When Pacific Northwest Direct Seed Association members gathered for their annual conference in Spokane in early February, one subject dominated the meeting attended by 240.
The hot subject was certification, a program PNDSA has been working on for three years and which is now 95% complete. A launch is expected for members early next year, says association Executive Director Kay Meyer.
One of the major decisions yet to be made is on who will become the third party to determine conservation qualification for certification.
Benefits of the program are many, says Meyer. "Producer benefits will evolve as we begin focusing on the marketing side of certification this year," she explains. "Immediate benefits include a proactive relationship with regulatory agencies that understand the environmental benefits of direct seeding and recognize it as a best management practice for water and air quality, and wildlife habitat."
Certification will not come easy to applicant farms. Several "red" flag are established in the program which disqualify a farmer immediately. Burning fields is one of these.
What is unique about the certification program is the alliance of PNDSA with the Washington Department of Ecology. Ecology has granted $100,000 to the association to fashion the program, and decision action is pending on another $100,000 for it to forge ahead into the application stage.
That government partnership is unique to such certification programs in agriculture, and the agreement has stirred the interest of many other farm organizations in the nation, says outgoing Chad Adkins, DOE Water Quality Project Manager for eastern Washington, a member of the PNDSA certification committee.
"This is something we have done it the past," he says, "but we decided it was the right direction to move in in terms of water quality protection." While he did not know the status of the new grant request, he says he "looks forward to working with PNDSA on the certification program in the future."
A decision on the grant should be made within the next few weeks, he adds.