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Small-Scale Certification

June 18, 2015

Présentation2 blog

Two certification models for small-scale farms  are proposed   

 As part of the review of the Canadian Organic Standards the Organic Federation of Canada struck a working group to look at the issues of Small Scale Organic Certification.

A number of options were considered. After reviewing the concerns and hopes of the certified and not-certified organic  farmers,  the working group proposes two models: a self declaration organic pledge and a peer review certification process.  See the proposals below.

These two proposals would work for organic farmers who direct market their products. It is important to note that the pledge and peer review proposals use the Canadian Organic Standards.  These proposals are not a change to the  standard.  They are an alternative way of documenting compliance with the standard from the existing 3rd party certification process required for interprovincial and international trade. They would not be useable to make an “organic claim” for sales to retailers,  wholesalers or chefs who would be reselling the farm products.

 Please take a look at the proposals for the self declaration and peer review proposals and share your thoughts and comments.

MODEL 1 – Proposal for the Self-Declaration Model 

The Self-Declaration model of Organic Certification is a model based on trust and the integrity of farmers who use organic principles as a statement of their values. Producers pledge their adherence to the Canadian Organic Standards through both an online format and in their direct-to-consumer marketing efforts. With this Organic Pledge, producers open up their farm and practices to the scrutiny of their customers and other farmers.

  • Only produce sold directly to the final consumer by the farmer (and/or their employees) can be identified as “Organically Pledged.” Restaurants, retailers and processors are not final consumers, and thus 3rd party certification is necessary when marketing organic products to them.
  • Farmers using the Organic Pledge must prove understanding of the current Canadian Organic Standards (COS) and identify all the Standards that pertain to their businesses. This may be done through an in-person or online workshop. They must maintain their knowledge of the standards as the standards are updated.  Once the farmer has successfully completed such a workshop, they must list at least 2 organic farmers (who are either 3rd party certified organic or approved to use the organic pledge) who can serve as mentors when needed.
  • A farmer who wants to use the Organic Pledge must complete a Self-Assessment which identifies and describes their farm operation as well as cross-reference the relevant sections of the COS to show an understanding of the COS and how it applies to their operation. This must also include reasonable predictions of what types of inputs will be required, where they will come from and that they are permitted in organic systems. Any purchased inputs used should be listed on the website or have an organic certification seal.
  • Farmers using the Organic Pledge will need to pay an annual renewal fee to cover the costs of administration and have an up-to-date pledge (for the current year) on display at their marketing sites as well as on-line (through, for example, their website if they have one). The content of the pledge is public (including the farm’s Self-Assessment and mentors) and the list of all farmers who have signed the pledge is public.

Read more about this model – click here.

MODEL 2 – Peer Review Model

Peer review certification would be a useful tool for provinces seeking to regulate the use of “organic” but concerned about the effects of adopting the COR on small direct market farms. Several surveys of this farm demographic in BC, NS, and nationally by this Working Group, have received the clear message that COR certification does not meet the needs of these farms. Those provinces in which COR certification is the only option have also observed many small farms dropping organic certification and opting for terms such as “uncertified organic”, “natural”, or simply “local”.

To address the needs of smaller-scale farms marketing their products directly to local consumers, the Small-scale Certification Working Group proposes that provinces draft legislation that incorporates peer certification for direct market farms, thereby keeping these farms in the organic family. Here are some of the benefits of peer review certification for direct market farms:

  1. Reduced Bureaucracy: Farms that market direct locally do not require complicated 3rd party certification procedures designed to maintain organic integrity through extended supply chains.
  2. Reduced Cost: Without the burden of international compliance audits and by the very nature of peer volunteers being incorporated into model, the cost of peer certification can be significantly less.
  3. Simplicity: Local peer-reviewed certification relies more on trust and community oversight as a way to assure compliance rather than extensive record-keeping.
  4. Building Peer Community: Instead of sending paid inspectors, the annual farm visits would be conducted by nearby farmers and or consumer representatives on a volunteer basis which has the added benefits of sharing knowledge & understanding and building the organic community.
  5. Empowerment: The democratic structure of a peer review model and the fact that application reviews, inspections, and the overall running of the organization are up to the members builds collective responsibility and capacity.

Read more about this model – click here.

 We appreciate getting your input!

Please take a look at the proposals for the self declaration and peer review proposals and share your thoughts and comments.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Daniel Warr permalink
    June 21, 2015 11:39 am

    Certified Naturally Grown is already a valid alternative for small farmers to Certified Organic using both peer review and farmer affidavit. Why not support a movement created by farmers for farmers rather than yet again imposing a system on the grassroots alienating more of us.

    I was regionally Certified Organic in BC for 35 years until I was told that hay from my farm could not be used by ISO Certified Organic operations to feed their beef cattle nor could I use the CFIA Canadian Organic logo but imports from China and Mexico can. Keep your certification away from small farms we no longer wish to green wash your bureaucracy nor your corporate organic system.

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