Michigan Organic Listserv

August 10, 2010

Current News Articles for Vegetable Production

Downy mildew update for August 4
by Mary Hausbeck, Michigan State University, Department of Plant Pathology

Downy mildew has been confirmed on cucumbers in 15 counties in the state!

The most recent reports on cucumbers were in a commercial field in Oakland County and a research plot in Berrien County. Downy mildew was also recently detected in watermelons, cantaloupes and acorn squash within the state (see the Michigan downy mildew map, http://www.veggies.msu.edu/Research/2010DMmap.pdf). Spore counts within Saginaw County have remained high especially at the Frankenmuth site (see daily spore counts, http://www.veggies.msu.edu/Research/2010DMSporetraptotals.pdf). All cucurbit growers should be on the lookout for the disease. For more information, go to www.veggies.msu.edu.

Small organic farmers find certification too pricey
by Erica L. Kincannon, JRC News Service

Is the cost of certification preventing you from certifying organic?

With the organically grown, downy reddish peach close to her nose, Shelby Township resident Nancy Rich draws in the intoxicatingly fresh scent during her shopping trip to Whole Foods in Rochester Hills.

“I have Crohn’s disease and I’ve found when I don’t have all those chemicals in my body (from conventionally grown foods) I feel much better. The food tastes much better, too,” Rich said. “It’s a little more expensive to shop organic, but your life is important.”

The organic food market continues holding a strong presence with consumers, as 75 percent claim to use organic foods, according to a national survey published in 2010 by The Hartman Group, a predominant consumer-culture consultancy and market research firm.

Meanwhile, some local micro-farmers attempting to gain organic certification through the U.S. Department of Agriculture find growing their product is the easy part — becoming certified brings a whole different challenge.

Wally Niezguski of Wally’s Organically Grown Produce in Independence Township has grown organically for more than 30 years and looked into USDA certification for the past two. Although not a “big farmer,” Niezguski said he was quoted between $1,000 to $4,000 to obtain certification for his quarter-acre vegetable garden and farm stand, which is a yearly fee.

“I found it was totally cost prohibitive,” he said. “I bring in maybe $2,500 and that’s hardly worth the cost to get certified. I mainly do this so I can eat those vegetables.”

According to the USDA, until a grower sells more than $5,000 in product, they are not required to obtain organic certification to sell their product.

However, they aren’t permitted to use the USDA certified organic label, either, which consumers recognize and affiliate with organic food.

“I want to be certified so I can put the stamp on my produce, signs and all advertising that says ‘USDA organic certified,’” said Virginia Knowlden of Knowlden Log Cabin Farm in Independence Township.

Tending 5.5 acres, the small local grower in her first full year also found certification costly. Unable to locate a Michigan-based inspector to certify her organic facility, Knowlden said to cover travel expenses for an out-of-state inspector, in addition to the inspection and certification fees, was simply too expensive at the quote of $4,000. Despite her multimonth struggle to pursue organic certification, she isn’t throwing down the shovel just yet.

“I will continue to pursue certification because I think it’s important and would open up more markets for me,” she said.

Of the nine National Organic Program Accredited Organic Certifying Agencies registered in Michigan and recognized by the USDA, none are actually housed in Michigan. In order to obtain the best price for certification, a local grower must call the various agencies to determine if there are any Michigan-based inspectors, how much it would cost for an in or out-of-state inspector and ask how price is based for inspection and certification.

“It’s been really tough to find local organic inspectors in Michigan,” said Aaron Brin, inspection manager at Midwest Organic Services Association. “For some reason, Michigan seems to be behind a lot of the other states as far as organic certification goes.”

Despite low numbers of Michigan-based inspectors, there are nearby certifying agencies in Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin, in addition to the farther locations of California, Nebraska, North Dakota and Oregon.

Vicki Morrone, the Michigan State University Organic Vegetable and Field Crop Outreach Specialist and a member of the Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance, said she was shocked at the prices Niezguski and Knowlden claim they were quoted.

Although fees vary based on farm size and number of products being certified, upon conducting her own research, Morrone found the cost for inspecting and certifying a small operation is between $600 to $1,200.

Farmers of all sized operations could receive a break in inspection costs through the 2008 Farm Bill, with implementation conducted by MOFFA and the Michigan Department of Agriculture acting as overseer.

The cost share for inspection allows for a partial reimbursement up to 75 percent, with a cap of $750, and is relevant for costs incurred Oct. 1, 2009, to Sept. 1, 2010, said Morrone. MOFFA will accept applications for reimbursement Aug. 4 to Sept. 7.

While local farmers continue to aim for organic certification, the market for organic foods reaches a growth rate of 20 percent or more, according to the USDA.

“I’ve been growing organically since before it’s been cool,” Knowlden said. “So it’s interesting now that it’s come full circle, that people are starting to recognize that their food is being shipped 1,500 miles to the grocery store before

This article from the Morning Sun: http://www.themorningsun.com/articles/2010/08/09/business/doc4c602ef54a975114608882.txt

For more information on transitioning to organic farming view this Michigan State Extension Bulletin Transitioning to Organic -- Where to Start? Visit www.michiganorganic.msu.edu for more resources on organic certification.

Read the press release below for more on the cost share program. This is a great way to cut the cost of certification.

