October 31, 2022, is the last day to sign up for the USDA’s new Organic and Transitional Education and Certification Program (OTECP) as part of USDA’s broader Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, certified organic and transitional operations faced challenges due to loss of markets, and increased costs and labor shortages, in addition to costs related to obtaining or renewing their organic certification, which producers and handlers of conventionally grown commodities do not incur. Transitional operations also faced the financial challenge of implementing practices required to obtain organic certification without being able to obtain the premium prices normally received for certified organic commodities.
OTECP funding is provided through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). Certified operations and transitional operations may apply for OTECP for eligible expenses paid during the 2020, 2021 and 2022 fiscal years. For each year, OTECP covers 25% of a certified operation’s eligible certification expenses, up to $250 per certification category (crop, livestock, wild crop, handling and State Organic Program fee). This includes application fees, inspection fees, USDA organic certification costs, state organic program fees and more.
Crop and livestock operations transitioning to organic production may be eligible for 75% of a transitional operation’s eligible expenses, up to $750, for each year. This includes fees charged by a certifying agent or consultant for pre-certification inspections and development of an organic system plan.
For both certified operations and transitional operations, OTECP covers 75% of the registration fees, up to $200, per year, for educational events that include content related to organic production and handling in order to assist operations in increasing their knowledge of production and marketing practices that can improve their operations, increase resilience and expand available marketing opportunities. Additionally, both certified and transitional operations may be eligible for 75% of the expense of soil testing required under the National Organic Program (NOP) to document micronutrient deficiency, not to exceed $100 per year.
Applying for Assistance
Program Year 2022 covers expenses paid from October 1, 2021, through September 30, 2022. The application period for program year 2022 is May 16, 2022 to October 31, 2022. Producers apply through their local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office and can also obtain one-on-one support with applications by calling 877-508-8364. Visit farmers.gov/otecp to learn more.
Additional Organic Support
OTECP builds upon USDA’s Organic Certification Cost Share Program (OCCSP) which provides cost share assistance of 50%, up to a maximum of $500 per scope, to producers and handlers of agricultural products who are obtaining or renewing their certification under the NOP. This year’s application period for OCCSP ended Nov. 1, 2021.
Additionally, USDA’s Risk Management Agency announced improvements to the Whole-Farm Revenue Program including increasing expansion limits for organic producers to the higher of $500,000 or 35%. Previously, small and medium size organic operations were held to the same 35% limit to expansion as conventional practice producers. Also, producers can now report acreage as certified organic, or as acreage in transition to organic, when the producer has requested an organic certification by the acreage reporting date.
To learn more about USDA’s assistance for organic producers, visit usda.gov/organic.
October 31, 2022, is the last day to sign up for the USDA’s Organic Certification Cost Share Program (OCCSP).
OCCSP provides cost share assistance to producers and handlers of agricultural products who are obtaining or renewing their certification under the National Organic Program (NOP). Certified operations may receive up to 50 percent of their certification costs paid during the program year, not to exceed $500 per certification scope.
To learn more about USDA’s assistance for organic producers, visit usda.gov/organic.
The Southeast Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference is the largest educational conference and trade show in the southeastern United States that unites growers, vendors and suppliers.
January 6 is the deadline for applications to the USDA Food & Nutrition Service’s Farm to School grant program.
On an annual basis, USDA awards competitive Farm to School grants that support planning, developing, and implementing farm to school programs. USDA’s Farm to School grants are an important way to help state, regional, and local organizations as they initiate, expand, and institutionalize farm to school efforts.
For more than a quarter of a century, the National No-Tillage Conference has been providing the practical tips and information to run a more successful no-till operation.
The conference features 4 days of nonstop learning from leading no-tillers, agronomists, researchers and other no-till experts sharing innovative ideas that can help get the most out of no-till farming systems.
It offers a mix of General Sessions, expert-led No-Till Classrooms, and collaborative No-Till Roundtables. Plus, pesticide recertification and Certified Crop Advisor credits are available to qualifying attendees.
Just as important is the opportunity to profit from unlimited hallway networking with innovative and forward-thinking minds in no-till.
Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT) awards competitive grants of up to $3,000 to working, independent farmers located in the 50 United States and five major U.S. territories who raise beef cattle, bison, broiler chickens, dairy cows, ducks, geese, goats, laying hens, pigs, sheep and/or turkeys.
Applications must be submitted online by 11:59pm CT on January 10, 2023, to be considered for this round of funding. Grants will be awarded in March 2023.
Join the 2023 Great Plains Growers Conference January 13-14 in St. Joseph, MO. This 2-day conference attracts vegetable, fruit, cut flower and other specialty crop growers from Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska each year, including a variety of full and part time farm market and diversified horticulture producers.
Concurrent educational program tracks are offered throughout the conference addressing the following topics:
- Business Management/Marketing
- Tree Fruits
- Small Fruits
- Organic Farming
- Conventional Vegetable Production
- Greenhouse, High Tunnel & Hydroponic Production
- Vegetable Integrated Pest Management
High Plains Journal’s Soil Health U & Trade show will return to an in-person format for the first time since the start of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. The two-day event will be held Jan. 18-19 at the Tony’s Pizza Event Center in Salina, Kansas. Soil Health U is designed to provide attendees with a roadmap to better soil health and increase productivity and profitability. This event includes a diverse line-up of keynote speakers, educational breakout sessions, engaging panels and a tradeshow of soil health-adjacent exhibitors.
The keynote speakers are Jerry Hatfield, Ph.D., retired United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service laboratory director, and Jay Fuhrer, a conservationist employed by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Bismarck, North Dakota. Hatfield’s keynote, “What is the real value of soil carbon: Path toward increasing productivity and profitability,” will focus on increasing soil carbon for more efficient utilization of water and nutrients to increase profitability. Fuhrer’s keynote, “Rebuilding and maintaining soil life in the soil,” will delve into the increasing the longevity of soil, the damage landscape simplification can inflict and how to revitalize the soil to meet its potential for years to come.
Some of the breakout speakers include Macauley Kincaid, a farmer and soil health enthusiast from Missouri; Roy Pfaltzgraff of Pfaltzgraff Farms in Haxtun, Colorado; Trisha Jackson, Ph.D., director of regenerative agriculture at PrairieFood; Brian Alexander, host of the Ranching Reboot podcast; Cassidy Million, Ph.D., director of ag science at Heliae Agriculture; Kari Bigham, teaching assistant professor at Kansas State University; and Dr. Chris Grotegut, DVM, farmer, rancher and veterinarian. The topics covered in the educational sessions will include: cover crops, livestock, carbon, grazing, profitability and water management. There will also be opportunities for Certified Crop Adviser credits.
The Soil Health U & Trade Show event will also include Soil Health U awards, which will be presented on day one of the event. The awards include Regenerative Woman of the Year and Young Producer of the Year. Individuals that have made valuable contributions to regenerative agriculture can be nominated by visiting www.soilhealthu.net/award-nominations/ and filling out an online form. If selected, the recipients will be notified in advance and will receive two free registrations to attend the event, a one-year subscription to High Plains Journal, editorial coverage in the publication and recognition during the awards ceremony at Soil Health U.
This event also provides ample time to network with speakers, attendees and exhibitors at the trade show during the trade show hours and the Tailgate Social that closes out day one of the event.
This producer-initiated organic vegetable production conference is designed for advanced growers and attracts participants from throughout the Midwest and beyond. Participants who register by January 6 will receive a conference packet with handouts and swag through the mail BEFORE the conference. Those who register after January 6 may receive the packet before or AFTER the conference. All sessions will be over Zoom.