AFSC eases early certification requirements for organic producers
Organic farming has been gaining popularity in the province for some time. A 2017 estimate suggests there are 543,700 organic acres in Alberta and 590 certified operations (producers and processors), up from 345 in 2013.
Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) has been providing insurance products for organic crops since 2016 and participation has been steadily going up. Since the program was introduced, acres insured for organic crops have increased by 25 per cent every year as compared to the previous year.
Always aiming to be responsive to Alberta farmers, AFSC has been listening to industry stakeholders to find ways of assisting organic crop producers in a meaningful manner. As a result of consultations with the industry, AFSC is easing the requirements for producers who want to insure their crop with an organic-end-use selection beginning with the 2019 crop year.
AFSC’s Pricing and Market Analyst Peter Papez says the new procedures allow organic producers to provide pre-certification documents to their branch when selecting their insurance options, and their final organic certification by harvest. Under the previous guidelines, producers were not eligible for organic insurance unless they were fully certified prior to April 30.
“Organic crop producers still need to be under the supervision of an organic certification body and they are still expected to submit their organic management plan when they make their insurance coverage selection,” he said.
Various organic certification bodies have been using different terminology for the documentation they provide to organic crop producers in their processes. Some organizations may be using the term “transmittal letter” while others are using “pre-certification”.
“Regardless of the name,” Papez says, “the pre-certification documentation needs to show that producers asking for organic crop insurance have been given the green light by a certifying organization to grow organic crops and that the crops being insured will likely be certified organic at the time of harvest.”
AFSC’s flexible approach to certification of organic producers was welcomed by the industry.
“After the 2017 crop year, Organic Alberta members told us that the crop insurance program was not working for transitioning farmers,” said Becky Lipton, Executive Director at Organic Alberta.
“Organic Alberta raised this issue with AFSC and they responded by proposing an alteration of their program.
“This will have a significant positive impact on farmers who are transitioning to organic and we applaud AFSC for being responsive and adapting the program to meet the needs of our members.”
There are two organic-certifying bodies with offices in Alberta: Alberta Organic Producers Association in Morinville, and OCIA International-Canada in St.Paul. Other organizations with offices in North America, including Saskatchewan and British Columbia can be found through the Organic Alberta website, organicalberta.org