Organic Certification Cost Share Program at Risk in 2018 Farm Bill


What is Organic Certification Cost-Share?

USDA Certified Organic farmers and handlers must go through a rigorous third-party certification process each year. Two federal programs, the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP) and the Agricultural Management Assistance Act (AMA) provide organic farmers with modest reimbursement of up to $750 to cover a portion of their annual certification fees.

At this time, only the NOCCSP is available to certified operations in North and South Carolina.

The NOCCSP, which was enacted as Section 10606 of the 2002 Farm Bill and reauthorized through the 2008 and 2014 Farm Bills, provides organic certification cost share for organic farmers in states not covered by the above-mentioned AMA program and for organic handlers in all states. The NOCCSP has operated through State Departments of Agriculture and is also available through the Farm Service Agency (FSA).

Why is Organic Certification Cost-Share Important?

If you’re an organic farmer—you already know. This is money in your pocket that you need to use for equipment repairs, new tools, and on-farm innovation instead of certification fees.

If you’re an eater and advocate of organic food—third-party organic certification is critical to maintaining consistency in the application of organic standards, meeting consumer expectations, and ensuring the integrity of the trusted USDA Organic brand. However, the growing costs of annual certification can be prohibitive for some organic operations, especially those of small to medium scale. The NOCCSP helps to partially offset these costs, and as such it has been instrumental in the decisions of many farmers to both initially seek organic certification and to remain certified as organic. This has helped to keep many small and medium-sized farms in business—farms that many of us depend on for healthy, sustainably-grown food.

The Current Situation

Will the NOCCSP Be Reauthorized in the 2018 Farm Bill?

We hope so, and CFSA is working hard to make sure this happens. But now that Congress has begun the process of drafting the 2018 Farm Bill, our friends at the National Organic Coalition in Washington, DC have learned that the NOCCSP is at serious risk of being eliminated.

Take Action

What can you do to help? 

Call your Representative and Senators TODAY to voice your support for organic certification cost share!

(1) If you don’t know which member of Congress represents you, find out here.

(2) Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

(3) Press “2” to reach the House of Representatives or “1” to reach the Senate.

(4) Enter your zip code to be directed to your Representative or Senator’s office. 

(5) Ask to speak to the agriculture staffer. Here are some possible talking points:

  • I’m calling as a constituent and [an organic farmer] / [a supporter of organic agriculture].
  • I am calling to urge Representative/Senator ______ to voice strong support for organic certification cost-share in the next Farm Bill.
  • This program helps Organic [farmers like me] / [farmers I depend on] stay in business and keep jobs here in our local economy.
  • My farm depends on cost share certification because_____________.
  • I depend on farms that produce organic food in my community because____________.
  • Please support the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program in the Farm Bill! 

It’ll only take 5 minutes and it can make a difference!
Once you’ve made the call or sent you email, let us know by clicking the button. This helps us track which issues matter to our members.

2017 CFSA Award Winners

CFSA was thrilled to present this year’s awards at the 32nd Annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference in Durham, NC.  These organizations and individuals have made outstanding contributions to the sustainable food movement in North and South Carolina and have helped make the Carolinas one of the fastest growing sustainable agricultural sectors in the country.

Organization of the Year:  Midlands Food Alliance

2017 Organization of the Year: Midlands Food Alliance

2017 Organization of the Year: Midlands Food Alliance

The Midlands Food Alliance is this year’s winner of the Organization of the Year award. Working for a resilient local food system that ensures all residents of the Midlands region have access to healthy and affordable food produced with dignity while providing a healthy and sustainable living for farmers and protecting our environment, the Midlands Food Alliance has been able to create a support system and network in their short history. Accomplishments include organizing events such as a farmer/chef “mash-up,” creating a local food and farm guide, and advocating for the creation of the Columbia Food Policy Committee, the first municipal food policy council in South Carolina.

Farmers of the Year: Kim and Kevin Meehan of Turtle Run Farm

2017 Farmers of the Year: Turtle Run Farm

2017 Farmers of the Year: Turtle Run Farm

Kim and Kevin Meehan of Saxapahaw, NC’s Turtle Run Farm have been innovative leaders in sustainable farming in North Carolina for over 20 years. In addition to being outstanding vegetable growers, they are enthusiastic advocates for the local farming community, as an energetic engineer and inventor, and an extraordinary sharer of knowledge on a variety of essential farm building, mechanical, and repair skills. You would be hard-pressed to find a farm in the region that hasn’t benefited from their sharing nature.

