Sign up for a Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training!

The University of Maine Cooperative Extension is presenting three sessions focused on the  FSMA training requirement for all covered produce growers, and recommended for all produce growers of all sizes.

Who Should Attend. Fruit and vegetable growers and others interested in learning about produce safety, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule, farm food safety best practices, and co-management of natural resources and food safety. The PSA Grower Training Course is one way to satisfy the FSMA Produce Safety Rule requirement outlined in § 112.22(c) that requires “At least one supervisor or responsible party for your farm must have successfully completed food safety training at least equivalent to that received under standardized curriculum recognized as adequate by the Food and Drug Administration.”

Cost: $20/attendee. To register contact Theresa Tilton at theresa.tilton@maine.edu or 207-942-7396 or visit: https://extension.maine.edu/food-health/food-safety/northeast-produce-safety-training/

 

NOP Issues Extension of Allowance of Paper Pots

NOP ISSUES EXTENSION OF ALLOWANCE OF PAPER POTS IN ORGANIC PRODUCTION
 
On Monday, November 5, MCS and all NOP-accredited certifiers were informed that the NOP has extended the use and allowance period for paper pots, originally scheduled for prohibition at the end of the growing season. The following  is a portion of the announcement regarding the change.
The NOP is extending the allowed use of paper pots until further notice.  Any additional changes to the allowance for the use of paper pots will be communicated to certifiers to provide adequate time to make any adjustments.  For fairness and consistency in certifications across operations, all certifiers may allow  paper pots during this extension period.
 
Paper pots have been formally petitioned to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) via the National Organic Program as an allowed material in crop production. In addition to presenting a discussion document on the petitioned material, the NOSB passed a resolution at its Fall 2018 public meeting recommending that the NOP allow the continued use of paper pot usage while this review and potential  NOP rule making proceed.  Paper pots are similar to the current National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (National List) listing of newspaper or other recycled paper, which are in use in many soil-based systems. We agree that the NOSB’s resolution allows the program to extend the allowance for paper pots, while maintaining fidelity to the existing USDA organic regulations.

NE SARE Invites Farmer Grant Applications

Northeast SARE is now accepting applications for the 2019 cycle of the Farmer Grant program. Applications are due by 11:59 p.m. ET on November 27, 2018. Projects awards are made in late February 2019 with projects to start in the spring. Application instructions and additional resources are available at:           northeastsare.org/FarmerGrant.   

National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) Meets October 24 – 26th

The NOSB will meet in St. Paul, MN from Weds, October 24 – Fri, October 26, 2018 to discuss substances petitioned for addition to or deletion from the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (National List), substances due to sunset from the National List in 2020, and guidance on organic policies. Complete event details can be found on the event page.

The Board will hear oral comments during two webinars scheduled for October 16 and 18, 2018, from 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. Eastern (3 minute comment slot). Please view the posted information under Oral Comments on the event page.

Questions?  Email Michelle Arsenault, NOSB Advisory Committee Specialist or call 202-720-0081

MOFGA Certification Services’ comments to the NOSB

The NOSB meeting this October includes two important topics for discussion that will have a direct influence on some of our growers.

  • On Thursday, October 25, the NOSB will be discussing marine materials in organic production. Please see this document to read MOFGA Certification Services’ comments to the NOSB about marine materials.
  • On Friday, October 26, the NOSB will be discussing the use of paper pots. Please see this document to read MOFGA Certification Services’ comments to the NOSB about the use of paper pots.

Thank you to all our clients who have also submitted written comments! Dave Colson of MOFGA’s Ag Services will be attending the meeting in St Paul to deliver MOFGA’s oral comments on these important topics. You can also reference Ag Services’ page on the meeting and access links for further info here. Please stay tuned for more information about the results of this meeting.

 

NOC Urges Action Needed on Farm Bill

The National Organic Coalition (NOC) is urging that now is the time to communicate with your House and Senate Farm Bill Conferees about the issues that will impact organic agriculture in the Farm Bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is urging House and Senate Ag Committee leaders to have a Conference Report ready soon after Labor Day. Although both the House and Senate will be on recess for all or part of the month, Ag Committee leaders will be very busy during August in an effort to prepare a Conference Report by the target date. NOC is asking allies in the organic community to take action right now to voice your support for organic in the Farm Bill.

Here are some ways you can get involved:

  1. Write a letter to your Farm Bill Conferee(s) urging support for organic or speak to the staffer who works on agriculture in that office. You can use the letter NOC sent to Farm Bill Conferees as a template.
  2. Meet with your Farm Bill Conferee(s) during the recess and urge support for organic using the talking points in this NOC’s Conferee letter.
  3. Make phone calls to Farm Bill Conferees.  We need your help to bolster support for the certification cost-share program, which is in danger, as well as defend against attacks on the NOSB, and advocate strongly for permanent baseline funding for organic research. Contact NOC for an action alert template.

