A community advocacy newspaper for northern New Mexico
Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, NM 87521
Environmentalists File Lawsuit to Stop Agua/Caballos Timber Sale By Mark Schiller and Kay Matthews
Organic Certification: What's Involved? By Joanie Quinn, New Mexico Organic Commodity Commission
By Mark Schiller and Kay Matthews
On the books since 1992, the Agua/Caballos timber sale, within the Vallecitos Federal Sustained Yield Unit (VFSYU), has been one of the most scrutinized and contentious sales in the history of Carson National Forest. Now, thirteen years after its conception, Forest Guardians and Carson Forest Watch have taken the ultimate step of filing a lawsuit to stop the sale from moving forward. After two Draft Environmental Impact Statements, years of public comment, numerous field trips to the site, two Final Environmental Impact Statements, two appeals, and the demise of any VFSYU designated operators with the capacity to harvest the sale, this lawsuit is simply beating a dead horse.
The lawsuit reiterates claims made by the environmental groups in their previous appeals: that the Forest Service failed to acquire sufficient data with regard to the Abert squirrel and other Management Indicator Species (MIS); that it has failed to assure minimum viable populations of MIS; and that it violates the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to adequately analyze impacts of the sale on the Rio Vallecitos and failing to include new information concerning "plunging" populations of Abert squirrels.
Despite the claims made in the lawsuit, it seems the real issue for Forest Guardians and Carson Forest Watch is that there be no big trees cut, period, anywhere in New Mexico. This has always been these groups' bottom line and the position that has divided the environmental community over the course of the past 20 years. The Agua/Caballos timber sale is a perfect example of the intransigence of absolutist environmental groups. Over the years the sale has been significantly scaled down and modified in response to public comment. La Companía Ocho, the local logging company that was awarded 80% of the sale, enlisted Forest Trust, The Rio Pueblo/Rio Embudo Watershed Protection Coalition, and members of the Northern Group of the Sierra Club and Audubon Society to review the cutting prescription and work with the Forest Service to devise a new preferred alternative which lowered the volume, decreased the number of roads, and ensured that the prescription protected old growth areas and wildlife habitat. In point of fact, the conservation committee of the Northern Group, after reviewing the ecosystem management plan contained in the initial 10 million board feet (mmbf) proposal, endorsed the prescription until Bryan Bird, of Forest Guardians (who was also a member of the state Sierra Club chapter), brought pressure from the "zero cut" factions of the state and national organization to suppress the Group's comments. La Companía's milling capacity at the time was about 500,000 board feet per year so the sale would have been harvested gradually, over 5-10 years, and would not have significantly impacted the 7.3 million board feet per year growth rate within the area.
Loggers, environmentalists, and activists on one of many tours of the Agua/Caballos sale
The Group's Carson National Forest timber sale specialist acknowledged that "the VSYU is something very special, an area set aside by the federal government to economically benefit the local communities, and as such, it should get special consideration. As long as the Forest Service is committed to setting aside the required 20% of old growth, I'm not concerned that the prescription includes some big trees."
Bryan Bird of Forest Guardians and Joanie Berde of Carson Forest Watch were both quoted in the Taos News making it clear that the lawsuit is about cutting big trees: Bird called the sale "old school" and Berde said "cutting old growth trees is pretty senseless these days." After 20 years of appealing and litigating timber sales, these groups have helped kill community-based forestry in the VFYSU. According to Ike DeVargas, founding member of La Companía Ocho, "There's no capacity to log in the Unit. None of the designated operators can handle a sale like Agua/Caballos. La Companía filed for bankruptcy and sold off its equipment. Everyone keeps saying that [President George W.] Bush is in there tearing up the forest, but it's not happening in the Unit. Nothing is getting cut." El
Rito District Ranger Diana Trujillo has been encouraging small loggers still working in the Unit to collaborate on projects, but it's unlikely that the few remaining designated operators have the capacity to bid on the 6.3 mmbf Agua/Caballos sale.
While the Forest Service worked with the community on Agua/Caballos, its history of management in the VFSYU helped set up the scenario for environmentalist appeals and lawsuits. The article by David Correia in this issue provides an overview of past Forest Service management practices in the Unit and environmentalist arrogance that have contributed to the economic stagnation, loss of cultural identity, and divisiveness that characterize the VFSYU today.
