Why We Will Not Certify
Along with many other small farmers across the states of Indiana and Kentucky ( and across the country), we will not be pursuing organic certification under the new U.S.D.A. “organic” standards. Among small farmers, we have many reasons for not pursuing such certification. We also have concerns for the consequences (both economic and otherwise) of our having made such a decision. In order to help our customers and friends with some understanding of this decision, we have come up with a brief list of what we expect will be the most frequently asked questions.
Does your decision not to pursue U.S.D.A. certification mean that you will begin with regular and sometimes heavy use of synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers such as do so-called “conventional” growers?
Absolutely not. We intend to continue to labor using the same practices and techniques as earned us certification previously with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. We received certification previously with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. We received certification under this earlier regime for six years consecutively. Beyond this, and as much as we have always been concerned, we will continue to look for ways to imprive our efforts at environmentally and socially responsible farming practices.
Without an independent inspection and certification system, how can we be sure that what you are doing meets the highest criteria, both environmentally and in terms of quality, such as we have come to expect?
Indeed. This is one of our greatest concerns. Our hope is that our customers and friends who know us will accept both our personal assurances as well as our six previous years of organic certification as some guarantee of our commitment to sustainable agricultural practices. In the meantime, we will search for and, if need be, help to develop an alternative system of inspection and certification which will have among it highest priorities the encouragement of right livelihood for small farmers and farm workers. We are also reissuing our invitation to those of you who would like to visit our farm and see for yourselves what we are doing. In the end, finally, we are suggesting that a system of knowing (especially this federal system of inspection and certification) can be a very poor substitute for actually knowing and trusting people.
What were the factors leading to your decision not to certify?
We have many reasons for not certifying under the new system. Our understanding is that the new rules primarily benefit the largest of agricultural enterprises, namely agribusiness and food processors, such as would have, as a part of their regular staff and operation, bookkeepers and accountants and an existing system of documenting inputs and outputs. Small farmers have no such staff. We have no such system. Moreover, because we purposefully grow a very large variety of crops (in order to encourage and in our attempt to imitate natural eco-systems) rather than just a hand full of crops such as would be ready for export, wholesale, and/or processing, our work at documentation under such a system would be disproportionately large.
For those of you who may have heard Ivor on WFPL’s “State of Affairs,” you will remember his concerns with regard to the added bureaucratic burden, which the new U.S.D.A. rules will require. It is since then that we decided not to certify. Among other very important reasons, not the least of which is the exploitation of farm workers under the H2a or “guestworker” program for combined organic and conventional agribusiness purposes, our sense is that, if these added burdens for small farmers were the exception in a system that primarily favored small producers, we would likely consider U.S.D.A. certification. If the current system of agricultural production, processing, and distribution were more balanced as far as the concerns of both agribusiness and small producers, we might yet consider certification. Neither of the above is true.
One need only look at commodity production in the U.S. to see that the current agricultural system favors huge processors primarily, and huge agribusiness secondarily (so that the huge processors may receive raw material at artificially low prices), and small producers not at all. We do not wish, in order to gain some nominal and elusive benefit for ourselves, to give validation to a system that, as it functions well, seeks an ever-increasing level of control over our food supply by a few very powerful companies.