Are you a producer or handler of agricultural commodities that are certified organic? Or, are you transitioning your operation to certified organic? You may be eligible for financial assistance to cover expenses paid during fiscal year 2022 through USDA’s Organic and Transitional Education and Certification Program (OTECP). This program is part of USDA’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative.
The signup period for USDA’s Organic and Transitional Education and Certification Program (OTECP) ended on October 31, 2022.
How the Organic and Transitional Education and Certification Program Works
During the COVID-19 pandemic, certified organic and transitional operations faced loss of markets, increased costs, labor shortages, and expenses related to obtaining or renewing their organic certification. Transitional operations also faced the financial challenge of implementing practices required to obtain organic certification without the premium prices associated with certified organic commodities.
- OTECP provides up to $20 million to reimburse agricultural producers and handlers who are certified organic and crop and livestock producers who are transitioning to organic for eligible expenses incurred during fiscal years 2020, 2021, and/or 2022.
- Certified and transitional operations may apply for OTECP for eligible expenses paid during FY 2020, 2021, and 2022.
- Program Year 2020 covers expenses paid from October 1, 2019, through September 30, 2020 and the application period is November 8, 2021 through February 4, 2022.
- Program Year 2021 covers expenses paid from October 1, 2020, through September 30, 2021 and the application period is November 8, 2021 through February 4, 2022.
- Program Year 2022 covers expenses paid from October 1, 2021, through September 30, 2022 and the application period will begin on May 16, 2022.
Please click below to learn more about specific eligible expenses and payments for your operation type.
All OTECP applicants must report any previous cost share assistance received for the expenses included on their application, excluding payments through USDA’s Organic Certification Cost Share Program (OCCSP). The following payment limitations are in place:
- For crop, livestock, wild crop, handling, and State organic program fees, the applicant’s OTECP payment plus the reported additional cost share assistance cannot exceed the portion of the expenses not covered by OCCSP. For program year 2022, OCCSP covered 50 percent of an applicant’s eligible certification expenses, up to $500 per category.
- For transitional expenses, soil testing, and educational event registration fees, the applicant’s OTECP payment plus any additional cost share assistance cannot exceed the total amount of eligible expenses.
FSA will issue payments after the end of the application period for each fiscal year. OTECP payments will be prorated if calculated payments exceed the amount of available funding.
Eligibility requirements for OTECP applicants are outlined below. We recommend you review these requirements before initiating your OTECP application.
To be eligible for OTECP, an applicant must:
- Have paid eligible expenses during fiscal year 2022. Expenses paid before October 1, 2019 will not be eligible for OTECP. Similarly, expenses that have been incurred by the applicant, but have not yet been paid, will not be eligible.
- Be either a certified operation or a crop or livestock transitional operation at the time of application. Operations with suspended, revoked, denied, or withdrawn USDA organic certifications at the time of application are ineligible for OTECP.
Please note, eligible expenses for OTECP are available by clicking the boxes above. Operations that incurred eligible expenses prior to organic certification but became certified prior to the end of the fiscal year may not receive cost share for the same expense as both a certified and a transitional operation.
Visit farmers.gov/otecp/faq for a list of expenses that are considered ineligible for this program. The FSA notice for OTECP is also available 2022 Organic and Transitional Education and Certification Program (OTECP) Signup.
Apply for the Organic and Transitional Education and Certification Program
The application period for program year 2022 is May 16, 2022 to October 31, 2022.
Eligible agricultural producers and handlers can apply for OTECP by working directly with the FSA office at their local USDA Service Center. Applications will be accepted via mail, fax, hand delivery, or electronic means.
Alternatively, producers with an eAuthentication account could have applied for OTECP via our OTECP Application Portal. Applications were completed, electronically signed, and submitted directly to your local USDA Service Center through this online system. Please reference our OTECP Application Portal User Guide for additional information, including step-by-step application instructions. Producers interested in creating an eAuthentication account should visit farmers.gov/sign-in to learn more.
The following forms are needed to apply for OTECP:
- FSA-883, Organic and Transitional Education and Certification Program (OTECP) Application: This form includes a certification of the applicant’s status as a certified operation or transitional operation and their eligible expenses. Please refer to our OTECP application instructions.
- AD-2047, Customer Data Worksheet: This form will be required if not already on file with FSA and documents personal information that positively identifies the customer. Existing customers can also use this form to update their customer profile.
- SF-3881, ACH Vendor/Miscellaneous Payment Enrollment Form: This form will be required if not already on file with FSA and will be used to collect your banking information to allow USDA to make payments to you via direct deposit.
Please note that applicants may be required to provide additional documentation to FSA, if necessary, to verify eligibility or issue payment.
You are encouraged to contact the FSA office at your local USDA Service Center with any questions about OTECP, program eligibility, or the application process. You may also call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to provide one-on-one assistance.
- Frequently Asked Questions about the Organic and Transitional Education and Certification Program
- Notice of Funds Availability: Organic and Transitional Education and Certification Program
- Organic and Transitional Education and Certification Program Fact Sheet in English
- Stakeholder Toolkit: Organic and Transitional Education and Certification Program
- Organic and Transitional Education and Certification Program Eligible Expenses Infographic
- Video Recording: FSA Webinar on OTECP, OCCSP, and Organic Buffers
- USDA’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers Initiative
- National Organic Program (NOP)
- Organic Certification Cost Share Program (OCCSP)
- USDA Organic Webpage
- Farmers.gov Organic Farmers Webpage
- November 4, 2021: News Release: USDA Builds Pandemic Support for Certified Organic and Transitioning Operations
- December 21, 2021: News Release: Deadline Extended to Apply for Pandemic Support for Certified Organic and Transitioning Operations
Find Your Local Service Center
USDA Service Centers are locations where you can connect with Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, or Rural Development employees for your business needs. Enter your state and county below to ﬁnd your local service center and agency offices. If this locator does not work in your browser, please visit offices.usda.gov.
Visit the Risk Management Agency website to ﬁnd a regional or compliance office or to ﬁnd an insurance agent near you.