For many people deeply entrenched in the policy side of organic, there seems to have been a prevailing attitude these last four years of “let’s just pray we can make it through this administration and hope there is a change in 2020.”
Well, the change we were desperately seeking is finally here with the nomination of former USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, yet it is anything but a welcome one.
“It is hard to imagine a USDA Secretary more pro-GMO than Tom Vilsack, and he represents a threat to the integrity of organic,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety. “It is no secret who he is, and his nomination is both dangerous and disappointing.”
“Along with civil rights leaders, Black and Latino farmer organizations and progressive farm groups, we are deeply disappointed with the choice of Tom Vilsack. He is the wrong person to steer us away from chemical-intensive agriculture and toward a more diversified, organic and just food system,” said Kari Hamerschlag, deputy director of food and agriculture at Friends of the Earth.
Under his watch as head of the USDA from 2009-2017, a few of Vilsack’s notable accomplishments include the following:
Deregulation of GMOs Because of a new policy that his USDA implemented, GMOs that do not use a plant-pest, which now include the burgeoning class of gene-edited crops and those such as the genetically-engineered Kentucky bluegrass from Scotts Miracle-Gro, are able to side-step regulation and oversight. This leaves consumers and the environment at great risk and completely unprotected.
Allowing Hydroponics to Flourish Hydroponics is a complete violation of Section 6513 of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, and yet under Vilsack’s USDA, this method of growing fruits and vegetables spurred a massive — and many people believe illegal — sector within organic while putting soil-based organic farmers at a serious operating and financial disadvantage.
Changing of the Sunset Rule and the Way Synthetic Ingredients are Approved in Organic With the USDA’s unilateral, procedural change to the Sunset Rule made in 2013, it has become exceedingly difficult to get the National Organic Standards Board to recommend to de-list a synthetic ingredient from the National List.
Illegally Allowing Contaminated Organic Compost The USDA illegally allowed pesticide contamination in compost used in organic food production. A federal judge eventually ruled that the USDA’s National Organic Program violated the law and struck it down.
A NEW PLAN
Previously named as the Governor of the Year by the Biotechnology Industry Association and having served as the President/CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council since leaving the USDA in 2017, Tom Vilsack’s ties to Big Ag run deep. Even though he could prove us wrong, it is difficult to envision that Vilsack will make any meaningful changes that benefit and protect organic, especially given his history.
As such, this begs the question: What can we, as an industry, be doing differently?
It starts with building and nurturing a large pool of candidates, both Democratic and Republican. So, when the USDA Secretary position opens again, we have many familiar names that are both qualified and willing to advocate for organic.
Because right now, we do not have that.
Our best bet was Rep. Marcia Fudge, someone who may have done a great job fighting for organic, but she is a person that was barely known to most people in our industry just six months ago and has no experience managing large, agricultural-focused organizations. After all, the USDA is made up of 29 agencies and offices with nearly 100,000 employees at more than 4,500 locations across the country.
One logical way to move forward is to start with the current secretaries of agriculture for each of the 50 states and determine which ones have implemented policies favorable to organic. Once we have these names, we need to build relationships and engage with them, on both a local and national level.
And if we do this consistently over time, we will have a large network of qualified Democratic and Republican candidates for 2024, 2028 and beyond.
While this may not guarantee the newly-elected president will select any of these people, at least we will have given ourselves a fighting chance, and it is possible that these individuals could be named to high posts within the USDA, which would be of enormous help to us as well.
Given the importance of our industry for both human and environmental health, we can ill-afford not to be thinking strategically and planning for the long-term.
And as we have just witnessed, this approach of “hoping we get someone good” simply isn’t working.
Wishing you a fantastic year ahead!
Max Goldberg, Founder
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Industry experts attribute the drop to much fewer impulse purchases and a slowdown in sales at convenience stores.
Started by Zume Pizza co-founder Julia Collins, the company has introduced a line of organic, carbon-neutral crackers called Moonshot Snacks.
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Vitamin D, immune support and blood sugar balance top the list.
Internal company records show the companies knew crop damage from their weed killer would be extensive. They sold it anyway.
Because of the presence of glyphosate and diquat, the California Department of Food and Agriculture recently issued a statewide quarantine for the organic fertilizer product Agro Gold WS.
The EPA released a proposed interim decision on the toxic, brain-damaging pesticide chlorpyrifos, effectively continuing its registration in the U.S., despite a proposed ban on the insecticide by the Obama Administration's EPA in 2015.
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* Wonder Press, Boulder’s fantastic pressed organic juice bar, is opening a new location in Denver.
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* Tomorrow at 4pm EST, we will be having our final Zoom call of the year for premium subscribers. The topic will be “What They are Not Telling You About Organic Certifiers,” and our guest will be Mark Kastel, founder of investigative watchdog group OrganicEye.
* We will be off for the rest of 2020 and returning on January 6th with a comprehensive look at the issues defining 2021.