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Province Dangles Organic Carrot

The Manitoba government wants you to go organic. That’s because the industry, worth $1 billion a year, is growing by 20 per cent annually, and demand is outpacing supply.

They’ll even pay two-thirds of the cost of transitioning acres, livestock or processing facilities to become certified organic.

In 2008, the first year of the Manitoba Organic Transition Program (OTOP), roughly 15-20 farmers and processors took the government up on its offer, and filled out a one-page application for funding, according to Marc Boulanger, a provincial business development specialist based at Souris.

“We were hoping for about 50-55 applicants per year,” he said. “We’ve got to get our numbers up, so we’re working on that.”

Because MOTP was introduced last June, there wasn’t much time for promoting it before the yearly deadline of Nov. 30. “We’re trying to move it along and hopefully get more people signed up for 2009,” he said.

With $300,000 in funding available over three years, applications will continue to be accepted until the money runs out or the minister shelves the program.

Open to livestock and grain producers and processors, those accepted into the program are eligible to be reimbursed by up to $800 per year for two of the three years typically needed to make the transition to full organic certification.

“So if your certification fees are $1,200, you’d be eligible for up to $800. If it’s $3,000, you’re eligible for up to $800,” said Boulanger. “Or if your entire certification cost was $900, you’d be eligible for about $600.”

The only application information needed is the farmer’s name, business number, certifying body and proof of payment for certification fees.

“It applies to anyone who grows or processes organic grain, livestock, fruits or vegetables, or any other certified organic plant or animal product,” he said.

Producers who also operate processing facilities can apply for reimbursement for both sides of their operation, and be eligible for up to $1,600 per year.

Because it’s aimed at encouraging producers and processors to make the transition, existing organic producers aren’t eligible for reimbursement. Applicants must submit a new application each year.

Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives has added information on organic farming to its website, www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture/organic,featuring information on organic grain and livestock production. [email protected]

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