The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on November 4, 2021 that it 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. This funding restores the cost share to its previous levels of 75% up to $750 per production scope
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% 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.
For both certified operations and transitional operations, OTECP covers 75% 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% of the expense of soil testing required under the National Organic Program (NOP) to document micronutrient deficiency, not to exceed $100 per year.
OTECP builds upon USDA’s Organic Certification Cost Share Program (OCCSP) which provides cost share assistance of 50%, up to a maximum of $500 per scope, to producers and handlers of agricultural products who are obtaining or renewing their certification under the NOP, and which the Maine DACF currently administers for producers certified by MCS.
How to Apply for Funding
Please note: this program is outside of the normal cost share process, therefore MCS will NOT be working with the Maine Department of Agriculture to administer for producers. Please contact MCS if you require verification of certification fees paid in 2020 and 2021. Signup for 2020 and 2021 OTECP will be Nov. 8, 2021, through Jan. 7, 2022. Producers must apply through their local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office and can also obtain one-on-one support with applications by calling 877-508-8364. Visit farmers.gov/otecp to learn more and find an FSA office close to you.
Please contact the MCS office in the event you have any questions about this program.