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Organic certification embraced by B.C. farmers

01/29/2015 01:49 EST | Updated 03/31/2015 05:59 EDT
There could be big changes in the works for organic farmers in B.C. as the province looks to bring in a standardized certification process.

The Ministry of Agriculture announced it would be consulting with the organic sector on the proposed changes.

Currently, organic certification in B.C. is a voluntary process and third party certification is only required for farmers who export their products out of province. Changes would make certification mandatory for any farmer using an organic label.

"There are huge opportunities for local organic food producers in B.C. and around the world and this is a key step the B.C. government and stakeholders are taking to best take advantage of them," said B.C. Agriculture Minister Norm Letnik in a government issued press release.

Rebecca Kneen, co-owner of Crannóg Ales— a certified-organic brewery in Sorrento, B.C. — said it's a change organic farmers like herself have been fighting for for years.

"We need that clarity in the market place," Kneen told Daybreak Kamloops' Shelley Joyce.

Kneen said there are big concerns in B.C. with producers who don't follow organic practices claiming the organic label.

"A lot of this happens at the small scale and direct between producers and consumers at the farmers' markets where people say, 'Oh yeah, I'm organic.' And they say, 'Well, do you spray any insecticides?' 'Oh yes, but only before bloom.' Well, that's probably not an organic farm."

The changes would force James Lockwood of Lockwood Farms in Cobble Hill, B.C. to certify. Right now, he's among the farmers market vendors who uses the organic label without certification.

"We're small operations and we're busy growing salads. We'd rather spend our time weeding our carrots than doing our paperwork," he told On The Island's Gregor Craigie.

"I think a lot of our customers feel very comfortable just asking us questions directly [at the farmers' market]. Trust has been lost or is less relevant when people are going to grocery stores."

While there are extra costs and bureaucracy associated with organic certification, Lockwood hopes the changes streamline the current system, making it easier for busy farmers like himself to go through the process.

That hope is shared by Hermann Bruns — the owner of Wild Flight Farm — a certified organic vegetable farm in Mara, B.C.

"The government is pledging to work together with the certification agencies in B.C. to develop ways to reduce some of the hurdles to get in," Bruns told told Daybreak South's Chris Walker.

Bruns also hopes the changes will help grow the organic sector.

"Many of us are hoping that we can grow and attract more farms and hoping that more consumers will choose organic so that will help farmers go organic."

To hear more from the farmers quoted in the story, click on the audio:

- Rebecca Kneen wants organic certification for all B.C. farms

- James Lockwood optimistic about mandatory organic certification

- Hermann Bruns embraces mandatory organic certification

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