The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will provide pandemic assistance to cover certification and education expenses to agricultural producers who are certified organic or transitioning to organic. USDA will make $20 million available through the new Organic and Transitional Education and Certification Program (OTECP) as part of USDA’s broader Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative, which provides new, broader, and more equitable opportunities for farmers, ranchers, and producers.
OTECP funding is provided through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). Certified operations and transitional operations may apply for OTECP for eligible expenses paid during the 2020, 2021, and 2022 fiscal years. For each year, OTECP covers 25 percent of a certified operation’s eligible certification expenses, up to $250 per certification category (crop, livestock, wild crop, handling, and State Organic Program fee). This includes application fees, inspection fees, USDA organic certification costs, State Organic Program fees, and more.
Crop and livestock operations transitioning to organic production may be eligible for 75 percent of a transitional operation’s eligible expenses, up to $750 for each year. This includes fees charged by a certifying agent or consultant for pre-certification inspections and development of an Organic System Plan.
For both certified operations and transitional operations, OTECP covers 75 percent of the registration fees, up to $200 per year, for educational events that include content related to organic production and handling in order to assist operations in increasing their knowledge of production and marketing practices that can improve their operations, increase resilience, and expand available marketing opportunities. Additionally, both certified and transitional operations may be eligible for 75 percent of the expense of soil testing required under the National Organic Program (NOP) to document micronutrient deficiency, not to exceed $100 per year.
Signup for 2020 and 2021 OTECP will be November 8, 2021, through January 7, 2022. Producers apply through their local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office and can also obtain one-on-one support with applications by calling (877) 508-8364.