Leahy Announces Farm Bill Funds To Help Small Farmers With Organic Certification Costs

WASHINGTON (THURSDAY, July 17, 2014) – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Thursday announced $13 million in funding to help farmers working to earn their organic certifications.  Leahy – considered the “father” of the national organic standards and labeling program – fought to include the organic certification assistance program in the 2014 Farm Bill, enacted earlier this year.

Leahy said:  “Organic farming has blossomed into a $35 billion a year industry in the United States.  Vermont farmers are part of this success story.  We want U.S. organic agriculture to continue to thrive.  This program assures that small farmers in Vermont can become part of this growing market.”

The program, funded by the 2014 Farm Bill through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, provides organic farmers and processors with 75 percent, or a maximum of $750, toward the cost of their organic certification.  Since its inception, the program has assisted the growth of the organic industry by helping small farmers gain their organic certification.  In 2012 USDA issued nearly 10,000 cost-share reimbursements, totaling more than $6.5 million, to support the organic industry.

Leahy, the most senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, fought hard to reauthorize the program in the 2014 Farm Bill – provisions passed by the Senate but stripped from the bill by the House.  Leahy’s efforts during the Farm Bill conference assured the program’s renewal in the final bill, with this crucial mandatory funding for the certification cost-share.  

Enid Wonnacott, executive director of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT), said:  "First, we would like to yell a resounding thank you from the tops of the Green Mountains to  Senator Leahy – we so appreciate all of his work to make this happen.  The certification cost-share program has been critical to strengthening the organic certification program in Vermont.  We have heard from many beginning farmers, especially, that the cost of certification is a barrier to them certifying their farms.  The certification cost-share program is a predominant factor in the growth in the number of farmers and number of acres in Vermont managed organically.”

Laura Batcha, CEO and executive director of the Organic Trade Association, which is headquartered in Brattleboro, Vt., said:  "Cost-share provisions for organic farmers are critical to encouraging organic producers to seek or maintain certification.  This is essential to help grow U.S. organic farming to meet increasing consumer demand.  OTA is pleased to witness the results of the influential work by Senator Leahy to ensure this support for organic.”

The certification assistance is distributed through two programs within USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.  Through the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program, $11.5 million is available to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. Territories.  Through the Agricultural Management Assistance Organic Certification Cost-Share Program, an additional $1.5 million is available to organic operations in Vermont and 15 other states.

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