CCOF Certification Services LLC said it is stepping up enforcement of federal organic regulations that require producers to search for organic strawberry planting stock, such as crowns, plugs, etc., prior to using non‐organic.
The Santa Cruz, Calif.-based organic certification agency, one of the nation’s largest, said in order to ensure compliance with the USDA National Organic Program’s regulation – 7 CFR § 205.204 – “growers must make adequate ongoing efforts to source organic strawberry planting stock suitable for their operation in form, quality, or quantity.”
“CCOF will verify that growers contact known suppliers and will look for efforts to increase use of organic strawberry planting stock over time,” CCOF said. “Growers should be prepared to discuss this topic at future inspections.”
CCOF said it “is aware that organic strawberry planting stock is becoming more widely available commercially.”
In previous years, before organic strawberry planting stock was commercially available to organic strawberry growers, they had to purchase non-organic planting stock from conventional nurseries, which routinely fumigate their soils with methyl bromide, chloropicrin and other toxic chemicals prior to propagation.
“The USDA NOP regulations are a process‐based standard, and CCOF is committed to continual improvement, including the use of commercially available organic strawberry planting stock as intended in the letter and spirit of the organic regulations,” said the organic certification agency. “To support growers’ efforts to source organic seed and planting stock, CCOF permits growers to deduct the cost of organic seed and planting stock from their organic production value (OPV) to reduce certification fees.”
CCOF said it maintains a list of organic strawberry planting stock suppliers. The company said it will also detail results of field trial results for organic strawberry planting stocks of the Organic Strawberry Fields Forever Project on Nov. 25 in Watsonville, Calif.
California is the largest producer of organic strawberries, with more than 3,000 acres of fall plantings and 968 acres of summer plantings, according to a study released earlier this year.
CCOF said “adequate ongoing efforts” of organic strawberry growers should:
- Include known suppliers. Searches must include sources known to supply organic strawberry planting stock, such as those on our known supplier list.
- Occur well in advance. Growers must contact known suppliers with enough advance notice to allow for production of adequate supply. In addition, Mexico growers importing planting stock should plan for any additional time needed to comply with phytosanitary requirements.
- Include nonorganic suppliers. Since organic suppliers are few at this time, growers should also request organic from other suppliers that offer planting stock with the desired characteristics (i.e., variety, disease resistance, quantity).
- Include trialing. Producers who cannot find the form/quality/quantity of organic planting stock needed to meet all their production needs should trial available organic planting stock to show their effort and commitment to meet the commercial availability requirement.
- Take into account form, quality, and quantity. Cost alone is not a sufficient reason to avoid utilizing organic strawberry planting stock. Growers must use organic planting stock if it is available in the form, quality, or quantity that meets your operation’s needs.
- Occur annually. Growers must re‐evaluate commercial availability annually.
- Be documented. Use our sample form, or record your efforts in another format.
- Be made even if you do not select/buy your planting stock. If a buyer or other third party determines your planting stock, they must provide you with documentation annually showing that they have met the requirements above.