Starting in March of 2017, farmers will be able to apply for financial assistance from the USDA for organic certification. Both farmers transitioning to organic farms and maintaining organic certification will qualify to apply.
There will be 2,100 USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) locations that farmers can apply at for reimbursement.
According to FSA Administrator Val Dolcini, the current USDA program reimburses organic producers up to 75 percent of the cost of certification, but the process is complicated and only “about half of the nation’s organic operations currently participate.”
Dolcini states: “Starting March 20, USDA will provide a uniform, streamlined process for organic producers and handlers to apply for organic cost share assistance either by mail or in person at USDA offices located in almost every rural county in the country.”
Farmers are eligible for the program if they have paid fees to the USDA for organic or transitional certifications, including fees related to applications, inspections, required arrangements, travels and per diems for inspectors, user fees, sales assessments and postage fees.
Costs associated with either transitioning to or maintaining organic certification are the biggest barriers farmers face when trying to operate an organic farm. Many times farms do produce organic produce but are unable to officially label their products as such because they cannot afford to be officially certified by the USDA.
The USDA hopes that by changing and simplifying this process, we will see an increase in participation in the National Organic Program.
The demand for certified organic products has grown significantly over the past few years, with organic farming hitting more than four million acres in the U.S. in 2016.