Special Alert: Senate Agriculture Committee Threatens Organic Standards-Comment Period Ends Today

Special Alert: Senate Agriculture Committee Threatens Organic Standards-Comment Period Ends Today

The value of the organic label that we all depend on is under attack in the U.S. Congress. If we don’t stop this, we will not be able to rely on the label to identify the stark differences between current organic and chemical-intensive food production practices.

The U.S. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee is accepting comments now on Farm Bill proposals that will erode the meaning of organic. Although there are about 400 days to go before 2012 Farm Bill funding ends, Senator Pat Roberts (R, KS) is taking the opportunity of Senate hearings to attack those institutions that make organic agriculture standards clear, transparent, and subject to Congressionally mandated public oversight. In particular, Sen. Roberts and others are attacking the National Organic Standards Board <click for more> (NOSB), which is an impediment to organic factory farms <click for more> . Organic production is subject to rigorous oversight through a certification and inspection process not found in conventional agriculture, but needing continual improvement to keep pace with the tremendous growth of the organic sector. We want to protect and strengthen these standards, not reduce and weaken them.

Part One to this Action:
>>>Send your support for strong organic standards and oversight to the Senate Agriculture Committee now! <click to support organic> [See below for suggested language.]

Part Two to this Action:
>>>Click here <protect organic> to tell your U.S. Senators that you want them to protect the value of the organic food label by not allowing the Senate Agriculture Committee to weaken the independence and authority of the National Organic Standards Board.

When the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) was written, the authors understood that the program would be housed in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which has been a big proponent of chemical and genetically engineered agriculture. In order to ensure that regulations implementing the law remained true to organic principles and values, the authors incorporated into OFPA a requirement that USDA consult with an independent National Organic Standards Board in developing the National Organic Program (NOP) and the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. It requires that the National List be “based on” recommendations of the NOSB and prohibits USDA from adding to the National List synthetic materials that are not recommended by the NOSB.

The NOSB is composed of representatives of the organic community: producers, handlers, retailers, certifiers, consumers, environmentalists, and scientists. It was carefully balanced to ensure that the two-thirds majority required to pass a substantive motion could only be attained if the different interest groups work together to build consensus.

Those who would like factory farms to be able to profit from organic certification are frustrated by animal welfare rules <more on animal welfare and hydroponics> and the NOSB opposition to certification of hydroponics operations that are not soil-based and inherently dependent on synthetic chemical inputs. Among the suggestions made by supporters of organic factory farms is changing the composition of the NOSB.

NOSB “reform” is clearly intended to remove the requirement of continual improvement from the National Organic Program. Continual improvement means that new knowledge incentivizes new practices and materials, making old materials and practices obsolete as organic methods constantly evolve. Organic producers have always been on the forefront of changing agriculture to make it more sustainable and regenerative. “Continual improvement” is a threat to those who have a lot invested in an industrial model.

This opportunity for commenting ends 5:00 pm (EDT) Thursday, July 20. Use the suggested language below, or, better, write your own heartfelt or scientific-based statement. (If you don’t have a farm or organization name, feel free to insert “organic consumer.”)

Part One to this Action:
>>>Send your support for organic to the Senate Agriculture Committee now! <support organic>
[See below for suggested language.]

Suggested comment:
As a member of the organic community, it is important to me that I am represented in decisions regarding organic production by members of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). The authors of the Organic Foods Production Act created the NOSB to provide balanced guidance to the National Organic Program. Decisions by the NOSB require a two-thirds majority, and hence force consensus among producers, consumers, and others in the organic community. This process protects the value and trust that the public gives to the organic label in the market. Without the independence and authority of the Board, the $50 billion organic market is threatened.

Continual improvement is a basic tenet of organic production. Organic producers have always been on the forefront of changing agriculture to make it more sustainable and regenerative. The NOSB, through a transparent public process, informs USDA of possibilities for improvement and protects the meaning of the word “organic.”

Please support organic production and the NOSB process for ensuring that organic oversight and certification protects and enhances the value of the organic label for farmers and consumers.

Part Two to this Action:
>>>Click here <protect organic> to tell your U.S. Senators that you want them to protect the value of the organic food label by not allowing the Senate Agriculture Committee to weaken the independence and authority of the National Organic Standards Board.