Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (WODPA)
by Richard H. Mathews, Executive Director
While denying wrong doing the USDA Office of General Counsel letter of March 17, 2017, contains the following assertions:
At the end of the first paragraph, “…the NOCCSP has not, and will not, award grants to producers and handlers seeking certification through the NCTP.” NOCCSP means National Organic Certification Cost Share Program.
Two-thirds into the second paragraph, USDA responded that the “…NCTP may not be used to label agricultural products as transitional or provide consumer information that an agricultural product is a transitional product or that a producer or business has been certified as transitional.”
USDA also states in its closing paragraph, “Since currently there is no transitional certification that meets the requirements of OFPA, FSA will not approve any applications for transitional certification under the NOCCSP. Further, AMS is reviewing the program requirements for NCTP and will delay making a decision regarding applications for the program until review is completed.”
Further, USDA asserts in the first paragraph that “The NCTP does not authorize labeling or the provision of other market information that would violate the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA)….” WODPA acknowledges that the NCTP states on page 2 that “It does not provide standards or criteria for labeling products certified under the program.” This, however, is USDA’s attempt to divorce itself from reality. The purpose of certification of products produced on a farm where the land is going through the 3-year transition is to market the products as different from conventional. They want consumers to know that the products were produced using organic methods. Hence the term “transition.”
7 U.S.C. Section 6505(a)(1)(B) provides that “no person may affix a label to, or provide other market information concerning, an agricultural product if such label or information implies, directly or indirectly, that such product is produced and handled using organic methods, except in accordance with this chapter.” Accordingly, only operations that have achieved organic certification under the National Organic Program regulations and qualified exempt operations, can claim the use of organic methods. WODPA asserts that there is no way to convey what the term transition means without referencing organic.
WODPA believes that the USDA has exceeded its authority by creating and implementing the NCTP. WODPA will continue monitoring the situation and will take further action if the USDA proceeds with the NCTP, in any form, or the Transitional Cost Share Program.
You can read the full USDA March 17, 2017, letter on our website at www.wodpa.com.