Organic Industry Watchdog Expands Membership Base and Staffing

July 12th, 2012

The Cornucopia Institute Adds Pamela Coleman, Ph.D. as Policy Analyst

CORNUCOPIA, WIS: The Cornucopia Institute announced that it has added to its staff Dr. Pamela Coleman, a Washington State-based agriculturalist and organic certification professional, with broad experience in vegetable and specialty crop production, in addition to federal organic policy.  Dr. Coleman, who holds a graduate degree in vegetable crops from Cornell University and a doctorate in plant pathology from the University of California at Davis, adds to Cornucopia’s diverse knowledge base in farm and food policy and agricultural economics.

This newest addition to the public interest group’s staff comes on the heels of the publication of Cornucopia’s white paper, The Organic Watergate, illustrating a pattern of corruption at the USDA’s organic program that disregarded the Congressional mandate to carefully review synthetics used in organic production and as food ingredients.

“We are very pleased to have Pam join our staff,” said Will Fantle, Cornucopia’s codirector.  “Her expertise in looking at agronomic production, and inputs, will greatly strengthen our ability to carefully critique materials being proposed by agribusiness for use in organics.”

The Cornucopia Institute has accused the Bush and Obama administrations at the USDA of stacking the decision-makers on the National Organic Standards Board with agribusiness representatives instead of appointing independent farmers, scientists, consumers, and environmentalists — reflecting the diversity mandated by Congress to protect the public interest.

While working with conventional onion growers in New York, Coleman said she witnessed firsthand the harmful effects of pesticides on both the people and the soil, and made a commitment to work on behalf of sustainable agriculture.  She studied biological control of grapevine diseases in California; then she moved to Pennsylvania to work for a grower of specialty mushrooms.

Coleman was a founding board member of Pennsylvania Certified Organic (PCO) and was an inspector for the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s Organic Food Program, under then-director Miles McEvoy, the current director of the National Organic Program.  In that role, she met hundreds of successful organic farmers, toured thousands of acres of Eastern Washington farmland, and saw the many benefits of organic agriculture.  She has also worked for Oregon Tilth Certified Organic and Stellar Certification Services.

Most recently Dr. Coleman was the Organic Specialist at the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), where she was part of the ATTRA project.  She answered questions from farmers about organic certification, and worked with the USDA’s National Organic Program to write guidebooks on organic regulations for farmers and processors. She is currently based in Washington State.

“We want to thank the 8,000 members, mostly certified organic farmers, who financially support Cornucopia’s mission, for underwriting our staff expansion,” added Fantle.  “In these difficult financial times, we have been humbled by the 30% increase in our membership and revenue, each year, over the past two years. We will carefully invest this support to preserve the integrity of the organic label, protecting the livelihoods of ethical farmers and business people, and the trust of consumers who believe in the values this industry was founded upon.”

Pam Coleman lives in East Wenatchee, Washington, with her husband, Alan Cooke.  In her spare time, Pam enjoys hiking, yoga, and vegetable gardening.

 

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