Alternate Certification For Small Growers Explored

The Manitoba Organic Alliance (MOA) will soon make recommendations on how to accommodate the concerns of smaller-scale organic producers affected by mandatory certification.

Last year, those selling exclusively to a local market said a new provincial requirement for mandatory certification would hurt, given the cost of certification relative to their small volumes of sales.

New rules for Manitoba will make certification mandatory for anyone claiming their product is organic. (See related story Bill 13 on page 9. )

In 2008 a survey by the Organic Food Council of Manitoba found a number of smaller growers interested in seeing a simpler, lower-cost certification program developed.

This spring MOA, which formed in 2009 to serve as a one-voice organization representing all organic sector players, did an impact study to document the impact mandatory certification would have on small growers.

A consultant did telephone interviews and in-person interviews with producers, consumers and certifiers, and held consultation meetings with growers, then submitted a report to MOA.

Some options laid out in the report include a low-risk program similar to one operating in B. C., a government-funded rebate program, exemptions for small growers earning less than $5,000, a farm gate sales exemption and group certification.

B. C’s low-risk program allows those certified three years in a row with no history of non-compliance, to opt into a program which amortizes certification costs over three years.

“There are pros and cons to each of these ideas,” said MOA treasurer Donna Youngdahl who gave an overview of the consultant’s report at MOA’s annual general meeting April 10.

MOA will now scrutinize each option, further consult with membership then submit a final recommendation to government, Youngdahl added.

There is presently no provision proposed in the Manitoba regulation for an alternate certification process for small growers. MOA will need to lobby government to come up with alternatives.

MOA’s consultations could not determine how many growers are affected by mandatory certification, but did find small-scale market gardeners and those doing farm gate meat sales would be most affected.

The report said costs for certification can range anywhere from $650 to $1,770 per year, with variables on each farm affecting cost.

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About the author

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Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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