For months we've been working with the Utah State Department of Agriculture to become a certified organic processing facility. It's a great state program, in fact it's the only one in the nation that has the power to certify farmers and producers and to enforce NOP (National Organic Program) rules. It's inexpensive for businesses to get certification, local, and saves the hassle of having to fly an inspector out. It's a very thick packet that I work on in-between every thing else that I do (accounting, answering e-mails, developing new products, overseeing production, shipping...you get the picture). Back in January, I was getting close to sending it in and was ready to fill out the final part of the application. I sent an e-mail to the person who handles the department with a question. He wrote me back saying that the legislature had canceled the organic program. Now what?!
This was discouraging news, as now I would have to start all over with the application process, and incur thousands of extra dollars in costs to get certification through a private agency. In fact, certification through a private organization was going to cost us $8000, as opposed to the $1500 the state program would cost. The Salt Lake Tribune also caught wind of the story and interviewed me for it. Click here to read the article.
Being the easily fired-up person that I am, I called the State Legislature trying to find out exactly what was going on and when the issue was or would be voted on. I spoke with the Secretary of the Executive Appropriations Committee and he said that it wasn't even in a bill yet to be voted on. By reading the article and from the response at the Agriculture Department, it seems like the program has already been cut. But according to the legislature, no budget cut has been made, and the subject is still up for discussion. The Secretary told me the issue would be presented first to the committee as a possible budget cut. The budget cut will then be added to a bill and the bill will go through the state Senate and the House and voted on in to law. So, we're five steps away from the program being cut, and by all laws, there still is an organic certification program in the State of Utah. So, why did the head of the organic program tell me that "unfortunately, the program has been cut"? Well, inside sources tell me that the federal government was increasing their fees to charge the state for their organic certification and the state didn't want to pay those extra fees.
So, we rallied. Organic companies throughout the state rallied around Neutraceuticals, a large organic company here in Utah that makes supplements. Bruce Hough of Neutraceuticals became our spokesperson and proposed a fee increase instead of cutting the program. He presented our case to the appropriations committee, and it looks like now the program will be saved!
But the State Department of Agriculture still won't take our application---We still have to wait for the legislative session to end in order to solidify the continuation of the program.
So, in other words, as soon as the program's back up and running, we'll be slapping our application on their desk! In the meantime we're keeping up with all our organic requirements--strict documentation of all ingredients and products that go in and out of our facility, not using pesticides or chemicals in or around our building and so on. We'll keep you updated as the process moves forward!