“Consider that Olympic athletes are tested before and during the games, not after. And the good news in the case of organic farming is that doing such tests in the field – 100 percent of the time instead of just 5 percent of the time – will drastically reduce a farmer’s cost of being certified, because field testing costs about one-tenth what the current system of record-keeping and record-checking costs.

While USDA officials say the cost of this new plan will be about $500 per test, a broad-spectrum herbicide analysis costs just $125, Popoff notes. “And what about testing for fecal coliforms? That costs just $16 per test, money well spent when one considers the risks inherent in improperly-composted manure.”

Popoff says Heartland does not suggest testing for everything every year. “As long as the party being inspected doesn't know what’s being tested for, a broad-spectrum herbicide analysis or a fecal coliform test, or any of a host of other inexpensive tests, would suffice to prove or disprove a farmer’s or processor’s adherence to the NOP and hopefully keep everyone honest.”

Another issue concerns the ‘royalties’ being collected by USDA-accredited certifiers. Private, for-profit companies collect 1 percent to 3 percent of a farmer’s gross revenue from each transaction they certify? Critics believe organic field testing must be carried out by independent inspectors.