Warnings will be the first step in enforcement
by Peter Mitham
VERNON – The province’s new labelling regulations for organic products kick in September 1, but producers who don’t comply will face warnings before being hit with fines.
“The BC government, working with Certified Organic Associations of BC (COABC), will use a graduated enforcement approach that initially focuses on bringing businesses and individuals into compliance through education and warnings,” ministry communications staff said.
Plans for the new labelling requirements were announced in September 2016 and enacted as part of the Food and Agricultural Products Classification Act in December 2016. The new regulations require that any product sold in BC and labelled as “organic” be certified organic by a designated certifying body. COABC is an umbrella group that represents nine certifying bodies active within the province. Producers who describe their products as organic but lack the appropriate certification risk various penalties, including a $350 fine.
The enforcement regime will be complaint-driven, but details were still being worked out at the end of August.
“We have continued to work with the Ministry of Agriculture towards the enforcement of the regulation and we are all working hard to sort out details,” COABC executive director Jen Gamble said August 17.
The depth of the confusion confronting producers and those engaged in selling farm products was evident earlier this year in conversations Gamble had both at COABC’s annual general meeting in Abbotsford as well as a week later at the annual conference of the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets. Certified organic farms and processors represent approximately 40% of sales at BC farmers’ markets.
A key concern for market managers was the wording vendors would be allowed to use, and how the new labelling requirements would be enforced.
“Those specific details are still being worked out,” agriculture ministry staff told Country Life in BC at the time, declining to say whether coffee brewed from organic beans could be called organic or whether business names that include the word “organic” would need to change.
The province’s organic specialist, Emma Holmes, has not responded to requests for clarification.
While the province gave producers a generous window to prepare for the new labelling regime, including seeking certification to allow them to label their products as organic, it’s not clear how many producers took advantage of the opportunity.
According to Statistics Canada, a total of 550 BC farms claim to have organic products for sale in 2016, but just 449 were certified organic. A further 110 were in transition to organic production.
COABC’s own figures list 693 certified producers in 2016, and 748 in 2017.
Gamble says many farms that claim to be organic are close enough to achieve certification if they want, but she has no idea how many actually have done so in response to the new regulations.
“This is an almost impossible question for us to answer,” she says. “We do not have access to the reasons people are choosing certification so though our membership has increased over the last few years, we cannot attribute it directly to the new regulation.”
Vol. 104 Issue 9
STORIES IN THIS EDITION
What on earth?
Opposition slams ALC bill
Sidebar: Protection & pushback
Editorial: Truth in labelling
Back Forty: So you don’t believe in climate change
Viewpoint: Don’t blame the cows for global warming
Ag council’s lobbying efforts produce results
Learning a new skill
Foundation’s nest egg for funding projects increases
Province will hold the line on piece rates
New CEO aims to kindle team spirit at co-op
FIRB decision prompts rethink of pricing scheme
Beekeepers see potential in technology transfer
AgSafe markes quarter century
Raspberries hit hard by harsh February
Blueberry growers anxious for new varieties
Biological controls for pests in demand
Sidebar: Pesticides in play
Growers urged to focus on fresh
Westgen celebrates 75 years of excellence
Top seller was no-show at Holstein sale
Spring show attracts exhibitors from Quebec
Cheesemakers unite to grow niche market
Range use permits under greater scrutiny
Sidebar: Range use plans go digital
Market Musings: Top bulls sell for top dollar at spring sales
Grapegrowers share sustainability objectives
Grape specialist honoured for dedication
Hazelnut production expands across BC
Sidebar: Pest pressures
Supporters take to AITC’s Sips & Sprouts
Research: Cultured meat fails to impress researchers
UAVs undergo testing for pesticide delivery
Sustainability goes beyond saving farmland
Father and daughter roll with the last of the steel wheels
Woodshed: Susan Henderson is warming to country life
Wannabe: Farming is more than just a job
Surplus, cull fruit finds new purpose as tasty snacks
Jude’s Kitchen: Special food for special moms