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Minnesota Dairy Farmers Encouraged to Apply for MDA Funding

Grants available to help cover business planning costs

St. Paul, MN: Minnesota dairy farmers are encouraged to apply for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s (MDA) Dairy Business Planning Grant, which has recently launched a revamped application process.

This grant can be used to help cover the costs of hiring a qualified, independent third party to create a business plan for dairy operations. Dairy producers have used grant funds to evaluate the feasibility of expanding an operation, plan environmental upgrades, create strategies to transfer the operation to a family member or other new owner, and other business activities. The grant cannot cover any capital purchases.

“The Dairy Business Planning Grant is one of several tools that the MDA is proud to offer to help alleviate the ever-growing pressures that come with running a dairy operation,” said MDA Commissioner Thom Petersen. “We are committed to supporting these farmers who work hard to produce high-quality dairy products for consumers in Minnesota and beyond to enjoy.”

The grant pays 50 percent of the cost to develop a business plan, up to $5,000. Producers must pay the other 50 percent.

Applications will be funded on a first come, first served basis. The MDA has $80,000 in funds per fiscal year to disperse, which resets every July 1.

To access the full eligibility requirements and access the application, visit the Dairy Business Planning Grant web page: Questions can be directed to Kami Schoenfeld at or 651-201-6643.

National Organic Standards Board Announces 2023 Fall Meeting

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) generally meets twice each year in a public forum to discuss and vote on recommendations to the USDA. These recommendations help the Department develop and refine the organic standards.

The NOSB plans to webcast the meeting live for those who cannot travel. Should circumstances not permit an in-person meeting, the meeting will be held virtually. Updates will be posted to the meeting webpage at the link below.

The NOSB invites oral and written public comment on its fall agenda topics. Registration for oral comment speaking slots will open in late August 2023. Written comments may be submitted via (

Deadlines: To be considered during the Fall 2023 Meeting, written comments and requests to provide oral comments must be received by 11:59 pm ET on Thursday, September 28, 2023. This timeframe gives the Board time to review the comments before the meeting.

NOSB Meeting Details

Written Comments and Requests to Make Oral Comments Due: Sept. 28, 2023

Online Comment Webinars: October 17 and 19, 2023, Noon–5:00 pm Eastern

In-Person Public Meeting: October 24–26, 2023, 10:00 am –6:00 pm Eastern

Marriott Downtown Providence
1 Orms Street
Reservations: Group name—NOSB Fall 2023 Meeting
Room reservation cutoff date: Monday, Sept. 25, 2023

In late August 2023, all meeting materials, including Zoom information to join the live meeting webcast, will be posted on the meeting web page: Interested parties are encouraged to review the online meeting materials. Posted content will include the meeting agenda, subcommittee proposals, discussion documents, and instructions on how to submit oral or written comments.

Deadline Extended for Minnesota Hemp Growers and Processors

Applications must be postmarked by May 31 for 2023 License

hemp plants
Photo by NickyPe from Pixabay.

Those wanting to grow and process hemp in Minnesota in 2023 have additional time to apply for a license with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA). The deadline to apply has been extended to May 31 to accommodate all potential applicants that are waiting on legislative action on cannabis. To date, over 230 people have applied for an MDA hemp license.

The online application for growers and processors will only be available until April 30 at Those interested in applying for a license after April 30 will need to complete a paper application. Paper applications can be requested by contacting Along with the paper application, first-time applicants need to submit fingerprints and pass a criminal background check. All paper applications must be postmarked by May 31 to be accepted.

This is the eighth year of the state’s Hemp Program. Last year, 293 people held licenses to grow or process hemp. Over 375 acres and 122,040 indoor square feet were planted in Minnesota in 2022.

Growers and processors need to be aware of the following for 2023:

  • The tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) testing fee per grower sample will cost $100.
  • Penalties may be assessed to growers that do not submit Planting and Harvest Report forms.
  • Growers are required to complete a Farm Service Agency (FSA) 578 form for all hemp varieties and locations planted. If a grower fails to submit this data to FSA in the required time, the MDA will not be allowed to sample and test those fields, nor issue a Fit for Commerce Certificate for those hemp lots.
  • A grower license starts at $400.
  • The minimum cost of a processor license is $500.

