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Cost Share Programs Make Organic Certification Affordable

Cost Share Programs Make Organic Certification Affordable

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Cost-share programs aim to make organic certification more accessible for small organic growers across America

Smaller organic farms across America may have an easier time getting certified with the help of cost share programs.

As Americans become increasingly interested in organic produce options, support from the 2014 Farm Bill aims to widen the scope of organic certification, for farms of all sizes across the country. Cost share and assistance programs are now available to organic producers and handlers through the 2018 fiscal year, writes Miles McEvoy, deputy administrator of the National Organic Program, on the USDA blog.

Through funds administered by the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, small organic farms that need assistance can get 75 percent of the cost of each certification covered, up to a maximum of $750 annually per certification.

Beyond small farms, producers of all sizes can benefit from cost share programs by absorbing some of the cost of organic expansion. “Suppose a certified organic fruit and vegetable grower is interested in launching an organic processing operation,” writes McEvoy. “Cost share assistance can help by reducing the cost of broadening and expanding the scope of the farm and exploring new opportunities.”

So far, certification has helped organic farmers and businesses make $35 billion in annual sales, and increasing support for certification allows greater support for small organic growers with slim margins.

“The organic certification cost share program puts organic certification within reach for farms of all sizes,” said Liana Hoodes, executive director of the National Organic Coalition. “It is of great value to organic farmers and supports the integrity of the organic label.”

For the latest food and drink updates, visit our Food News page.

Karen Lo is an associate editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @appleplexy.

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Price Differences: Organic Versus Non-Organic Store Versus Farmers’ Market Publications The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener Fall 2011 Price Differences

In early 2011, a group of Colby College students surveyed prices for 21 organic and non-organic items at five grocery stores in Waterville. They found a wide range of differences, from 10 percent less for organic brown rice to 134 percent more for organic ground beef. The mean cost for organic items surveyed was 68 percent higher than for non-organic, although organic brown rice was cheaper on average and organic oatmeal cost an average of 16 cents per ounce, versus 17 cents for non-organic, a 6 percent difference.

MOFGA’s Public Policy Committee will use these data to continue to investigate opportunities for offering organic options to recipients of Maine’s Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition assistance. The program now allows purchase of organic produce, but multiple program constraints, including cost, prevent allowing purchase of organic items in other nutrition assistance categories, such as eggs, milk, cheese, juice and cereal.

Organic farmers might compare their prices when selling directly to consumers with those at grocery stores to counter the common argument that farmers’ market prices are high. For example, the Colby students found that organic lettuce cost an average $3.54 per head at the grocery store, while data for the May 2011 MOFGA Organic Price Report (, collected around the same time as the Colby data, show that organic lettuce sold by farmers through retail outlets, primarily farmers’ markets, cost an average $3.00 per head – 18 percent less than a head of organic lettuce at the grocery store.

Eggs also counter the idea that food at farmers’ markets costs much more than the same food at grocery stores. The May 2011 MOFGA Organic Price Report lists an average price of $4.40 for a dozen organic eggs, while the grocery store survey reports an average price of $4.18 per dozen, a mere 5 percent premium on organic eggs purchased directly from the farmer.

Similarly, an early 2011 report from the Northeast Organic Farmers Association of Vermont (NOFA-Vt.) said that for all except one organic item surveyed, the price was less at farmers’ markets than at grocery stores. (“Vermont Farmers’ Markets and Grocery Stores: A Price Comparison,”

Many qualities make certified organic food worth a premium price. For example, a growing body of research shows that organic foods tend to have higher concentrations of nutrients and antioxidants than conventionally grown foods. Instead of focusing on the price of organic food in conversations about buying organic, growers should instead focus on the value. Do your customers know what being certified organic means to you and to them? Tell your story and teach them what they’re getting for their money.

Whether motivated by benefits to their own health, or the health of the environment left to future generations, or any of a number of other motivating factors, an educated consumer who cares about the benefits of organic agriculture will buy organic whenever possible. For those who find eating an all-organic diet impractical or unaffordable, tools exist to help prioritize when to buy organic. The Environmental Working Group publishes an annual “Shoppers Guide to Pesticides” using pesticide residue testing data from the USDA and FDA to rank fresh produce items based on the extent of pesticide residue contamination ( And tools such as the price data from Colby, MOFGA and Vermont NOFA can help those who can’t afford an all-organic diet to plan meals around the most affordable organic – preferably local organic – foods.

