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Blog Update from the Dominican Republic

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At Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers (FOG), our primary focus, for a fact, is Florida. However, no matter where we are, we truly care about Mother Earth in its’ entirety and we are working everyday towards our mission of supporting and promoting Organic, Sustainable and Regenerative agriculture.

FOG Interim Executive Director and Quality Certification Services – QCS (QCS) CEO met with the Dominican Republic’s very own Minister of Agriculture, Osmar Benitez, to discuss ways of strengthening Organic Agriculture in the nation.

FOG Representative(s) discussing with Minister Osmar Benitez

We salute and applaud the efforts of Dominican Republic Minister of Agriculture Mr. Osmar Benitez for his unrelenting support for Organic and Sustainable Agriculture! Mr. Benitez created the Organic Committee in Junta Agroempresarial Dominicana (JAD), which he used to head as the Executive Director before becoming Minister. In 2018, he successfully conducted the 2nd Organic Summit in the country (the last Organic Summit was held in 1998).

Thank you Minister for your support for not just organic, but for overall agriculture in the Dominican Republic! A true leader with vision. Your efforts are very much appreciated.

“Minister @osmarcbenitez (Osmar Benitez) had a meeting with Ramkrishnan Balasubramanian, who is the president of an International Certification company.

The goal of the meeting was to establish on a project for new exporters in the Dominican Republic.”

Announcement on the Organic Certification of Hemp

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Hi FOG Family! Quality Certification Services (QCS) here! We are the organic certification body of Florida Organic Growers and we are excited to announce some changes in regards to the organic certification of hemp.

First, some logistics:

The H.R.2 – Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill) was signed into law on December 20, 2018 (Public Law No: 115-334), meaning the 2018 Farm Bill has replaced Section 7606 of the Agricultural Act of 2014. Thus, the August 12, 2016 Statement of Principles on Industrial Hemp is no longer relevant; the National Organic Program (NOP) Guidance Document 2040 is no longer applicable.

…so?

The 2018 Farm Bill fully legalizes general agricultural production of hemp for farmers in the U.S. who have been licensed and regulated by their state or tribe to do so. Therefore, we can certify any such organically produced hemp to the NOP organic standards!  Furthermore, certified organic hemp grown in the United States or legally imported can be used as an organic ingredient by QCS certified processors in products that are to be labeled as “100 percent organic”, “organic”, or “made with organic (specified ingredients)”. We will be certifying U.S. grown and legally imported hemp as both a crop and a processed product ingredient going forward.

Ryan Brouillard, QCS Senior Certification Manager, had this to say: 

“Now that the Hemp Farming Act become law, new opportunities for domestically grown hemp will open throughout the whole organic supply chain.  By staying informed of and preparing for these regulatory changes and by employing staff knowledgeable about cannabis production, QCS is ready to become a leader in providing organic certification to producers and handlers in this new, rapidly growing market”.

Stay tuned for the most up-to-date information on this matter. QCS out!

Quality Certification Services (QCS) has been an industry leader in providing organic, food safety, and ethical certifications since 1989. As an accredited certifying agency, QCS has been meeting the demands of a growing food industry for more than 25 years. QCS is proud to offer organic and food safety certifications for crop production, livestock, retail, restaurants, processing and handling, and importer and exporter operations of all sizes. As the largest certification agency on the eastern seaboard, QCS and our staff of highly qualified and dedicated food and agricultural scientists, educators, and regulators, is capable of meeting all certification needs with expertise. In fact, QCS was recently given a performance rating by GLOBALG.A.P. that ranked its Food Safety/GAPs Team No. 1 in the USA, and in the top 10 worldwide, out of 138 approved Certification Bodies.

Moving toward Sustainable Rice Production in Northwest Dominican Republic

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Derek Sindler of Quality Certification Services (QCS) was one of four authors who contributed to a recent study (through the University of Florida) on sustainable rice production. The work is currently in circulation through Scientific Research, an academic publisher.

The following is an excerpt from the study:

” Pesticide runoff from the rice production area of Las Matas de Santa Cruz in NW Dominican Republic degrades biodiversity in the ecosystems of the Yaque del Norte River, Montecristi National Park, and Caribbean Sea. This degradation prompted the Dominican NGO AgroFrontera to develop a program for the creation of a new sustainable rice value chain, starting with the formation of a rice growers association in Las Matas. This project was to evaluate “organic” as a potential certification for the new growers association. The project found that while organic certification is years away, other barriers to a sustainable rice value chain exist: competition with US rice imports due to Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA), an informal labor system, and access to credit. Recommendations for the new growers association include: to lower the cost of production to compete with imports, to formalize the labor system, to mediate financing for rice producers, and to maintain balanced leverage across the value chain. A recommendation for future research is the resiliency of farmer institutions against internal corruption and in-fighting.”

For a more in-depth look into the study, please visit the link provided:

https://www.scirp.org/Journal/PaperInformation.aspx?PaperID=89678


FOG celebrates 30 years of supporting organic and sustainable agriculture!

30 year logo_transparentFOG has carried out its mission for 30 years by providing communities throughout the state with programs and resources that promote and support organic and sustainable agriculture and local and just food systems.

From beginning as a grassroots organization with the office located in someone’s kitchen or an unused corner of a barn to an established organization with programs that educate producers, consumers, institutions and governments about the benefits of organic and sustainable agriculture , Florida Organic Growers has continually made an impact in communities around Florida.