An additional 100 San Luis Valley residents were recently granted access rights to the former Sangre de Cristo Land Grant, referred to as the Taylor Ranch, in the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado. Nine people were initially granted rights after the initial landmark decision in 2002 that recognized that successors in title to private tracts in this Mexican land grant, made in 1844, retain their grazing, firewood gathering, and timber harvesting rights on the Taylor Ranch. Approximately 1,000 more people are seeking access. The Land Rights Council, a longtime land grant advocacy group based in San Luis, is currently working on a management plan for the ranch.
District Court Judge Martha Vasquez recently extended the deadline hearing on the Aamodt adjudication until April 26, at which time the parties to the settlement negotiations must present a settlement proposal or the longstanding case (see La Jicarita, February 2005) will proceed to litigation.
Geothermal Products of New Mexico filed suit in federal court seeking to force the Valles Caldera National Preserve Trust to grant the company access to geothermal wells drilled in the Valles Caldera in the 1970s and 80s. The company, which owns 12.5% of the subsurface mineral rights, wants to build a geothermal power plant in the Caldera (see La Jicarita, February 2004). The position of the Trust is that those wells, abandoned by Unocal, have reverted to the surface estate and belong to the Trust. The Trust contends that development of geothermal energy on the Preserve is counter to Congressional directives for management. The New Mexico congressional delegation continues to pursue legislation for the Department of Agriculture to buy the mineral rights from GeoProducts and other owners, but there are disagreements over the fair market value of those rights.
Earthworks Institute (EWI) is sponsoring H2O 2005 in collaboration with the Center for Contemporary Arts of Santa Fe (CCA) from June 9 to 12. The event will include panel discussions, workshops, feature films and shorts, children's activities and an expo. For more information you can call EWI at 982-9806 or CCA at 982-1338. EWI is also sponsoring a stream restoration workshop with Bill Zeedyck on May 14 in Cañoncito from 9 am to 3:30 pm.
The Forest Service, under the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), is proposing a cleanup plan of the Red River Mining District (Site). The Site is located in Bitter Creek, Pioneer Creek and Placer Creek in the Questa Ranger District. An open house to discuss the Preferred Alternative to remove the waste rock and/or tailings out of the surface water pathway will be held on April 20 from 2 to 8 pm at the Questa RD, 57 Gallegos Road, 1/2 mile east of Questa on SH 38 (call Ron Thibedeau at 586-0502 for more information).
By Kay Matthews
Military recruiters have stepped up their presence on high school campuses across the country as the United States struggles to fill its recruiting quotas. As part of the No Child Left Behind Act, schools are handing over student contact lists so that recruiters can also contact them at their homes (students have the right to tell the school they do not want their contact information handed out).
In response to this activity, the Santa Fe chapter of Veterans for Peace has organized a team of veterans who make themselves available to high schools in the area to provide balanced information in response to the recruiters' hard sell of military service. On April 7, five veterans brought their program, "Full Disclosure Recruiting", to Peñasco High School, where they spoke with sophomores, juniors, and seniors for several hours in an interactive session.
Veterans for Peace, left to right: Eduardo Krasilovsky, Tim Origer, Daniel Craig, Joan Guffy, Ken Mayers
They began their presentation by asking the students to list all the good reasons they could think of for joining the military. The veterans listed the reasons on the blackboard, and using information they had researched and their own experiences, examined them one by one.
"College money" and "serving your country" were high on the list. Veteran Ken Mayers quickly put those reasons into perspective. Mayers is a retired Marine Corps officer who served in Vietnam. He described himself as "a poster boy for the good things the recruiters tell you because the military sent me through school." He ended up at the University of California at Berkeley, where, as he put it, "I tried to figure out how our foreign policy got so screwed up." He cautioned the students that there is a distinct difference between "serving your government and serving your country. Most Americans now agree that Vietnam was an horrendous mistake and crime: 58,000 Americans died along with millions of Vietnamese. The war was launched on a lie - that our ships were attacked. I was in communications and I knew it was a lie."
With regard to joining the military to get money for an education, Mayers explained that college money is much more limited for people serving in the armed forces today than it was after World War II. The amount of money offered under the current Montgomery GI Bill is not enough to cover expenses at increasingly expensive state and private schools, and part of that money comes from monthly deductions of service wages. Only one-third of those who enlist in this program ever graduate. He also stressed that over $6.6 billion of financial aid available from the private sector goes unused every year because students don't know how to find it.
