An obscure staffing shortage…

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In last week’s article we discussed how shortages in the trades are making it difficult for businesses to carry out good customer service.

But it isn’t just with electricians, plumbers and carpenters. Just about every industry; wholesale, retail, government, schools and military all have shortages in personnel. It’s even hard to find enough baseball coaches right now.
Just this morning, there was a news segment about a severe shortage of air traffic controllers with as many as 3,000 set to soon retire.

In addition to that, there’s another industry that is shorthanded that is having an effect on North Dakota farmers and ranchers. It’s organic certifiers and organic inspectors.
To the best of my knowledge, only a handful of companies will certify farmers organic in North Dakota, which isn’t even close to enough.

In recent years there’s been a reduction in the number of organic farms in North Dakota from 140 to 117 and part of the reason for this is so few certifiers to consider.

For many years a company in Medina called International Certification Services Inc., catered to farmers and ranchers in North Dakota and South Dakota, but in late 2020 it was sold to a Colorado company called Where Food Comes From.
The protocol at Where Food Comes From is quite different than ICS resulting in numerous farmers quitting the program or looking elsewhere to be certified.

Unfortunately, only two other certifiers are easily available to certify a farm organic in North Dakota. One is called OCIA, which stands for Organic Crop Improvement Association. It’s headquarters are in Lincoln, Neb., and has certified numerous producers in the state.

What’s unique about OCIA is it has local chapters of which you would be affiliated should you choose to certify through OCIA.
The other company that is easily available to certify producers in North Dakota is called Pro-Cert, which is located in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Like OCIA, it has certified numerous North Dakota producers.

There are several others that may operate in the state, but are much more difficult to work with based on logistics and cost.
Many people have heard of California Certified Organic Farmers. As you might imagine, because California has more than 10 fold the certified organic farms as North Dakota, it is quite difficult to land an inspector. In addition, the cost to travel to North Dakota can be prohibitive.

Oregon Tilth is another option and has a sterling reputation as a certifier. But like CCOF, it can be a logistical nightmare for someone new to land Oregon Tilth as their certifier.
Several certifiers lesser known to North Dakota are available but often come with conditions that aren’t favorable to a local farm or ranch.

When you look up certifiers in North Dakota, you’ll find a longer list than what has just been provided. But when you contact many of them, they will tell you they don’t certify farmers in North Dakota. They include the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association, Montana Organic Association and MOSA – Midwest Organic Services Association.

Organic farms and ranches continue to grow nationwide at a double digit pace but continue to slip in North Dakota. There’s no doubt there are plenty of “fence sitters” in the state who would be willing to become certified organic if it was more easily accessible.

Maybe OCIA and Pro-Cert should step up their game within the state to let people know they are willing to work with you and get you certified. And maybe, just maybe, they should attempt to train more inspectors to make it more time efficient for producers.

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