Michigan Organic Food & Farm Alliance to facilitate organic cost share program in Michigan

The 2008 Farm Bill included a cost- share program for certified organic farmers. For 2009, this program was offered to organic producers in Michigan through the Michigan Department of Agriculture. This year, due to budget constraints, the MDA is not able to offer this program, even though the funds are from the USDA. They have, however, entered into an agreement that will allow Michigan Organic Food & Farm Alliance (MOFFA) to manage the program, allowing our state’s organic farmers to again get the cost share to reimburse part of their organic certification costs.

Between August 4 and September 8, MOFFA will be accepting applications from Organic Producers for this Cost-share program. To qualify for this cost-share program, organic growers must be certified by a USDA accredited organic certification agency. The program authorizes a payment of 75 percent of the certification costs, up to $750. Growers must provide a copy of their organic certification dated between October 1, 2009 and September 1, 2010, and a receipt for payment for certification. MOFFA will confirm these documents with organic certifiers, and then send the check for a percentage of the cost of certification to those applicants who qualify.

All known certified organic farmers will get a letter with instructions and forms to apply for the cost-share program. The information, with downloadable forms, will also be available on the organizations website, www.moffa.org. Because there is a very short timetable for this program, MOFFA encourages organic producers to get their documents in order and send in the application as soon as possible after the start date.

MOFFA is a Michigan non-profit dedicated to the organic community of Michigan, including both growers and consumers. Each year in March the organization holds the Michigan Organic Conference, providing education and information for farmers interested in transitioning to organic production and for consumers with interest in organic foods and related topics.

Press release from the New Ag Network: http://www.new-ag.msu.edu/Home/tabid/37/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/292/Michigan-Organic-Food-Farm-Alliance-to-facilitate-organic-cost-share-program-in-Michigan.aspx

Michigan Regional Reports Available on Vegetable Production, August 4, 2010

The MSU Crop Advisory Team Vegetable Alerts (CAT Alerts) Regional Reports are out for the following areas. In these reports you will find information on weather, growth stages, small and tree fruits. To view reports visit: http://ipmnews.msu.edu/vegetable/

Michigan Regional Reports Available on Fruit Production, August 10, 2010

The MSU Crop Advisory Team Fruit Alerts (CAT Alerts) Regional Reports are out for the following areas. In these reports you will find information on weather, insects, diseases, and the crop report. To view reports visit: http://www.ipmnews.msu.edu/fruit/


Events for Michigan Organic Farmers and Enthusiasts

There is Still Time to Register!!! Building Health, from the Ground Up – Soil Workshop August 18-19, 2010

When: August 18-19, 2010, from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.

Where: Morgan Composting, 4353 E US Highway 10, Sears, MI

Why: Morgan Composting is teaming up with MSU to teach interested organic farmers ways to build soil quality that provide better yields. This year’s keynote speaker is Jerry Brunetti’s who has been building soil for over 20 years. He will present on topics including soil fertility, animals nutrition and livestock health.  August 18th, will focus on fields.  Come learn ways to reduce pest, certify organic, market your goods, and build soil quality.  August 19th, will focus on vegetable production. Come learn ways to build turf, reasons to join/start a CSA, controlling pests in your garden, using space efficiently, and benefits of having a greenhouse. Both days include a tour of Morgan Composting.

There will also be an evening discussion on Farm-to-School, mediated by Colleen Matts, CS Mott Group Farm to School Outreach Specialist. It will focus on ways to integrate farm in your public school system, and educate future generations of the importance that food has on their everyday lives.

How: Cost is $25 per day, both days for $40, or the family package for $120 (which includes admission for 4 family members, with complete childcare.) Online registration can be made through www.dairydoo.com, or by mail, payable to MSUE, 301 W. Upton, Reed City, MI 49667. You can also visit www.michiganorganic.msu.edu (under the event tab) to download registration brochure and flier.

For travelers, reservations can be made at the Osceola Grand Hotel by calling (231) 734-0470.

Organic Vineyard Management Meeting

When: August 19, 2010, 3:00 p.m.

Where: NW Michigan Horticultural Research Station, 6686 S. Center Hwy
Traverse City, MI 49684

Why: Learn how to manage diseases and insects in the vineyard using organic practices. We will cover the main grape diseases and organic control strategies, with time allowed for discussion. Veteran growers will share their experiences. This presentation is in conjunction with the Horticulture Station Annual Open House. For information on other presentations, wine tasting, and dinner call Jackie at 231-946-1510.
Annemiek C. Schilder, associate professor in the Plant Pathology Department at MSU. Rufus Isaacs, associate professor in the MSU Department of Entomology.

To register for these free events call the Michigan Land Use Institute at 231-941-6584. For information contact Jim Sluyter at 231-941-6584, ext. 15, [log in to unmask].

Cranberry Site Selection Workshop in Manistee

When: August 24, 1:00 – 4:30 p.m.

Where: Manistee Conservation District Office, 8840 Chippewa Hwy (US 31), South of Bear Lake, in Manistee County

Why: Cranberry farming can be lucrative, but requires an appropriate site, significant investments in infrastructure, and appropriate state permits. Learn about site requirements, permitting, and Generally Accepted Agricultural Management Practices (GAAMPs). Inside presentations start at 1 p.m.; a field trip follows, near Kaleva.

Erik Johnson, Michigan Department of Agriculture, Mark Longstroth, MSU Extension, Kim Fish, Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment.
To register for these free events call the Michigan Land Use Institute at 231-941-6584. For information contact Jim Sluyter at 231-941-6584, ext. 15, [log in to unmask].





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