The Senate ratified on Tuesday the final version of the bill that will make organic agriculture certification more affordable and accessible.
In its plenary session, senators adopted a bicameral conference committee report containing the final bill which reconciled the disagreeing provisions on Senate Bill 1318 and House Bill 6878.
“This bill, once enacted into law, will provide for a more affordable system of organic certification, which will allow small farmers to benefit from producing organic products,” Senator Cynthia Villar, chairperson of the Committee on Agriculture, Food, and Agrarian Reform, and principal sponsor of the bill, said in informing her colleagues about the bicam report.
The measure seeks to amend the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010, Republic Act 10068, and create the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS).
The PGS will serve as a quality assurance system where small farmers and fisher folk, farm associations or cooperatives, and their products shall be certified as actual and active practitioners of organic agriculture and as producers of organic products.
It “is built on a foundation of trust, social network, and knowledge exchange,” Villar said.
At present, under RA No. 10068, a third-party entity shall certify the organic farms of small farmers before they are allowed to label and sell their products to markets.
But the cost of third party certification of up to more than P100,000 per crop, per year, “creates a very big barrier for small farmers to overcome,” Villar said.
“The exorbitant cost prevents small farmers from practicing organic farming and also makes organic products expensive for many Filipinos,” she said.
She said the PGS certification will only cost farmers P600 to P2,000. She also noted that it is now widely adhered to and accepted by international organic movements such as the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement.
The measure also seeks to provide training and incentives for PGS groups, including a “full” government subsidy of the cost for an international certification, and free prime location in any government-initiated and sponsored trade and marketing events to sell their products.
“Aside from environmental protection, increased farmer profitability is also a great motivation to promote and develop the organic industry. It promotes the use of natural and farm-based resources and inputs like organic fertilizer, which will yield to less input cost on the part of the farmers,” Villar said.
A more affordable system of organic certification will also help boost organic farming in the country, she added.