Veteran Joan Guffy told the students, "The military doesn't exist to send you to college. It exists to send you around the world to kill people." Guffy served as an Air Force nurse in Vietnam. As she put it, "A fast talking recruiter got hold of me and promised me the world", but her career lasted only as long as her tour of duty in Vietnam where she was exposed to Agent Orange and was twice raped by American military officers. She now suffers from ovarian cancer and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). "The military is a macho system where women are demeaned. I had to be afraid of my own soldiers. PTSD prevents people from establishing loving relationships. I don't know how to trust people." She told the students that a higher percentage of women veterans are now homeless and suffer from PTSD.
Guffy also addressed the "see the world" reason, which was high on the list. "What I saw was Lubbock, Texas, and Vietnam." Veteran Tim Origer added his experience to Guffy's: "I saw Oceanside, California for training, Hawaii for a half hour, Okinawa for an hour, Vietnam for one month before my leg was shot off, and Denver for a year while I was in the hospital." Origer is a Marine Corps veteran and former University of Minnesota star football and basketball player who volunteered for Vietnam. His leg was shattered during the Tet offensive and he spent many years after his discharge as a "bush veteran", what they call those who suffer so severely from PTSD they live out in the woods by themselves.
Origer explained his PTSD this way: "I heard all the stories that the Vietnamese people needed our help. It took me 15 years to realize it wasn't true and to deal with what I did to them. We who served in Vietnam became what we said we were protecting them from." Origer is now married to a woman from Hernandez, has children, and devotes much of his time to working with Veterans for Peace.
Veteran Daniel Craig, who is from Springer, New Mexico and served as a combat engineer in the first Gulf War, tried to put the Vietnam and Iraq wars in perspective for the students: "Vietnam has been fighting attackers for 1,000 years. Iraq has only been a country since after World War I, when the British divided up the Middle East. Wars like those in Vietnam and Iraq are all about world powers protecting their interests. Today's conflicts are called 'asymmetrical warfare': you can get killed in any of 130 countries in the world where there is United States military presence. It's about spheres of influence and containment and oil."
Eduardo Krasilovsky, a veteran of military service in Argentina and Israel (his parents were Jewish and emigrated to Argentina from Poland), also addressed this issue of why we are involved in so many conflicts: "Around the world American soldiers are not seen as fighters for freedom. They are seen as colonizers, particularly in South America, who are protecting the business interests of the United States. You are growing up in a bottle, not getting the information the rest of the world gets."
All of the veterans addressed the "awesome weapons" reason that some students half-jokingly added to the list. One student stated that the use of long-range weapons helps prevent American casualties. Daniel Craig responded that "the war is won on the ground. Using an air force doesn't do it." Eduardo Krasilovsky reminded the students that tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians in Baghdad have been killed and Tim Origer described the current situation there as "urban guerrilla warfare." Joan Guffy added some disturbing statistics about the use of depleted uranium in Iraq and the first Gulf War: "They are nuclear weapons, 60% plutonium. Depleted is a misnomer. They explode and radiation gets in the air. Fifty-six per cent of those who served in the Gulf War, who are now in their thirties and forties, are on permanent medical disability. In three months of war, 3,000 service people have subsequently died from mysterious illnesses. And now the military and people of Iraq are being exposed to the same dangers."
Before the veterans left they asked the students how many had relatives currently serving in Iraq. More than half raised their hand. As Tom Udall pointed out in the March issue of La Jicarita, people from New Mexico serve in disproportionate numbers in the service. It is critical that high school students get all the necessary information - not just from recruiters - before they make the decision to join the armed forces.
By David Correia
Editor's Note: This article is excerpted and edited from several of Correia's articles regarding the VFSYU.
In 1947, the El Rito District Ranger in the Carson National Forest in northern New Mexico declared that forest rangelands were severely overgrazed. This determination led to a series of stock-reduction programs in the district that had both immediate and long term consequences for local permittees. Unlike the large, commercial cattle operations that dominated cattle production on western ranges in the 1940s, local permittees in El Rito engaged in small scale goat, sheep and cattle herding on the mountain rangelands of the El Rito District, a practice begun with the arrival of Spanish settlers in the sixteenth century. Throughout New Spain, settlers relied on an agropastoral subsistence strategy characterized by the integration of small household agricultural fields irrigated by a system of community-managed acequias, or gravity-fed irrigation ditches, along with the grazing of livestock on upland rangelands. The semi-arid conditions in northern New Mexico made dry-land farming impossible. As a result, uplands managed collectively by villages served as important rangelands for livestock, as well as for collecting fuelwood and building materials and hunting. Beginning with the United States' control of the region in 1848, a series of grazing restrictions eroded local access to, and control of, critical upland resources. This led to a process of land and water dispossession for local subsistence ranchers.
