(Beyond Pesticides, February 13, 2009) The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) has ended its organic certification program, which was established in 2000, two years before federal organic standards. The state’s effort to save itself an unknown amount in its budget will force organic farmers to pay significantly more for out-of-state certification. Larry Lewis, UDAF spokesman, said there was not enough time after Governor Jon Huntsman called for spending cuts to determine how to run the program profitably.
As of January 29, UDAF’s website carried a message from Clair Allen, director of UDAF’s Plant Industry department, saying, “The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food’s Organic Certification Program is in a state of flux at this time. Its future is dependent on action by the Utah Legislature as they consider which programs to continue funding during out economic downturn. Please do not download or send in documents relating to our Organic Certification Program until the issue is resolved. We expect to have this issue resolved by the end of the 2009 Legislative Session.”
Since the shuttering of the program, organic farmers have had to pay up to 10 times as much for private certification, often from California. UDAF typically charged between $50 and $2,500, and the tenfold difference is making a significant difference in farmers’ budgets. Mr. Allen showed little sympathy for affected growers, saying, “If all farmers went back to organic farming, we’d be starving by now, and that’s the reality. As far as organic certification is concerned, I’d rather cut programs than people.”
The loss of the organic certification program also ends the state’s law enforcement of its organic standards, which insured the integrity of UDAF certified products. “Utah’s program is a complete package,” said Miles McEnvoy, president of the National Association of State Organic Programs. “The difference with Utah’s program and that of other states is that only Utah has the authority to enforce national organic standards, providing more oversight to protect the integrity of the organic product.”
These developments may be a sign of the times at UDAF. Last year, it proposed making it illegal to list milk as free from artificial hormones, which was backed by rbST-manufacturer, Monsanto. Consumer input to UDAF is important in preserving policies and programs that protect human health and the environment. To comment, contact Larry Lewis, Utah Agriculture Department, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write Mr. Lewis at 350 N. Redwood Road, Salt Lake City, UT, 84114. You can also contact your state representatives and senators.
Source: Salt Lake Tribune