Why Does Ohio Need a Fresh Produce Marketing Agreement?
In recent years, Ohio producers have been required by their buyers to meet specific food safety standard operating procedures. For many companies this has resulted in the need to employ a full-time food safety quality assurance person to manage the diverse and frequently conflicting requirements of several customers. Frequently, the standards mandated have had no backing in science, nor have the requirements led to increased revenue for the farmer, and in some cases have been a major financial drain.
What about the National Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement?
In addition to various standards required by certain buyers, a national standard is underway. The National Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (NLGMA) will require Ohio produce growers to meet California-style food safety standards. That means Ohio growers would be forced to adhere to growing policies and practices developed for and by California growers!
Adhering to the NLGMA standards will adversely impact Ohio's small and medium-sized producers. Read the testimonies from Ohio growers that oppose NLGMA (Brent Baker of Farmers Produce Auction, Lisa Schacht of the Schacht Family Farm and Farm Market, and Richard Wander, Lynd Fruit Farm). For more information on NLGMA visit the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service web site.
The NLGMA standards:
- Require intensive resources
- Are not necessarily environmentally friendly
- A direct assault on the Amish, Mennonite, and Muck farmers in Ohio
- Will eventually become a standard for all commodities
- Do not sustain the small and medium family farms, instead protecting and promoting the large commercial grower
It is likely that these food safety standards will extend beyond leafy greens to tomatoes, melons, cucumbers, root vegetables, and berries as has happened with the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement. Consider the Ohio Fresh Produce Marketing Agreement an alternative to NGLMA.
Benefits of the Ohio Fresh Produce Marketing Agreement
An Ohio Fresh Produce Food Safety Standard will have immediate and long-term economic benefit for Ohio growers and handlers by opening national markets at a number of levels through a robust food safety certification program. Expanding markets and accessing new markets in tough economic times sustains Ohio agriculture.
The benefits of an Ohio-based program include:
- A tiered aprroach that takes into consideration the size of your operation
- Developed by and for Ohio growers
- Every produce industry stakeholder has a say in what the program will be (it may not be a marketing agreement) and how it is structured.
- Provide access to additional markets now and in the future
- Provides your customers with "peace of mind" that you are perfoming due dilligence in growing safe food
- Blends good food safety practices with good environmental principles
- Encompasses all types of growers and is especially small-farm friendly
The Ohio Fresh Produce Marketing Agreement is a genuine grass roots effort aimed at promoting and protecting Ohio produce. This project was funded through a grant by the Ohio Department of Agriculture and is in the developmental stages. OPGMA is collaborating with the following organizations in finalizing details:
- Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
- Innovative Farmers of Ohio
- Ohio Farm Bureau Federation
- Farmers' Market Management Network, Inc.
- Growing! Ohio Farmers' Markets
- Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Conservancy