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Missouri Department of Agriculture to Assist Organic Farmers With Certification Costs

Farmers in southeast Missouri are suing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over flooding in 2011.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture will continue to use federal funds to help organic farmers pay their certification costs in 2015.

Richard Fordyce, Director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture, said the department expects to assist about 85 percent of Missouri’s organic farmers through the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program in 2015.

The program reimburses farm producers and handlers to help them pay for certification costs and is funded by federal funds. It has been in effect since 2002.

The department has received $127,800 in federal funds for the program this year. Fordyce said they provide 75 percent of reimbursements up to a maximum of $750 in individual certification costs per year.

“The certification costs are around $1000,” Fordyce said. “A lot of our organic producers are fairly small so this can be a considerable cost in their operations.”

Fordyce said the number of organic farmers receiving assistance has grown in the last few years, from 72 producers in 2011 to about 170 in 2015. According to Fordyce, there are around 200 organic farmers in Missouri.

Sue Baird, Executive Director of the Missouri Organic Association, said organic farmers benefit from government assistance like this. Baird said organic farmers in Missouri generally have to pay as much as $1500 a year for certification. She said certification costs are not the only issue that farmers have to deal with.

“The negative side to certification is the amount of paperwork farmers have to fill out, which will translate into money, because time is money for the farmers,” Baird said.

The Department of Agriculture has already started to move towards easing the certification paperwork.

“Last year, the National Organic Program instructed the certifying agencies to implement a ‘sound but sensible approach’,” Baird said. “In other words, if a farm has always accrued to the rules, lay off on requirement of some of his paperwork. Do some verification without having to keep it all. I think that’s a good move by the USDA to take.”

Eligibility for the Organic Cost-Share program requires businesses to renew or obtain certification and document costs to participate. Certification dates are between October 2014 and Sept. 30, 2015.