– In partnership with clients determined to preserve the program, the non-profit Food Alliance has relaunched its third-party certification for farmers, ranchers, processors and distributors that implement sustainable agricultural and food handling practices.
All current Food Alliance certifications will continue under existing terms. Food Alliance is prepared to receive new certification applications, and will begin conducting new farm and facility inspections starting October 2013.
Food Alliance announced it was suspending operations in February 2013, citing funding challenges, while the board of directors considered options for restructuring.
Following that announcement, Karl Kupers, a founder of Shepherd’s Grain flour company, started reaching out independently to other certification clients. “We’re all committed to third-party certification to support our brands. The question I asked is, ‘Is there another program that credibly covers both social and environmental issues the way that Food Alliance does?’ We concluded pretty quickly that there wasn’t.”
A group of clients, including representatives of Central Bean Company, Food Services of America, Shepherd’s Grain, Stahlbush Island Farms, and Truitt Family Foods, met with Food Alliance board members and former staff to develop a new operating plan and budget. “From a content perspective, the program was strong. Food Alliance’s certification standards are well respected,” says Tina Galloway, director of Agriculture Quality and Compliance at Stahlbush Island Farms. “But the business model was 60% dependent on outside grant support. That clearly wasn’t sustainable.”
Matthew Buck, who formerly served as assistant director for Food Alliance from 2004 to 2011, has been recruited to help restructure the organization and guide operations under the new fee supported model. He explains, “We're going to be focusing on one core service – certification. We're also shifting more administrative responsibility to International Certification Services, the firm contracted to manage our inspections, and taking other steps to reduce internal costs and overhead.”
The Food Alliance board is being restructured to include three ex officio business members representing the certification clientele, who will advise operations and expansion plans. Business members will not vote on matters related to certification standards or policies.
“The response from the business community has been gratifying,” says Food Alliance board chair Jeff Picarello, Executive Vice President at Edelman. “As a board, we were working hard to chart a path for the organization during a difficult time. To have farmers and food processors rally to support us really affirms the commitment we all share to good food and a healthy future.”
Outreach is now on-going to certification clients and to retailers, restaurants and food service operators that have purchased and promoted Food Alliance certified products over the last decade. “This was great news to us,” says Marco Pinchot, Community Relations and Sustainability Manager at Taylor Shellfish Farms. “Food Alliance certification is something we believe in that creates value for us and our customers.”
General Information about Food Alliance
is a non-profit organization, founded in 1997, that certifies farms, ranches and food processors for sustainable agricultural and production practices. Businesses that meet Food Alliance’s standards, as determined by a third-party site inspection, use certification to make credible claims for social and environmental responsibility, differentiating their products and strengthening their brands.
Food Alliance certification standards for farmers and ranchers include:
• Safe and fair working conditions
• Healthy and humane care for livestock
• No hormones or non-therapeutic antibiotics
• No genetically modified crops or livestock
• Reduction of pesticide use and toxicity
• Conservation of soil and water resources
• Protection of wildlife habitat
• Continuous improvement of practices
Food Alliance is represented in the Mid-Atlantic region by the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture
and in the Midwest by Cooperative Development Services