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Organic transition cash eyed by farmers

“This may help encourage them to try some acres, or try organic production of some kind, whether it’s grain crops or fruits or vegetables.”

– John Hollinger, Provincial Organic Specialist

More farmers are starting to think about switching to organic, as they hear of a new program that helps pay some of their initial transition costs.

The province this fall announced new financial incentives for producers and processors who want to certify their businesses as organic operations through the Manitoba Organic Transition Program.

The program reimburses up to two-thirds of the fees charged by organic certification agencies or $800 maximum per year for two years.

MAFRI organic specialist John Hollinger said there’s been a great deal of interest expressed in the program and applications are starting to arrive.

“We’ve found it’s stimulated an interest in organic farming in general,” he said.

The program deadline for applications to be received is Nov. 30.

Its goal is to see about 120 farms and 10 to 12 processors use this funding to begin the move toward certification, Hollinger said.

The program is for larger commodity producers of crops and livestock and gardeners alike, he said. Applicants can opt to use the funding to begin certifying just a few acres if they so choose, he said.

“This may help encourage them to try some acres, or try organic production of some kind whether it’s grain crops or fruits or vegetables.”

Demand to fill

Manitoba has about 300 certified organic producers and processors, and nearly 100,000 acres dedicated to organic crops, yet much of consumer demand for organic food here is met by product ion and products produced outside the province, Hollinger said. “There’s demand we can’t fill in just about every type of organic product.”

Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives and Manitoba Science, Technology, Energy and Mines will jointly contribute a total of $338,000 to support the program over the next three years.

Producers and processors starting the transition process in 2008 or 2009 can receive up to $800 per year for two years to cover organic certification fees. Those already in their second year of the transition process are eligible for reimbursement of up to $800 per year for two years (covering the second and third years). Producers entering their third year of transition in 2008 can receive one year of funding.

The Canadian organic sector was originally given a two-year transition period to be ready for a Dec. 14, 2008 deadline, after which all organic products sold in Canada must be certified according to the National Organic Production Standard. In September the federal government agreed to move that deadline forward to June 30, 2009 after industry stakeholders requested an extension to the transition period.

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About the author

Reporter

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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