Anyone growing on tribal lands within a reservation’s boundaries or other lands under tribal jurisdiction (e.g., trust lands off-reservation) must obtain a license from the tribe or the USDA if the tribe does not have an approved hemp production plan.

Questions about the MDA’s Hemp Program should be sent to or 651-201-6600.

Seed Lab Survey: Are You Satisfied?

question mark
Illustration by chenspec from Pixabay.

In June, Seed Laboratory Manager Chase Mowry will be sending out a customer satisfaction survey, via MailChimp, to MCIA Seed Lab customers.

Please watch for it and take a few minutes to respond to the questions.

If you do not receive a survey request and would like to participate, please contact Chase at

Your participation is greatly appreciated!

USDA Announces New Steps to Enhance Organic Markets and Support Producers

Washington, May 10, 2023—Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is taking additional steps as part of its commitment to strengthen the market for domestically grown organic goods, and to support producers seeking organic certification. These funding opportunities are part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Organic Transition Initiative, launched in fall 2022, which is a suite of offerings to help existing organic farmers and those transitioning to organic production and processing.

“As USDA works to help make our nation’s food system more resilient and create more options for producers and consumers, we recognize the important role the organic industry can play in expanding opportunities for value-added agriculture, strengthening supply chains, and generating revenue for farmers,” Vilsack said. “For many farmers, the transition period before attaining organic certification can be cost-prohibitive, so USDA is also helping mitigate the risk involved for farmers who want to be able to grow and market organic crops.”

Consumer demand for organically produced goods surpassed $67 billion in 2022, and multi-year trends of strong growth in the sector provide market incentives for U.S. farmers across a broad range of products. However, through public comment and listening sessions USDA has heard that producers may be less willing to commit to the three-year transition to organic certification because of risks related to inadequate organic processing, storage, and handling capacity, cost barriers due to limited markets for rotational crops, a lack of certainty about market access, and insufficient supply of certain organic ingredients. The organic livestock and processed product markets depend heavily on imported agricultural products for feed grains and key ingredients. These are longstanding market issues that were brought into sharp focus due to the impacts of the pandemic and international conflicts in critical overseas organic supply regions, resulting in limitations on certain domestic organic products in the face of rising demand. Both opportunities announced today help to address these challenges.

Organic Market Development Grants Program

Through the new Organic Market Development Grant (OMDG) Program, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will issue up to $75 million in competitive grants. Eligible entities include business entities who produce or handle organic foods, non-profit organizations, tribal governments, and state and local government entities to fund projects designed to expand and improve markets for domestically produced organic products. OMDG is intended to increase the consumption of domestic agricultural commodities by aiding in the expansion of markets or development of new markets, marketing facilities, and uses for such commodities. For example, applicants may seek funding to develop and launch new consumer products using rotational grains, or invest in infrastructure like processing equipment to give producers better access to markets.

Through OMDG, AMS encourages applications that serve smaller farms and ranches, new and beginning farmers and ranchers, underserved producers, veteran producers, and underserved communities.

AMS is accepting applications for the program now through July 11, 2023.

Cost Share for Organic Certification

As part of USDA’s broader effort to support organic producers and in response to stakeholder feedback, this year the Farm Service Agency increased the cost share amount under the Organic Certification Cost Share Program (OCCSP), which helps organic producers cover organic certification costs, to the maximum amount allowed by statute.

Specifically, FSA will cover up to 75% of costs associated with organic certification, up to $750 for crops, wild crops, livestock, processing/handling and state organic program fees (California only). OCCSP will cover costs incurred from Oct. 1, 2022, through Sept. 30, 2023.

FSA begins accepting applications for OCCSP Monday, May 15. Applications are due Oct. 31, 2023. To apply, producers and handlers should contact the FSA at their local USDA Service Center. As part of completing the OCCSP application, producers and handlers will need to provide documentation of their organic certification and eligible expenses. Organic producers and handlers may also apply for OCCSP through participating state departments of agriculture.

FSA is also accepting applications from state departments of agriculture to administer OCCSP. FSA will post a synopsis of the funding opportunity on and will send more information to all eligible state departments of agriculture. Additional details can be found on the OCCSP webpage.

Other USDA Organic Assistance

These two programs build on several others offered under USDA’s Organic Transition Initiative, which range from conservation assistance to improved crop insurance options.

