With the many challenges continuing to confront organic farmers and producers, namely PFAS chemical contamination and the ongoing dairy crisis, the MOFGA Certification Services (MCS) team started the 2022 season with a lot of uncertainty. We once again saw a resilient local food system in action, with the state and many partners, including MOFGA, providing relief and leadership during a challenging time and lots of unknowns.
As the spring months turned to summer, emergency funds and legislative mandates took hold. We began to learn more about the effects of ill-informed policies of the past. Thankfully, things stabilized from a certification standpoint and the initial worry that we would see total agricultural devastation due to PFAS dissipated the more Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection and farmers tested the land.
Overall, MCS had a successful year, with a small net increase of certified organic producers. This was due in large part to a strong number of applicants, including 17 applicants from New Hampshire who had to find a new certifier when the state’s program eliminated certification services in the livestock and processor/handler production scopes.
The following is a snapshot of metrics at year end, along with other 2022 highlights.
Certification by the Numbers
- MOFGA Certified Organic Producers — 527.
- Total production categories — 766.
- Mixed vegetable and crop farms — 340.
- On-farm processors — 94.
- Dairies — 60.
- Livestock (non-dairy) — 42.
- Processor/handlers — 89.
- Maple syrup — 53.
- Wild blueberry operations — 49.
- Mushroom growers — 20.
- Sea vegetable operations — 20.
- MOFGA Certified Clean Cannabis Producers — 17.
- 2022 Applicants — 56.
- 2022 Surrenders — 49.
- Certified acreage — 59,000.
- $97 million in 2021 gross sales reported by organic producers in 2022.
USDA National Organic Program
Rulemaking was in the air at the National Organic Program (NOP) in 2022, with the long anticipated final Origin of Livestock rule publication, first introduced in 2015. This new rule, which becomes effective April 5, 2023, eliminates the so-called “continuous transition loophole” that has created significant disadvantages for small and mid-size dairy farms across the country and the Northeast. The Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards proposed rule was also released, providing additional regulation in the area of poultry production and animal welfare.
The NOP plans to continue its rulemaking backlog, and, in early 2023, the NOP released the Strengthening Organic Enforcementfinal rule. The rule aims to increase oversight in the supply chain, codify existing NOP guidance into regulation, and address and adjust the existing allowance of exemptions and exclusions for some operations within the organic industry.
As we look forward to the new year ahead, we are hopeful that we will see another strong year of applicants applying for certification in our programs and continued growth for our existing operations. We are excited to be participating in the USDA’s Transition to Organic Partnership Program, which aims to transition significant amounts of agricultural production in the United States to organic over the next five years. MCS and MOFGA are the lead organizations for Maine in the Northeast cohort.
We look forward to continuing to serve the organic producers and eaters in our region and state through our certification services, and upholding the promise and original intent of certified organic.
– Chris Grigsby, Director of MOFGA Certification Services, LLC
This article originally appeared in the spring 2023 issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.