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Organic certification cost share now available

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is now accepting applications for the 2007-08 organic certification cost share program. Organic farmers and processors can receive a partial rebate for the cost of organic certification and must apply by February 28, 2009.

MDA Organic and Diversification Specialist Meg Moynihan says unlike conventional operations, organic growers and processors who sell more than $5,000 of organic agricultural products are legally required to annually retain an accredited third-party certifier at their own expense.

"This certification assures consumers that organic products are really and truly organic, and that they are produced in compliance with federal organic regulations," said Moynihan.

Depending on the farm or business size, the cost of certification can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars per year, according to Moynihan.

"This program provides some regulatory relief from a financial burden that is unique to organic operations," she said.

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 that they incurred during the period between October 1, 2007 and September 30, 2008 up to a maximum of $750. Costs incurred after September 30, 2008 are not eligible for the '07-'08 cost share rebate, but will be reimbursed through a subsequent program.

To qualify, applicants must be certified by a USDA-accredited organic certifying agency. They 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 February 28, 2009. Incomplete applications cannot be processed.

The MDA has already mailed application packets to more than 800 certified organic operations. Any certified organic farmer or processor who did not receive a packet can obtain the necessary materials on the MDA's Web site or by calling Meg Moynihan at (651) 201-6616.