Beginning Farmers of the Year: William Lyons and Marie Williamson, Bluebird Farm

2017 Beginning Farmers of the Year: Bluebird Farm

2017 Beginning Farmers of the Year: Bluebird Farm

William Lyons and Marie Williamson, of Bluebird Farm in Morganton, NC were honored with the Beginning Farmers of the Year award. As owners of a small, diversified livestock and vegetable farm, they are providing their community with the best vegetables, meats, and eggs money can buy relying on techniques that improve the health of the soil and farm ecosystem. They are also training the next generation of farmers by offering apprenticeship opportunities to aspiring farmers.

Business of the Year: Swamp Rabbit Cafe

2017 Business of the Year: Swamp Rabbit Cafe

2017 Business of the Year: Swamp Rabbit Cafe

The Business of the Year is the Swamp Rabbit Cafe, a Greenville, SC store that has helped transform the local food scene in the region since opening in 2011. Owners Mary Walsh and Jacqueline Oliver have prioritized local farmers and food businesses, regularly purchasing from over 200 local providers and are now expanding their offerings with a butchery.

Activist of the Year: Shorlette Ammons

2017 Activist of the Year: Shorlette Ammons

2017 Activist of the Year: Shorlette Ammons

Shorlette Ammons is this 2017 Activist of the Year, awarded in part for her work with the Center for Environmental Farming Systems as the Community Food Systems Farming Systems. Shorlette has worked with an urban farm in Goldsboro, NC, on food access, justice, and equity projects. Through her racial equity work, Shorlette has combined grassroots advocacy with exemplary leadership to demonstrate how systematic change can take place.

2017 Extension Educators of the Year: Jim Hamilton and Millie Davenport

2017 NC Extension Educator of the Year: Jim Hamilton

2017 NC Extension Educator of the Year: Jim Hamilton

South Carolina Sustainable Agriculture Extension Agent of the Year: Millie Davenport

South Carolina Sustainable Agriculture Extension Agent of the Year: Millie Davenport

The 2017 Extension Educators of the Year were presented in cooperation with Cooperative Extension. The NC Extension Educator of the Year is Jim Hamilton, County Extension Director of Watauga County, and Millie Davenport, area consumer horticulture agent and director of the Clemson Home and Garden Information Center was named the South Carolina Sustainable Agriculture Agent of the Year.


The Local Food and Regional Market Supply Act of 2017


The Local Food and Regional Market Supply (FARMS) Act of 2017 (S.1947 / H.R.3941) was introduced by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), and Sean Maloney (D-NY). The bill would support the continued expansion of new market opportunities for American family farmers by:

  • Helping farmers reach new markets through outreach, cost-share, and technical assistance programs
  • Increasing access to fresh, healthy, local food among low-income groups and communities in need
  • Developing new and strengthening existing infrastructure that connects producers to consumers

The Local FARMS Act is a priority for the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association because the bill recognizes the vast, untapped potential in our farming and food producing communities and offers ways to transform that potential into economic prosperity. The Local FARMS Act means opportunity for farmers in the Carolinas, as well as increased access to fresh, healthy foods for families across both states.

Click here for a summary of The Local FARMS Act and here for a more detailed outline, both from our friends at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, of which CFSA is a member.

The Current Situation

Oct 4, 2017
The Local FARMS Act was introduced in the House and Senate.

Take Action

Oct 11, 2017

Will you ask your legislator to co-sponsor this bill today?

Take Action! Call Congress TODAY!

No matter where you live, you can help! Please call your Representative and both of your Senators and ask them to cosponsor The Local FARMS Act.

To find the contact information for your Representative, please click here. Below are contacts for Senators from both states.

Senator Richard Burr (R-NC)
DC Office: 202-224-3154

Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC)
DC Office: 202-224-6342

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
DC Office: 202-224-5972

Senator Tim Scott (R-SC)
DC Office: 202-224-6121

Here is some sample language that you can use for your call (or make up your own!):

“Hello, my name is ____________ and I am a constituent and a voter (tell ‘em if you’re a farmer!). I support local farmers, and I want good food in my community. Please co-sponsor The Local FARMS Act (S.1947 and H.R.3941) today!”

Thanks for speaking out! Making a call will take under five minutes and actually makes a difference. If you feel nervous, or want to prepare for a phone call, CFSA has a quick video on how to call your legislators.

