Policy opinion about catching organic cheats
"But for some reason I cannot fathom, the USDA seems intent on adding organic field-testing to the existing system of record-keeping and record-checking, a bureaucratic system that costs upwards of $2,000 upfront, per farm, per year. Heartland urges the USDA to instead begin to replace record-keeping and record-checking with annual field-testing, thereby bringing down the cost of organic certification.
"USDA officials claim the cost of this new plan will be about $500 per test. But a broad-spectrum herbicide analysis costs just $125. And surely a certifier providing USDA-certification to multiple organic farmers and processors will be able to get an even better price than that. And what about testing for fecal coliforms? That costs just $16 per test, money well-spent when one considers the risks inherent in improperly composted manure.
"The Heartland Institute does not suggest testing for everything every year on every organic entity the USDA certifies. As long as the party being inspected doesn’t know what’s being tested for, a broad-spectrum herbicide analysis or a fecal coliform test, or any of a host of other inexpensive tests, would suffice to prove or disprove a farmer’s or processor’s adherence to the USDA’s NOP and keep everyone honest.
"Lastly, there remains the outstanding issue of ‘royalties’ being collected by USDA-accredited certifiers. How can anyone expect private, for-profit companies that oversee the USDA NOP to be objective as long as they continue to collect 1 to 3 percent of a farmer’s gross revenue from each transaction they certify? Organic field-testing must be carried out by independent inspectors, not by certifiers that have a vested interest in pushing more product to market."
The Heartland Institute describes itself as a 28-year-old national nonprofit organization headquartered in Chicago, Ill. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems.