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Organic certification cost share program now accepting applications

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is accepting applications for the Minnesota Organic Cost Share Program through October 31, 2011.

Organic certification is a third-party verification system that assures consumers that the organic products they buy are truly organic - produced in compliance with federal organic regulations. Organic operations are monitored through their records, with on-site inspections at least once a year.

"Organic growers and processors who sell more than $5,000 of organic agricultural products are legally required to obtain certification at their own expense. Depending on the farm or business size, the cost can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars per year," said MDA Organic and Diversification Specialist Meg Moynihan. "The cost-share program provides some regulatory relief from a financial burden that is unique to organic farms and businesses."

Funds for this program come from a cooperative agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Certified operations are eligible for reimbursement of 75 percent of certification-related costs they incurred during the period between October 1, 2010 and September 30, 2011, up to a maximum of $750 per category of certification (crop, livestock, processing/handling, wild harvest).

Costs incurred after September 30, 2011 are not eligible for the current rebate program, but can be submitted next year.

To qualify, applicants must be certified by a USDA-accredited certifying agency.

The MDA has already mailed application packets to more than 900 certified organic operations in the state. Any certified organic farmer or processor who did not receive a packet can obtain the materials on the MDA's website www.mda.state. or by calling (651) 201-6012.

Along with their cost share applications, their site also invites organic farmers to supply information about the products they sell for the upcoming edition of the Directory of Minnesota Organic Farms.