Courtesy David Granatstein/Washington State UniversityA vegetable producer in Washington spreads compost on a field. Strict regulations are in place for compost producers to reduce risks associated with raw manure.Some organic growers say the Food and Drug Administration’s proposed rule for raw manure just plain stinks.
It would require a nine-month waiting period between the application of raw manure on a field and the harvest of fresh produce grown there.
Jim Crawford, owner of New Morning Farm, Houstontown, Pa., grows about 60 commodities on his 95-acre organic farm. He told National Public Radio recently that raw manure is safe when used according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Program rules. The NOP rule allows harvest of crops 90 or 120 days after application, depending on whether the crop has direct contact with the soil.
Numerous organic growers filed comments with the FDA citing the benefits of raw manure. Many said they can’t afford to buy compost instead of manure, which they estimate costs between three and six times more.
The crop specialist for the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Eric Sideman, also opposes the nine-month waiting period. The association certifies about 500 farms annually.
“The proposed FDA recommendation is unreasonable, unwarranted by the science … and is an excessive burden on farmers,” according to comments filed by Sideman, who was on the National Organic Standards Board when the manure rule was developed.
Some organic producers are not upset about the proposed manure rule, though.
Will Daniels, senior vice president of operations and quality assurance at Earthbound Farm, San Juan Batista, Calif., said raw manure is too risky. Instead, Earthbound uses processed pellets made from chicken manure that are treated with heat and pressure to kill pathogens.
“We’ve gone in that direction because we feel that it’s very important to assure that we are not spreading these pathogens in our fields, that could lead to contaminated product,” Daniels said.