NSAC's Blog

34 States Shut out of Organic Farm Program by Congress and White House

January 24, 2013

On Thursday, USDA published a notice in the Federal Register reminding the 16 states eligible for the Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) program to submit their application by February 7 for federal assistance in order to be able to provide cost-share assistance to their certified organic farmers.  Those 16 states – the 12 Northeast states plus HI, NV, UT, and WY – will divide $1.5 million among their State Departments of Agriculture.  Those Departments, in turn, will provide their organic farmers with up to $750 (not to exceed 75% of a producer’s certification costs) between now and September 30 to offset a portion of the annual fees that organic farmers pay for being certified.

Had Congress passed a new farm bill last year on schedule, or had Congress and the White negotiated an extension of the old farm bill that actually extended all of the programs — rather than just select programs — the other 34 states would also be participating in a nationwide organic certification cost-share program.  The new farm bill approved by the Senate last year streamlined organic certification cost-share by combining the AMA program with the larger National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program.  The Senate farm bill also increased the funding for the new combined program so that all certified organic farmers and handlers interested in the program could participate.

Along with programs for beginning and minority farmers, rural jobs, renewable energy, local food, and specialty crop research, organic programs like certification cost-share were thrown overboard in the final “fiscal cliff” negotiations between the White House and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).  As of now, those programs do not exist for 2013 and there is no clear path for getting them back on track.

There would be obvious opportunity to restore farm bill funding for those programs, however, when Congress deals with the scheduled automatic budget cuts (officially known as sequestration) by or before the end of February.  Whether the Agriculture Committees will make an effort to use that upcoming opportunity to extend the programs left out of the selective farm bill extension measure approved as part of the fiscal cliff bill on New Year’s Day remains to be seen.

In the meantime, farmers in the 34 states not eligible for the AMA program are out of luck.  Thankfully, at least the farmers in the lucky 16 states will be able to receive cost-share assistance once their State Departments of Agriculture respond to the new Federal Register notice and thereby receive their allocation of federal funds.

Categories: Farm Bill, Organic

3 responses to “34 States Shut out of Organic Farm Program by Congress and White House”

  1. […] National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition […]

  2. How can I help get the other 34 states eligible for the organic cost share ?
    I am from Kansas and really need help in covering the cost
    to be USDA Organic.
    I am a small organic farmer and I sell organic beef.
    My farm, cattle and the locker all have to be certified.
    Every state should be able to receive cost share not just 16.
    Please HELP !

  3. Jerry Cunningham says:

    Insurance payments to commodity growers in 2012 = $12,000,000,000 – that is Billions. Your tax dollars funded 67% of that with the commodity farmers paying only 33%.

    This is in addition to the Direct Payments of more $Billions; 80% of which goes to the top 10% of wealthy corporate farmers. Folks, if you ain’t rich, or a big farmer, you, like me, are getting a royal screwing by your beloved lawmaker and the USDA.This while the hypocritical Congress cut $22,000,000 out of the Organic program!Thieves and liars is what we have in control of the USDA and Congress. They want to reduce the budget? Really!? HorseSh$t! All they want to do is get reelected while lying in your teeth.

    I dare anyone to debate my logic – and don’t even start with; conservation or food security or any of the other straw dogs that are thrown up to justify this theft.