Creating Quality Control for Ohio Seed and Grain
by Susan Post
More and more people are taking an interest in where their food comes from. As awareness grows about different farming methods, one organization in Ohio is helping farmers produce consistent, quality crops.
The long-standing mission of the Ohio Seed Improvement Association (OSIA) is to supply the best possible seed to farmers and growers in the state of Ohio. The organization acts as an unbiased, third-party quality control agency to trace production, field-inspect and laboratory-test seed and non-GMO grain.
OSIA Secretary-Manager John Armstrong outlines the importance of the process, “It facilitates trade. It adds structure to the system for the consumer to know there is a third-party entity [providing] some basic oversight of the process and the quality of the product that is offered for sale.”
The OSIA not only provides a robust variety of quality assurance programs, but also helps farmers find OSIA-Certified seed. The seed certification that OSIA administers is a limited-generation program that assures the genetic purity of seed. The first generation of a new variety of seed is called Breeder Seed; the next generation is called Foundation Seed. These seeds then progress from Foundation to Registered and finally, Certified.
“We have the traditional certified seed program that designates OSIA as the authority in Ohio to provide seed certification for crops such as wheat, oats, barley, spelt, soybean, hybrid seed corn, etc.,” Armstrong says.
The organization publishes two directories a year, one for spring-seeded and one for fall-seeded crops, that help farmers find both non-GMO and GMO OSIA-Certified seeds. The organization also provides inspection and certification programs for noxious weed-free mulch and forage. Weed-laden straw and hay fields can spread noxious weeds, so inspectors monitor such fields for certain species. In addition to lessening the spread of certain weeds, producers often seek weed-free product for bedding to minimize risk of harm to their animals.
One of the OSIA’s largest programs is the Identity Preserved (IP) grain program. The program aids in the development and expansion of a strong non-GMO soybean market for domestic use and export, providing traceability of specialty grains.
Growers and exporters seek out the OSIA to gain IP certification through this verification program. “The companies that do this are very quality conscious,” Armstrong says. “They come to us voluntarily and agree to submit to inspection and product-testing regulations and guidelines.”
Farmers plant varieties in fields with known history (meaning they have a record of what has been planted there before) to be vigorously monitored throughout the growing process. “We send a field inspector out to inspect those production fields during the growing season, so we can confirm what’s planted and check that production for genetic purity,” Armstrong says.
Once harvested, the grains go through rigorous laboratory testing before qualifying for IP labeling. “The Identity Preserved grain program is a third-party entity performing this [testing], and exercising a pass-fail overarching system on the whole production scheme,” Armstrong says.
Submitting to the process gives companies advantages in the marketplace. Contractors are able to market a product that is monitored throughout the production cycle, ensuring purity. “Food processors and end-users that source material from OSIA’s IP program should do so with confidence,” Armstrong says. The non-GMO soybeans produced through the IP program are for consumer products like soy milk and tofu.
Armstrong is proud of the program participants who take the time to follow the robust certification program. Awareness surrounding such testing is growing. “There is demand and there is obviously an awareness of the origin of commodities that go into the food process,” Armstrong says. “The consumer and the end-users often want product that has gone through some type of non-GMO oversight quality control system.”
Location: 6150 Avery Rd., Dublin. For more information, call 614-889-1136 or visit OHSeed1.org.
Susan Post is a freelance writer and editor based in Columbus. She enjoys writing about her city and the people and places that make it special. Contact her at Susan.Post.firstname.lastname@example.org.