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MCIA Seeks Organic Certification Specialist/Inspector

Photo by Nicolas Baumert: Kaedesis from Pixabay.

Minnesota Crop Improvement Association is seeking qualified candidates for the position of Organic Certification Specialist/Inspector. Duties of an organic certification specialist/inspector include collecting and distributing certification information, creating records, reviewing applications, conducting on-site inspections, performing final reviews, and writing certification decision letters.

MCIA’s office is located on the Saint Paul campus of the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. Hybrid or remote work arrangements are possible for employees living within our inspection area.

This full-time position offers a competitive salary and full benefits. For more information, including how to apply, visit our Job Openings page.


Organic Services Update

Photo by Daniel Dan outsideclick from Pixabay.

MCIA Organic Services Manager Michelle Menken provides a spring update:

We have mailed or emailed the 2022 crop renewal applications. They are due back March 15 for produce growers and April 1 for everyone else. If you did not receive your application, please contact the office. We have sent payment reminder letters to those who have not yet paid for 2021. We will be issuing Noncompliance Notices if we do not receive payments.

If you do not plan to certify in 2022, please contact the office. The regulations require you to “surrender” your certificate. This means notifying us that you do not plan to certify and paying MCIA any final fees due on the sales of 2021 or earlier crops.

Unless you are transferring from another certifier or are adding greenhouse plants, we do not expect to do any scheduled inspections until May. Of course, we may do some unannounced inspections. These are usually shorter and limited in scope. The regulations require us to conduct unannounced inspections and collect samples from at least five percent of our clients each year. We do these randomly.

Last year, we lost a couple of our inspectors during the inspection season. So, we had to scramble to get everyone inspected. We have been connecting with some new inspectors for 2022. Please try to keep your inspection date once it is scheduled. Inspectors do not always confirm an inspection after scheduling it. If you have concerns about your inspection, please contact your inspector or the MCIA office.

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We were at the MOSES Organic Conference in February and the NPSAS Conference in January. It was good to see people in person after the last two years! Let’s all hope for a peaceful and prosperous year.


Face Covering Update

In accordance with the University of Minnesota’s protocol on face coverings, effective March 21, 2022, staff members at and visitors to MCIA’s office on the campus of the UMN Twin Cities are no longer required to wear facial coverings while in office workspaces.

However, mask requirements on the UMN campus vary, depending on location, activity, and circumstances. Please be aware of the following:

Masks are still required:

  • In all classroom and instructional laboratory settings
  • In all healthcare settings
  • In all transit settings as required by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). When the FTA requirement is eliminated the UMN will remove this provision.
  • In settings where masks are required due to environmental or hazardous material conditions

Masks are not required:

  • In any dining setting (food courts, residential dining halls, etc.)
  • In common areas (hallways, student unions, study spaces, libraries, recreation facilities, etc.)
  • In all University office workspaces
  • At all sporting events
  • At all entertainment venues
  • At spring commencement events

Remember that being vaccinated and boosted, testing when needed, and taking other preventative measures, such as hand washing and staying home when sick, are essential to keeping individuals and our community healthy.

MCIA continues to cooperate with the UMN as it monitors public health data and, in consultation with its experts, adjusts its guidance.

To read the full details of the University of Minnesota Face Covering Protocol click here.


Field Notes

Barley field. Photo by kangbch from Pixabay.

By Kris Folland, MCIA Field Services Manager

Jack London described the ending of winter by saying, “The ghostly winter silence had given way to the great spring murmur of awakening life.” We can all appreciate the silence of winter in some areas, from Minnesota to the Yukon Territories, but in the world of MCIA members winter is anything but silent. MCIA has 177 approved facilities that are humming along to the sounds of trucks unloading, conveyors and augers purring, cleaning and sizing equipment shaking and spinning, and the beautiful sound of clean certified seed making the first splash into a clean bin.

As time goes by, the value of certified seed of known genetics, purity, and germination continues to be one of the best values in crop production. The Field Services staff is rarely contacted about any issues with certified seed. However, issues with non-certified, bin-run seed are often brought up by growers. The presence of other crop, poor germination, weeds, purity, hilum colors mixed up, and other obvious seed quality issues seem to follow the sale of this type of seed. (I’m not sure we should even call some of it seed.)

MCIA field supervisors have been busy visiting each facility. One major upgrade we are discussing is the Pure Harvest program for making bulk seed sales certificates. The system can now easily link your certified seed lots and has many upgrades for quick and accurate bulk seed sales certificates for your customers. As you read this, we should be close to finishing training; we will be here to help answer all your questions into the spring planting season.

Please remember that the sooner the MCIA Seed Laboratory receives your samples, the sooner test results will be completed on seed lots. Do not wait until the last minute to mail in samples!

The release of the newest UMN wheat variety, MN-Rothsay, has attracted a lot of interest. The entire supply will be planted this year and will be available as registered seed after harvest. The supply of wheat appears adequate, but as always, some varieties may be in short supply into spring. We are fielding many phone calls of growers trying to secure registered and certified seed of some varieties of wheat, barley, and oats that are in short supply. Overall quality of seed last year has been excellent. Early sales of certified seed this year are starting to look like a bargain and good communication between seed suppliers and growers will be helpful for all parties.

Reminders:

  • A bulk seed sales certificate must be given on each load of seed sold.
  • Make sure you have a passed seed certification report for certified seed lots.
  • Make plans for foundation and registered seed stock prior to planting.
  • Save all seed source tags and labels to include with your field inspection application.

Seed Lab Update

The Perten IM 9500 can measure protein, oil, and fiber.

