Other provinces will be watching Manitoba as a new provincial law, restricting claims of “organic” strictly to certified growers and processors, comes into effect June 30.
Manitoba’s own legislation, Bill 13: The Organic Agricultural Products Act (OAP) takes effect on the same day as the new federal Organic Products Regulations (OPR) becomes mandatory.
The new federal regulations will replace all voluntary regulations and become enforcable by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
Other jurisdictions in Canada want to see how well this works in Manitoba, said organic specialist with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives (MAFRI) John Hollinger at a seminar devoted to organic production during Ag Days last week.
The reason for the provincial legislation is that similar rules were needed – and asked for by the organic industry here – for local, or within-province organics. The federal rules apply to exports and product shipped inter-provincially.
The intent of Manitoba’s new act is so that no product “falls through the cracks,” Hollinger said.
After June 30, no one will be permitted to claim food or feed produced is organic unless they’re certified by a recognized third-party inspector, which has verified the farm or processing facility follows the strict code of practice of the National
“You can call it ecologically produced or sustainably produced or ethically produced… there’s all kinds of terms out there… but you won’t be able to use the term ‘organic’ in the label,” Hollinger said.
This applies to all food sold, including anything at farmers’ markets and roadside stands. The CFIA will respond to any complaints brought forward that something is being passed off as organic when it isn’t, Hollinger said.
“If you’re at a farmers’ market and you’re organic, and you’ve gone to all the effort and paid the fees to comply and you see somebody two stalls over… you know they’re not organic and they have an organic sign… you can complain to CFIA. That’s how the system will work. It will be a complaint referral kind of thing.”
Exemptions have been sought for smaller producers, but to date none have been made, Hollinger said. “We looked at some of the experiences (where exemptions have been made) in other jurisdictions, mainly the U. S., where they have an exemption for producers that produce $5,000 of product or less a year,” he said.
In those places it’s been found virtually impossible to determine who qualifies for the exemption, he said.
“For one thing it’s kind of difficult to pin a farmer down as to what his net or her net or gross income is.”
No extra costs
Hollinger said there will be no extra costs added to certification procedures and the new rules won’t add a lot of extra paperwork to the procedure.
“There’s not an extra set of standards for this provincial regulation. There may be a little extra paperwork but it will be very minimal. We’ll make sure of that.”
Hollinger also went over details of the Manitoba Organic Transition Program which helps producers defray costs of certification.
That program was introduced in 2008 by MAFRI with the intent of enticing more producers and processors to pursue certified production.
Successful applications under the program are eligible for reimbursement of two-thirds of organic certification fees to a maximum of $800 per year for three years (2008, 2009 and 2010).
MAFRI is now looking at how the program can be expanded to include farmers who have certified in years previous but are now interested in transitioning more land to organic production, or adding a livestock component to their farm.
Technically, these don’t qualify for the MOTP program right now, Hollinger said. “We’d like to be able to include them so we’re seeing if we can arrange that now.”