MCIA has published the 2023 edition of our annual Directory. The Directory contains listings of agronomic crop, native, and organic seed; certified forage and mulch; quality assured seed and sod; approved seed conditioning and bulk seed handling facilities; and producer contacts. As well, the Directory provides information regarding MCIA’s many services and programs.
To view the digital edition of MCIA’s 2023 Directory, click here.
This year marks the twentieth year that MCIA has provided organic certification services. In 2002, federal regulations, called the National Organic Program (NOP), were implemented that defined the “rules” of organic production and processing. MCIA was among the first group of organizations to apply to become an Accredited Certification Agency (ACA). The National Organic Program is part of the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, but the USDA does not itself provide certification service. It accredits organizations, like MCIA, to provide this service. As MCIA inspects or audits each of its clients every year, the NOP similarly audits MCIA and the other ACAs every two and a half years.
The idea of MCIA becoming an ACA was first raised by a few seed grower members and local coffee companies. They thought organic inspection and certification would be a good fit, citing MCIA’s history as an independent, third-party inspection service in the seed industry. They also noted MCIA’s experience and understanding of standards and rules related to state and federal seed regulations. In 2001, the MCIA Board of Directors approved the proposal to add the service.
MCIA applied to the NOP and was provisionally accepted into the program after NOP auditors approved our application and followed our inspectors on the first on-site inspections. We were officially accredited as an ACA on April 29, 2002. MCIA began providing organic services that year to five Minnesota-based clients: Falk’s Seed, Hanson Seed, Café Imports, Morningstar Coffee, and Alakef Coffee.
In 2003, Albert Lea Seed House, Capistran Seed and Sawvell’s Seed were certified, and we added the first crop producers: Jim Remmele, Roger Keskey, Calvin Brower, Christopher Thooft, Chris Byron, and Jonathan Olson. In 2009, we added our first livestock client, Wes Benjamin, after the NOP approved MCIA to add that certification scope. The NOP recognizes four scopes: crop production, wild crop harvesting, livestock production, and processing/handling. MCIA has provided certification under all four scopes.
MCIA’s organic business has grown steadily, by about 10 percent per year. From those first 5 clients in Minnesota, we grew to 100 in 2012. At the start of 2022, we had 582 clients in ten states. The program continues to grow, currently MCIA certifies 467 crop operations, 117 livestock operations, 1 wild crop harvester, and 127 handlers. We focus on businesses in Minnesota and surrounding states where we have closer contact with our inspectors and where we have expertise with the types of crops being grown.
In the early days, most inspections and certifications were done by MCIA staff: field supervisors Brenda Rogers, Ben Lang, Jim Boots, and Neil Wiese. In 2007, as the number of organic clients grew, MCIA hired the first full-time, dedicated-organic staff member, Anne Costello. Following her departure, in 2008, MCIA hired Michelle Menken.
Michelle now manages an Organic Services department of five organic specialists/inspectors, Wendy Paulsen, Diane Collins, Tyler Tisdale, Maddie Barkholz, and Shauna Ilse, as well as Rose-Marie Odell, the department’s administrative assistant. When needed, MCIA field supervisors Seth Dagoberg and Dan Krenz also provide inspection assistance. MCIA also contracts with independent organic inspectors to complete inspections in an efficient and timely manner.
The addition of the organic program has indeed proven to be a good fit for MCIA. The organic program is an example of MCIA’s willingness and ability to adapt and offer services needed by today’s agricultural producers and consumers.
With two decades of experience behind us, MCIA stands ready to meet a future that promises continued and growing demand for certified organic food production.
To learn more about MCIA Organic Services, click here.
As fall approaches, we are wrapping up the last crop and livestock inspections. There are about thirty files left to send out to inspectors, and we hope to get those out in the next two weeks. Handler files will be going out to inspectors soon so they can start scheduling fall handler inspections.
We have also been busy working through final reviews and certificates—over one hundred issued so far. If you have received a bill for the inspection, please pay that as soon as possible. We do start final reviews on those who have paid first.
Let us know if you need a certificate or Letter of Good Standing to make a sale. Remember, if you have a 2021 certificate, it is still valid, and you can make sales using that certificate until you get the 2022 certificate. Certificates are valid until they are surrendered, suspended, or revoked. If you or your buyer have questions about this, contact the office.
