Jerome Rigot and I just returned from the last of the maple syrup inspections in the north woods of Somerset County, Maine. In order to access these sugar camps, located in the unorganized territory of Seboomook Lake, we stay in St. Georges, Quebec, and must cross in and out of Maine each day using obscure border crossings.
A few feet of snow still covers the ground in these woods. Although it does not look particularly mountainous, this maple syrup producing region is about 1500 feet above sea level. When sap in lower elevation sugarbush areas in Maine and Quebec have ceased to flow, producers here are still making syrup.
The producers are Quebecois and many have been making syrup for generations in these Maine woods. While some of the camps look quite rustic, the equipment used to concentrate sap and boil it into syrup is state of the art.
When we add up all the taps in sugar maple trees that are part of the organic system plans we approve, we get nearly one million. That comes to about 265,000 gallons of MOFGA-certified organic maple syrup.
We want to give special thanks to Adam Lee (Lee Toyota in Topsham) for providing us with an awesome Toyota Tundra 4X4 for this most recent trip. The logging roads we have to travel on feature the best of winter and mud season this time of year!
MOFGA Certification Services Director
Got Hayfields? Attend a hay making workshop with Rick Kersbergen, UMaine Cooperative Extension. Many options statewide. REGISTER
Have pigs? Buying pigs? Be knowledgable about recent porcine virus outbreaks. READ
Interested in holistic healthcare for livestock? Attend a workshop with PASA’s Susan Beal DMV, at MOFGA, on 12 April. REGISTER
Want to learn how to slaughter your own broilers? Attend MOFGA’s popular chicken processing workshop led by Diane Schivera on 10 July. REGISTER
Reminder! Now is the time of year that organic farm plan renewals are due if you are a MOFGA certified organic farm. Check your paperwork for your deadline. Direct questions to your certification specialist (Jaco, Katie, or Joan).
The Washington County Growers Meeting Scheduled for this Thursday 13 March 14 in Trescott has been cancelled due to the coming winter storm.
Notice to all MOFGA certified farms: Farm certification updates are due soon. Check your update letters from your certification specialists. Due dates are either 17 March or 21 April. Please contact your specialist (Katie, Jaco, Joan or Kate) if you have questions.
MOFGA’s Spring Growth Conference is Saturday 22 March 14 at our Common Ground Education Center in Unity. This year’s topic is WEED CONTROL, a big challenge for many organic crop producers. Click here for more details.
What motivates you to purchase organic foods? Why is MOFGA-certified organic important? How can we better promote the MOFGA organic label? You can help us by taking our survey. It’s just 10 questions with lots of opportunity to add comments. Thank you and have a great 2014!
CLICK HERE FOR SURVEY
Looking for USDA programs and services that support the growing organic sector? USDA has created a centralized web resource center containing all their programs, services, and data.
The new site gives access to:
- Conservation programs, flexible microloans, and other financial resources for farmers and ranchers.
- Organic price reports, cost/revenue comparisons, and other economic and market data.
- Improved crop and livestock insurance and other programs tailored to the organic sector.
- Production and conservation assistance and research on organic agriculture.
- Benefits of organic certification and how to get certified.
- USDA staff at your local field offices and much more
USDA is committed to helping organic agriculture grow and thrive by removing obstacles for organic farmers and businesses.
MOFGA wants to focus on ways to boost the impact of MOFGA-certified organic for both farmers and consumers. We want more producers to seek certification through MOFGA and the best way to do that is to strengthen the MOFGA-certified organic logo in the marketplace. Our logo needs to be the label that everyone recognizes and seeks out when buying food and farm products. By redesigning our certification logo we hope to improve overall marketing of the MOFGA-certified organic brand. Toward that end, a Request for Proposal (RFP) has been published, and we encourage our producers to share it far and wide. The deadline for proposals is Monday, 30 December 2013.
Access the full RFP here.
The Organic Sprout Late Summer edition is published! This issue focuses on livestock and is filled with great content including articles on parasite control, sprouted grain systems, organic kelp and our growing number of MOFGA certified producers. You can read it here.
We want more people to choose MOFGA Certified Organic when they shop. Last year, MOFGA hired the marketing firm The Soap Group from Portland, who provided MOFGA with strategies to boost the impact of our MOFGA certified organic label in the market place. One of the recommendations was a redesign of the MOFGA Certified Logo. While we want people to associate the certified organic logo with the organization MOFGA, The Soap Group asserted that the logos are too similar and the organization’s logo can be mistaken for the certification mark. We will be issuing a request for proposals (RFP) aimed at graphic designers later this summer. Stay tuned for more information.
THE COMMENT PERIOD HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO 13 November
In January, the Food and Drug Administration released its proposed rules for implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act passed by Congress in 2011. As the proposed rule is currently written, it will have broad reaching effect on farmers marketing fruits and vegetables in a raw state. While food contamination can come from a variety of sources, including biological, physical and chemical, the FDA chose only to write rules to control possible contamination from biological sources alone. Potential routes of food born illness covered under the rule include agricultural water sources, biological soil amendments of animal origin, worker health and hygiene, equipment, tools, and buildings, as well as domestic and wild animals.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), of which MOFGA is a member, has been engaged in the FSMA process with four guiding principles in mind:
>Everyone has a role in ensuring a safe food supply.
>Regulators should focus on the highest risk.
>Regulations should be science-based when possible.
>One size does not fit all: Regulations must be scale-appropriate to be effective; a one-size-fits-all approach will put small farms and processors out of business and undermine other public health goals, such as increased production, availability, and access to healthy foods.
To learn more about the proposed rule and for talking points see: http://www.mofga.org/Programs/PublicPolicyInitiatives/SafetyRule/tabid/2650/Default.aspx
This is the 75% (capped at $750) annual cost share of certification fees that the State of Maine disperses. The change to the program this year is that there is no federal funding to support the cost share program for processor/handlers this year. We are hopeful that it will be re-instituted in the new Farm Bill. MOFGA is working with like minded organizations on this. THERE WILL BE A COST SHARE FOR GROWERS (FARMERS) IN 2013. And like last year, we intend to submit a request for rebate checks early (June) as well as at the end of the federal fiscal year (end of September). To be eligible for an early June cost-share check, you must have submitted your 2013 update and have completed payment on your 2013 fees.
On-line Update for Crop Producers
It’s ready! You can submit your annual farm plan changes and 2013 plan using the Internet. Crop producers have received emails with information about how to participate. Contact Kate Newkirk (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more info if you need it.