Nevada organics in the clear

Nevada’s organic certification program is now safe. Fans and farmers of local organic foods have been biting their nails for more than a month since they heard Nevada’s only organic certifier, Steve Marty, could lose his job due to budget cuts (see “Stunted growth?” Green, Feb. 5, 2009). Cutting his position could have stymied current and future organic farming in the state. That program, which also oversees seed certification, is now in the clear following a surprise interruption during last week’s meeting with the Senate Finance/Assembly Ways and Means subcommittee in Carson City.

Dr. Tony Lesperance, director of Nevada Department of Agriculture, was giving testimony about the organics program when a representative from the state budget division stood up from the back of the room and walked up to the table, according to NDOA spokesperson Ed Foster. With little in the way of formality, she said that the budget division had accepted an amendment from NDOA that would offset Marty’s position from being eliminated, cutting two half-time administrative positions instead.

“Everyone in the room was like, ‘Did that just happen?’” said Foster.

Several farmers and local food advocates were in attendance with prepared public statements.

“We were getting ready to testify, and all of a sudden, it was a moot point,” said Churchill Butte Organics farmer Steve Litsinger, who was surprised but pleased. “I didn’t think it would come down in the middle of a subcommittee meeting.”