MCIA Seed Laboratory Manager Chase Mowry provides a spring update:

For the most part, the seed samples we have received continue to be of high quality with few disease issues in germ tests—a good reflection of growing conditions this past year. Sample numbers for annual crop types are on track with last year, nearing 1,500 samples tested. Perennial samples continue to come in steadily, with samples tested nearing 600.

We have also completed 319 out of the 434 samples submitted by UMN Associate Professor Dr. Seth Naeve for his ongoing work in managing foreign matter in soybeans. Our lab identifies the number of contaminating species found. We expect to complete this work this spring.

We have received a few requests for protein tests—a new service we offer. Our Perten IM 9500 meter measures percent protein based on a fixed 13 percent moisture. It can measure protein for barley, canola, corn, durum, oats, rye, sorghum, and soybeans. The meter can measure oil and fiber percentages on a couple of crop kinds, as well as starch percentage on corn. If you are interested in these services, please make note on the Sampling Report accompanying your sample.

As a requirement of the USDA Accredited Seed Laboratory program, the USDA’s Seed Regulatory and Testing Division will conduct an audit of the MCIA Seed Laboratory in late April. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, this will be the first on-site audit since the lab became accredited in November 2020.


Foundation Seed Update

Photo by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay.

Foundation Seed Available

MCIA’s Foundation Seed Services is still accepting orders for foundation seed of barley, oats, soybeans, and wheat. Please include full payment when ordering.

MN-Rothsay Invoices

Reminder to those who ordered MN-Rothsay seed: When you receive your invoice, please pay it promptly so that we can get pickup receipts out to you and the distributor in a timely manner.

Foundation Seed Pickup

Reminder to Foundation Seed customers: Full payment is due before you can pick up your order. Remember to contact your seed distributor ahead of time to make arrangements to pick up seed. Call MCIA for additional information or if you have questions, 800-510-6242 or 612-625-7766.


Ready for Spring?

Photo by Hans Toom Canadian-Nature-Visions from Pixabay.

The demand for your small grain seed may be slow, but do not wait to get your seed tested. The MCIA Seed Laboratory is busy, and it will take at least 7 days to get test results before issuing final reports, bulk certificates, and tags. You do not want to be waiting for a test when it is planting time.

A few other items to keep in mind:

• Update your germination. If you have carryover seed, be sure the label has a germination test date that complies with the seed law.

• Submit a Sampling Report with all samples, complete with field numbers, lot size, number of bags or totes, and tests requested.

• Be sure you received a passed seed certification report before any tags or bulk certificates are issued.

• Always tag or issue bulk certificates for the seed you distribute.

• Resolve any issues about eligibility of seed source before planting.

• Retain your tags or bulk certificate as proof of seed source for your field inspection application.


USDA Amends the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances in Organic Production

Robert and Greta Miernau farm, Caledonia, Minnesota. Photo by Diane Collins. © MCIA.

The Organic Foods Production Act created the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (National List) as a tool for managing the substances used in organic production over time. In general, natural substances are allowed in organics and synthetic substances are prohibited. The National List identifies the limited exceptions to these general rules. The National List also identifies nonagricultural and nonorganic agricultural substances (ingredients) that may be used in organic handling. Changes to the National List require a National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) recommendation and USDA rulemaking, a process that provides multiple opportunities for public comment.

On February 28, 2022, USDA published a final rule in the Federal Register amending the National List for substances scheduled to sunset in 2022, based on NOSB recommendations and public input.

National List Amendments: 2022 Sunsets final rule

This final rule addresses recommendations from previous NOSB public meetings to remove:

One substance currently allowed in organic crop production: Vitamin B1.

One substance currently allowed in organic livestock production: procaine.

Fourteen nonorganic ingredients (including eight nonorganic colors) currently allowed in organic handling:

  • Alginic acid;
  • Colors (black currant juice color, blueberry juice color, carrot juice color, cherry juice color, grape juice color, paprika color, pumpkin juice color, turmeric extract color);
  • Kelp;
  • Konjac flour;
  • Sweet potato starch;
  • Turkish bay leaves; and
  • Whey protein concentrate.

Based on public comment, this rule also renews the allowance for:

  • Sucrose octanoate esters for use in organic crops, and livestock production.
  • Oxytocin for use in organic livestock production.

This final rule is effective March 30, 2022.

To view the complete text of the Final Rule, please visit: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2022/02/28/2022-03851/national-organic-program-amendments-to-the-national-list-of-allowed-and-prohibited-substances-2022.

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MCIA is a USDA NOP-accredited Accredited Certifying Agent that provides organic certification services to operations in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. For more information about MCIA Organic Services, please visit: https://www.mncia.org/services-programs/organic-services.


Resources to Cope with Rural Stress

The University of Minnesota Extension’s rural stress task force applies programming and expertise from across Extension to help families and small towns respond to current economic, environmental, and societal challenges affecting rural Minnesota and farming communities.

They have compiled a list of resources to streamline access to financial help and mental health resources in greater Minnesota. To view the list, visit the Coping with Rural Stress page of the UMN Extension’s website: https://extension.umn.edu/rural-stress.


MCIA Seeks Field Supervisor for Southeast Minnesota

MCIA is seeking qualified candidates for the position of field supervisor. An MCIA field supervisor’s responsibilities include conducting field inspections for certified and non-certified acres of crops, inspecting seed conditioning facilities, and managing an inspection crew. Field supervisors also perform audits of various MCIA audit-based services.

This home office-based position will be located in southeast Minnesota (District 3). It is a full-time position with a competitive salary and full benefits package.

The job application deadline is March 15, 2022. For a detailed job description and instructions on how to apply, please visit: https://www.mncia.org/job-openings. MCIA is an equal opportunity employer.