September 9, 2014
As the 2014 fiscal year comes to a close, organic farmers and handlers can still take advantage of nearly $13 million dollars in farm bill funding through two organic certification cost-share programs managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). The cost-share assistance helps cover expenses incurred from October 1, 2013 through September 30, 2014 and can cover up to 75 percent of certification-related costs, not to exceed $750.
The funds, originally announced in July of this year, are available through both the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP) and the Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) Organic Certification Cost Share Program. NOCCSP and AMA have been allocated $11.5 million and $1.4 million, respectively, for each fiscal year through 2018.
Money from these two federal programs is distributed through a noncompetitive grant process to state agencies that administer the cost-share programs. For reimbursement guidelines and requirements, certified producers and handlers should contact their state agency.
Producers and handlers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marina Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands can apply for cost-share assistance through the NOCCSP. AMA cost-share funds are limited to producers (not handlers) in 16 participating states.
Application fees, inspection costs, user fees, and postage among other certification-related costs are eligible for reimbursement. Other costs, including equipment, materials, late fees or inspections to correct NOP violations, cannot receive cost-share assistance.
See the recently revised USDA Organic Certification Cost Share Programs’ Frequently Asked Questions for more information on which costs are covered and which are not. Additionally, the USDA also recently released a new Organic Certification Cost Share Fact Sheet, with general information about the program.
Funds are allocated to each state based on the number of certified operations and past fund usage. Click here to see the estimated breakdown of NOCCSP and AMA funds distributed to each state and U.S. territory.
NSAC developed the original proposal for the NOCCSP, which was first authorized in the 2002 Farm Bill. Funding for the program has grown with the organic sector. For example, the $11.5 million allocated to the NOCCSP in the 2014 Farm Bill is more than double the $5 million given to the program in 2008, a victory NSAC first reported back in February shortly after the bill was passed. These reimbursement programs have a history of helping organic producers, handlers, and potentially some community-based nonprofits mitigate the cost of organic certification, issuing nearly 10,000 reimbursements totaling over $6.5 million in 2012 alone.
For additional information, contact Dana Stahl, USDA Organic Certification Cost Share Program Manager, Dana.Stahl@ams.usda.gov, (540) 361-1126 or visit the cost share website at www.ams.usda.gov/NOPCostSharing.