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Organic certification cost share now available

Organic farmers and processors can receive a partial rebate for the cost of organic certification, according to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA). Applications are being accepted by MDA from now until October 15, 2009.

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

Organic certification assures consumers that organic products are truly organic, and that they are produced in compliance with federal organic regulations.

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, 2008 and September 30, 2009 up to a maximum of $750. Costs incurred after September 30, 2009 are not eligible for the current rebate program, but will be reimbursed through a subsequent program.

To qualify, applicants must submit an MDA application form, proof of certification during the qualifying period, and copies of billing statements from their certifier that itemize the costs incurred. Additional information is detailed in the program guidelines. All applications must be postmarked by October 15, 2009. Incomplete applications cannot be processed.

The MDA has already mailed application packets to more than 800 certified organic operations in the state. Any certified organic farmer or processor who did not receive a packet can obtain the necessary materials on the MDA's website

us/food/organic or by calling Meg Moynihan at (651) 201-6616.