For example, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service recently announced $75 million in assistance for conservation practices required for organic certification. AMS’ Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP) builds mentorship relationships between transitioning and existing organic farmers to provide technical assistance and wrap-around support in six U.S. regions.

Additionally, as announced earlier in 2023, the Organic Dairy Marketing Assistance Program (ODMAP) will provide marketing assistance to organic dairy producers facing a unique set of challenges, such as significant increases in marketing costs, compounded by increases in feed and transportation costs and the unavailability of organic grain and forage commodities. FSA will announce program and application details soon.

More information about these initiatives and more can be found at


To learn more about the work of the United States Department of Agriculture, visit

Organic Food Sales Surpass $60 Billion in 2022

organic sales chart

Organic Trade Association survey shows growth pace doubled from the previous year.

Washington, D.C. (May 10, 2023)Organic food sales in the United States in 2022 broke through $60 billion for the first time, hitting another high-level mark for the resilient organic sector. Total organic sales—including organic non-food products—were a record $67.6 billion*, according to the 2023 Organic Industry Survey released Wednesday by the Organic Trade Association.

The organic market grew despite challenging headwinds: inflation pressures tightening consumer wallets, supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic and global political events, a proliferation of competing food labels in the grocery aisles, and a labor shortage felt acutely by organic producers. Inflation heated up costs across the organic supply chain—indeed, the entire food supply chain—and boosted prices in the grocery aisles. As a result, the organic sector reflected the overall food sector, with the value of organic sales rising even as the growth in the volume of sales for some categories slipped.

The sector’s four-percent growth in sales value was nearly twice the pace of growth in 2021. Organic food sales totaled $61.7 billion, while the value of organic non-food sales hit nearly $6 billion. Certified Organic now accounts for 6 percent of total food sales in the United States.

“Organic has proven it can withstand short-term economic storms. Despite the fluctuation of any given moment, Americans are still investing in their personal health, and, with increasing interest, in the environment; organic is the answer,” said Organic Trade Association CEO Tom Chapman. “Organic’s fundamental values remain strong, and consumers have demonstrated they will come back time and again because the organic system is verified, and better for people, the planet, and the economy.”

Produce Still Leads Organic

Organic produce, often the entry point for new organic buyers, easily held its position as the top seller of all organic categories. Sales of organic produce totaled $22 billion, accounting for 15 percent of all fruit and vegetable sales in this country.

Organic beverages were the second best-selling organic category, reporting $9 billion in sales in 2022, up 4 percent. Organic coffee maintained its position as the biggest-selling organic beverage, up almost 7 percent from the year before, with close to $2.3 billion in sales. Organic soft drinks and enhanced drinks broke through $500 million in sales at $503 million and saw robust growth of almost 14 percent.

“Organic beverages continue to climb. They’re an area where shoppers are willing to experiment and are less price sensitive,” noted Angela Jagiello, Director of Education and Insights for OTA and coordinator of the annual survey. “Soft and enhanced drinks had a great year, with the non-alcoholic trend being a big contributing factor. Many younger shoppers are reducing or eliminating alcohol, and these organic beverages are a celebratory and sophisticated alternative.”

The third highest-selling organic category was dairy and eggs at $7.9 billion, up over 7 percent from the previous year. Organic dairy and eggs now constitute close to 8 percent of the total dairy and egg market. Continued demand and inflationary price increases helped boost the dollar sales in that category; yogurt and eggs both saw double-digit growth, with organic yogurt sales jumping by over 12 percent to $1.5 billion, and organic egg sales by 11 percent to around $1.2 billion.

While the growth pace of organic sales has predictably slowed from the barnburner rates during the pandemic, a wide and diverse smattering of organic products showed outstanding growth as consumers bring organic more fully into their lives. To name a few: organic baby food and formula sales up almost 13 percent to $1.4 billion, sales of organic rice, grains, and potato products up over 10 percent to $387 million, organic dip sales up a big 18 percent to $194 million, and sales of organic pork up more than 10 percent to $63 million.

In the organic non-food category, sales of organic linens and clothing accounted for some 40 percent of sales, recording $2.4 billion in sales for a gain of 2.5 percent. Organic supplement sales held steady with sales of around $2 billion, while organic personal care products rose over 5 percent to $1.2 billion.

