State Farm Service Agency Rules in Favor of Organic Farmer

This week, the Minnesota State Farm Service Agency (FSA) ruled in favor of my client, Vance Norgaard, an organic soybean farmer whom a county had proposed to penalize for having “uncontrolled” weeds on his organic farm in 2010. County officials had suggested that penalties were appropriate under the Direct and Counter-cyclical Program (DCP) because Mr. Norgaard had not sprayed his organic crops to eliminate weeds.

The State FSA cited the evidence that there was no impact on neighbors from weeds and that Mr. Norgaard had never received complaints from county weed inspectors after nearly four decades as a certified organic farmer. They also understood that the practices of an organic farm were appropriate and sufficient to control weeds and that, since spraying pesticides is prohibited, the only option to totally eliminate weeds on an organic farm would be to destroy a value-added crop. Here are some key quotes from the FSA decision:

“The weeds were controlled according to the standards in place by Organic Industry. Documents were provided that the organic certifier and two organic farming experts reviewed the record and determined that the weeds were controlled.”

“The yield for your farm was above average for soybeans compared to other organic farms in the state and documentation was provided that showed this. If the weeds were an issue; this yield should have been below the organic industry average for soybeans.”

This recent State FSA decision is a big deal both for Mr. Norgaard and for other organic farmers who wish to qualify for and retain DCP crop support payments. The best part was listening to the State FSA Committee — older farmers with nice suits and rough hands — talk with knowledge and caring about growing good crops using organic practices.

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