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
BC faces another summer of fire
Heather takes the cake
ALR report confirms agenda
Editorial: Inside information
Back Forty: Quantum change in the barn and kitchen
OpEd: Civic elections important for agriculture
Armyworm infestation hits North Okanagan
Surprise quota increase for dairies
Carrot field day
National apple programs focus of OK meeting
Okanagan tree fruits grab international spotlight
Farmers put food hub on wish list
Potato trials reflect change in consumer tastes
Veterinary partnership aimrs to improve service
Ag Brief: New public trust manager planning workshops
Ag Brief: BCAC hires new environmental programs mgr
Ag Brief: Poultry specialist joins IAF
Ag Brief: Salmon farmers hire new executive director
Ag Brief: New island agrologist
Automation good investment for nursery
Hort show offering more educational opportunities
Grant harnesses opportunities for farming
Flood management requires collaboration
Rancher goes wireless to manage irrigation
BC youth prevail at Western Canadian Classic
Land trust for Metro Vancouver floated again
Cawston market garden looks to future
Summer Institute plants seeds of knowledge
Research: Genetic editing stops deadline pig virus
Ploughing championship in sight
Coop rentals connect urbanites with farming
Maple Ridge consults on backyard chickens
Organic pioneers reflect on growth, changes in sector
Hooked on 4-H
Woodshed: Sweet-talkin’ Henderson makes vacation plans
Wannabe: Here’s to the ordinary
Feast of Fields
Jude’s Kitchen: September and birthday celebrations