Best Regards, Eric Kindberg
Subj: Re: A question?
Date: 97-10-29 08:59:01 EST
From: Nofa ny
The NOFA-NY Certification Program is self supporting. Years ago ('90) our
Governing Council decided that if we were going to continue the program (it
kept running in the red and eating up large amounts of money), expenses would
need to be covered. We receive no outside support from the general revenues
of NOFA-NY. As a result we raised our fees (and received heaps of criticism).
Many of the other programs are currently dealing with these issues as their
programs have been subsidized heavily over the years.
Currently we have two paid office staff (part time, no benefits) and we pay
our inspectors (use IOI trained). We have experienced a growth rate of 50%+
this year and as a result will be hiring additional clerical staff (part
time, no benefits). Also, this spring we moved our office out of my home, and
have rented space, so we now have a rental expense. In the course of this we
also were required to purchase office equipment and furniture. Since we have
been budgeting very carefully each year, we did have the funds to do this.
Not luxuriously - just the basics, but never the less an important milestone.
Our Standards Board (farmers) and Certification Board (representatives of
food system & retired farmers) are both volunteer Boards. The Certification
Board meets weekly from early May to late September, plus puts in
approximately 4 hours between meetings reviewing files - giving approximately
8 - 10 hours per week. The other months we meet a minimum of two times per
month. The Standards Board does not meet nearly as often. So far our
committees continue to do this work as volunteers - but we all see this as
the weakest link in our Program. I feel that in '98 discussion will begin on
providing some token compensation for our Boards. I think that would be a
giant step forward - and needed.
Our Program considers staff and some of our inspectors as employees (NYS
defines this for us) and thus also covers social security, workers comp,
disability, plus our own liability insurance.
Our certification fees for farms begin at $275 for initial applications; $250
for renewing. Fees are based on sliding scale gross income from farm sales.
The above is for the 0 - 5,000 in sales. Fees increase incrementally- 5,000
to 10,000 is $300; 10 to 15,000 - 325, etc. The majority of our vegetable
farms fall into the first two categories. This fee includes the cost of
inspection. Since NY is a very large state our inspectors are asked to
coordinate travel and work to keep our costs down. We have maintained
extensive records on the actual costs of certifying our farms.
Our Boards have run our Program in a very business like manner and for the
past 4 years we have been in the black at the end of the year, with a small
surplus to keep us going until new apps & fees begin arriving in March. We
have not raised our fees in four years and will hold on our current fee
structure for '98.
Our Boards feel it is important to compensate staff and inspectors for their
work. Each year we have a Personnel Committee that conducts employee
evaluations and wage reviews. This year our Board has recognized the need to
assist our Inspectors with trainings, and has developed an Inspector Tuition
Assistance plan for reimbursing inspectors a portion of their tuition costs
for training. They must commit to continue to work for our Program for a
number of years.
We feel that Certification Programs cannot operate on a strictly volunteer
basis since many short cuts are taken due to volunteers availability and
commitments. We also feel that professional training of inspectors is vital.
As certification programs grow problems will arise and inspectors need to be
aware of how to handle them. Unfortunately, the days of certifying our
neighbors and good friends and the inherent trust that was previously
present, are gone.
We had always said that as the number of certified farms increased, the
easier it would be for certification programs - providing they had a
realistic fee structure to begin with. In our case this has proved to be so.
A couple of years ago we began working with processors and the dairy sector
of certification has now gotten into full swing in NY. As a result we have
larger farms entering our Program paying larger fees. Of course, it costs
nearly double to certify a dairy as a vegetable operation. They are very
complex and we don't gloss over the operation of the dairy, as some other
certifiers do (document reviews we have performed indicate the emphasis is
more on crops than livestock health and housing issues). Our dairy
inspections can take anywhere from 7 - 10 hours. Our Program also has been
organizing educational seminars for our farmers, paid for out of our
Heard enough !!- You can tell I am an evangelist of sorts on the topic of
sustainabiliyt of certification programs, having been in this position of
defending our program for many years. Incidentally, we receive very few
complaints about fees from our farms anymore. If the certification program is
credible farmers need to pay reasonable fees for this service - it allows
them to market their product - it is a sales tool, just as fancy labels and
If you have additional questions write.
