The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced that approximately $11.9 million in organic certification assistance is available through state departments of agriculture to make organic certification more affordable for organic producers and handlers across the country.

"The organic industry saw record growth in 2014, accounting for over $39 billion in retail sales in the United States," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "The organic certification cost share programs help more organic businesses succeed and take advantage of economic opportunities in this growing market."

The funding is provided on a cost share basis and certification assistance is distributed by two programs. Through the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program, $11 million is available to organic farms and businesses nationwide. Through the Agricultural Management Assistance Organic Certification Cost Share Program (AMA), an additional $900,000 is available to organic producers (crop and livestock operators only) in Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Funded by the 2014 Farm Bill, these programs provide cost share assistance to USDA certified organic producers and handlers, covering as much as 75 percent of an individual applicant's certification costs, up to a maximum of $750 annually per certification scope. In 2014, USDA issued nearly 10,000 reimbursements totaling over $6 million, providing critical support to the organic community.

To receive cost share assistance, certified organic producers and handlers should contact their appropriate state agencies via the contact information on the National Organic Program's (NOP) cost share website: www.ams.usda.gov/NOPCostSharing. Each state has its own guidelines and requirements for reimbursement, and NOP assists states to successfully implement the programs. Applicants for cost share assistance through the AMA program are encouraged to apply early, as these funds are only available through Sept. 30, 2015.

USDA connects organic farmers and businesses with resources that will ensure the continued growth of the organic industry domestically and abroad. During this Administration, USDA has signed four major organic trade arrangements and has helped organic stakeholders access programs that support conservation, provide access to loans and grants, fund organic research and education, and mitigate pest emergencies. The NOP upholds the integrity of the organic label and has helped the sector grow to include over 27,000 businesses around the world.

Today's announcement was made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill, which builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill. Additional information is available on the NOP's website at www.ams.usda.gov/NOPCostSharing.

The NOP is responsible for ensuring the integrity of USDA organic agricultural products in the United States and throughout the world. Find out more about organic certification by visiting www.ams.usda.gov/nop.