The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced that it will provide pandemic assistance to cover certification and education expenses to agricultural producers who are certified organic or transitioning to organic. USDA will make $20 million available through the new Organic and Transitional Education and Certification Program (OTECP) as part of USDA’s broader Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative, which provides new, broader and more equitable opportunities for farmers, ranchers and producers.

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.

“Producers and handlers of organic commodities incur significant costs to obtain or renew organic certification each year,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The economic challenges that arose due to the pandemic made obtaining and renewing organic certification financially challenging for many operations. This is one more instance of USDA continuing to provide support for those who need it most, invest in the food supply chain and Build Back Better.”

Certified operations and transitional operations may apply for OTECP for eligible expenses paid during the 2020, 2021 and 2022 fiscal years. Read the full USDA Farm Services Agency announcement for full details on how to apply.