Part 3 of 3 parts for Week of May 22



General Description of the Food Alliance Certification Program and

General Description of Standards


This is an organization that is attempting to create an alternative
market from organic. It has created standards that are IPM focused,
combined with environmental aspects and fair human labor conditions. It
is seeking markets to demand this certification and offering a labeling
service to growers. Please read on if you find this intriguing. For a
complete version of this info please go to: 


General Description of the Certification System


Food Alliance standards provide a systematic measure of environmentally
and socially responsible management practices for participating farms
and ranches. In general terms, these standards are the scientific and
technical foundation on which the Food Alliance certified label is
built. Also called the certification seal, the Food Alliance certified
label is a visual aid businesses can use to identify foods produced in
environmentally and socially responsible ways. 


Certification Standards

Food Alliance standards measure the degree to which farm/ranch
management adheres to each of the Food Alliance's guiding principles as
expressed in the fixed and scored standards found in this document.  


Food Alliance administers its evaluation system through use of
independent, third-party site inspectors, who conduct the actual on-site
evaluations. During a Food Alliance inspection, site inspectors
interview farmers/ranchers and workers, tour facilities and fields, and
analyze records. The evaluation has three main goals: 


1.      Verify an operation's fulfillment of Food Alliance's fixed

2.      Verify an operation's fulfillment of Food Alliance's scored

3.      Provide notes to Food Alliance staff concerning innovative and
otherwise noteworthy actions taken by applicants. 


Fixed standards 

Fixed standards provide the first level of screening for acceptance into
the Food Alliance certification program.  As all fixed standards must be
adhered to, certification is not an option for operations that are not
in compliance with the following:


1. No use of genetically modified seed varieties or livestock breeds.

2. No use of hormones or feed additive (sub therapeutic) antibiotics in
livestock production.

3. Continual improvement of management and production practices.

4. No use of high toxicity pesticides included on prohibited list (See
Page 16 )


Organic growers already comply with these "Fixed standards."

These fixed standards are described in detail on page 15.


Scored standards

Whole Farm Standards:  Applicants must score an average of level 3.0
(out of 4) in a set of evaluation criteria in each of the following four
subject areas:  


1. Reduction of pesticide usage 

2. Soil and water conservation

3. Safe and fair working conditions  This is probably the only "Scored
Standard" an organic grower may need to address.

4. Wildlife habitat conservation 


Crop-specific Standards: Crop-specific standards also consist of scored
evaluation criteria, but relate more specifically to the cultural
practices, crop nutrition, and insect/disease/weed management on the
particular crops for which an applicant is interested in seeking Food
Alliance certification.  


Whole Farm and Crop Specific scored standards are described in detail in
the subsequent sections of this document. 


The Certification Process 

The certification process begins when Food Alliance receives a completed
application packet from a new or renewing applicant. At that time Food
Alliance staff review the application packet for completeness, ensuring
that: all questions are answered; all required signatures are made; the
application fee is paid; and all supporting documents are present. 


If all items are present, Food Alliance will send your application onto
an independent site inspector who will contact you to set up an on-site
inspection date.  During the site inspection, the site inspector will
interview the managers and workers, tour the fields and facilities, and
look through all employment and production records relevant to the


After the site visit, the site inspector submits a report to Food
Alliance detailing findings based on the certification criteria set by
Food Alliance. Site inspectors use forms created by Food Alliance to
guide the inspection process and for reporting (for more about site
inspectors, see qualifications below).  


Once Food Alliance receives the inspection documents from the site
inspector, the applicant is sent a letter regarding the status of their
application for Food Alliance certification. This letter is accompanied
by an official site report, detailing the scores the applicant received
in each of the evaluation criteria. 


Grievance Policy

If applicants feel that the site inspector's findings are unfair or
inaccurate, they may submit a request for re-evaluation to Food
Alliance. A request must be made in writing within 30 days of receiving
the official site report, detailing the perceived inaccuracies of the
site inspection. Applicants should also state whether or not they would
like to be inspected by a different site inspector. Re-inspections of
this nature will be provided at no cost to the applicant. No further
appeals will be accepted, however, an applicant may reapply after they
have made changes to their operation as suggested in their site report. 


Term of the Certification 

If an operation passes inspection, the term of certification is three
years from the official start date. The official start date will be
stated in the certification letter along with the products that may be
labeled as Food Alliance certified.


Ongoing Compliance and Verification

Food Alliance certification is not intended to duplicate or otherwise
supplant local, regional, or federal laws, many of which are dedicated
to the same sorts of issues as this certification program. Instead, this
certification is designed to provide a basis for a promotional campaign
intended to reward farmers and ranchers for their exemplary efforts.  In
order to ensure the certification criteria are being met at all times,
several verification and compliance activities occur:


Annual Reporting: Each year, certified farmers and ranchers must file an
"Annual Update," detailing how they have fulfilled the guiding
principles and achieved their continual improvement goals (as expressed
in writing in the Food Alliance application). If a participant either
does not complete, submits an incomplete, or falsifies an Annual Update,
their certification can be suspended. 


