Assistance for farmers will cover organic certification costs
The program is meant to help farmers who struggled during the pandemic with the loss of markets, increased costs, and labor shortages. (Spencer Platt | Getty Images)
Pandemic assistance is now available to cover certification costs for farmers who have switched or are in the process of switching to organic agriculture.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is providing a total of $20 million that farmers can apply for to cover certain expenses from 2020 and 2021 – including the cost of organic certification and education expenses. The Organic and Transitional Education and Certification Program will reimburse farmers for things like application fees, inspection fees, and state organic program fees.
The program is meant to help farmers who struggled during the pandemic with the loss of markets, increased costs, and labor shortages, according to the USDA. While farmers can usually count on premium prices for organic commodities, that wasn’t the case during the pandemic, the USDA found – which meant financial difficulty for farmers trying to cover the cost of implementing organic practices.
The application deadline for fiscal years 2020 and 2021 is Jan. 7.
In New Hampshire, uptake for at least one other federal program has been low. Out of $76 million available to farmers across the country for a value-added grant program for producers, only $564,000 was awarded to farmers in New Hampshire.
In 2021, there were 108 certified organic farms in the state and 26 organic processors. There were four new farms to gain certification for crops, one new organic livestock farm, and one new organic processor. In 2020, there were nine new organic farms: five crop farms and four maple.
In the past five years, the number of organic livestock farms in the state has decreased, from 32 in 2017 to 17 in 2021. Organic crop farms have also decreased, from 96 five years ago to 76 now. In contrast, organic maple outfits have increased from nine to 15, as of Oct. 1.
Some farmers have turned to organic farming in the hope it will provide a larger margin of profitability than conventional agriculture. Some environmental policy has turned to organic practices, like the use of cover crops and compost, which can help prevent runoff from polluting waterways and promote soil health, retaining nutrients in the ground for more nutrient-dense food, while preventing those nutrients from entering waterways where they can lead to problems like toxic cyanobacteria blooms.
A recent study commissioned by the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets, and Food found that 6,910 jobs in the state are directly supported by agriculture, and that the industry contributed $154.8 billion in output.
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