You may post my response on SANET. I must confess, I use my e-mail a great
amount, but find little time for other Internet activities. Folks from NY are
welcome to contact our office, (607) 724-9851 or e-mail or regular mail at 26
Towpath Road, Binghamton, NY 13904
The NOFA-NY Certification Program is simply a "committee" of the overall
NOFA-NY organization. NOFA-NY is a tax exempt, 501 (c) 3 educational
organization, and our Certification Program is operated as non-profit. This
"committee" simply is responsible for funding itself. NOFA-NY is a membership
organization. There is an additional office, staffed by a part time
Secretary, which coordinates all the other NOFA-NY activities [see below].
The NOFA's are separate organizations, functioning in each state [NY, NJ, CT,
VT, NH, MA, RI]. There is an overall NOFA Interstate group, with
representatives from each state working together on general educational
issues. There is also a Northeast Interstate Organic Certification Committee
- with representatives from each of the NOFA certification programs. These
committees are not legally binding oversight committees, simply working
groups. Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners [MOFGA] is also active on the
Certification Committee. The Standards of the NOFA's also vary from state to
state, which is problematic at times. We try to work out such issues at the
Interstate Certification Committee level. The Interstate Committee meets at
least twice per year, and of course we are actively in touch with each other
throughout the year.
In the past all the NOFA's have cooperated and provided inspector training
programs, since it is easier to do those types of activities on a regional
basis. We have also prepared responses to OFPA as a group.
NOFA-NY feels very strongly that certification is a large educational
component of its work. I have a very active schedule of public presentations
about organic farming and certification, both to farmers and to consumers. In
the past couple of years the Certification program has organized specialized
workshops [ex: introducing homeopathy techniques] to our farmers,
veternarians, and the general public, and if funding allows we would like to
continue this. Other committees of NOFA-NY produce our bi-monthly
newsletter, host summer farm tours, coordinate a mentoring program, and host
a two-day annual conference.
NOFA-NY offers certificaiton for the following: vegetables, livestock,
poultry, dairy, field crops, wild crops, mushrooms, fruits, maple syrup,
sprouts, greenhouses, also handlers and all types of processors. Keeps us
Hope this answers your questions.
Subj: Re: A question?
Date: 97-10-29 10:55:17 EST
Eric - I can speak for the NOFA/Mass certification program, as a 10-year
member and treasurer for a number of those. The program employs an
administrator and two inspectors, plus a reader. These are all part-time
positions, contracted at $10 to $13 per hour. Certainly the people who do
this work could earn more if they wished in other lines of work, but choose
to be involved in certification. Of our budget (mostly going for these
contractors) a little over two-thirds is raised by fees to farmers and other
income (a bit from selling standards and certification seals) and the other
third (roughly) is a direct subsidy from the membership dues and other income
of the chapter. We offset this in part with a direct mail appeal once a year
for the program, but I'd still count that as a subsidy on the part of the
good people who donate to the appeal. So about 30% of the direct cash costs
of the program are subsidized, 70% earned from program fees, etc.
As for volunteerism, the committee has eight volunteer members who
probably spend about 100 hours a year each on committee work, some more, some
less. If we paid that 800 hours at $12.50 an hour it would be another
$10,000, plus probably another one or two thousand for travel to meetings,
inspections,etc. So say $12,000 of volunteer time is expended on committee
work. That is about half of our cash budget, of which 30% is subsidized. So
it certainly would be fair to say that over half of the true costs of the
program are a subsidy. That is, if the farmers had to pay the whole cost of
the program, fees would more than double.
I hope this helps you. It is not a real rosy picture, financially, but
it works for now. I, too, wonder how the programs are going to be able to
function when professionalism is the hallmark, rather than volunteerism.
-- Jack Kittredge
Subj: Re: A question?
Date: 97-10-31 00:12:02 EST
Eric - We have just adopted a compensation scale for this year for NOFA work.
We will probably be raising our fees significantly this year because our
program lost so much last year. -- Jack Kittredge
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