The Organic Sprout – Spring 2018 Issue

The Spring 2018 issue of The Organic Sprout is available online! Please follow this link. You can read it from any device of your choice or download as a PDF.

Contents include the results of our MCS Client Survey, a report on Organic Cost Share, organic labeling, and a host of vital information and resources.

And remember, back issues of the Sprout are also available on the MCS website: http://www.mofgacertification.org

MOFGA Certification Services 2017 Year in Review

MOFGA Certification Services (MCS) continued to see steady growth in 2017. We certified 49 new applicants, bringing our year-end total of MOFGA-certified operations to 536 and over 88,000 acres. This is an amazing achievement in a state our size, and much of the success of the organic sector in Maine depends on the continued support of our community. MCS works with MOFGA’s departments to further this success, including marketing and promotion efforts, training and programming needs, and participation in the many educational events. We believe that one of the many advantages of certifying with MCS is the partnership with MOFGA in its pursuit of organic agricultural success. Every five years, MCS is fully audited by USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) and reaccredited to continue performing certification activities. This year marked our 15th year of accreditation. A team from USDA-NOP performed our audit, very similar to the verification process we conduct with our producers, and reaccreditation was granted. We are monitored continually by NOP for compliance and must adhere to many guidelines per the organic standards.While 2017 did provide many highlights and successes, there were also challenges.

Continue reading

Take Action to Save the Organic Certification Cost-Share Program

As the Agriculture Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives drafts language for the next Farm Bill, it is considering sweeping cuts to programs that support organic agriculture. One dire threat is significantly reducing, and possibly eliminating, the cost-share program for certified organic growers and processors.
MOFGA certified organic producers benefit greatly from this program, with over 90% of producers participating annually. Our partners working in DC report that time is of the essence to defend this benefit to organic agriculture. It is absolutely critical that our community raises its collective voice in support of the organic cost-share program.
Please contact our congressional delegation today!
Senator Susan Collins
Senator Angus King
Representative Chellie Pingree
Representative Bruce Poliquin
Contact
Suggestions for making effective calls:
It’s best to use your own words and experience, but here are some things to think about beforehand.
  • Ask to speak with the staffer who works on agriculture.
  • Tell the staffer that you are calling as a constituent and an organic farmer/processor.
  • Express appreciation for the senator’s/representative’s leadership in growing and protecting organic agriculture.
  • Ask them to voice strong support for organic certification cost-share in the next Farm Bill.
  • Tell them that Congress should reauthorize, with adequate funding, organic certification cost share because the program helps organic farmers stay in business and keep jobs here in our local economy.
  • Explain how organic certification cost-share is important to your farming operation and to organic farms and processors around Maine.
  • Explain that going through the annual certification process is challenging for many reasons and the cost of annual certification is expensive.
  • Emphasize how your farm is protecting natural resources and, by getting certified each year, you are demonstrating compliance with the beneficial conservation practices required by national organic regulations.
  • Point out that organic agriculture is a bright spot in our economy. These are jobs that can and should be created here at home. Rather than relying on imports, certified organic farmers in our communities should be supported in their efforts to meet that demand.

Continue reading

Sound and Sensible Organic Certification Video Series

A new Sound and Sensible Organic Certification video series, filmed in Washington State and developed by WSDA (Washington State Dept of Agriculture), features certified organic clients and addresses some common questions about USDA Organic regulations and the certification process. They include:

These videos were developed in partnership with USDA National Organic Program as part of the Sound and Sensible Initiative. For more information on other Sound and Sensible projects, visit the National Organic Program.

 

Organic Certification: A Critical Link in the Supply Chain

As the demand for organic food and products in the United States has grown dramatically over the last 10 years, so has the complexity of organic supply chains. The supply chain, domestically and internationally, now involves a series of complex transactions with businesses that grow, handle, package, manufacture and transport organic goods. USDA accredited certifiers ensure that the integrity of the supply chain is unbroken from farm to table for American families.

Ensuring Public Trust in the Organic Seal

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service National Organic Program (NOP) provides training and support for more than 2,000 certifier staff worldwide so they have the necessary tools to ensure the integrity of the system through consistent enforcement of the law.

Today, the agency published an interim instruction, NOP 4013: Maintaining the Integrity of Organic Imports, that provides a range of available information in one convenient place. The interim instruction details the requirements for certifiers who oversee organic products imported into the United States. The instruction:

  • Clarifies responsibilities for certifiers in the U.S. and around the world
  • Recommends best practices for reviewing and issuing import related documents
  • Highlights handling instructions needed to maintain the integrity of the organic status for imported organic products
  • Details required documentation and recordkeeping

Public Comments Welcomed

While Interim Instruction NOP 4013 is designed to assist USDA accredited certifiers, public comment is also invited.

The 60-day public comment period runs from October 25, 2017 until December 26, 2017.