Price per Unit for Non-organic and Organic Foods at Five Waterville Grocery Stores (based on data collected by Colby College students)

Buy in bulk.
Many products are sold at a discounted rate when they are purchased in bulk. Buy more organic and save!

Shop in season, then store for the off season.
Many products are less expensive when they are purchased in season. Whether you are buying a bathing suit or a bag of bing cherries, it’s worth it to see what’s in store in terms of deals on seasonal products. Organic produce is more affordable while in season, and holds its full nutritional benefits when frozen or stored for enjoying when not in season.

Investigate private label products.
More often thought of as "store brand"or "generic brand"products, private label products are a great place to start when you are looking to incorporate more organic into your life. Offering staple organic products at prices competitive with non-organic, brand-name products, they make buying organic an easy and affordable choice. They have also gone through the same rigorous USDA organic certification procedures as name brand organic products.

Plan for the month, not just the week.
By planning meals as far out as possible, you can curb your costs by finding multiple ways to incorporate organic spices, oils, nuts, dried beans, flour/grain, frozen produce and other ingredients many times over the month.

Cash in on coupons.
Coupons are a great way to save on many of your favorite organic products. Many manufacturers make printable coupons available on their websites. You can also ask your organic retailer about other products for which coupons are available.

Explore farm stands and farmers markets.
Farm stands and farmers markets are cropping up all over the country, offering competitive prices on a wide range of organic products.

Check out customer loyalty programs.
More and more retailers offer rewards programs for customer loyalty. These programs often allow you to earn points based on the purchases you make, which can then be used toward product discounts, free products, or other types of prizes.

Become a member of a CSA.
Community supported agriculture, or CSA, is emerging as a convenient and cost-effective way to buy organic products. A single CSA share can provide you with affordable access to a wide range of organic products split a share with a friend to make your investment even more budget-friendly!

Make a shopping list.
We're all tempted to make impulse buys when we're at the grocery store, but doing so can easily bust the budget. Instead, write up a list of the items you need and do your best to stick to it. You'll come home with the things you need and fewer (if any) of the things you don't.

Cook at home.
Eating out is a great treat, but doing it all the time can add up. Cooking at home can help to keep your budget in check and encourage you to explore the range of possibilities that exist using organic ingredients.

Join a buying club.
Many buyers clubs ship organic food wholesale to doorsteps – and many organic food producers and retailers’ websites and social outlets feature frequent coupons, offers and other incentives. Also, joining organic farm CSAs not only saves you money, but directly supports your local economy.

Choose organic versions of the products you use most.
To get the most benefit for your organic buck, try buying organic versions of the products you use most. Whether that is milk, produce, or personal care products, buying organic will not only help reduce your exposure to harmful synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, but also support a system of agricultural management that is great for the planet.

Booker Vineyard Achieves Top Level of Organic Certification

April 22nd – Paso Robles, CA—Booker Vineyard & Winery announced today that its 60-acre estate vineyard has received official certification from California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF), which oversees one of the nation’s most stringent and respected programs of its kind.

“We’ve been farming organically for 15 years because it’s the right thing to do,” said owner and winemaker Eric Jensen. “It’s who we are—we don’t expect anyone to consume something that we wouldn’t put into our own bodies. No one should have to wonder what’s in their bottle of wine.”

While Jensen began practicing organic farming in 2006, he eventually saw the merit in official certification as a means to reinforce his winery’s dedication to wellness and transparency. “Our aim is to be as transparent as possible about what goes into the making of our wines, and it became increasingly clear that CCOF certification makes it easier for us to do that,” he said.

CCOF is USDA accredited and is recognized as the leading organic certifier in North America. The certification process at Booker began early last year, when Jensen tapped cellarmaster Taylor Mathiesen to take the lead on the certification process. Mathiesen spent the past 12 months ensuring that Booker met all of the criteria and requirements necessary to earn certification.

“If we were starting from scratch, it would have been daunting,” Mathiesen said. “But because organic farming has been the Booker way for so many years, it all went smoothly.”

The CCOF certification validates Booker’s longtime practices. Any form of chemical poison, pesticide, herbicide or fungicide is disallowed at the Booker property. All soil amendments are certified organic and come from natural sources. Weed control is performed by mechanical means and by hand. Oil-based sprays for managing insects such as leafhoppers come from natural sources such as vegetables and minerals. Booker also employs biodynamic practices as an added means to stay in unison with the environment and its natural cycles, and the vineyard and winery are both powered by solar energy.

