PFAS have been widely used since the 1950s in products ranging from food packaging to fire fighting foam. PFAS have recently been recognized as contaminants in agriculture and are believed to largely be entering soil through the application of biosolids, industrial sludges and ashes, which may contain these compounds that break down very little over decades, or longer.
For decades PFAS containing sludges were marketed to farmers as a safe and cost effective source of fertilization. While biosolids have never been permitted in MOFGA and USDA organic production, land that is in production now, organic and conventional, may be contaminated without the knowledge of the current landowner, or the organic certifier of the operation.
How can a farm be certified organic if they have PFAS contamination?
Organic agriculture is based on the growing practices of the farmer and recent history of the land, with the organic standards requiring a 36-month transition period from conventional land management to organic. This means the land is managed without prohibited substances for three years prior to the harvest of an organic crop. This standard, along with the requirements of organic production, greatly lessen chances of exposure to conventional pesticides, as intended. As we now know, this is not necessarily the case with “forever chemicals” such as PFAS. While this may be particularly discouraging for consumers who have sought out organic foods to minimize their exposure to all synthetic chemicals, this is a much larger food safety issue affecting all agricultural products and needing federal action immediately to address any food safety risk across the board.
- To provide short-term income replacement for farms that the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) has identified as having high test results.
- To help pay for initial PFAS testing on farms that choose to do their own testing.
- To support access to mental health services for impacted farmers