Observer staff report
Gaining organic certification can be an overwhelming expense for a small food producer. That means that while many follow practices that most of us would consider environmentally friendly and chemical-free, they can’t technically call their products organic.
A new source of funding can help producers gain the certification that may help drive their sales.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced last week that approximately $13 million in Farm Bill funding is now available for organic certification cost-share assistance.
“Consumer demand for organic products is surging across the country,” said Secretary Tom Vilsack in a press release. “To meet this demand, we need to make sure that small farmers who choose to grow organic products can afford to get certified. Organic food is now a multi-billion dollar industry, and helping this sector continue to grow creates jobs across the country.”
The certification assistance is distributed through two programs. Through the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program, $11.5 million is available to all 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. Territories. Through the Agricultural Management Assistance Organic Certification Cost-Share Program, an additional $1.5 million is available to organic operations in 16 states, including Vermont.
These programs provide cost-share assistance for certification-related expenses incurred from Oct. 1, 2013 through Sept. 30, 2014.
Payments cover up to 75 percent of an individual producer’s or handler’s certification costs, up to a maximum of $750 per certification. To receive cost-share assistance, organic producers and handlers should contact their state agencies.