Pests happen, even to the best organic farms or facilities. However, as an organic business, your choices of how to deal with pesky critters are limited due to National Organic Program policy. Gone are the days where you can simply set toxic traps or use chemical sprays with glee.
Also you'll need to document how you'll deal with pests in your organic system plan (OSP). If you need some help writing this part of your plan, check out the tips below to find out how you can, and cannot manage pests.
NOP rules expect that all organic producer will use proper management practices in order to prevent crop pests, weeds, and diseases. It's also expected that certified organic producers or handlers working, not on a farm, but in a brick and mortar organic facility will also use the correct management practices to prevent pests.
No matter if you're a producer or handler, you'll need to include the specifics of your pest management plan in your OSP. Your organic certifying agent will look for this section in your OSP.
Organic farmers may use the following practices to prevent pests.
- Crop rotation.
- Soil and crop nutrient management practices
- Sanitation measures
- Enhancing crop health to ensure fewer pests.
- Choosing pest resistant crops.
- Introduction of predators or parasites of the pest species.
- Development of a habitat that included natural enemies of pests.
- Lures and traps
- Repellents made with allowed substances on the National List.
Organic handlers, say in a retail food establishment or other organic facility, may use the following practices to prevent pests.
- Removal of pest habitat, food sources and breeding areas.
- Limit pest access to handling facilities
- Management of environmental factors that encourage or discourage pests, such as temperature, light, humidity, atmosphere and air circulation.
Organic handlers in a facility should attempt to control and prevent pests using mechanical or physical controls, which may include traps, light or noise. Lures and repellents are also allowed, but they have to feature nonsynthetic or synthetic substances allowed on the National List.
NOP rules regarding non-toxic, mechanical and cultural methods of pest control help ensure the least harmful pest control methods are tried first. However, even NOP understands that a farm or facility cannot be laden with pests. Pests running out of control can pose both health and sale problems for organic businesses. Thus, if you've tried everything to no avail, you can move on to more harmful methods of pest control. But this change in tactics will affect your pest management section of your OSP.
What can handlers try?
NOP notes that if you've tried all the less harmful practices first, and they're ineffective, you can use a synthetic substance that is not approved on the National List. However, if you're a handler using a synthetic substance your certifying agent must agree with the substance, method of application, and measures to be taken to prevent co-mingling of any organically produced products or organic ingredients with the substance used.
Additionally, if you're a handler and you do use a nonsynthetic or synthetic substance to prevent or control pests, you must update your organic handling plan to reflect both the substances and methods of application. Lastly, your updated OSP must document all the first measures you took that did not work.
The final exception that applies to handlers comes after you've tried literally every other way to get rid of pests and all of those ways have failed. At this point, as a handler you're allowed to use substances to prevent or control pests as required by Federal, State, or local laws and regulations but you must take careful measures to prevent co-mingling of any certified organic products or ingredients with the substance used.
What can organic producers try?
Now, if you're an organic farmer, the same rules apply. You can move on to a biological or botanical substance or a substance included on the National List, but the substances must be allowed for use in organic crop production and the reasons why you're using the substance must be documented in your OSP.