Growers and handlers of organic agricultural products now can recover part of the cost of their USDA certification.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture has been notified it will receive $271,800 to reimburse producers and handlers who either obtain or renew their certification in the federal fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, 2014. The reimbursement covers 75 percent of certification costs, up to a maximum of $750.
“These funds will help growers who want to enter the rapidly-growing market for organic products,” Agriculture Director Bob Flider said. “However, they’re available on a first-come, first-served basis, so I encourage those interested to contact us as soon as possible.”
The funds will be distributed to eligible recipients in the order their application packets are returned. Operations must apply to the participating agency in the state in which they are located. In Illinois, that agency is the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Entities operating in more than one state should apply in the state where their federal tax returns are filed. Producers may apply for reimbursement even if they have received payments through the program in previous years. However, they only may apply for reimbursements once per certificate or certification category per year, as verified by certification documentation.
Operations must possess current USDA organic certification to be eligible to receive reimbursement. This means they either must have successfully received their initial USDA organic certification from a USDA-accredited certifying agent, or must have incurred expenses related to the renewal of their USDA organic certification from a USDA-accredited certifying agent between Oct. 1, 2013 and Sept. 30, 2014. Operations with a suspended or revoked certification are ineligible to participate in the program.
The assistance comes from the USDA’s National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program. Applications will be accepted through Nov. 1, 2014. Application forms and additional details can be obtained by calling the department’s Bureau of Marketing, Promotion and Grants at (217) 524-9129 or visiting its website at www.agr.state.il.us.