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Money Running Out For Nevada's Organic Produce Program

Organic food

The agency that certifies organic produce in Nevada is running out of money.

When you pick up that peach or plum at the grocery store labeled ‘organic’ how do you know it really is ‘organic’?

A little-known state agency has been certifying organic produce for years. Now that program could die for lack of about $65,000.

Nevada Department of Agriculture administrator Dawn Rafferty told KNPR’s State of Nevada that the state program had run on general funds until 2010 when it was told that it had to be self-sustaining.

However, the program is not self-sustaining and it will run out of money without and infusion of funding.

“The bottom line is we can’t operate a budget in a deficit,” Rafferty said.

A farm is certified organic after it meets standards set out by the National Organic Program, which include everything from proper crop rotation to pesticide use.

“It is a way of just assuring that products that are put on that farm are approved by that organic program,” Ashley Jeppson, an agriculturist from the Nevada Department of Agriculture, said.

Organic farmers in Nevada can go outside the state agency to be certified and many do. Of the 73 organic farms in the state, 40 are certified through the state.

But Amber Sallaberry, the co-founder and general manager for the Great Basin Community Food Co-Op, points out organic farming is a growing industry that should be supported by the state.

 “I think it would be wise and I think it would be a good leadership decision to implement programs that would make (certified organic) food available,” said.

Sallaberry believes the market is there for organic food and it’s not just Whole Foods and Trader Joes.

 “Now you’re looking around and seeing all kinds of traditional conventional grocery stores that are implementing organic lines,” Sallaberry said.

Amber Sallaberry, co-founder and general manager, Great Basin Community Food Co-Op in Reno; Dawn Rafferty, administrator, Nevada Department of Agriculture, Ashely Jeppson, agriculturist, Nevada Department of Agriculture.

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