19, 2004: If you have received your organic certificate,
congratulations! But there’s one more thing you should
do, and there is no time to lose.
You can get reimbursed up to $500 or 75 percent of the costs
of your organic certification.
The organic certification cost share program was first implemented
in Minnesota in 1998, thanks to the late State Sen. Janet
Johnson, who asked, “What can be done to “grow”
more organic farmers?” A simple solution was to provide
modest relief to the regulatory costs imposed on organic producers.
This is the second year for the national program, which was
adopted in the 2002 Farm Bill. (Thanks, in part, to the efforts
of the late U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone.)
The organic certification cost-share program is administered
by your state department of agriculture, with funds received
from the USDA. Typically, you are required to fill out a simple
one-page form. You will be asked to attach copies of your
current organic certificate and a statement or invoice from
your certifying agent that details charges incurred between
10/1/03 and 9/30/04. Reimbursable expenses include certification
fees, user fees, and inspection costs.
If your operation is currently certified, and your certification
is being renewed, you still qualify for the cost-share on
all costs incurred. Since organic certificates no longer expire
or carry expiration dates, you may need a letter from your
certifier verifying that your certification has been renewed
and showing the date of renewal.
Certified-organic crop farmers, livestock producers, ranchers,
and handlers all qualify. If you operate a certified handling
operation, and certification was separate from your organic
farming operation, you can receive cost-share reimbursement
for the costs of the certification of your farm and your processing
facility. This will require that you fill out separate (but
equally easy) forms and attach the appropriate verification
of your certification and your costs.
Since each state administers its own cost-share program,
deadline dates, application forms, and requirements may vary.
Act quickly though as deadlines are fast approaching. Pennsylvania,
for example, has a program deadline of December 3 but its
department of Ag is encouraging applicants to file sooner
if possible. To qualify, you must be certified by a USDA-accredited
You can find a list of accredited certifiers at: http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/CertifyingAgents/Accredited.html
For a list of state contacts, go to: http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/StatePrograms/StateContacts.html
If your certification is still in process (especially if
you turned in your application this summer rather than last
spring), you may want to call your certifying agent to expedite
the process. You may also contact your state department of
agriculture to find out what to do if you haven’t received
your organic certification by their deadline. But for everyone
else drop the forms in the mail, sit back, relax (it may take
a while – Pennsylvania’s program, according to
Martha Melton of the PA department of Ag, requires the application
to clear two state offices before the check can be issued),
and wait for your check.