Yesterday we were blindsided by FSA changes to the Organic Certification Cost Share Program (OCCSP) announced in the Farm Service Agency notice published in the Federal Register - “USDA Accepting Applications to Help Cover Costs for Organic Certification.”
The USDA is cutting the funding formula for OCCSP, alleging that there is not enough funding available to reimburse organic operations at the levels specified by Congress in the 2018 Farm Bill (75 percent of certification costs up to maximum of $750 per certification scope). The revised reimbursement amount is now 50 percent of the certified organic operation’s eligible expenses, up to a maximum of $500 per scope.
This action by USDA is unwarranted and completely unacceptable. The 2018 Farm Bill provided new funding for the program and also directed USDA to use the program’s carryover balances from previous years to fund the program for fiscal years 2019 through 2023. Given these sources of funding, there should be plenty of funds available for the program’s operation in fiscal year 2020.
We are asking that Congress restore OCCSP funding levels approved by Congress in the 2018 Farm Bill. Rosalyn Lehman, IOA Executive Director expressed in a letter to Senators Grassley and Ernst and Representative Axne that "This is not the time to reduce support for American organic farmers and businesses when most Americans are struggling to maintain balance during these unprecedented and challenging times. Furthermore, organic and specialty farmers and handlers have very little help from other agricultural programs." See IOA's letter to Grassley, Ernst, Axne.
ACTION ALERT: We are asking you to contact Senators Grassley and Ernst and Representative Axne, as members of the U.S. Agriculture Committee, and tell them why this funding cut is bad for organic farmers and handlers .
- Senator Grassley: https://www.grassley.senate.gov/constituents/questions-and-comments; D.C. (202) 224-3744; D.M. (515) 288-1145
- Senator Ernst: https://www.ernst.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/?p=contact; D.C. (202) 224-3254; D.M. (515) 284-4574
- Representative Axne: https://axne.house.gov/contact/email-me; D.C. (202) 225-5476; D.M. (515) 400-8180
Additionally, we urge organic operations to apply for certification cost-share assistance as soon as they are able to do so with their state agency or local FSA office.
Operations have until November 2, 2020 to apply for funding. FSA has stated that “if additional funding is authorized at a later time, FSA may provide additional assistance to certified operations that have applied” for the organic certification cost share program.