Our EBT program promotes healthy eating by allowing the local farmers market  to accept food stamps. Our Fresh Access Bucks program increases the purchasing power of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants by providing a one-to-one match for Florida grown fruits and vegetables.

Our farmer workshops educate and equip farmers with the tools and resources they need as well as the opportunity to share best practices. These farm-based, peer teaching events act as an opportunity to share best practices  and further develop the network of like-minded farmers in Florida.

Food justice advocacy is vital to who we are and for the last 30 years. FOG’s programs in increasing access to healthy, fresh food for low income families, educating youth on the importance of eating produce and advocating for policies that improve conditions for organic and family farms are all important contributions to food justice advocacy. In addition, we are proud to be a co-founder and to continue to support the work of the Agricultural Justice Project (AJP) whose mission is to work towards empowerment, justice and fairness for all who labor from farm to retail.

EBT pictureIn 2001, FOG received its USDA accreditation to certify farms as organic under its certification program, Quality Certification Services (QCS). QCS is a USDA and ANSI ISO/IEC 17065 accredited certification body that offers a wide array of certification options for farming, livestock, aquaculture, compound animal feed, packing, handling, processing, and wild harvest operations. We are excited to offer certification options to farms and producers to set them apart.

Our involvement on a national scale has propelled the fight for the organic food and farming movement.

FOG is one of the leading organizations in the nation ensuring the voices of small farmers are heard as new federal food safety regulations are being developed. Our work with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), The Organic Trade Association (OTA) and the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG), to name a few, has given strength and momentum to organic and sustainable farmers moving forward.

We invite you to support us as we are excited to see our work in action this year and making an impact in years to come!

Florida Organic Growers partners in launch of video series to help demystify organic certification

Florida Organic Growers (FOG) and Little Bean Productions have cooperated with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program to launch a video series called Organic Certification Made Simple: Bite by Bite as part of the USDA Sound and Sensible Initiative, a campaign that aims to make organic certification more accessible, affordable and attainable.

The multi-part series provides a step-by-step overview of organic production requirements and the process of organic certification—by farmers, for farmers. Featuring both farm footage and animation, the videos aim to be easily digestible and succinct; each video covers a different topic so viewers can pick and choose to watch the videos that correspond directly with their interests or questions. Viewers can watch the whole series to get a holistic overview of the entire certification process.

“Our series is meant to help direct-market growers who are using sustainable practices understand that getting certified organic may not be a huge stretch for them,” said FOG Executive Director Marty Mesh, “and many consumers and wholesalers are looking for certified organic products, so getting certified could open up markets for them and make their businesses more viable.”

Throughout the 26 videos, farmers discuss their firsthand experiences with obtaining organic certification and why they decided to pursue it. One segment follows a direct market farmer on his journey through the organic certification process to show viewers how the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic regulations translate to practices on the ground.

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“Many see organic certification as a daunting process, but Bite by Bite is full of visually engaging practical information while highlighting peer-to-peer communication with all the organic farmers we feature,” said Shelley Rogers of Little Bean Productions, director/producer of the series.

FOG was one of 14 organizations awarded a project contract with a goal to advance the USDA National Organic Program’s (NOP) Sound and Sensible Initiative by identifying and removing barriers to certification and streamlining the certification process.

To view the video series, please click here.

NOP Handbook Updates

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The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) has updated the audit checklists and Sunset dates sections of the NOP Handbook.

National List Sunset Dates

The National Organic Standards Board must review all substances on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances every five years and recommend renewing, removing, or changing each listing. This process is commonly referred to as “Sunset review.”

NOP 5611 provides the public with an easy way to identify the Sunset or expiration date for all substances included on the National List. This resource now reflects the expiration dates established by the Sunset 2012 Final Rule, except those that are effective October 21, 2012.

QCS Certified Farm Named Best Green Business 2012 by NewTimes Miami

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Photo Credit: Jacob Katel, NewTimes Miami

Miami, Fla. – QCS Certified Florida farm, Green Garden Organics, was recently named Best Green Business 2012 by NewTimes Miami.

Farmers Louis and Kim Duncanson of Green Garden Organics have been growing wheat grass for three decades. “I grew my first tray of grass 34 years ago,” Louis Duncanson says. That experience has paid off. Green Garden Organics Inc., includes in their extensive customer list all of the Whole Foods Markets in the state of Florida. They also supply restaurants, athletes, and celebrities.

“Louis and Kim have run a successful certified organic business providing high quality, nutritional food for folks. It has been a pleasure and an honor to work with them and to watch their business grow as more and more people and businesses came to recognize the quality of their products, ” said Marty Mesh, Executive Director of Florida Organic Growers. “This family farm is a great example of a green business and a wonderful selection for the honor.”

Louis Duncanson, also a licensed nutritionist specializing in cancer and AIDS patients, can’t say enough about the nutritional benefits of his crops. “I’d like to give a big shout-out to all of the people who came to me after their doctors had given up on them. I’ve seen my grasses do so many amazing things,” says Duncanson. “One ounce of wheatgrass has the equivalency to 5 pounds of carrots or 2 and 1/2 pounds of organic vegetables, and a full spectrum of trace elements.”

Duncanson also had positive things to say about his organic certification experience with QCS. “QCS has been so helpful! I remember when Marty was still a certifier 20 years ago, and he would drive down to see me in a red truck full of watermelons,” said Duncanson. “He would encourage me, you know? Tell me I could do it and he would help me every step of the way. And he has! I really appreciate everything FOG and QCS have done to help me and my wife grow our business.”

To learn more about Green Garden Organics, please click here.

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