Stan Johnson, Iowa State University Extension, (515) 294-6192
Robert Dodds, Lee County Extension, (319) 835-5116
Seeley Lodwick, Southeast Iowa Agricultural Advisory Council, (319) 372-3754
Teddi Barron, News Service, (515) 294-4778
AMES, Iowa--Some Iowa farmers have gained entry into a system that would guarantee the quality of their agricultural products from seed to shelf and would prevent the co-mingling of biotech and traditional grain.
They are the first American farmers to become certified under ISO 9002, a universal quality management system used primarily by manufacturing and service industries in 130 countries.
The eight producers received special recognition Wednesday, Dec. 6, when Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack presented their ISO 9002 certificates in a ceremony at the state capitol in Des Moines.
The producers are Bert, David and Brad Vandenberg, Vandenberg Farms, Donnellson; Russell Steffensmeier, Rolling S Farms, Donnellson; Brian and Charles Burk, B and C Burk, Wever; Harry Mabeus, Wever; and Kirk Weih (farm manager), LaCrew Acres Inc., Mt. Vernon.
They are part of an Iowa State University Extension pilot project conducted in partnership with the Iowa Department of Economic Development, the Southeast Iowa Agricultural Advisory Council and the Colusa Elevator Company, Wever.
"There's a clear and accelerating trend worldwide to integrate quality systems in agricultural supply chains," said Stan Johnson, vice provost for extension at Iowa State. "Because of current concerns about food quality, safety and differentiation, producers, handlers and processors need to be able to guarantee that what they're selling is exactly what they say they're selling. ISO certification is a way to do that."
"By being able to guarantee their product's identity, ISO certified producers gain more opportunities to access new customers who need agricultural products with specific value-added characteristics" said Seeley Lodwick, Wever, chairman of the Southeast Iowa Agricultural Advisory Council.
And, because the ISO system is dependent on rigid documentation, it helps producers improve operational efficiencies, said Robert Dodds, Lee County extension director.
"The farmer must be able to document what happens with their product every step of the way, from lot numbers of the seed corn to where the commodity was in the bin to when the truck was cleaned and on and on. Every procedure is catalogued in a log book, initialed and signed," Dodds said.
"The farmers in the pilot project had five months of training, including sessions with an ISO trainer," Dodds said. "Each farmer developed a quality manual and procedures, which were specific to his operation and provided the basis for the certification audit. Because there are no ISO auditors in the United States qualified to certify a farm operation, an auditor was brought in from England to conduct the audit."
The pilot project included the Colusa Elevator Company, which achieved ISO certification last February, Dodds said. It is believed to be the only grain handling facility in the United States that is ISO certified for purchasing, warehousing and delivery of grain to regional, national and international markets. At least two other Iowa grain handling facilities are undergoing ISO training.
The pilot project will continue in 2001 with the training of 10 producers.
ISO certified packing plants, seed companies, grain-handling facilities and flour mills can be found in Argentina, Australia, Denmark, Mexico and the Netherlands, Dodds said.
ISO stands for International Organization for Standardization, a 53-year-old organization based in Geneva, Switzerland. It promotes standardization to facilitate the international exchange of goods and services. Of the 300,000 certified sites worldwide, 50,000 are in the U.S.