As of January 1, Mississippi's Department of Agriculture will no longer be a certifying agent for organic farms. The Clarion-Ledger reports that organic certification by the state—which costs the state about $3,000 per farm—is a victim of budget cuts.
More from the Clarion-Ledger:
What this means for growers is that if one is already certified, he or she must turn to an outside agency to maintain certification, and pay for it out of pocket.
Flying in a certifier from another state and providing food and lodging can cost hundreds, perhaps, thousands of dollars. That's a cost few farms can afford, especially mom-and-pop operations.
If one is wanting certification, but hasn't obtained it, this means that one would have to apply for out-of-state certification - with no guarantees of availability.
For people thinking that organic certification is a federal issue, the USDA's National Organic Program does set the standards for certifying agencies, but it doesn't actually provide certification. The USDA approves state or private agencies to do so.
What Does This Change?
This doesn't mean farmers can't continue to use organic practices, but it does mean that without certification, there's little or no way for a customer to know what a farmer is or isn't doing to the crops he grows. It also means that customers who prioritize organic will likely have to look to goods hauled in from far away—exacerbating the schism between local and organic, at a time when people are trying to emphasize the importance of both.
Right now, there's no apparent indication that other states are considering the same move, but there's no guarantee they won't, either.