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How can I reduce the costs associated with my organic certification?


There are a couple different cost share options for organic farmers across the country to help reduce the burden of certification fees. The most widely available is the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP). It’s available to all certified organic producers and handlers in the United States, as well as several territories and commonwealths. Certain states also have access to Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) Organic Certification Cost Share Program funds for producers. Only certified organic operations are eligible for these programs. To access them, contact your certification agency or state Department of Agriculture for the application.

These programs use a reimbursement model. Your organic operation will need to cover the costs up front and get a paid invoice from the certifying agency. Then, complete and submit all the required application components including a copy of your current organic certificate and the invoice(s) of certification costs paid during the federal fiscal year (Oct. 1 to Sept. 30). Organic operations can receive support for up to 75% of certification costs, but are capped at $750 per year by certification scope (livestock, crops, wild harvest, and handling).

Beyond those programs, some regions offer other opportunities. For example, Minnesota has a “Transition to Organic Cost Share Program” that supports state residents who are not currently certified, but are actively transitioning into certification. These funds will pay for up to 75% of eligible costs with a total annual cap of $750. ‘Eligible costs’ consist of charges for on-farm inspector visits, soil tests, and registration fees for up to two people to attend certain educational conferences, including the Marbleseed Organic Farming Conference and other organic conferences in the Midwest. It’s important to note that pre-certification inspections are not required in order to attain certification and are not offered by all certifying agencies, but can be a valuable learning tool.

There are also many broader avenues to gaining financial support for your organic endeavors. Local food co-ops or non-profits may have funds to assist farmers or processors – often managed through grants. Widening your scope may reveal opportunities through your county or Natural Resource Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) grants, Fish & Wildlife partnerships, and other programs that support conservation, natural resources, and wildlife habitat. While they usually won’t cover certification costs, they may help you implement practices that are valuable to your farm operation and help you meet the requirements of certification. For example, they may help you purchase cover crop seed or mobile fencing or offer incentives for conservation practices. For those transitioning into organic, NRCS Practice Standard 138: “Conservation Activity Plan for the Transition to Organic Production” may offer professional help to identify conservation concerns and organic requirements to address on your land.

Contact your state’s Department of Agriculture for more information about the NOCCSP and AMA Organic Certification Cost Share programs or other regional initiatives. Your certifier is also a valuable asset and may be aware of additional prospects. For insight into local opportunities, ask around your farming neighborhood, your buyers, and any farm or food organizations you may know.

For more about these programs and how to apply, see the AMS grants and opportunities website ).

Posted: Jul 2016
Answer By: Lauren Langworthy