History of Organic Coffee
Healthy organic coffee has been around ever since coffee was discovered growing wild and ever since it was first grown. However, the history of organic coffee of the certified variety starts in 1990.
The Organic Foods Production Act was passed in 1990.
It requires the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances which identifies synthetic substances that may be used, and the nonsynthetic substances that cannot be used, in organic production and handling operations.
The reason that organic coffee certification as well as certification of other foods came into being is that farmers learned that they could increase production by using synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides. Because there was no clear way to differentiate between products grown by an organic method and those grown by more modern methods a need arose to certify food as organic. The law states that for coffee to be certified as organic the soil in which it is grown must be free from prohibited substances for at least three years and have been verified as such. There have to be clear boundaries between land on which organic coffee is grown and land where pesticides, herbicides, and prohibited chemical fertilizers are used. This is so that drift of substances from adjacent land will not contaminate the organic plot. Organic coffee certification requires a specific and verifiable plan for all practices and procedures from planting to crop maintenance, to harvest, de-husking, bagging, transport, roasting, packaging, and final transport. Procedures must be in place to insure that there is no contamination of healthy organic coffee with regular coffee produced on soil exposed to contaminants.
Who Does the Checking?
Once there was a set of regulations in place to certify organic coffee the problem was that aside from Hawaii no one grows organic coffee in the USA. And the USDA does not run around Latin America where three fourths of the organic coffee in the world is grown. Thus there are certifying authorities who act on behalf of the USDA. One of these is Bio Latina. These folks office in Lima, Peru but they tramp all over Latin America certifying various organic foods including coffee. One issue for small producers is that the $500 a year certifying fee is too steep a price unless they can get connected to a buyer who will pay the organic rate instead of the regular coffee rate.