(ALERT OVER) – USDA’s Organic Program Sides With Factory Dairy Farms

October 12th, 2005

Ask Secretary Johanns to intervene

Way back in the year 2000, concerned consumers and farmers asked the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to address a new and troubling trend – factory farms producing “organic” milk in confinement conditions.

The board responded in 2001 by adopting a guidance document that would have helped farmers and certifiers understand what is expected of them and closed loopholes being exploited by industrial-scale farms. The USDA sat on this document, never posting it on their web site or enforcing its provisions.

This spring The Cornucopia Institute filed legal complaints with the USDA alleging that a growing number of factory farms were ignoring the organic law that requires ruminants (dairy cows) to have “access to pasture.” Finally, after years of delay, the USDA asked the NOSB to revisit their recommendations. The board responded by passing a rule change and new guidance document.

Again! The USDA has thrown a monkey wrench into enforcing organic integrity. They rejected the language adopted unanimously by the NOSB, a respected and diverse expert advisory panel (saying it was “ambiguous”), and now have refused to allow the board to vote on new language at their next meeting this November. Years of delays continue as the factory farms expand.

Farmers and Consumers Have Lost Their Patience
No More USDA Foot Dragging!

No more delays can be tolerated! The USDA allotted two hours for more public comments at November’s meeting but has forbidden the NOSB from taking a vote and adopting final rule change language. The bureaucrats and the corporate farm operators know very well that this will be the last meeting for NOSB Chairman Jim Riddle and a number of other experienced board leaders, whose terms are ending. These folks have been the champions of cracking down on factory-farm abuses in the dairy industry. Public comments can be submitted prior to the meeting, reserving the two-hour time slot for board action on this issue.

Please send a message to USDA Secretary Mike Johanns appealing for the Secretary to step in and demand that the will of the people, as evidenced by thousands of comments, letters, and petitions in support of pasture enforcement, not be subordinated to corporate interests.

Letters and e-mails can be directed to: USDA Secretary Mike Johanns, 1400 Independence Ave SW, Whitten Building – Suite 200A, Washington, DC 20250, [email protected].

P.S.: The organic community is about to lose five of the most knowledgeable and well-spoken leaders on the NOSB who have been addressing this and other critical issues. In the past, the organic community worked in concert with the USDA in order to recruit and retain the highest possible caliber members for NOSB – this is a nonpartisan body of exemplary quality. Serving on the NOSB is a tough job requiring quite a time commitment, with much more authority than the average USDA advisory panel.

Previously, the Department released the names of candidates for the NOSB. This resulted in highly qualified candidates being appointed. Last year, a large pool of candidates was nominated for open board positions, but unfortunately the entire process was done behind closed doors, breaking the precedent of transparency in the process.

Engaged members of the organic community want to be involved and want to help the USDA Secretary make the best possible choices. We also call on Secretary Johanns to intervene and have the names of all current candidates released publicly so that organic farmers, processors, marketers, and consumers can participate in the appointment process. We don’t want this excellent board politicized!

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