SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon has been accredited to certify farms under the National Organic Program, which sets standards for farms and other operations that market agricultural products as organically produced.
Organic farming represents a small but growing sector of the agricultural production in Oregon, increasing from just under $10 million in 2002 to $88 million in 2007, according to the latest U.S. Census of Agriculture.
State figures show more than 92,000 acres in Oregon are in organic production.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture will concentrate on crops in the first year, said Jim Cramer, the agency's commodity inspection division administrator.
The department already has six certifiers trained to conduct the organic audits.
"For several years, we've had requests to provide organic certification as we perform other inspections," Cramer said. "This is a natural fit for our program."
The state will not conduct organic certification for beef cattle or dairy operations until 2011 at the earliest, he said.
Oregon is the 16th state accredited for the national program.
Cramer said the state agriculture department was sensitive to concerns it would be competing with private certification organizations and has been in touch with Oregon Tilth, the state's largest organic certifier.
"We don't want to compete," Cramer said. "We're not interested in competing. We're responding to current customers' requests."
Oregon Tilth said in an e-mail it was not concerned by the potential competition.
"They tell us the target audience is producers who haven't sought organic certification with Oregon Tilth and already have existing relationships with ODA through their commodity inspection services," said Chris Schreiner, an executive with Oregon Tilth.
"If that's the case, the ODA program should lead to more certified organic farms and acreage in Oregon, and we're happy to see that growth in the sector," Schreiner said.