He said grower-shippers, as it is, often have to juggle numerous audits to meet varying requirements of different customers. Such companies are looking for less, not more, redundancy.
“I think it was primarily geared toward small and midsize farms,” Michael said.
Geary said there are no reciprocal agreements with private auditing firms, nor is there any plan for any.
“We’re not against other audits. The way we’re developing this program is consistent with other auditing programs,” he said.
OPGMA requirements differ in the sense that they meet international standards that other audits might not, Geary said.
There’s also an Ohio-specific component to the OPGMA, he said.
“This is being governed by Ohio farmers who understand the difference between growing in Ohio and, say, Florida, so it’s not a one-size-fits-all process,” he said.
From that perspective, OMPA is a good idea for the industry, Michael said.
“It’s a good educational tool, good for the industry when you get everybody playing on that field,” Michael said.
OPGMA was tested last year, so the program is only now in its first year of full operation, Geary said.
As of mid-May, OPGMA had certified one grower-shipper and was focusing heavily on bringing in more.
It’s not difficult to qualify for participation, Geary said.
“You just have to agree to the standards of the inspection, the criteria and all the various standards,” he said.
Standards touch on water use, inputs, traceability and other familiar safety criteria, he added.
“It’s great for the state of Ohio,” said Loren Buurma, co-owner of Willard, Ohio-based Buurma Farms Inc. “Hopefully, other states will jump on board.”
That’s possible, Geary said.
“Ours is based specifically on Ohio, but at the same time, it can be modified to other states,” he said.