In 1935, 210 El Rito households farmed, on average, eight irrigated acres each, with one landowner irrigating 71 acres. While three families owned large herds, grazing a combined total of 3,260 sheep, and one family maintained 300 goats, most households maintained fewer than seven animals. Although the herds were small, federal land managers in the Carson National Forest began a process of grazing reductions in 1948, based on their 1947 case study that concluded that livestock had "caused surrounding national forest ranges to become depleted of vegetative cover to such an extent that a reduction in permitted grazing use is necessary." The claims of overgrazed and depleted ranges likely emerged from a combination of management decisions related to regional drought conditions. Throughout New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona, a severe drought beginning in 1943 and lasting into the late 1950s led to severe rangeland degradation on many Forest Service ranges. Despite significant interregional variation, many rangers saw the Southwest as uniformly degraded. Lower stocking rates and average to better-than-average precipitation patterns in El Rito suggest that local foresters misidentified local ranges as depleted.
The El Rito District's 1947 claim of overgrazing initiated a district-wide case study regarding the problem of locally degraded ranges. The resulting report, delivered to Carson Forest Supervisor L. F. Cottam in March of 1947, focused solely on the poverty of local permittees. No fieldwork was conducted regarding ecological conditions, and no explanation was offered as to how the district determined that ranges were overgrazed. In early 1948, the Forest Service imposed grazing reductions on all 141 smallholder Hispano grazing permittees. The grazing restrictions and reductions on federal lands in northern New Mexico were based on an understanding of ecosystem functioning that assumed pastoralist production to be lacking key practices necessary to maintain ecosystem equilibrium. Such a view made it possible to demonstrate rangeland was overgrazed through an economic analysis of the region. In El Rito, rangers assumed that agropastoralism was the cause of significant and persistent poverty. This view, however, ignored the significant differences between the environmental and economic impacts of commercial ranching and pastoralist production as practiced in northern New Mexico.
Although it seems unlikely that pastoralist livestock practices alone, if at all, were responsible for depleted ranges, El Rito District rangers reduced the number of permits available for locally owned cattle at the same time as they increased access to timber by outside commercial timber operators. For the next twenty years, district rangers continued to reduce grazing permits in the district while increasing timber harvesting. The implementation of this policy coincided with the Forest Service post World War II effort to expand timber production by tying district budgets to timber output. It therefore served the interests of the Forest Service at the expense of the local population.
The Forest Service rationalized this decision by claiming that wage labor generated by corporate logging would be an improvement over a small-scale, village-based, agropastoral subsistence economy it claimed was the cause of poverty and ecological degradation. Therefore, in 1948 it created the Vallecitos Federal Sustained Yield Unit (VFSYU) on the El Rito District. Fifty-six years later, it's the only sustained yield unit still active in the American Southwest and has accomplished none of the goals of increased livelihoods and ecological protection described in its legislation.
Between 1948 and 1957, one outside commercial operator, Jackson Lumber Company, operated in the Unit (see La Jicarita News, March 05). The Unit was then without an operator for 15 years, during which time rangers considered decommissioning it. In 1972, however, despite promises to allow local operators, the Forest Service designated Duke City Lumber, a subsidiary of a transnational conglomerate, as approved operator. During its tenure, Duke City rarely maintained a labor force greater than 50% local, frequently circumvented labor standards, and ignored harvesting policies and covered up practices that caused erosion and water quality problems in the Unit. Yet the company continually lobbied for, and received, increases in the sustained yield of the 73,000 acre Unit. In 1985, local furor erupted when the Carson Forest Plan proposed increasing the cut to 8 million board feet (mmbf). Local Hispano loggers opposed this increase given to a company that one local labor leader described as an economic terrorist.
At a 1985 public meeting, Hispano loggers repeated their concern not only for their jobs but also for the local forest ecology. As the president of the association of local workers argued, "Increased logging and more roads will cause long-term ecological damage to the forest, reduce the sustained yield of the Unit, harm wildlife and adversely affect permittees." Despite subsequent claims by "zero cut" environmental groups, such as Forest Guardians, that only a biocentric view considers the need of non-human nature, it was local loggers who years earlier were arguing to reduce the approved sale quantity, close roads and restrict future road building, and design a management plan that accounted for the needs of wildlife habitat. It's certainly not a history recognized during the intervening "Owls versus Jobs" debates that erupted in the 1990s.
