The House Agriculture Committee on Friday launched a new video series entitled “Farm Bill Friday,” and said it would release a new video from members of the House Conference weekly highlighting the importance of a strong Farm Bill for all Americans. Watch committee member Congressman Don Bacon of Nebraska kick off the Farm Bill Friday series.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing extending compliance deadlines on Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) provisions for produce water standards. Finalized in 2015, the water standards aim at keeping deadly pathogens like E. coli 0157:H7 out of water used to grow crops by increasing testing and monitoring efforts. The proposed extension appeared Wednesday in the Federal Register. FDA said it would extend compliance deadlines after receiving feedback from farmers and other stakeholders that more time is necessary to ensure farmers have the necessary training and information to comply and that states establish strong produce regulatory programs before inspections begin. To learn more about the Organic Trade Association’s role in shaping food safety regulations, visit our food safety web page. The proposed rule is open for public comment until November 13.
AUGUSTA— This October, the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s (DACF) Board of Pesticides Control (BPC) will team up with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to help Mainers dispose of unusable and waste pesticides. The Obsolete Pesticides Collection Program, jointly sponsored by the BPC and DEP, and funded through pesticide product registration fees, has kept more than 99 tons of pesticides out of the waste stream since its start in 1982.
This free annual program is open to homeowners, family-owned farms and greenhouses. Collections will occur at four sites: Presque Isle, Bangor, Augusta, and Portland. Participants must pre-register by September 29, 2017. Drop-ins are not permitted. The collected chemicals will be taken to out-of-state disposal facilities licensed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency where they are incinerated or reprocessed. Click here for more info!
The spring Organic Sprout is here! Certified producers will receive a copy in the mail, but you can read it online right now.
Katy Green has joined MCS as a full time staff inspector and materials reviewer, and is replacing our outgoing staff inspector, Jake Galle. Katy has worked for MOFGA since 2008, primarily helping farmers and processors transition to organic production. This work has allowed Katy to travel all over the state offering assistance, guidance, and answering questions about complying with the organic standards. She is excited that her work with MCS will still have her traveling all over the state and that she’ll be able to apply the knowledge learned from working with clients transitioning to organic production to her new role working with the certification program. Katy can be reached at her same email address: email@example.com.
2017 application forms for organic certification for all scopes are live and available for download under the Certification Application Forms drop-down menu above. Please make note of the deadlines for each scope; you can find them here. Producers renewing their certification can also find forms they may need in the same menu. If you have any questions please contact us at the MCS office.
The Sprout is out and full of noteworthy content and relevant issues including MCS reaching its milestone of certifying over 500 producers in 2016. Certified producers will receive a copy in the mail, but you can read it online here right now.
The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) is excited to announce that as of August 2016, Maine has more than 500 certified organic farms and processors, according to MOFGA Certification Services LLC (MCS). About 464 farms (some of which are involved in processing as well) and 46 processors are certified by MOFGA Certification Services.
This milestone means that almost 6 percent of Maine’s 8,200 farm operations are certified organic — one of the largest percentages in the country, based on the most recent data available (from the 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture and the 2014 USDA Census of Organic Farms). Nationwide the figure is about 0.6 percent.
MOFGA was one of the first organic certifiers in the country, beginning in 1972 with Ken and Roberta Horn, who farmed the 140-acre Ken-Ro Farm in Plymouth. The organization certified 26 additional farms as organic that year — all by following Rodale Organic Garden certification guidelines. For many years MOFGA staff members Eric Sideman (organic crop specialist) and Diane Schivera (organic livestock specialist) along with a MOFGA certification committee had primary responsibility for certification and followed state law regarding standards.
In 2002, when federal standards took effect, MOFGA hired Mary Yurlina to develop and oversee MCS, to meet United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program regulations. The MCS program now has a staff of eight, is co-directed by Kate Newkirk and Jaco Schravesande-Gardei, and has a volunteer management committee.
In addition MOFGA was the first organization in the country to provide technical assistance specific to organic farming and gardening. The agricultural services staff provides farming, gardening and marketing assistance to growers in Maine and beyond. Katy Green, MOFGA’s organic transitions coordinator, helps guide farmers and processors who are interested in becoming organic.
Certified organic farms must follow federal rules regarding building soil health and promoting biological diversity. They use cultural practices such as cover cropping and crop rotation, and mechanical practices such as insect-excluding row covers, as primary means of maintaining plant and soil health. Pesticides (most coming from natural materials) are allowed only as a last resort, and most pesticides approved for organic production are of low toxicity and break down quickly. Livestock on organic farms must have access to the outdoors and may not be treated with antibiotics or with added growth hormones. Certified organic processors can use only organic products or must have strict separation of organic products from non-certified products.
Certified organic farms and processors are inspected annually by a third party, with MCS used most often in Maine. By law, MCS also regularly conducts random tests of certified operations for pesticide residues.
Consumers can find an interactive list of MOFGA-certified organic farms and products at http://www.mofgacertification.org. Products include vegetables, fruits, maple syrup, dairy, meat, herbs, cut flowers, Christmas trees, hay, grains, processed products – even mushrooms and seaweed. MOFGA and MCS also put out a free annual publication called Organic Maine!, a directory of MOFGA-certified organic farms, foods and products, in printed magazine format and as a PDF available at http://www.mofgacertification.org.
USDA’s 2015 State Agriculture Overview https://www.nass.usda.gov/Quick_Stats/Ag_Overview/stateOverview.php?state=MAINE
USDA 2012 Census of Agriculture, State Summary Highlights
Organic Sales as Percent of Market Value of All Agricultural Products Sold – Certified Organic Farms: 2014