Our new staff members, Maddie Barkholtz and Shauna Ilse, have been busy training and we have had them out on some inspections and to an Organic Expo, where we met many MCIA clients. We still have to collect more samples and complete more unannounced inspections, so I plan to get Maddie and Shauna out to more farms and businesses this fall.
USDA’s Farm Service Agency is hosting a webinar in partnership with Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and the National Association for State departments of Agriculture (NASDA), to provide information about USDA’s Food Safety Certification for Specialty Crops (FSCSC) Program, which provides financial assistance to specialty crop producers who obtained or renewed an on-farm food safety plan or food safety certification. Please see the event details below.
Title: Expanding Market Access: Financial Assistance through USDA’s Food Safety Certification for Specialty Crops (FSCSC) Program
Description: Do you grow specialty crops on your farm or ranch? Have you sold less than $500,000 worth of specialty crops, each year, for the past three years? If so, Farm Service Agency (FSA), has a program to help reimburse you for a portion of the expenses associated with obtaining or renewing your on-farm food safety plan and certification! U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is providing up to $200 million in assistance for specialty crop producers who incur eligible on-farm food safety program expenses to obtain or renew a food safety certification in calendar years 2022 or 2023. Join this webinar to learn about Food Safety Certification guidelines for specialty crop growers, as well as program and eligibility details for the FSA Food Safety Certification for Specialty Crops (FSCSC) Program to help offset some of the costs associated with food safety certification expenses.
Target Audiences: Specialty crop growers and stakeholder organizations that provide support to specialty crop growers
As September begins, the Field Services staff has wrapped up the summer seed field inspections and is quickly preparing for soybean inspections. In the north end of the state, although we are done with field inspections, there is still a large acreage of small grains to be harvested.
For buyers and sellers alike, a later harvest may start to affect the quality of seed. We encourage seed growers to run air on grain that is put in the bin at a moisture above the 13.5 percent range. It is always a good idea to run some air on all grain immediately after harvest, and periodically thereafter. Cool it as the temperature lowers until the onset of winter. Wet grain does not store well and can quickly lose germination. Each year, the MCIA seed laboratory tests seed lots that do not meet certification standards for germination. To assess seed quality, you may want to get a preliminary germination test before conditioning your seed lots.
Do not lose track of the status of your seed or any grain in the bin. Small grains harvested later in the season may also lose visual color and test weight, making seed testing and communication between buyers and sellers especially important as both parties make plans for the 2023 crop year.
We conduct soybean inspections when fields have 75 percent leaf-drop or greater. Communication with your MCIA field supervisor is important! We will be contacting growers to do our part to ensure timely and accurate inspections. If you have any information you would like to share regarding your seed production fields or if you are getting close to harvest and have not received confirmation about the status of your field inspection, please give your field supervisor a call. We enjoy hearing from you. It helps us keep up with the maturity of the many seed fields across the state. There is still time to apply for soybean field inspections for all classes of seed from certified to field inspection only according to company standards.
As always, we sincerely wish you a safe and bountiful harvest.
This past June, I attended the AOSA/SCST Annual Meeting, held in Skokie, Illinois. This annual joint meeting of the Association of Official Seed Analysts and the Society of Commercial Seed Technologists provides a great opportunity to connect with colleagues within the seed testing community and to discuss emerging technologies in the industry and issues analysts are encountering in their laboratories.
Throughout the four-day event, committees met to discuss various aspects of seed testing, such as research, cultivar purity, germination and dormancy, statistics, and vigor testing. In addition, board and business meetings for the individual organizations were held.
Attending the AOSA/SCST Annual Meeting also provides analysts (SCST) or laboratories (AOSA) the opportunity to vote on rule proposals, submitted by members, to modify the AOSA Rules for Testing Seeds. Analysts follow these rules when conducting domestic testing. The proposals address such issues as adding germination or purity testing requirements for new species, modifying existing testing methods, classifying contaminants, reporting test results, or simply clarifying current rules.
This year, there were nineteen rule proposals: fourteen passed, four failed, and one was withdrawn. Of those that passed, several included adding germination testing methods for new species, species classifications, the addition or modification of common names of a few species, and the addition of Apiaceae seedling illustrations to aid in germination evaluation.
For detailed information on the AOSA/SCST Annual Meeting proceedings, including individual committee reports and rule proposals, visit the AOSA/SCST website: analyzeseeds.com.
