities in this growing market.”
In 2014, USDA issued nearly 10,000 reimbursements totaling over $6 million.
For additional information, contact Dana Stahl, USDA Organic Certification Cost Share Program Manager, [log in to unmask], (202) 690-3169 or Rita Meade, USDA Organic Certification Cost Share Coordinator, [log in to unmask], (202) 260-8636. Additional information is also available on the NOP website at www.ams.usda.gov/NOPCostSharing.
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