Organic certification in New Hampshire is on the cusp of major changes. The National Organic Program is a federally planned and enforced standard that can be applied to crops and livestock, which has grown from a small voluntary certification to a $50 billion industry. Due to funding issues, potential corruption, and lack of transparency, the Granite State may soon be returning this federal scheme back to the federal government.
The New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food (NHDAMF) is currently the accredited agent for Organic certification in New Hampshire. The state already discontinued certifying livestock and wild crops and are considering handing off the certification all together. In October, the NHDAMF and the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Hampshire (NOFA-NH) released a joint statement on the future of Organic certification. The statement cites concerns with staffing, increasingly burdensome program standards, and an outdated fee structure. The statement also openly discusses ending State enforcement of Organic certification. Recent concerns indicate skepticism in continuing New Hampshire’s relationship with the program.
Organic farmers need not worry; should the NHDAMF no longer act as the state’s certifying agent, it will open up space for other agents to provide that service. Organic certification will continue to be issued in New Hampshire.
Two legislative service requests are poised to address this controversy.
Legislative service request (LSR) 2024-2473 by Representative Dan Wolf would require the state of New Hampshire enter into an agreement with the USDA for Organic certification, while LSR 2024-2167 from Representative Glenn Bailey and supported by the Free State Food Network, removes the burden from the NHDA.
Originally, the board governing the National Organic Program was to be run by Organic farmers, consumers, scientists, and environmentalists. More recently, this board is accused of being staffed in favor of commercial interests who favor corporate agribusiness profit over ethics and safety. Former board member Francis Thicke cites Certified Organic farms with “200,000 birds crammed into a building…15,000 cows in a feedlot in a desert” and easily created fraudulent organic documents on imported grain as some of his reasons for leaving the program.
Given the presence of national conflicts of interest, instances of corruption, fraudulent activities, and a lack of transparent practices, the state of New Hampshire needs to relinquish its participation in the National Organic Labeling Program, allowing the federal government to exclusively oversee this initiative.