Local loggers and the Forest Service resolved the 1985 dispute regarding the potential doubling of the sustained yield when locals promised not to sue the Carson to stop the forest plan in return for a promise to reduce Duke City's annual yield to 5.5 mmbf and set aside 1 mmbf of timber and 1.1 mmbf of small forest products annually for locally-owned operators. The activism of local loggers forced Duke City to replace outside contractors and employ La Companía Ocho, a local timber operation created by former employees who had for years worked for Duke City subcontractors. Unfortunately, the successes of La Companía were limited by constant foot dragging on the part of the Forest Service in never meeting these requirements and outright cheating by Duke City, which would purchase a timber sale and sit on it until it was able to charge La Companía nearly double the stumpage as its subcontractor. Despite promising 1 mmbf/year to La Companía, the Forest Service offered for sale only 700,000 board feet in the ten years between 1986 and 1996. Similarly, despite frequent attempts by workers prior to 1985 to bring the frequent tree theft perpetrated by Duke City subcontractors to Forest Service attention, no official investigation of these claims was ever undertaken. Yet after La Companía began operation, it was investigated many times for tree theft.
In the 1990s La Companía began to take legal action to try to insure fair treatment. In a 1991 letter, La Companía threatened to take Duke City to arbitration over its refusal to meet a court mandated settlement achieved in a previous suit. In the letter La Companía asserted, "We suspect that you are opposed to local groups gaining the benefits they are entitled to under the provisions of the SYFMA [Sustained Yield Forest Management Act]. It appears that this conduct is either racially motivated or as a result of a fear that an Hispanic community group such as ours could get strong enough to establish our own sawmill and possibly even become the designated operator in the Unit. We cut, skid, load and haul, and Duke City takes 100% of the profit. . . . We understand that the 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits slavery." Despite the intensifying conflict, the Forest Service refused to release promised, and by this time court-mandated, sales to La Companía while at the same time maintaining the Allowable Sale Quantity (ASQ) to Duke City.
La Companía's lawyer argued in 1993, "It now appears that the actions of the Forest Service were a pretext to put off the local residents, drain their energy and allow the Forest Service to attend to the desires of Duke City Lumber at the expense of community residents." In 1994 La Companía sued the Forest Service claiming racism in the District's refusal to sell to local operators. In the midst of this ongoing fight with the Forest Service and Duke City Lumber, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Mexican spotted owl as a threatened species. The Forest Service responded to La Companía in a May 11, 1993 letter saying, "With the listing of the Mexican Spotted Owl, even we, on the Carson, are in a brand new ball game." As a consequence of the listing a group of environmental organizations sued the Forest Service, resulting in a 16-month injunction against logging that included green firewood collecting in a region populated with people dependent on wood to heat their homes. "They wouldn't even let us cut firewood for ourselves," one logger told me. "Our people were freezing there."
The Forest Service Region Three injunction overrode judicial orders in New Mexico to release sales to La Companía. The injunction, of course, was based on the listing of the spotted owl, yet as a Carson Forest spokesperson admitted in 1996, "We have yet to visually locate a Mexican spotted owl on the Carson National Forest. And we have probably spent $2 million plus out surveying with parabolic microphones and going out at night and looking for these animals as we're required to do." Despite constant searches, no owls or nests have ever been found on the Carson. Yet environmental organizations continue to claim that owls roost in the Unit. As one environmentalist told me in 2004, "I have not seen the spotted owl, but I know where they nest."
Forest Guardians, one of the plaintiff environmental groups in the spotted owl lawsuit, maintained its legal strategy initiated in the early 1990s and in the mid-1990s began a well-funded public relations campaign that sought to characterize La Companía as "culturally irresponsible." La Companía recognized these strategies as extensions of the fight against the Forest Service and Duke City. As one member of La Companía described it, "they seem to think the Indian people have a respect for the land and therefore would make good stewards. But we have the Spanish-speaking people back here in these valleys. We have a 400-year history of pretty good resource management. I know we need environmentalism, because these big corporations couldn't give a shit except for the bottom line. But there's a line these environmentalists have crossed that has completely undermined their moral standing on the environment."
The success of environmentalist strategies on the Carson National Forest depended on their ability to frame the issue as a battle against ecologically illegitimate, culturally irresponsible loggers who care only for their own immediate material interests. Indeed, the argument by Hispanos to use nature within a local, subsistence economy continues to raise the wrath of well-funded environmentalists poised to assert their power to derail timber sales. Despite a history of environmental activism by Hispano loggers that predates the involvement of environmental organizations, Forest Guardians claimed it was the only real defender of non-human nature.