Thanks for all that you do,
The CFSA Policy Team

Let us know if you make the call:

Farm Bill History

The first farm bill – the Agricultural Adjust Act of 1933 (each farm bill has its own name) – was created to address low commodity prices, national hunger, soil erosion and a lack of credit. Legislation was passed sporadically until farm bills were passed in more regular intervals beginning in 1965. Unfortunately, many of the original programs that were designed to ensure that there was healthy food for all and fair prices for farmers, have been stripped away or replaced with programs that benefit corporate interests over the interests of farmers and eaters.

The 2008 documentary Food Fight provides a substantial look at the evolution of American agricultural policy and food culture over the course of the 20th century.

Constructing a High Tunnel on Your Farm

High Tunnel Bows

Constructed high tunnel bows

CFSA’s Lomax Farm was awarded an NRCS-EQIP contract for a high tunnel through the High Tunnel Systems Initiative. Construction began during CFSA’s High Tunnel Construction Field Day at Lomax Farm on October 3, 2017.

The Lomax Farm staff documented the process, from applying for the NRCS grant to beginning construction of the high tunnel. If you are thinking about applying for funding for an NRCS-EQIP high tunnel, here is what you need to know.

Learn More

The Federal Budget Process: How The United States Allocates Spending on Federal Programs and Services


The formulation of the federal budget is an annual process that involves Congress, the White House and all federal agencies. Congress does not approve a single budget. “The federal budget” is instead composed of many pieces of legislation. While there is no single federal budget, there is an annual process that sets in motion multiple routes for spending prioritization and authorization. This entire process is often contentious and many factors come into play as Congress determines how it will prioritize government spending for the upcoming year. This year is unique because President Trump has proposed significant and severe spending cuts to most federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture and food safety programs implemented by the Food and Drug Administration. There is bipartisan concern about the president’s proposed budget, with many members of Congress worrying that his proposal could harm the country’s farm economy.

Learn More


Showing Up and Speaking Up – CFSA Advocacy Work Makes a Difference


By Stephanie Campbell, CFSA’s Outreach Coordinator

Kat Spann of Prodigal Farm in Rougemont, NC, knows first-hand how important it is for our legislators to hear our stories and see the direct impact their policies have on their constituents and the communities they represent.

“We all need to work as a team with CFSA,” she says, “being willing to step up and do something – attend Ag Day and other local, county and state agricultural gatherings, send an email, make a phone call, and, sometimes, show our face.”

Kat encourages us all to “be authentically yourself and tell your own story.” She tells her own story of the day she was all dressed up to speak before the Durham County Commissioners about zoning ordinances for farmers markets. While waiting for their issue to come up on the agenda, she was called back to the farm to care for a doe having trouble delivering her kids.

A couple hours later, after suffering her only loss of a doe during birthing, she checked back in and found that the Commissioners had not yet gotten to her item on the agenda. She decided to head back to the meeting and speak, covered in manure, urine, placenta, and her own tears because “this is what farmers look like.”

Spann-EOY-2015 - GIVEIt was a powerful image. Farmers are often out of sight and out of mind for elected leaders. It is up to us to put a face on the issues that affect farmers. Many elected officials don’t know a farmer, but we can change that.

CFSA staff, members, partners and friends work together to advocate for fair farm and food policies. We work to change agriculture laws and regulations to benefit local and organic small and mid-sized farms.

Kat’s advocacy work isn’t new for her. When Kat and partner, Dave Krabbe, moved to the farm from New York City, they learned that a biocontainment laboratory for the study of diseases that threaten both America’s animal agricultural industry and public health was planned to be built down the road from the farm. This was alarming since it would put research on diseases which have no current cure or treatment right in their community. Plans for the farm were put on hold as they spent more than a year in full-time grassroots advocacy and lobbying. Some of the lessons learned were how important research, verification and credibility are for successful opposition as well as showing legislators the real impact of an action on the constituency they serve.

Prodigal Farm was established by Kat Spann and Dave Krabbe in 2007 and has grown toProdigal Farms (21) become an Animal Welfare Approved goat farm and licensed farmstead cheese dairy. Kat names each of their kids each spring – 175 this year – and knows most of them by name and personality. Building and licensing their milking and production facility was another opportunity for policy, advocacy and lobbying work, this time on issues of appropriate dairy waste systems. Kat eventually spoke before the House and Senate Ag Committee which resulted in the introduction of a scale-appropriate law which now is beneficial to goat and cow dairies, as well as wineries, pickle making, and other value-added farm businesses.

