Get a refund for organic certification fees

Here in the Golden State, “organic” is a label that must be earned – but for farmers, processors and related businesses who have done the work and earned the right to use that label, there’s a way you may be able to get a refund for certain certification/registration fees.

In the state of California, a farmer, retailer and/or business can’t just say their products are organic. The organization also must register with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) State Organic Program (SOP) to earn a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Organic Seal. The seal not only expresses the company’s commitment to a healthier planet, it also lets consumers know they’ve met the USDA’s stringent organic certification standards.

The certification does come with a price, though – and that’s where the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program comes in.

NATIONAL ORGANIC CERTIFICATION COST SHARE PROGRAM
In an effort to make the USDA Organic Seal more accessible, the federal government has created a reimbursement opportunity for organic producers and handlers called the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP).

The program helps farmers and processors afford the expense of organic certification/registration through an annual refund, with an emphasis on small organic operations that may not have been able to afford the certification costs before.

HOW CAN MY BUSINESS BENEFIT FROM NOCCSP?
Producers and handlers that are USDA Organic Certified support local economies. They can access additional technical assistance and receive a higher premium for their products.

The operations that meet the federal eligibility requirements for NOCCSP can be reimbursed up to 75 percent of their certification/registration costs, with a maximum of $750 per National Organic Program (NOP) scope of organic certification.

Businesses are encouraged to apply regardless of size or need, as it helps ensure the future of programs such as NOCCSP that benefits smaller organic operations.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR THE REIMBURSEMENT?
If your operation is located in the United States and you received organic certification between October 1, 2017 and September 30, 2018, you may apply and receive one reimbursement per scope of certification. You will also be eligible for additional refunds if your operation has more than one certification scope.

Eligible scopes include: crops, wild crops, livestock, processing/handling, and California State Organic Program and California Department of Public Health Organic Processed Product registration fees (for operations located in California).

HOW DO I APPLY FOR COST-SHARE FUNDS IN CALIFORNIA?
You must collect and complete the following documents:
• Federal Organic Cost Share application (ORG-106)
• California State Organic Program Cost Share application (ORG-106a)
• Payee Data Record Form (STD 204)
• Copy of your organic certificate
• Proof of payment – CCOF offers a Verification of CCOF Certification Costs (allow 14 days for CCOF to complete your request)

At this time, online applications are not being accepted. Businesses must mail applications to:
California Department of Food and Agriculture
Organic Cost Share Program
ATTN: Sharon Parsons
1220 N Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

You can download the necessary documents here: https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/is/i_&_c/organic.html

Applications for a reimbursement through the National Organics Certification Cost Share Program must be postmarked by October 31, 2018. For assistance, California applicants can contact Sharon Parsons at sparsons@cdfa.ca.gov or (916) 900-5202.

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