(Jan. 15, 1:14 p.m.) California Certified Organic Farmers is helping its members access government funds to assist with certification costs.

The Santa Cruz, Calif.-based organic certifier has devoted a section of its Web site to helping organic producers access funds allocated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Certification Cost Share Program. Because California is one of only two states to have a state organic program, allocation of these funds is being handled by that program. The state organic program is a division of the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

The site, www.ccof.org/costshare.php, includes:

  • a link to the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s cost share announcement;

  • downloadable cost share application packages;

  • forms for verification of organic certification costs with CCOF;

  • step-by-step instructions on how to apply for the government funds; and

  • a link to the USDA’s Cost Share Program Web site, which provides instructions for producers from outside California.

The guide also provides contact information for Claudia Reid, policy director at CCOF. Peggy Miars, executive director, said Reid’s new position is one of the biggest assets for the organization’s members.

“It’s a position we created last year,” Miars said. “She stays on top of everything from the farm bill to other legislation, and they can email her if they need help.”

The purpose of the guide to the cost sharing program is not only to be a benefit to CCOF’s members but also to help grow the organic marketplace overall, Miars said.

“The more we can help, the better it is for producers and customers and everyone.”

The USDA’s Cost Share Program reimburses producers for up to 75% of their organic certification costs, up to $750. While there is no deadline to apply, money is awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis. A nationwide total of $22 million was allocated to the program the 2008-09 fiscal year.

In another effort to provide financial assistance to its members, CCOF awarded $15,000 in disaster relief funding to 22 companies in December. This is the third consecutive year the organization has allocated funds for disaster relief.

Miars said toward the end of every year, CCOF administrators evaluate the budget and decide an amount, if any, that can be committed to disaster relief funding. They announced the 2008 program at the beginning of November and gave members about a month to apply.

CCOF certifies in 35 states and 4 countries, so its membership benefits are not exclusive to California organic growers, Miars said.

(Web Editor's note on correction: When posted Jan. 15, this article listed an incorrect total for the amount of countries in which CCOF certifies. The error has since been corrected).