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State abruptly ends organic certification program for livestock farmers and producers

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Emily Corwin, NHPR News
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The State Department of Agriculture has ended its certification program for organic processors, handlers and livestock operations.

The State Department of Agriculture has ended its certification program for organic processors, handlers and livestock operations.

This program allows organic farms to use a relatively low-cost state service to establish or renew their organic certification.

The state sent a letter earlier this month to affected producers: 27 processors and handlers of things like coffee, body care products and bread, and 17 livestock farmers.

State Commissioner of Agriculture Shawn Jasper says he wasn't happy to have to make this change on such short notice, but the certification program is short-staffed.

"You have to make choices when you don't have enough to people to do the job, and that's what happened," said Jasper. "Now, we'll be working with the legislature to let them know what it will take for us to do a full program again."

Jasper says farmers in the middle of their certification process right now will be able to complete it.

Among those farmers impacted by the decision is Steve Forde. He raises poultry at Hop N Hen farm in Henniker. He's using the state to get certified this year, but next year, he says he will have to use a private, more costly service.

"I just think, regardless of the whole organic part of it, every little nick and cut towards supporting agriculture in the state, will make us more dependent on getting our foods and things from elsewhere."

The decision does not impact the 81 growers of produce already getting their organic certification from the state.

Peter Biello is the host of All Things Considered and Writers on a New England Stage at New Hampshire Public Radio. He has served as a producer/announcer/host of Weekend Edition Saturday at Vermont Public Radio and as a reporter/host of Morning Edition at WHQR in Wilmington, North Carolina.

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