Un-announced visits: Each year Food Alliance conducts un-announced
visits on 3% of participating farms and ranches. Operations are either
selected at random for unannounced visits or they are selected based on
areas of concern (with regard to specific standards) first identified in
the initial inspection process. 


Suspension and Revocation: If in the course of an unannounced site
visit, or in the Annual Update report (see above), it becomes clear that
a participant is not adhering to the standards, Food Alliance staff will
investigate the situation further. If further investigation demonstrates
that the participant is not operating in a manner consistent with Food
Alliance certification standards, their certification will be suspended.

The participant is given a timeline to address the conditions of the
suspension. If they choose to remedy the violation within the timeframe,
their certification will be restored. The certification will be revoked
if the violation is not remedied.


Food Alliance certification for farms and ranches involves a single
annual fee.   This fee reflects the direct costs associated with
processing applications, administering the site inspection and issuing
an inspection report, as well as a portion of indirect costs for
development and administration of the certification program, creation
and refinement of standards, and recruitment of retail partners seeking
Food Alliance certified products.  


All fees for participation are paid directly to Food Alliance.
Applicants never pay fees to site inspectors. The fee is paid annually
on a sliding scale based on gross sales of Food Alliance certified
products (see table below). The first year fee is based on estimated
sales. Subsequent year fees are based on the previous year sales.  $400
is payable at the time of application and is non-refundable.  The
balance for year one is invoiced upon completion of the inspection and
mailing of the inspection report, payable in 30 days.  After the initial
year, Food Alliance will invoice the grower annually on the date of the
original certification.  Certification is valid for 3 years.  Certified
producers may opt out of the program prior to the end of the three year
certification only after a total of $1200 has been paid to Food Alliance
(the minimum payment allowable over three years).


Food Alliance Producer Certification

Fee Schedule: Independent Producers



Annual Certification Fee

Annual Certification Fee includes Inspection Fee, which is applied
evenly over three year term of certification



0.5% on first $175,000 or $400 (whichever is greater)

0.25% on sales between $175-$300,000

0.10% on sales between $300-$500,000

0.05% on sales over $500,000





For many more insights into the World of Organics, explore our new
report: Organic2006: Consumer Attitudes & Behavior, Five Years Later &
Into the Future.   click for more>


Wednesday May 31, 2006 @ 12:00 pm
A279 Plant and Soil Sciences Bldg.


Dr. Weibel is the head of the research and advisory activities in fruit,
berry and vine growing of FiBL (
<> ). Dr. Weibels research is in
variety and rootstock testing for organic fruit growing (apple and
cherry); development and evaluation of marketing concepts to introduce
new (organic) apple varieties; weed control and soil management
concepts; tree nutrition concepts; fruit thinning concepts; quality
assessment with emphasis on health related components; testing
suitability of holistic methods of quality assessment; system comparison
trials organic/conventional; projects on soil fertility with microbial
and physical  aspects in organic fruit and vine growing. 


Major Accomplishments: 
Science based practical recommendations for the site and situation
adapted use of herbicide free weed control methods. Development of a
sensor device and software to measure accurately real-time sap flow
(transpiration) of apple trees growing in the field. Science based
recommendations for variety choice in organic fruit production.
Creation, introduction and evaluation of a new marketing concept to
introduce unknown (scab resistant) apple varieties in a Supermarket
chain. This Taste-Groups-Conceptis now successfully introduced at the
two dominating supermarket chains of Switzerland, even for conventional
fruit. Creation and testing of new weed control concepts (Sandwich
System) for non-chemical weed control in tree strips. Author of a
scientifically acknowledged study to compare conventional and organic
apple quality including holistic methods (resulting also in method

 Initiation of a national now smoothly co-operating interdisciplinary
scientific and advisory network to solve flexibly and efficiently the
various problems of organic fruit growing. Member of multinational
research groups for EU-project grants. Initiator and presently chair of
the "European Group of Researchers in Organic Fruit" EUGROF;
Vice-President of the Working Group of Organic Fruit of ISHS.

 Creation of and assistance for seven regional rings of organic fruit
growers in Switzerland to increase knowledge transfer and
professionalization. Co-author and author of six technical leaflets on
the basic techniques etc. of organic fruit growing. Frequent articles in
grower magazines; different book chapters; regularly courses (theory and
practical training) for growers, university and professional students



Vicki Morrone

Organic Vegetable and Crop Outreach Specialist

Michigan State University

C.S. Mott Sustainable Food Systems

303 Natural Resrouces Bldg.

East Lansing, MI 48824


517-282-3557 (cell)

517-353-3834 (fax)


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