(January 29, 2014) Santa Cruz, CA – The U.S. House of Representatives today approved a farm bill that includes funding for critical programs that support the growth of the organic sector. The Senate is expected to follow suit in the coming days. Among the wins for organic was the National Organic Certification Cost Share program, a main focus of CCOF’s policy work last year through visits to Congress members and dozens of emails and calls by CCOF members.
“This year our members inspired us by making calls, writing letters, and knocking on the doors of congressional offices to ensure a farm bill that provides support for the production of healthy, sustainably grown food,” said CCOF Executive Director/CEO Cathy Calfo. “Today, along with our friends and neighbors, we can celebrate a hard-fought and well-deserved victory that restores organic certification cost share. By covering certification costs, the cost share program helps thousands of small organic producers become certified and eligible to display the USDA organic seal.”
The National Organic Certification Cost Share program helps farmers and processors afford the expense of organic certification by reimbursing them for up to 75 percent of their certification costs with a maximum of $750 per operation. In 2013, only $1.425 million of organic certification cost share funds were available to farmers in 16 states. The new farm bill reinstates the program for farmers in all states for a total of $11.5 million per year.
“As a $35 billion industry, organics are a significant and growing part of our agriculture economy,” said Congressman Jim Costa of California’s 16th district, who was a strong champion of certification cost share on the committee responsible for final negotiations between the Senate and House versions of the farm bill.
“Organic farmers in my district and nationwide made their voices heard about the importance of organic certification cost share programs, and I was proud to help champion their cause. The organics industry has proven to be an important option for many American families, and because of that they were a winner in this farm bill.”
This farm bill also includes $20 million per year for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative, a competitive grantmaking program that funds organic research. Other organic wins in the bill include $5 million for the Organic Data Initiative that gathers statistical data on organic production, $5 million for necessary technology upgrades at the USDA National Organic Program, an expanded exemption for organic operations from conventional check-off programs, and authorization for USDA to consider an application for an organic check-off program should the organic sector choose to pursue a check-off.
CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers), a nonprofit organization, was founded in 1973 and is one of the nation’s oldest and largest third-party organic certifying agencies. CCOF certifies, educates, advocates, and promotes organic through:
• A premier organic certification program for growers, processors, handlers, and retailers.
• Programs to increase awareness of and demand for certified organic product and to expand public support for organic agriculture.
• Advocacy for governmental policies that protect and encourage organic agriculture.
CCOF certifies more than 2,700 organic operations in 38 states and three countries.
For further information on CCOF, visit www.ccof.org