Agricultural producers and handlers who are certified organic, along with producers and handlers who are transitioning to organic production, can now apply for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Organic and Transitional Education Certification Program (OTECP) and Organic Certification Cost Share Program (OCCSP), which help producers and handlers cover the cost of organic certification, along with other related expenses.
“By helping with organic certification costs – long identified as a barrier to certification – USDA has helped producers participate in new markets while investing in the long-term health of their operations,” said Farm Service Agency State Executive Director Scott Halpin. “We launched OTECP to build on the support offered through OCCSP. It provides additional assistance to organic and transitioning producers weathering the continued market impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This year, in response to stakeholder feedback, we have aligned the signup dates for these two organic programs and encourage Illinois producers to work with the local USDA Service Centers and state agencies to complete the applications,” Halpin added. “We’re committed to making sure our nation’s organic producers and handlers have the tools they need to continue positively shaping our local and regional food systems.”
USDA cost share for 2022
OTECP covers cost share implications such as the following:
- Certification costs for organic producers and handlers (25% up to $250 per category),
- Eligible expenses for transitional producers, including fees for pre-certification inspections and development of an organic system plan (75% up to $750),
- Registration fees for educational events (75% up to $200), and
- Soil testing (75% up to $100).
Meanwhile, OCCSP covers 50% or up to $500 per category of certification costs in 2022.
This cost share for certification is available for crops, wild crops, livestock, processing/handling, and state organic program fees.
Producers can receive cost-share through both OTECP and OCCSP. Both OTECP and OCCSP cover costs incurred from Oct. 1, 2021, to Sept. 30, 2022. Producers have until Oct. 31, 2022 to file applications, and FSA will make payments as applications are received.
How to apply
To apply, producers and handlers should contact the Farm Service Agency (FSA) at their local USDA Service Center.
As part of completing the OCCSP applications, producers and handlers will need to provide documentation of their organic certification and eligible expenses. Organic producers and handlers may also apply for OCCSP through participating state agencies.
Additional details can be found on the OTECP and OCCSP web pages.
Applications for OTECP and OCCSP are both due Oct. 31, 2022.
State agency opportunities
FSA is accepting applications for state agencies to administer OCCSP through July 18. If a state department of agriculture chooses to participate in OCCSP, both the state department of agriculture and FSA County Offices in that state will accept OCCSP applications and make payments to eligible certified operations. However, the producer or handler may only receive OCCSP assistance from either FSA or the participating state department of agriculture.
More information of the USDA OTECP and OCCSP programs
OTECP builds upon OCCSP, providing additional relief to help producers during the pandemic. OTECP uses funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Meanwhile, OCCSP is funded through the Farm Bill.
USDA has made other strides to assist organic producers. In 2022, USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) increased expansion limits for organic producers with coverage through Whole-Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP).
RMA also updated the insurance option to allow producers to report acreage as certified organic or transitioning, as long as organic certification was requested by the acreage reporting date. Also, this year, RMA introduced a new option – Micro Farm – through WFRP designed for producers with small-scale operations that sell locally, which includes organic producers.
Mary Kirby is the Public Affairs/Outreach Specialist for the Farm Service Agency division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.