One of the biggest challenges small farmers face in obtaining organic certification is the overall cost—especially if they grow a wide variety of produce, since each variety needs to be certified separately. That's why the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service has nearly $12 million available to help farmers defray the cost of certification.
"The organic certification cost share programs help more organic businesses succeed and take advantage of economic opportunities in this growing market," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.
According to Farm Futures, funding is being distributed through the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program and the Agricultural Management Assistance Organic Certification Cost Share Program:
These programs provide cost share assistance to USDA certified organic producers and handlers, covering as much as 75% of an individual applicant's certification costs, up to a maximum of $750 annually per certification scope.
The funding is a win-win for farmers and consumers alike—not just because organic foods are healthier and easier on the planet, but for small farmers it means the ability to charge higher prices.
“As demand for organic products continues to soar, more and more producers are entering the organic market,” said Vilsack. “USDA tools and resources have created opportunities for organic farmers and more options for organic consumers. Growing demand for organic goods can be especially helpful to smaller family operations. The more diverse type of operations and the more growing market sectors we have in American agriculture, the better off our country’s rural economy will be.”
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Farmer image via Shuttershock