BREAKING: The Biden administration just announced that it has nominated Jenny Lester Moffitt, a California organic farmer, to the position of undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs at the USDA.
When Tom Vilsack was reappointed to lead the USDA several months ago, there was a tremendous amount of grumbling within the organic community. The concern was that it would be another four years of pushing a pro-GMO, Big Ag agenda while marginalizing the needs of our industry.
Even though it is still very early and favorable regulatory actions have yet to be approved, there is reason to be slightly optimistic.
Just the other day, Secretary Vilsack communicated that he is willing to meet with small organic farmers and hear their concerns.
AN UNPRECEDENTED LETTER
Last Thursday, during the public comment period of the spring National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting, a very unexpected and significant announcement was made.
In his comments, Francis Thicke, an organic dairy farmer from Iowa and a former NOSB board member, said that he and 41 other former NOSB members sent a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, asking him to address the litany of problems with the National Organic Program.
It said, “We are writing to share with you our concern that the integrity of the National Organic Standards has eroded significantly over the years……a lack of strong enforcement of existing standards has led to well-documented cases of fraud and an economic burden on organic operators who follow the rules, versus those who do not…… erosion of the Organic Standards is in violation of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 and is undermining consumer confidence in the integrity of organic food.”
The letter went on to address three main action items, all of which the NOSB had recommended:
1) Prohibiting hydroponics in organic, something that violates Section 6513 of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990.
2) Publishing the Origin of Livestock Rule, which will close loopholes that have decimated small organic family dairy farmers.
3) Reinstating the finalized Organic Animal Welfare standard (formally known as the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule), which was withdrawn by the last administration.
It also called for the USDA to take immediate action in regards to the pasture compliance rule and measures to crack down on grain fraud, both of which have been inadequately pursued by the agency.
Within one day of sending the letter, in which the Real Organic Project’s Dave Chapman played a huge role in putting together, Secretary Vilsack responded to Francis Thicke and said that he wanted to speak with him to learn more of his concerns.
“We have had many problems with the USDA, but this is a new administration and Secretary Vilsack is even discussing climate change. He needs to understand that there are serious problems with erosion and enforcement of the organic standards, and unless that changes, the organic seal is in jeopardy,” Francis Thicke told Organic Insider.
Along with the items mentioned in the letter, another topic that will be discussed during the upcoming call will be the Real Organic Project (ROP), the add-on label that uses the USDA as a baseline but prohibits hydroponics and organic factory farms.
“We are absolutely not ready to give up on the USDA organic seal, but we want to let Secretary Vilsack know that we are going to protect organic and that means moving full steam ahead with the Real Organic Project. Already, consumers and brands are starting to recognize ROP as having more credibility in the marketplace than the USDA organic seal, and the USDA must be aware of this,” he continued.
WHAT THIS ALL MEANS
The fact that we are writing about how Secretary Vilsack responded to the letter so quickly and that a contingency of small organic farmers is now getting a face-to-face meeting with him shows what a significant event this is — and just how unimportant organic has become to USDA leadership over the past two decades.
But what’s most troubling about this letter is that it had to be written at all.
Organic Insider will keep you informed about what transpires with this upcoming conversation, for which no exact date has been set yet.
Max Goldberg, Founder
Freak Flag Organics, which sells award-winning vegan pestos, as well as flavorful bone broths and condiments, has just launched a new line of mac & cheese products called Mac & Freak. It comes in four flavors -- Four Cheese, Kickin’ Kale Cheddar, Broccoli & Cheese, and Southwestern Cheddar -- and is available at Whole Foods Market stores nationwide.
Eight of the top ten organic produce categories showed increases in dollars and volume, while overall category sales topped $2.2 billion for the quarter.
With this funding, the company will be expanding its product offerings and opening facilities on the West Coast.
In this $33M acquisition, SunOpta has further bolstered its plant-based product offerings.
An incredibly dangerous situation that the USDA would be well-advised not to allow.
This certified organic lager is now brewed with 100% renewable electricity from solar power, the first beer within the Anheuser-Busch U.S. portfolio to make this distinction.
Albertsons will accept – to an extent – price increases that several large CPG players have warned in recent weeks are coming down the pike.
There are major implications for agriculture, especially in California.
Something we wrote about last year, this is merely the prelude to up to one billion of these "insects" to be released over the next two years.
The campaign to ruin organic is real. And it's happening in the U.S. as well.
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