Organic Future Is Bright 

The success of organic is not a new story. In the last ten years, organic sales have more than doubled as Americans are eating and using more organic products than ever before.  Total organic sales broke through the $50 billion mark for the first time in 2018, and organic food sales hit $50 billion for the first time just a few years ago in 2019.

“Organic is at that right intersection of environmental and personal health,” said OTA’s Chapman. “Organic brings together the interest in human health and a healthy environment, and that offers organic a positive pathway forward and will help organic businesses withstand challenges in the future.”

This year’s survey was conducted early in 2023 from January 13 through April 4 and was produced on behalf of the Organic Trade Association by Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ). Numerous data sources were compiled to create as complete a picture as possible of the organic industry which consists largely of private companies. Inputs include but are not limited to point-of-sale data, expert interviews, annual report data, and in-depth direct survey data. About 100 companies completed a significant portion of the in-depth survey.

*Based on newly available data for the Convenience Store channel, OTA has updated its data model, and as a result, restated current and historical figures for several food categories.


For more information about the Organic Trade Association, visit:

Plan for Field Inspection Applications

Photo by Peggychouchair from Pixabay.

Each year, there are some growers from whom we do not initially receive all the information necessary to complete field inspection. In those cases, we need to do follow-up work. So, as the planting season begins, we remind field inspection clients to keep accurate records and:

  1. Save your proof of seed source (tags or bulk certificates)
  2. Maintain proper isolation between varieties and other crops
  3. New varieties—we need a variety description to complete inspections and pass fields, appropriate forms can be found online or by contacting the office.

Your MCIA field supervisor or the MCIA Office staff can answer any questions you may have about the field inspection process.

Field Inspection Application Deadlines

Image by Hojun Kang from Pixabay.

Please note these dates to avoid late fees:

  • June 7: Small grains, corn, and sunflowers
  • June 7 or 3 weeks after planting (whichever is first): Soybean post-spray inspections
  • June 7: Soybean bloom inspections
  • July 15: Soybeans (pre-harvest inspection only)
  • Year of seeding: Perennials
  • 4 weeks prior to cutting: Noxious weed seed–free forage and mulch
  • Within 18 months of the year established for native grasses and forbs

Information packets for Field Inspection Applications will be mailed to enrolled MCIA members in May. Application forms and instructions are also available on the Client Resources page of the MCIA website.

If you have any questions, please contact your field supervisor. (Field supervisor contact information is listed on the Staff page of the MCIA website.

Annual President’s Report

Fawad Shah, MCIA President/CEO, addresses the Association’s 2023 Annual Meeting in Fergus Falls, Minnesota. Photo © Minnesota Crop Improvement Association.

At  every annual meeting of the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association, the association’s president reports on MCIA’s activities over the past year and provides an assessment of the state of the organization. Following are highlights from Dr. Fawad Shah’s presentation to MCIA membership on January 12, 2023.

After introducing MCIA’s staff members, the President reported that fiscal year 2021–2022 was financially successful for MCIA. Organic Services led all departments in revenue generated, showing sustained growth over the past five years. Revenue from the Field Services and Foundation Seed departments increased slightly. Revenue from Certification and Seed Laboratory Services declined slightly. Organic Services expenses showed a slight decrease over five years, mainly due to staff changes. Field Services expenses also decreased. Foundation Seed Services expenses increased slightly. Seed Laboratory Services expenses increased, mainly due to new staff. The trend for Certification Services expenses remained steady.

MCIA continues to collaborate with the University of Minnesota, acting as licensing agent for its crop varieties, increasing foundation seed, providing seed laboratory services in support of academic research, and developing curriculum for a Seed Science, Technology & Society course.

The President then reported on personnel changes. Since January 2022, those who resigned their positions at MCIA included Tom Keskey, Field Services; Connie McDowell, Seed Laboratory; and Karen Gjelhaug, Cherry Flowers, and Tyler Tisdale, Organic Services. New hires include Keith Marti, in June as District 3 field supervisor; Claire Biel, in October as seed lab technician; and two organic certification specialist/inspectors—Shauna Ilse, in August, and Lauren Martin, in January 2023. One organic certification specialist/inspector position remains open.

MCIA continues to work with University of Minnesota and Farmers Yield Initiative to stop the illegal sale of PVP seed. Recent court judgments were entered against two Minnesota farming operations in a case brought forward by the Regents of the University of Minnesota to stop unauthorized use of PVPA-protected oat varieties. The judgements were in the amounts of $50,000 and $150,000.