Booker’s estate wines are perennially acclaimed as among the finest in California. And when Jensen sources fruit from other westside Paso Robles growers for his “My Favorite Neighbor” and “Harvey & Harriet” brands, he holds them to a similar level of organic farming accountability. “Whether it’s our $98 estate-grown Fracture Syrah or our $30 Harvey & Harriet, the fruit is going to be held to similar organic farming standards,” Jensen said. “Our grower partners know the rules—no chemicals anywhere near our blocks.”

Jensen speaks passionately about how organic farming demands continual attentiveness and presence in the vineyard. “It’s a lot easier and more affordable to just go in and nuke your problems away, but I’d much rather be out there loving the land,” he said.

He added, “For every problem, there’s an organic solution. You have to work and think harder to find it, but that just makes you a better farmer and a better steward of the land.”

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The National Institute of Food and Agriculture administers federal funding to address food and agricultural issues through several funding mechanisms and works in a variety of areas.

Competitive grant programs enable NIFA, via a rigorous peer review process, to select the highest quality proposals from a large pool of institutions and organizations. Each competitive program may have different eligibility rules. The program lists below are split into Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) competitive programs and non-AFRI competitive programs.

Capacity grant programs ensure that the Land-Grant University System and other partners maintain the ability to conduct research and extension activities. These programs are intended for land-grant institutions, schools of forestry, and schools of veterinary medicine. Visit Capacity Grants for information about capacity grant programs administered by NIFA.

Non-competitive grant programs are directed by Congress to support designated institutions for research, education, or extension on topics of importance to a state or region.

Loan repayment is an area of funding where NIFA has a single program. The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program helps qualified veterinarians offset a significant portion of the debt incurred in pursuit of their veterinary medicine degrees in return for their service in certain high-priority veterinary shortage situations.

Operational areas are pages about areas that NIFA currently supports or has supported in the past. These pages may discuss topics that do not currently have any related NIFA grant programs open for applications.

You can explore the various grant and loan programs and operational areas by browsing the lists below. If you would like a consultation with a National Program Leader (NPL) to discuss your project’s potential fit to a program, visit our NPLs pages. To explore the NIFA grants process further, please visit our grants process page.


The Division of Plant Industry provides a broad array of programs and services related to crop production, environmental health, and export certification. We are committed to a better quality of life by serving the citizens of Colorado, improving the environment, providing consumer protection and assuring the integrity of agriculture and related industries.​

Emerald Ash Borer Program

Wondirad Gebru - Division Director
Phone: (303) 869-9052 Fax: (303) 466-2860

Laura Pottorff - Section Chief
Phone: (303) 869-9073 Fax: (303) 466-2860
Contact person for the Apiary Program.

Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey

Kristin Wolfe - Cooperative Pest Survey Coordinator
Phone: (303) 869-9076 Fax: (303) 466-2860
Contact person for Exotic Pest surveys and data.

Laura Pottorff - Section Chief
Phone: (303) 869-9073 Fax: (303) 466-2860
Contact person for Emerald Ash Borer program.

Laura Pottorff - Section Chief
Phone: (303) 869-9070 Fax: (303) 466-2860
Contact person for Phytosanitary Export Certificates, Plant Commodities, Seed, Produce and Plant Quarantines.

Cheryl Smith - Export Certification Specialist
Phone: (303) 869-9073 Fax: (303) 466-2860
Contact person for Phytosanitary Export Certificates, Plant Commodities, Seed and Produce.

Brian Allen - Administrative Assistant
Phone: (303) 869-9071 Fax: (303) 466-2860
Contact person for Applications for Phytosanitary Export Certificates and Certificates of Origin.

Ebony Ware - Administrative Assistant
Phone: (303) 869-9072 Fax: (303) 466-2860
Contact person for Applications for Phytosanitary Export Certificates and Certificates of Origin.

Email the Hemp Program Here: [email protected]

Aubrey Kukral - Hemp Program Administrative Assistant
Phone: (303) 869-9084 Fax: (303) 466-2860
General Program Information, Customer Service, Application Assistance

Sophia Manzo - Hemp Program Administrative Assistant
Phone: (303) 869-9080 Fax: (303) 466-2860
General Program Information, Customer Service, Planting & Harvest Reports, Application Assistance

Jessica Quinn - Registration and Compliance Coordinator
Phone: (303) 869-9055 Fax: (303) 466-2860
(Pre-Planting Inquiries) Registration, Application, Customer Service, Records Requests

Margaret Foderaro - Inspection and Outreach Coordinator
Phone: (303) 869-9078 Fax: (303) 466-2860
(Post-Planting Inquiries) Compliance Questions, Inspections, Planting & Harvest Reporting, Certified Hemp Seed, Outreach

