As questions are fielded, either new or those that further clarify existing questions, this page will be updated. However, the answers provided may not reflect your situation or conditions present at the time of the inspection. OPMA will do its best to provide answers within its certification ability. OPMA cannot educate on its programs or standards but can provide information and training on its meaning or intent.
Question: Where does OPMA derive its authority for certification?
Answer: OPMA currently derives its authority to conduct a certification program through the Ohio Produce Growers & Marketers Association (OPGMA). It also derives this authority by its ISO 10765 compliant program and it is expeceted to be ratified by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. In the near future OPMA will by virtue of its membership derive authority from the sheer volume of its inspections, member client relationships and robust certification programs.
Question: How are fees established?
Answer: Ohio code establishes the ceiling OPMA is allowed to charge; no more than 2% of a commodity price. We began with a base fee of zero for Tier I and $450 to $650 for Tier II and $750 for Tier III clients. Once we have an operating budget we will adjust the fees up or down.
Question: On-going education is a component of the certification program. I have completed programs on-line this past year, will this complete that requirement?
Answer: Yes. A minimum of 4 hours with certificate is required to complete the annual component requirement.
Question: Why do I have to do this, we never did this before?
Answer: We are a different world today, and we are at a different time in our history. Change is inevitable, and food safety and a certification to demonstrate your willingness to be a part of the food industry is now a priority. The increase in recalls should be enough to demonstrate the fact that we need to pay attention and take action. If making people sick is not enough motivation, the loss of farms, processing plants, personal investment, and income from making people sick should be enough to make even the most skeptical among us take notice.
Question: I am USDA organically certified; is that not food safety?
Answer: Organic farming is a type or style of farming being practiced by many farmers in this nation and certified by approved USDA organic certifiers. Organic certifiers do not certify for food safety and are not equipped to do food safety audits. Organic certifiers inspect to ensure organic farming principles are being maintained. Food safety standards are in a whole different league than organic. Food safety is required for all types of farming.
Question: But isn’t organic farming safer food safety-wise?
Answer: No, organic farming has the same potential for contamination as conventionally-grown food.
Question: I am worried that I won’t pass the audit.
Answer: The audit is based on a Global Food Safety quality platform. You either are compliant or you are not. If you have an inspection and have non-compliances, you are given a prescribed time period to correct the issues found during your inspection to become compliant and receive a certificate in good standing.
Question: What if I want to ease into this food safety thing a little slower?
Answer: Sign up, follow the standards, sign the affidavit that you are following the standards, and receive your certificate. In this tier your integrity is your guide. We expect you to do your best to follow the standard, and in some cases we will check at no cost to you.
Question: Is there training required?
Answer: Yes, each year for each Tier, OPMA expects one principle or leader at each farm to obtain some kind of food safety training or update. This is not provided by OPMA since this
would be a conflict of interest, but OPGMA, OSU, and others provide food safety training on a regular basis. Many others, such as AIBI, do a lot of online training that is very cost effective. Look around, many suppliers and clients, other third parties, and even regulators have classes from time to time. Some kind of annual training is necessary and evidence of this training such as a certificate is necessary to fulfill the training requirement at all Tier levels (I, II, or III).
Question: What do I need to do to get ready for the inspection?
Answer: Basically follow the standards. While OPMA, as a certification authority, cannot advise you how to overcome a standard there are many experts in the food business that, with your annual food safety training, can help you understand what is required of your farm. If you desire, OPMA can provide a pre-assessment at a cost to assist you developing a baseline for your farm. This pre-assessment is not an inspection and will not provide you with information to correct found deficiencies.
Question: Does the OPMA certification carry any weight state-wide or nationally?
Answer: OPMA carries the full weight of a national level marketing agreement. Changes to the process or standards as prescribed by OPMA may be effected by the forthcoming FDA FSMA or other scientific updates.
Question: Will that change in the future?
Answer: Nothing will change in the future, except very soon the Ohio legislature and ODA will formalize OPMA to a regulatory level. This means it will trump most third-party inspections and be viable nationwide. It will always have its ISO 10765 underpinningsto ensure inspections are robust, impartial, valid, and verified. This is important for you to know so that both you and your clients understand that the certification is worth more than just the paper it has been printed on. The certification authority is fair and impartial; the standards are based in science and on regulatory and industrial standards.
Question: Who runs OPMA?
Answer: People like you: farmers, growers, and agricultural experts govern on the OPMA Advisory Board. The members of this board come from or represent all growing areas of Ohio. One chair on the board is reserved for ODA. ODA oversees the board by law. OPMA is chartered to be for the farmer and operated by the farmer.
Question: What if I don’t want to participate after becoming a member?
Answer: You can step out at any time. There is no pressure or legal requirement to join.
Question: What if I don’t want to do food safety?
Answer: You may not be in the food business for long. Food safety is an obligation of anyone in the food business.