[This article was previously published in the spring issue of the Cultivator, Cornucopia’s quarterly newsletter. Donate today to protect organic integrity and receive our summer issue in print.]
The Cornucopia Institute is adamant that the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) enforce the required management of the living soil.
Authentic organic farmers are systems thinkers who work to support the interdependence of diverse and abundant soil organisms. They steward helpful fungi and bacteria that engage in complex subterranean relationships to nourish the plants, reach water, and sequester carbon. These relationships grow strong, resilient plants that are more resistant to disease and insect damage. The harvested crops contain the myriad nutrients and minerals available in healthy soil.
Conversely, industrial conventional growers require only a rudimentary understanding of plant biology and chemical pest control. Grown in monocultures, the plants are sustained entirely by inputs of synthetic fertilizer and pesticides. Soil merely holds the plants in place on these factory farms, so that nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium can be delivered directly to the root system.
Some industrial practices, including the use of fertilizer in place of cover cropping, have wormed their way into certified organic production. Cornucopia is digging into problems of certifier inconsistencies and NOP guidance that fail to ensure the biological management of the soil. Look for our report from the April 2021 National Organic Standards Board Meeting.