The President conducted an in-person OECD Seed Schemes roundup at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) office in Pakistan. The participants included staff from the country’s Federal Seed Certification and Registration Department, the FAO, and private company representatives. While in Pakistan, the President also gave a presentation on corn seed production at a conference held at the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad. In October, MCIA hosted a tour of our facilities for a group of professors and university administrators from Zimbabwe.

MCIA’s Field Services inspects nearly 180 facilities each year for the Approved Facility Program. In 2022, five facility inspections were completed under the U.S. Identity Preserved Program. Field Services also administers the MnDOT Approved Seed Vendors Program and MCIA representatives serve on the Minnesota Soybean Council and the Minnesota Turf Seed Council.

The MCIA Seed Laboratory is accredited by the USDA’s Accredited Seed Laboratory Program through 2025. Thus far, laboratory reports indicate that seed quality is high with some mechanical damage on soybeans. The Seed Laboratory circulated a customer satisfaction survey. Feedback was positive for quality, turnaround time, and customer care.

Foundation Seed Services installed a Meyer M-1 Color and Shape Optical Sorter. It was used to improve the purity of soybean and barley seed lots. Spring Foundation seed sales increased 10.5 percent compared to 2021. Wheat sales were up 31 percent and oat sales were up 6 percent. MCIA prepared new license agreements for one winter barley line and two soybean lines.

Updated Organic Services fee schedules, with changes effective January 1, were recently mailed to clients. Due to personnel changes over the past year, hiring and training of new Organic Services staff members continues.

Certification Services saw a decrease in final certification fees for fiscal year 2021/22 of approximately $20,000, mainly due to perennial grasses and drought conditions. Compared to last year, in fiscal year 2022/23 there is a decline in hybrid rye, oats, tall fescue, and wheat and an increase in corn and perennial ryegrass.

MCIA will host AOSCA’s 2023 international annual meeting in June. In conclusion, the President stated that MCIA will continue to work on database improvements, fill vacant positions, and train newly hired staff. MCIA looks forward to ongoing collaboration with SSGA, the University of Minnesota, MDA, MnDOT, and other state and federal agencies throughout the year to increase its visibility, market its services, and engage in capacity building.

Note: The full, official minutes of the 2023 MCIA Annual Meeting, which include the President’s Report, were published in the spring 2023 issue of the Minnesota Seed Grower.

Lab Report

By Chase Mowry, Seed Laboratory Services Manager

Noxious Weed Seed Examinations

Noxious weed seed examinations are one type of test that analysts in seed labs routinely perform. The objective of this test is to identify noxious weed seeds present in a sample and determine the estimated rate of occurrence of said species in the seed lot. This information is to be used for labeling purposes for selling seed as required by seed law. Depending on the needs of a seller, different types of noxious weed seed examinations can be conducted.

Each state has defined noxious weed seed species and an allowable rate of occurrence in their seed law. As well, the Federal Seed Act includes a list of noxious weed seed species. If seed is to be sold within the state, only that state’s noxious species are in effect. When shipping seed across state lines, the federal and receiving state’s noxious weed seed species come into effect. It is the responsibility of seed dealers to know the requirements of state laws and the changes in those laws.

If selling seed out of state, one should request a noxious exam that covers the receiving state’s noxious weed seeds, or request an All States noxious exam. If purchasing seed from another state, one should ask to be provided with documentation that clearly indicates the exam type conducted, prior to making a purchase.

The Seed Regulatory and Testing Division (SRTD), USDA AMS, issues the Noxious-Weed Seed Requirements Recognized in the Administration of the Federal Seed Act publication, which lists the noxious weed seeds in each state and summarizes the states’ requirements. The SRTD updates the publication when informed of changes to state seed laws (the most recent revision was February 2022). This publication, as well as the Federal Seed Act, is available at One footnote of particular interest, listed under prohibited weed seed species for Minnesota, states that genetic testing must be conducted of any Amaranthus contaminant to determine if the species is Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri).

When exporting seed out of the country, specific noxious examinations based on the destination of the seed lot are also required. The MCIA Seed Laboratory routinely performs Canadian Noxious Weed Seed Exams and EC Other Plant Species Exams on submitted samples as well. As with domestic testing, the results obtained provide necessary seed contaminant information required for labeling exported seed.