Carol Ann Sayle
The lady in the audience for a panel discussion following the movie FRESH (a more hopeful cousin of Food, Inc.), asked my husband/co-farmer Larry, who was a member of the panel, what it costs us to be USDA certified organic. "Well," he said, "it's kind of ironic, but to obtain verification that I am not putting poisons on the produce you will eat costs $700 per year."
Included for that fee is an annual inspection of our paperwork, farm plans, seed choices, fertilizers, and the few "pesticides" that we are permitted to use. Most importantly, leaves from our crops and our native vegetation are collected and sent to a lab to determine if we've used prohibited substances. The lab test is the proof of the "pudding," but often I think paperwork is the main focus.
Larry added that if we were not certified organic, but instead were addicted to chemicals, "we could spray them on the produce you eat, for free." No fee. No inspection. And no paperwork. (Note: I'm not referring to aerial crop dusters; I imagine there would be fees associated with that.)
We are not fans of pesticides, even the "approved" ones, as many of them kill "good" insects as well as "bad" ones. We tend to think that all the insects are somehow necessary. If we see aphids, we wait for the lady bugs and lacewings to ease the problem. And if we lose a crop now and then, our great diversity of varieties and crop types insures a good harvest.