Research to develop or improve crop varieties is a crucial component of agricultural productivity, food security, and economic vitality. The public-private partnership in agricultural research has led the way in making it possible to rely on a stable, abundant, and affordable food supply, not only in the domestic market but also in foreign markets that rely on the import of American commodities.
The United States has been, and should remain, the leader in innovative agricultural research. However, public funding for such research has greatly decreased over the years. As a result, public institutions like the University of Minnesota have adopted innovative ways to generate funding to support ongoing agricultural research. One such way is to generate funds through variety development fees.
The University of Minnesota’s Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station (MAES) has a rich history of having a strong variety development program. In February 1993, the MAES established the Variety Development Fund, commonly known as VDF, to provide financial support for agronomic crop variety development. The VDF is generated through a fee that is collected as part of the sale of registered and certified seed of all agronomic crop varieties developed and protected by MAES under the US Plant Variety Protection Act. The Minnesota Crop Improvement Association, the sole seed certifying agency for Minnesota, is charged with seed certification and collects VDF fees, as established by MAES.
Proceeds from the Variety Development Fund are used to support variety development research as well as related outreach and education. The MAES formalized a process for University of Minnesota researchers to apply for funding from the VDF for support of variety development and related activities, and for investment in potentially new crop species. The Variety Development Fund can be used for equipment purchase as well, with a minimum of 25 percent matching funds from other sources.
Nearly 30 years after establishing the Variety Development Fund fee structure, the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station recently reviewed and increased its fees. Effective July 1, 2022, the VDF fee will increase to $0.75 per bushel for all registered and certified seed sold of wheat varieties (both old and new) released by the MAES. The seed of these varieties sold on or after July 1, 2022, will be assessed at the new $0.75 per bushel rate.
Minnesota Crop Improvement Association informed growers about this fee increase and posted this announcement on our website in May. The new fee will be applicable to all University of Minnesota wheat varieties, including Bolles, Lang-MN, Linkert, MN-Rothsay, MN-Torgy, MN-Washburn, and Shelly. Seed grower support of the Variety Development Fund will continue to be an important part of the research to develop and improve crop varieties.
Shauna Ilse joined MCIA on August 1, filling the organic specialist/inspector position formerly held by Cherry Flowers, who recently retired.
While serving in the U.S. Army, Shauna developed an interest in food and agriculture. She pursued that field of study at Washington State University, where she earned a B.A. in agriculture and food sciences, majoring in organic and sustainable agriculture. As a student, she worked at the university’s 10-acre organic farm and, in her senior year, interned as a farm assistant at a small, nearby organic farm.
Since last June, Shauna had been working as garden assistant at Grow-to-Share Community Garden in River Falls, Wisconsin.
To learn more about MCIA Organic Services, click here.
Hello, I hope this writing finds all of you at the tail end of a fantastic crop year. Some quick facts I would like to share with you about Minnesota: Minnesota comprises just short of 87,000 square miles; it totals to 2.25 percent of the land in the United States and is the nation’s 12th largest state. Given the size of our state, one can see why our agriculture system is widely varied.
Although every agriculture professional in our state has a little different situation and none are the same, there is one constant of the same importance for all—safety. My father lived the last half of his life with only nine fingers, and I lost the vision in one of my eyes for many years due to a nail flying into it. We all know someone, whether it be a relative or a neighbor, who has been injured in a farming accident.
Although these incidences are terrible, we find ourselves looking at the situation and thinking, “It seems like that could have been avoided.” Both accidents in my family would have been avoided if we had the safety protocols in place then that we have now. Simple things like, when climbing something make sure three of your four appendages are gripping something and only move one at a time, (my dad would have had ten fingers to use if he had followed this simple procedure). Wear your safety glasses, period. My situation was totally avoidable and if you come to my farm now you will find safety glasses everywhere.
Please review your safety protocols to make sure they are up to date and train all family members and employees accordingly. Just a simple thing like wearing safety glasses could save you from postponing your wedding, three surgeries, thousands of dollars spent on specialty eyewear, and a phobia of pointy things near your face.
I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome Shauna Ilse, who was recently hired by MCIA’s Organic Services department: I am sure you will find working with the members and staff of MCIA to be rewarding!
I hope that 2022 has been good to MCIA’s members and will continue to be safe and prosperous for all.