For many shoppers, “organic” has become a magic word of sorts, the difference between whether or not they’ll make a purchase whether they’re at the health food store or the grocery store.
Among the mainstream options we currently have, organic food is easily the best choice. But at the same time, it’s important to be aware that there are many farmers out there who don’t have the means to pay the fees required of the USDA to obtain an organic label, and there are several others who choose to protest the federal takeover of the organic program (and want to make sure the standards won’t be watered down). Others don’t want to deal with the highly demanding amount of paperwork the USDA foists upon organic farms.
In order to keep the integrity of organic, and to keep the federal government and big corporate interests out of the picture, many smaller, local farms begun to participate in the ‘Certified Naturally Grown’ certification program, which is gaining momentum across the country, especially in light of recent government power grabs that threaten to undermine the standards of organic food.
A March 21 article in EcoWatch once again shed the light on a new label that is becoming a fast-growing alternative to organic for the 700+ farms that use it. This label is for farmers who can’t afford the high costs of getting certified, and has resulted in a new way for consumers to support small synthetic pesticide and GMO-free growers…
Save a Place for Truly Natural Small Farmers at Your Table
While many health and quality-conscious consumers are justifiably leery of companies that claim their products are “natural” after lawsuits against Pepsi, Kashi and more for including GMOs in products with those labels, it’s not a good idea to not dismiss small farmers who often use techniques as good or better than USDA organic standards but aren’t able to get them labeled.
Many of them are often found at farmer’s markets selling produce they describe as “pesticide-free” or created “with no spray” or “without chemicals.” Many of them could also have much higher quality than large-scale organic farms, and can even rely on unique techniques like adding more organic, plant-digested minerals to the soil rather than using fertilizers in some cases.
While many of these farms could become certified, the costs are often far higher than they would like, and many of them simply don’t want the U.S. government involved in the organic program because of the pressure it often faces from the Big Ag and the Biotech/GMO industry.
To fill the void, several small farmers and growers have banded together to adopt a new label: Certified Naturally Grown, which is governed exclusively by them without the need of government interference.
One producer, the Denison Farm, explained their situation in an article on InvestmentWatchBlog.com, including their preference to sell organic-style beans and tomatoes at farmer’s markets without the costly organic label. Farmers in the CNG program can’t use the word organic, but there standards often just as high, or better in some cases.
So far, the “Certified Naturally Grown” label has expanded, and is employed across the United States using an approach called a “Participatory Guarantee System.” This system is employed by tens of thousands of producers worldwide according to the certification program’s website.
This system minimizes paperwork and employs a peer-to-peer inspection process built on local networks. It is considered a better fit for smaller-scale producers, the website says.
Certified Naturally Grown Utilizes True Organic Standards
According to the certification program’s website, the standards are equal to the USDA organic program (if not better, as the program says it does not use the pesticide rotenone as allowed under organic standards; livestock standards for grazing on pastures are also higher than 2010 requirements):
“To be granted the CNG certification, farmers don’t use any synthetic herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones, or genetically modified organisms. CNG livestock are raised mostly on pasture and with space for freedom of movement. Feed must be grown without synthetic inputs or genetically modified seeds,” the website notes.
In addition to the cost barrier, CNG farmers also avoid having to do the heavy paperwork required of them by the USDA for organic certification and operations.
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This article was originally published in August 2013 and updated to include a new 2015 article link from Ecowatch.