The cost of organic certification is becoming more affordable for many certified producers and handlers. Thanks to support from the 2014 Farm Bill, cost share and assistance programs are available to organic producers and handlers through fiscal year 2018.
Cost share programs benefit certified producers and handlers across the organic supply chain, providing critical support to the organic community and rural America. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) administers these funds—which total almost $13 million this year—through grants to participating states. In 2012 alone, USDA issued nearly 10,000 reimbursements that totaled over $6.5 million.
These resources can make a real difference. Liana Hoodes, Executive Director of the National Organic Coalition, says, “The organic certification cost share program puts organic certification within reach for farms of all sizes. It is of great value to organic farmers and supports the integrity of the organic label.”
Small farms and operations especially benefit from cost share assistance, which covers 75 percent of the cost of each certification, up to a maximum of $750 annually per certification. This can pay for a wide range of certification-related expenses, including application fees, inspection costs, user fees, sales assessments and postage. A farmer who would usually spend $500 to become a certified organic operation could save as much as $375 from the reimbursement, making the cost of certification much more manageable.
But the benefits of cost share programs extend beyond small farms by helping producers and handlers of all sizes get access to organic certification. Suppose a certified organic fruit and vegetable grower is interested in launching an organic processing operation. Cost share assistance can help by reducing the cost of broadening and expanding the scope of the farm and exploring new opportunities.
Organic cost share programs reach beyond traditional farms to other organizations, too. For example, a community-based organization that grows fruits and vegetables in an urban location might want to show that organic certification in this setting is possible by offering organically grown products to its members. Organic cost share programs could be the key to helping this type of nonprofit organization with limited resources get certified and provide organic products to its members.
“The cost share programs are so concise and simple. They make a big difference in keeping organic certification a viable option to farmers at all resource levels,” says Hoodes.
Consumer demand for organic products is strong and growing. Organic certification is a vital part of ensuring that consumers are confident in the products they buy and trust that they meet USDA’s organic requirements. Through the National Organic Program, USDA has helped organic farmers and businesses achieve $35 billion annually in U.S. retail sales.
Operations that are already certified can contact their state agencies to learn more about applying for cost share assistance. Visit our website to locate a particular state agency or to learn more about organic cost share assistance.