“We all need to work as a team with CFSA,” she says, “being willing to step up and do something – attend Ag Day and other local, county and state agricultural gatherings, send an email, make a phone call, and, sometimes, show our face.”

Kat, along with her senior farm hand Will Bahr, Genell Pridgen of Rainbow Meadow Farm, and Suzanne Nelson of Haw River Ranch, were recognized by CFSA this year for hand-delivering a letter signed by 40 farmers to Gov. McCrory in opposition to House Bill 405 (known as the Ag Gag bill). Kat insists that she didn’t “do much” in this case but again emphasizes that each farmer must be willing to step up and do something.

For Kat, CFSA is an essential part of the team farmers need. Farmers have little time to read the full legal briefs and parse the nuances of the regulations but they do care passionately about the outcomes. So does CFSA.

CFSA staff can do the research, develop the connections, and build the relationships to provide the strong foundation farmers need on which to do their part. Kat reminds us “CFSA knows when our stories need telling – and our role is to show up and speak up!”

Prodigal Farm is a finalist in the national Good Food Awards – read more here.

Read more about the advocacy work of CFSA at www.carolinafarmstewards.org/advocacy/

Your gift to CFSA is one of the best ways you can support local farmers and champion food that is good for consumers, good for farmers and farmworkers, and good for the land.

Please give today.

You can donate online at /give

or mail a check to CFSA, PO Box 448, Pittsboro, NC 27312


Family Farm in South Carolina Increases Market Sales with Organic Certification


By Stephanie Campbell, CFSA’s Outreach Coordinator

When Lisa Rees and her husband, Taylor, moved back to their family land in 2013, their neighbors warned them, “You can’t grow organically down here.” The admonitions didn’t stop Lisa and Taylor of Five Forks Sustainable Farm LLC in Pageland, SC. In 2014, Lisa received a Dow Scholarship to the CFSA Sustainable Agriculture Conference. Then, in just two years, with the expert technical assistance of CFSA Farm Services staff, Five Forks Farm has completed a Conservation Activity Plan (CAP) and an Organic Certification Transition Plan.


“We got our organic certification in August, and our sales at the Farmers’ Market increased by six-fold this week!” shared Lisa. “Thanks for all of your help and advice . . . I’m sure we would not have come this far without the help of CFSA!” Lisa and Taylor have big plans for their farm in the next ten years. Although they are currently farming only about two acres of vegetables and fruits, their 382 acres was part of an original land grant from King George and they hope to pass on a family legacy of healthy, natural, beautiful land producing an alternative to conventional agriculture. Lisa’s grandfather raised beef cattle on the land from the 1930s to the 1990s. “When he passed away the farm was just left to die,” said Lisa.

“Since there are not many organic farmers in our area the network of CFSA farmers has been a lifeline for us. We don’t feel so alone and we have a wealth of resources and farming friends to draw on and learn from.”

Lisa and Taylor spent 30 years living and working in Boone, NC, where they supported the progressive farming community there. Lisa is a CPA and Taylor worked as a truck driver. A visit to the homestead in Pageland for a holiday a few years ago renewed their appreciation for the abundance of the land and their commitment to family, healthy food, and stewardship of their family legacy.

When considering a move back to the family farm, they were excited to learn that CFSA serves both North and South Carolina. They took advantage of workshops, resources, and building connections to other sustainable farming members. To prepare for the move and beginning farming, they also interned on a local farm, learned how to process chickens and visited Polyface Farm in Virginia. CFSA staff helped the Rees’ complete a Conservation Action Plan for the farm and become Certified Organic.

Lisa credits their success at the Union County Farmers’ Market in Monroe to CFSA advice and encouragement. As they continue to learn and grow, their plans over the next few years include expanding the market garden, raising heritage pastured hogs and poultry, and returning cattle to the land in rotational grazing. “Since there are not many organic farmers in our area,” says Lisa, “the network of CFSA farmers has been a lifeline for us. We don’t feel so alone and we have a wealth of resources and farming friends to draw on and learn from.”

Read more about CFSA Farmer Services at:  www.carolinafarmstewards.org/farm-services/ Your gift to CFSA is one of the best ways you can support local farmers and champion food that is good for consumers, good for farmers and farmworkers, and good for the land.

Please give today.

You can donate online at /give

or mail a check to CFSA, PO Box 448, Pittsboro, NC 27312