Small and Minority Farm Program - Frequently Asked Questions
What is the definition of a farm?
A farm is a tract of land cultivated for the purpose of agricultural production. A farm is classified of having $1,000 or more of agricultural products being produced or sold. A Small Farm according to USDA census is a farm that is 179 acres or less in size, or earns $50,000 or less in gross income per year.
Is there seed money available to get me started?
There are no monies allocated to get a person started in farming but farm loans. They can be received through the Farm Service agency, farm credit or your local bank. There are grants available but not for start up costs.
Are there grants available to help me get started ?
Several organizations offer grants during different times of the year for different purposes. Check these sites for more information:
What is land use tax & how does it affect me as a landowner?
Land use tax assesses the real estate base on the “use value” instead of “fair market value”. “Use value” is the agricultural productive potential of the land. This gives the landowner a reduction in his or her real estate taxes.
How do I become a certified organic grower?
Organic production is a system that is managed in accordance with the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990 (PDF) and regulations in Title 7, Part 205 of the Code of Federal Regulations to respond to site-specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. The National Organic Program (NOP) develops, implements, and administers national production, handling, and labeling standards: A definition from The National Organic Program/USDA
The purpose of certification is to enable an organic grower to market his/her product as organic with the recognition and enforcement of the USDA National Organic Program.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) accredits state, private, and foreign organizations or persons to become "certifying agents." Certifying agents certify that organic production and handling practices meet the national standards.
Who needs to be certified?
Operations or portions of operations that produce or handle agricultural products that are intended to be sold, labeled, or represented as "100 percent organic," "organic," or "made with organic ingredients" or food group(s).
Who does NOT need to be certified?
Producers and handling (processing) operations that sell less than $5,000 a year in organic agricultural products. Although exempt from certification, these
producers and handlers must abide by the national standards for organic products and may label their products as organic. Handlers, including final retailers, that:
- Do not process or repackage products;
- Only handle products with less than 70 percent organic ingredients;
- Process or prepare, on the premises of the establishment, raw and ready-to-eat food labeled organic;
- Choose to use the word organic only on the information panel; and
- Handle products that are packaged or otherwise enclosed in a container prior to being received by the operation and remain in the same package.
How do farmers and handlers become certified?
An applicant must submit specific information to an accredited certifying agent.
Information must include:
- The type of operation to be certified;
- A history of substances applied to land for the previous 3 years;
- The organic products being grown, raised, or processed;
- The organic system plan (OSP) – a plan describing practices and substances used in production. The OSP also must describe monitoring practices to be performed to verify that the plan is effectively implemented, a record-keeping system, and practices to prevent commingling of organic and nonorganic products and to prevent contact of products with prohibited substances. Applicants for certification must keep accurate post-certification records for 5 years concerning the production, harvesting, and handling of agricultural products that are to be sold as organic. These records must document that the operation is in compliance with the regulations and verify the information provided to the certifying agent. Access to these records must be provided to authorized representatives of USDA, including the certifying agent.
Inspection and certification process
Certifying agents review applications for certification eligibility. A qualified inspector conducts an on-site inspection of the applicant's operation. Inspections
are scheduled when the inspector can observe the practices used to produce or handle organic products and talk to someone knowledgeable about the operation. The certifying agent reviews the information submitted by the applicant and the inspector's report. If this information demonstrates that the applicant
is complying with the relevant standards and requirements, the certifying agent grants certification and issues a certificate. Certification remains in effect
until terminated, either voluntarily or through the enforcement process.
Annual inspections are conducted of each certified operation, and updates of information are provided annually to the certifying agent in advance of
conducting these inspections. Certifying agents must be notified by a producer or handler immediately of any changes affecting an operation's compliance
with the regulations, such as application of a prohibited pesticide to a field.
Compliance review and enforcement measures
The regulations permit USDA or the certifying agent to conduct unannounced inspections at any time to adequately enforce the regulations. Certifying agents
and USDA may also conduct pre- or postharvest testing if there is reason to believe that an agricultural input or product has come into contact with a prohibited substance or been produced using an excluded method. Updated April 2008
Reprinted from the National Organic Program website www.ams.usda.gov/nop.
Certification Cost Share
The NCDA&CS will pay 75 percent of the cost of certification up to a maximum of $750 to the grower for any certification occurring between Oct. 1, 2009 and Sept. 30, 2010. Funding for this program comes from a USDA grant to the NCDA & CS. The assistance is available on a first come first serve basis until the funds are depleted. To apply for Certification Cost Share visit: www.ncdaorganic.org.