The strategy of environmental organizations at this time, based on the premise that any productive activity in the forest is damaging, was to exploit the contradictory operational imperatives of federal lands management on the VFSYU. The result for the Forest Service has been an institutional paralysis that calls into question whether regulatory and management arrangements, however reformulated through local Hispano activism, can ever provide local economic and ecological benefits. The result for local, small-scale operators in Vallecitos was the bankruptcy of La Companía Ocho and the demise of other community-based businesses.
By Joanie Quinn, New Mexico Organic Commodity Commission email@example.com
In the 1970s organic producers began forming associations that set standards for "organic" farming. Some of these organizations went on to certify that farms were following those standards, using member-farmers to inspect one another's operations. In the early 1990s an independent inspectors' organization was formed to train inspectors and set inspection guidelines for organic agriculture. Some states passed legislation creating standards and setting up state inspection and/or compliance agencies.
New Mexico has a strong history of organic certification. Legislation was adopted in 1990 creating the New Mexico Organic Commodity Commission (NMOCC), an independent state agency to certify organic farms and promote organic agriculture.
As organic agriculture grew, so did the problems with the loose network of certifying agencies. Certifiers applied different standards and not all certifying agencies recognized the work of other certifiers. Enforcement provisions were weak, or nonexistent.
By the late 1980's, organic producers and certifiers began working to develop a federal program to standardize requirements for organic production, and put teeth into the regulation of organic claims. On October 21, 2002, the National Organic Program (NOP) (under the USDA) went into effect.
The program includes a national standard for organic production and processing that is quite similar to the standards most independent and state certifiers had used. (No synthetic fertilizers or pesticides; strict control of the use of botanical pesticides; a requirement to protect the soil and water; no Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), irradiation or sewage sludge; use of organic seeds and seedlings; humane conditions with access to sunlight, pasture and organic feed for livestock, etc.)
Under the national organic program, producers, processors and handlers of organic product who use the word "organic" must obtain certification to the national standards. Producers who gross less than $5,000/year in organic product sales are not required to certify, but in New Mexico must register with the NMOCC.
To apply for organic certification producers submit an application that details farm practices including: crops grown; practices used to increase soil fertility, control weeds and insects, and ensure that water is not contaminated; a description of management practices and physical barriers to prevent contamination and co-mingling of organic and conventional crops; a list of all inputs used in production, their source and location used; a description of monitoring practices; a description of the record keeping system; an accurate map; a field history. The applicant must also show that no materials prohibited in organic production have been applied to the land for three years previous to certification. The application is the "Organic System Plan" that is required of organic producers under the National Organic Program.
After the application is submitted the certifier will review the application for any obvious problems and may call the producer for additional information. Once the application is complete an inspector will be assigned to visit the farm. The inspector will only come out if there is a crop in the field. In addition to looking at the fields the inspector will look at the farm records, the machinery (checking for fluid leaks, etc.), labels on inputs and seeds, storage facilities, and see what is being done to control animal and vegetable pests. S/he will match up the farm map with the reality of the farm.
The inspector does NOT make the certification decision, but is simply acting as a trained reporter to confirm and amplify the information on the application. When the inspection is complete, the inspector will sit down with the producer and give an exit interview indicating any problems noted. The inspector is not allowed to give advice about correcting problems. The inspector's report, along with the application and any clarifying communications between the applicant and the certifier, will then be reviewed by the person(s) making the certification decision and a letter will be sent out to the applicant with a certificate or with an explanation for denial of certification. Certificates must be renewed annually.
Record keeping is the biggest hurdle for most organic producers. Fortunately there is now FREE help from ATTRA, www.attra.ncat.org, (800) 346-9140, in the form of workbooks, checklists and record-keeping forms as well as a wide variety of bulletins on production issues. You can view or download the organic standards and the application for certification at the (in process) NMOCC website: http://nmocc. state.nm.us. Certification through the NMOCC costs $150/year plus a one time set-up fee of $25. An assessment of one-half of one percent on organic sales is also charged. We'd love to talk to you about your situation and give you any help you need to get and stay certified organic. We also have directories of New Mexico organic producers and buyers and a marketing handbook, free upon request to anyone who is interested. Please call us anytime at (505) 841-9070.
Copyright 1996-2002 La Jicarita Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, New Mexico 87521.