Organic farm certification now free

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LA TRINIDAD, Benguet –The issue on the expensive cost of organic farm certification has been resolved in the five-day 1st Organic Agriculture National Scientific Conference held at Benguet State University last July 8 after an assurance made by officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA) that Secretary Proceso J. Alcala is about to sign the subsidy for the said certification. Organic farmers are required to have their farms certified.

Mr. Ramon P. Maranon member of the National Organic Agriculture Board who represented the DA Secretary said that that once the secretary signs the guidelines for the implementation of the subsidy, the funds will be downloaded to different Regional Field Unit (RFU) of the department based on the numbers of qualified organic farmers who applied for certification.

“Definitely the certification subsidy will shoulder the cost that an ordinary organic farmer will spend in order to get a certification from accredited certifying body.” Maranon added.

He said that once the certification subsidy is signed by the secretary this will be passed on to the different field offices for them to disseminate to farmers’ organizations, NGOs, private organizations and individual farmers.

He added that RFUs will process the payment of certification to either the Organic Certification Council of the Philippines (OCCP) or the Negros Island Organic Certification Services (NICERT), the only two accrediting bodies in the country that certify organic farms.

The Philippines has a total of 9,670,793 hectares of agricultural land and five percent of these areas or around 483,539 hectares is the total coverage of the National Organic Agriculture Program to be converted into organic in 2016.

In 2014 agricultural lands converted to organic farming increased to more than 88,000 hectares and organic practitioners also increased to more than 88,000, since the enactment of RA 10068 or the “Organic Agriculture Act of 2010” wherein only 14,150 hectares were devoted to organic farming in 2010.

While conventional method of farming is easier and more productive, in the province of Benguet and other parts of the Codillera region numerous vegetable farmers are eager to venture into organic farming but the high cost of obtaining a certification is the main hindrance in shifting to this sustainable method of farming.

Meanwhile, the DA secretary in his message delivered by Maranon during the conference enticed the participants to look toward organic agriculture competitiveness in the ASEAN and to look beyond food processing and development. Alcala mentioned in his message that the Philippines is now recognized as the number five producer of organic products in Asia.

By JOSEPH B. MANZANO

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