Cornucopia News Archive

Day Three (Wednesday) Report: Kowtowing to Corporate Agribusiness?

Thursday, April 30th, 2015
NOP Deputy Administrator
Miles McEvoy
Source: USDA

Wednesday was the third day of the four-day National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego, California. At least twice a year the 15-member expert stakeholder panel meets at different locations around the country. The NOSB was created by Congress to represent the interests of the organic community, rather than allowing the industry to be dominated by corporate lobbyists, as is the custom in Washington.

Most of Wednesday was dominated by reviewing synthetic and non-organic materials that will “sunset” in 2017. For a few of them, comments were made by board members but most of the 140 materials were listed along with their uses, but with little information pertaining to potential concerns.

According to disputed new USDA rules, organic stakeholders (such as The Cornucopia Institute) must enter into the record evidence of concerns surrounding 2017 Sunset materials before this meeting for the NOSB to consider them. Comments can be submitted prior to the next meeting, when the NOSB will take an actual vote on each 2017 Sunset material; however, those comments will be “untimely” for consideration.

Under its new edicts, USDA’s National Organic Program, led by Mr. Miles McEvoy, has effectively made it impossible for interested citizens to fully participate in the important sunset process: Read Full Article »

Follow the National Organic Standards Board Meeting in La Jolla, CA #NOSB

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

CI_NOSBTwitterGeneric_1Last Updated: 4-30-15, 3:22 p.m. PT

Join The Cornucopia Institute as we live tweet from the National Organic Standards Board meeting in La Jolla, California. We will be sharing the play by play with our Twitter followers under #NOSB or simply follow our stream.

If you’re not already following us on Twitter, please do so here.

Read The Cornucopia Institute’s written comments to the NOSB here.

You can also stay updated throughout the meeting right here:

Thursday, April 30, 2015

3:22 p.m. PT: Livestock subcommittee concludes its review of 2017 sunset materials. Full board now looking at subcommittee workplans, prior to some ceremonies before adjournment.

2:45 p.m. PT: NOSB back in action after a short lunch. They have turned their attention to the 2017 list of sunset materials – a total of 40 they they are reviewing. The 4 day meeting is set to end late this afternoon.

12:43 p.m. PT: Carmela Beck states there are no alternatives currently and we need to act now, while Nick, Calvin, Francis and Colehour prefer to send it back to subcommittee to propose holistic rulemaking. The vote to average synthetic methionine over the lifespan of the bird passes 10-4 with Nick Maravell abstaining in objection to the ability of Harold to vote from Skype. Harold’s vote allows the motion to pass. A resolution that the NOSB is committed to the phase out of methionine passes quickly after.

12:19 p.m. PT: Board moves to vote on the methionine proposal before it. Nick Maravell announces he is uncomfortable with the process of bringing in an absent member and withdraws from the vote. The board adopts the proposal by a 10-4 vote. It only passed with the questionable insertion of an absent member by Skype allowing him to vote.

12:12 p.m. PT: NOSB debate continues on proposal to change methionine usage in poultry, much of the discussion is complicated by procedural matters. Board member Francis Thicke describes the current approach to methionine as input substitution for better practices. Indicates that there is little motivation by the industry to change practices. Board member Calvin Walker notes that Europe is using different breeds to address methionine issues. To understand more on this issue, check out Cornucopia’s comments.

NOSB (from left to right): Calvin Walker, Jennifer Taylor, Nick Maravell
NOSB (from left to right): Ashley Swaffar, Tracy Favre

Read Full Article »

Day Two Report: Will the NOSB Chicken Out in San Diego?

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

Tuesday was the second day of the four-day National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego, California. At least twice a year the 15-member expert stakeholder panel meets around the country. The NOSB was created by Congress to represent the interests of the organic community, rather than allowing the industry to be dominated by corporate lobbyists, as is the custom in Washington.

USDA.PowerGrabCorporate Patriots or Pandering for Profit?

Unlike on Monday, on Tuesday there seemed to be less rhetoric from the opposing sides.  Public interest groups, including Consumer Reports, Center for Food Safety, Beyond Pesticides, Organic Consumers Association, National Organic Coalition and The Cornucopia Institute, continued to articulate grave concern about what has commonly been referred to as a “power grab” by the USDA, stripping authority from the NOSB, and other related issues.

On the opposite end of the spectrum many professionals in the industry, most associated with the powerful Organic Trade Association, and including employees of multimillion-dollar organic certifiers, continued to praise the USDA and call for peace and harmony in the industry. The coded language was to tell the nonprofits to “sit down, shut up and clap louder.” The corporate-affiliated representatives might have a financial incentive to support the USDA, but all the NGOs are accountable to our members who passionately care about the integrity of the organic movement. We are not about to go away quietly. Read Full Article »

Sparks Fly on Day One of NOSB Meeting in San Diego – Report

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015
Miles McEvoy
Source: USDA

Instead of looking at the legal and ethical concerns articulated by The Cornucopia Institute’s call on the Obama/Vilsack administration for a change of leadership at the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP), numerous speakers yesterday, most of them financially benefiting from the status quo in Washington, praised Miles McEvoy, the current head of the NOP.

The praise for the USDA’s organic program and leadership was far from universal as a number of working farmers, public interest groups and consumers expressed grave reservations in how the program is undercutting the authority of the NOSB and undermining the integrity and reputation of organics.

A Question of Fairness

The meeting usually opens with reports from the head of the NOP (Mr. McEvoy) and a brief reading/opening statement by the chair of the NOSB (Jean Richardson).

The most newsworthy aspect of the NOP report was the release, yesterday, of the long-awaited draft “origin of livestock rule.” Mr. McEvoy identified this as a top priority in 2010. Many of us believe that the USDA has historically misread the regulations allowing conventional cattle, mostly on factory dairy farms, to be brought into organic operations. Factory farms have operated with a competitive advantage. Cornucopia will be out soon with an analysis and there will be a 90-day opportunity for public comment.

Although Dr. Richardson, in her opening remarks, specifically praised Cornucopia’s research work she was critical of our organization’s call to remove current leadership at the NOP. Read Full Article »

Prominent Government Watchdog Asks Obama Administration to Remove Organic Leadership at USDA

Friday, April 24th, 2015

National Organic Program Divisive and in Crisis

NOP Deputy Director Miles McEvoy
tours a hydroponic farm
Source: USDA

The nation’s preeminent organic industry watchdog, The Cornucopia Institute, sent a letter today to the White House, and to USDA Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack, requesting a change in leadership at the regulator’s National Organic Program (NOP).  A radical shift in the unique public-private governance in the organic sector, established by Congress in 1990, has created deep fissures within the organic community and, more recently, resulted in 15 organic stakeholders, including Cornucopia, suing the USDA.

Previous administrations faced plenty of criticism from organic advocates.  However, during the Clinton and Bush years, USDA officials were universally viewed as respecting the purview of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB).  This 15-member, multi-stakeholder body was established by Congress to review all synthetic/non-organic ingredients and materials used in organic farming and food production.  Congress also mandated that the USDA Secretary seek the counsel of the NOSB on all aspects of implementing the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA).

“Although the USDA ignored some of the NOSB recommendations in the past, until recently they never went 180 degrees in the opposite direction in deference to the preferences of powerful corporate interests,” said Kevin Engelbert, a former NOSB member from Nichols, New York.  “And they never reversed the 23-year tradition of allowing the NOSB the autonomy to create their own procedure manual, set their own agenda and create their own workplan.” Read Full Article »