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Organic Certification Assistance

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You have been hearing about the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) for years now. If you have been wondering how this might impact your farm, now is the time to find out. 2018 is a preparation year. The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources wants to assist farms to prepare for FSMA now. In 2019 MDAR will begin enforcement.

Check out this chart to figure out where your operation lies in terms of coverage. Read more about how the requirements of FSMA and the National Organic Program intersect. If you are a certified organic farm this is useful information for co-compliance of both rules.

National Organic Certification Cost Share Program

Organically certified farmers are not collecting the money that the USDA has set aside for their certification fee, according to Sonny Perdue, the Secretary of Agriculture. For the year 2016 only 67% of the money allocated to Massachusetts organic farmers was collected.  Just 100 out of 277 certified organic operations filed for their reimbursement. 

Now, the House and Senate Agricultural committees are looking at cutting the funding since farmers are not taking advantage of it.  On a national basis only 61% of the $10.8m available was actually paid out. If you are one of those farmers that count on this money, there is still time to make your voice heard since Farm Bill negotiations are just underway, here is the action alert that NOFA/Mass posted last month. 

That’s right, NOFA/Mass offers help to farmers and processors that have questions about the organic certification process, application, costs, allowed amendments and more. Have more than a question? Need someone to fill out the application because you don’t have computer access or computer savvy? NOFA/Mass Certification Assistance has proved beneficial to at least 12 newly certified farms over the past two years.

Winter, when you have some breathing room, is the perfect time to apply.

Roberto at Eva's

Imagine your customer’s delight when they find out you decided to apply for organic certification. Imagine the new customers that will come your way because you have certified organic food. Imagine being able to get a better price for the food that you worked hard to produce because you decided to certify. These are results noted by farms and handlers that certified in 2015 after receiving some help from the NOFA/Mass Organic Assistance Program.

I am pleased to report that NOFA/Mass’ new certification assistance program has been well received with eight farms jumping on board this winter and filing their applications with Baystate Organic Certifiers. While I won’t divulge our farms until they are approved, a variety of farms took advantage of this program.

As you no doubt have heard, organic food is continuing to enjoy a spectacular growth in the American marketplace. It went up over 11% last year and now accounts for more than 5% of the US food market. Organic products have been called the “fastest-growing” consumer food trend in modern history.

A transition to organic certification is an important decision for any farmer, regardless of the size and type of farm.  There is no one size fits all recipe for organic farming.  Even within a certain area of food production, or a specific crop, there is no blueprint, but there are some overarching concepts that are relevant regardless of the specifics of each farm.  Ultimately, the decision whether or not to transition to organic production, or certified organic, will largely depend on your unique skills, preferences, resources available to you, relationship with y

Farmers who follow organic farming techniques and want to take the next step to gain organic certification often find themselves wondering how to get started. I was a sitting board member of NOFA/Mass when I started my agricultural business in Massachusetts, but the organization did not have any resources to help me navigate the process. I muddled my way through the paperwork and gained advice from other certified farmers. Another certified farmer shared her Organic System Plan (OSP) with me, to which I referred for the questions that stumped me.

NOFA/Mass and Baystate Organic Certifiers together are testing a pilot program that could be utilized by other organizations throughout the US to assist farmers and handlers to gain organic certification. To make organic certification attainable and affordable for all, the USDA has established The Sound and Sensible Approach to Organic Certification.

NOFA/Mass and Baystate Organic Certifiers together are testing a pilot program that could be utilized by other organizations throughout the US to assist farmers and handlers to gain organic certification. To make organic certification attainable and affordable for all, the USDA has established The Sound and Sensible Approach to Organic Certification.

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