For instance, think of the number of organic inspectors it would
require simply to inspect the acreage that would provide that supply
and the plants that would process it. As I understand from the
inspectors I know or work with, certifiers have a hard enough time at
present keeping a full cadre of inspectors at existing levels.
Inspectors are basically bureaucrats, individuals that are trained and have a
specific job description to fulfill in the interest of citizens. We have an
immense core of Farm Service agents, of USDA staff of Federal Meat
inspectors, of FDA and USDA compliance officers, of State compliance officers
in every range of raw and processed food and fiber products. Beyond that we
have a private sector of inspectors and inspector training that can
contracted by government agents so they know the ins and outs of the organic
inspection and certification world. As the organic business grows every
larger, the only impediment I see is vested interest. The organic buying
public certainly wants trustworthy annual inspection and certification.
Let's do it.
I've predicted, here on SANET and elsewhere, that inspection may
prove to be an increasingly difficult link in the organic system,
over time, unless training and professional development of these
people is ramped up as well as the market share and acreage.
Then I think of the acres and number of farms that would need to
make the transition in that time. The expertise and consulting they
would need. The equipment. The inputs. The economic risk that some
would need to take and live with and survive. The markets that would
need to be constructed. The marketing information that would need to
be prepared. The consumers who'd need to be cultivated (I'm not
convinced that 80% of the present population will come around to
organics) and educated.
There is no rush to organic farm beyond what the system if planned by all the
stakeholders cannot accomplish in due time. Average age of US farmers
bordering mostly 55, it is the next generation of beginning organic farmers
who are our concern. The ag universities and research institutes are
completely unprepared to make the change to organic farming and handling. It
is now time for them to retain on contract those who have built the organic
systems of farming and handling in a job description that frees they to carry
on development of farming, handling and marketing innovations. If we really
want to move food and fiber farming and handling to pure food and fiber
farming and handling, the time is ripe, Students, all of us need to back a
concerted and stakeholder directed change in public strategy and tactics-now.
And then Ronald's question--could we maintain the standards?
Maintaining standards is what the producer/inspector relationship is
about...but at bottom, isn't that a somewhat policed thing
US standards are mandated to be established through NOSB, National Organic
Standards Board recommendations to the Secretary of Agriculture. As long as
we are all involved, and the Final NOSB Recommendations are open to timely
public review before they are made, organic standards will reflect our common
But perhaps it takes a raising of the bar to figure out how to hop
over it. And so...I'd like to hear from some organic growers and
processors and inspectors on this question. Any takers?
Best, Eric Kindberg, certified organic farmer, SE Iowa
Thinking out loud, quickly, and heading out the door to the soft,
rainy, lilac-scented May evening in Madison.
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