Monday, August 20, 2012

MN organic certification cost share program accepting applications

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota organic farmers and processors can now apply for a rebate of up to 75 percent of the cost of their organic certification. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is accepting applications for the Minnesota Organic Cost Share Program from now until October 31, 2012.

Organic certification is a third-party verification system that assures consumers that the organic products they buy are truly organic, produced in compliance with federal organic regulations. Organic operations are monitored through review of their records and on-site inspections at least once a year.

"The cost share program provides some regulatory relief from a financial burden that is unique to organic farms and other organic businesses," said MDA Organic Program Administrator Meg Moynihan. “Organic growers and processors who sell more than $5,000 of organic agricultural products are legally required to obtain certification at their own expense. Depending on the farm or business size, the cost ranges from hundreds to thousands of dollars per year, so this program can be a big help."

Funds for the cost share program come from a cooperative agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Operations that received certification (or had ongoing certification) between October 1, 2011 and September 30, 2012 are eligible for reimbursement of up to 75 percent of certification-related costs  up to a maximum of $750 per category (crop, livestock, processing/handling, wild harvest). Last year, the MDA disbursed nearly $381,000 to 480 certified organic farmers and processors in the state.

To qualify, applicants must be certified by a USDA-accredited certifying agency. The MDA has already mailed application packets to more than 900 certified organic operations in the state. Any certified organic farmer or processor who did not receive a packet can obtain all the program details and necessary materials on the MDA's web site or by calling 651-201-6012.