2013 23.3 WSDA Organic Program Update

The organic industry is built on a foundation of farmers tending diverse acreage. While the overall organic industry has grown steadily over the years, recent USDA statistics have shown that the number of certified farms in the US has plateaued. The statistic has not gone unnoticed and efforts are underway to address this trend and to ensure organic certification remains a viable alternative to conventional agriculture.

Less Time at the Desk

The National Organic Program (NOP) acknowledges that the paperwork burdens of certification may play a role in whether a farmer chooses to become certified. Under the auspices of “Sound and Sensible,” NOP has begun to implement measures to streamline the certification process while maintaining organic integrity, as described by the program in the passage below. At WSDA, we continually look at our own processes and have taken the NOP’s “Sound and Sensible” initiative as even greater incentive to improve our services. We look forward to continuing to serve the farmers of WA State in the best way possible and growing the organic community in our state.

Consumers purchase organic products expecting that they maintain their organic integrity from farm to market. Under the USDA organic rules, organic farmers must demonstrate they are protecting the environment, supporting animal health and welfare, and producing their products without the use of prohibited substances (http://blogs.usda.gov/2011/12/16/organic-101-whatorganic-farming-and-processing-doesn%E2%80%99t-allow/).

However, farmers have reported spending more time completing forms and maintaining records. A certain amount of records are essential to ensure organic farmers are meeting the organic standards, such as planting non-genetically modified seeds or raising dairy cattle on organic pasture. But, too much focus on paperwork can detract from farming activities that support organic principles, such as conservation and cycling of resources. To address this, the National Organic Program (NO P) initiated a program aimed at helping reduce the paperwork and other burdensome aspects of organic certification while maintaining high standards, ensuring compliance, and protecting organic integrity.

The ‘Sound and Sensible’ initiative (http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5103512) involves identifying and removing barriers to certification, streamlining the certification process, focusing enforcement, and working with farmers and processors to correct small issues before they become larger ones. The overall goal of this new initiative is to make organic certification accessible, attainable, and affordable for all operations.

Tags: Record-Keeping, Sounds and Sensible, WSDA