Agricultural producers and handlers who are certified organic, along with producers and handlers who are transitioning to organic production, can apply for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Organic and Transitional Education Certification Program and Organic Certification Cost Share Program.

The programs help producers and handlers cover the cost of organic certification, along with other related expenses. Applications for OTECP and OCCSP are both due Oct. 31, according to a news release from the United States Department of Agriculture.

“By helping with organic certification costs — long identified as a barrier to certification — USDA has helped producers participate in new markets while investing in the long-term health of their operations,” said Farm Service Agency State Executive Director Sherry Hamel. “We launched the Organic and Transitional Education Certification Program to build on the support offered through the Organic Certification Cost Share Program and provide additional assistance to organic and transitioning producers weathering the continued market impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, in response to stakeholder feedback, we have aligned the signup dates for these two organic programs and encourage Maine producers to work with the local USDA Service Centers and State agencies to complete the applications. We’re committed to making sure our Nation’s organic producers and handlers have the tools they need to continue positively shaping our local and regional food systems.”

To apply, producers and handlers should contact the Farm Service Agency at their local USDA Service Center. As part of completing the OCCSP applications, producers and handlers will need to provide documentation of their organic certification and eligible expenses.

Organic producers and handlers may also apply for OCCSP through participating state agencies. Additional details can be found at farmers.gov/pandemic-assistance/otecp and fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/occsp/index.

FSA is accepting applications for state agencies to administer OCCSP through July 18. If a state department of agriculture chooses to participate in OCCSP, both the state department of agriculture and FSA county offices in that state will accept OCCSP applications and make payments to eligible certified operations. However, the producer or handler may only receive OCCSP assistance by either FSA or the participating state department of agriculture.

To learn more, visit usda.gov.

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