Brian Koontz - Industrial Hemp Program Manager
Phone: (303) 869-9082 Fax: (303) 466-2860
Policy, Laws & Regulations

Laura Pottorff - Plant Health & Certification Section Chief
Phone: (303) 869-9070 Fax: (303) 466-2860
Policy, Laws & Regulations, Certified Seed, Seed & Nursery Law

Laura Pottorff - Section Chief
Phone: (303) 869-9070 Fax: (303) 466-2860

Cheryl Smith
Export/Import Certification Specialist
Phone: (303) 869-9073 Fax: (303) 466-2860
Contact person for Phytosanitary Export Certificates, Plant Commodities, Seed and Produce.

Laura Pottorff - Section Chief
Phone: (303) 869-9073 Fax: (303) 466-2860
Contact person for Contact for the Japanese Beetle Program. Quarantines Program Coordinator.

Laura Pottorff - Section Chief
Phone: (303) 869-9070 Fax: (303) 466-2860
Contact person for questions regarding the importation of plant commodities, interstate transport of house plants application and permits to move live plant pest and noxious weeds. Also for inspections for insect infestations and inspections for plant diseases.

cda_[email protected] - Administrative Assistant
Phone: (303) 869-9072 Fax: (303) 466-2860

Contact person for nursery registrations.

Organic Certification Program

Janis Kieft - Organic Program Manager
Phone: (303) 869-9074 Fax: (303) 466-2860
Contact person for certification questions and program information.

Alyssa Mack - Organic Certification Specialist
Phone: (303) 869-9075 Fax (303) 466-2860
Contact person for certification questions and inspections.

Ebony Ware - Administrative Assistant
Phone: (303) 869-9072 Fax: (303) 466-2860
Contact person for questions about invoices and renewal documents.

Pesticides Applicator Program

John Scott - Pesticide Programs Section Chief
Phone: (303) 869-9056 Fax: (303) 466-2860
Contact person for Pesticide policy and rules development and Pesticides program oversight.

Matthew Lopez - Enforcement Manager
Phone: (303) 869-9058 Fax: (303) 466-2860
Contact person for complaints of pesticide misapplications.

Neal Kittelson - Pesticide Applicator Coordinator
Phone: (303) 869-9063 Fax: (303) 466-2860
Certification and Training program administrator, Continuing education credit workshops approval, Questions on the Pesticide Applicator Act licensure requirements.

Adam Overton - Enforcement Specialist
Phone: (303) 869-9059 Fax: (303) 466-2860
Contact person for complaints of pesticide misapplication, and worker protection standard related issues.

Margie Ortega - Administrative Assistant
Phone: (303) 869-9057 Fax: (303) 466-2860

Carol Barton - Administrative Assistant (Commercial business applicator license and Pesticide sensitivity registry)
Phone: (303) 869-9066 Fax: (303) 466-2860
Contact person for business applicator licenses, registration of limited commercial pesticide applicators and pesticide sensitive registry information.

Charles Smith - Administrative Assistant (Personal License and Applicator Testing)
Phone: (303) 869-9065 Fax: (303) 466-2867
Contact person for the certified operator and qualified supervisor licenses and exams, licensing and examination guide, qualified supervisor licenses, and exams, continuing education workshops, continuing education credits required for license renewal and commercial pesticide applicator workshops.

Connie Yeisley - Administrative Assistant (Private applicator licensing)
Phone: (303) 869-9064 Fax: (303) 466-2867
Contact person for private applicator licensing and registration.

Laura Quakenbush - Pesticide Registration Coordinator
Phone: (303) 869-9060
Contact person for complaints regarding pesticide sales and distribution and questions regarding pesticide labels, and questions regarding Pesticide Act requirements, including inspections and enforcement.

Beth Bramer - Administrative Assistant
Phone: (303) 869-9061
Contact person for questions about pesticide product registration.

Restricted Use Pesticide Dealer Licensing

Laura Quakenbush - Pesticide Registration Coordinator
Phone: (303) 869-9060 Fax: (303) 466-2860
Contact person for questions about Pesticide dealer licensing.

Seed Potato/Late Blight Quarantine

Cheryl Smith - Program Manager
Phone: (303) 869-9073 Fax: (303) 466-2860
Contact person for the Seed Potato program and the Late Blight Quarantine.

Laura Pottorff - Section Chief
Phone: (303) 869-9070 Fax: (303) 466-2860


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