USDA reimburses organic producers up to 75 percent of the cost of organic certification, but only about half of the nation’s organic operations currently participate in the program. 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. USDA is making changes to increase participation in the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP) and the Agricultural Management Assistance Organic Certification Cost Share Program, and at the same time provide more opportunities for organic producers to access other USDA programs, such as disaster protection and loans for farms, facilities and marketing. Producers can also access information on nonfederal agricultural resources, and get referrals to local experts, including organic agriculture, through USDA’s Bridges to Opportunity service at the local FSA office.
Historically, many state departments of agriculture have obtained grants to disburse reimbursements to those producers and handlers qualifying for cost share assistance. FSA will continue to partner with states to administer the programs. For states that want to continue to directly administer the programs, applications will be due Feb. 17. Eligible producers include any certified producers or handlers who have paid organic or transitional certification fees to a USDA-accredited certifying agent. Application fees, inspection costs, fees related to equivalency agreement/ arrangement requirements, travel/per diem for inspectors, user fees, sales assessments and postage are all eligible for a cost share reimbursement from USDA. Once certified, producers and handlers are eligible to receive reimbursement for up to 75 percent of certification costs each year up to a maximum of $750 per certification scope — crops, livestock, wild crops and handling. This announcement also adds transitional certification and state organic program fees as additional scopes. To learn more about organic certification cost share, please visit www.fsa.usda.gov/organic or contact a local FSA office.
Here are some agri-business notes from the Huron and Erie County Farm Service Agency:
Emergency assistance for livestock, honeybee and farm-raised fish program available: The Emergency Assistance for livestock, honeybees and farm-raised fish program (ELAP) provides emergency assistance to eligible livestock, honeybee, and farm-raised fish producers who have losses due to disease, adverse weather or other conditions, such as blizzards and wildfires, not covered by other agricultural disaster assistance programs. Eligible livestock losses include grazing losses not covered under the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP), loss of purchased feed and/or mechanically harvested feed due to an eligible adverse weather event, additional cost of transporting water because of an eligible drought and additional cost associated with gathering livestock to treat for cattle tick fever.
Eligible honeybee losses include loss of purchased feed due to an eligible adverse weather event, cost of additional feed purchased above normal quantities due to an eligible adverse weather condition, colony losses in excess of normal mortality due to an eligible weather event or loss condition, including CCD, and hive losses due to eligible adverse weather.
Eligible farm-raised fish losses include death losses in excess of normal mortality and/or loss of purchased feed due to an eligible adverse weather event. Producers who suffer eligible livestock, honeybee, or farm-raised fish losses from October 1, 2016 to September 30, 2017 must file:
* A notice of loss the earlier of 30 calendar days of when the loss is apparent or by November 1, 2017
* An application for payment by November 1, 2017
The Farm Bill caps ELAP disaster funding at $20 million per federal fiscal year. The following ELAP Fact Sheets (by topic) are available online:
* ELAP for Farm-Raised Fish Fact Sheet
* ELAP for Livestock Fact Sheet
* ELAP for Honeybees Fact Sheet
To view these and other FSA program fact sheets, visit the FSA fact sheet web page at www.fsa.usda.gov/factsheets.
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Important dates to remember:
March 1 — was the beginning of nesting season CRP participants
Mar. 15 — Deadline to obtain 2017 NAP coverage on spring planted crops.
Mar. 31 — Final Availability for 2016 crop wheat, barley, oats, honey loans and LDPs.
Diana Strouse is the county executive director for the Huron and Erie County Farm Service Agency. For more information, call the agency at 419-668-4113.