The Cornucopia Institute

The Cornucopia Institute, through research and investigations on agricultural and food issues, provides needed information to family farmers, consumers and other stakeholders in the good food movement and to the media. We support economic justice for the family-scale farming community – partnered with consumers – backing ecologically produced local, organic and authentic food.

Follow the National Organic Standards Board Meeting in Tucson, AZ #NOSB

April 25th, 2018

Last Updated: April 26 at 7:58PM CT

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

For background on issues up for discussion at the meeting, see:

You can also stay updated throughout the meeting right here:

Thursday, April 26, 2018

7:58PM CT: Discussing Full Supply Chain Audits, Mortensen says he got a sense that full supply chain audits are critical, as well as challenging. Behar says it’s a new area where there is a need for training.

Tucker (NOP) suggests they find a pilot study that is small enough to know how to apply it. She agrees that this is new territory. Mortensen notes that this is where models would be helpful. He says he was impressed with what Pipeline was sharing and what they have put in place for their own chain.

Baird agrees this is an inspector education issue and says that we are instructed as inspectors to do an audit in four hours–and that’s a problem. Knows that entities shop based on pricing, so there has got to be education for certified entities and cooperation, as much as possible, between certifiers. It’s a business.

7:49PM CT: The use of additional import fraud controls was also discussed. NOP staffer Tucker said we’ve learned more about CBP’s [Custom and Border Patrol] ability to stop or hold a product. The stop import would require very high evidence. The question is, is it fair to stop sale if it can be sold as conventional? They are two different things: stopping sale vs. stopping sale as organic. We are more interested in getting an operation’s certification revoked or suspended, with civil penalties used more often for uncertified operations.

Chapman asks her how can you make a civil penalty more effective. Tucker says this is worth more discussion and research and is outside her knowledge area if she speculates.

7:38PM CT: The issue of fumigation and imports was also discussed. Tucker says we receive fumigation notices from APHIS [Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service]. But we don’t know if the shipment was actually fumigated, and the rules are incredibly nuanced with lots of different mitigation approaches. We are still learning and trying to get arms around the nuances. Read Full Article »

Francis Thicke’s Testimony to the NOSB

April 25th, 2018

Cornucopia’s Take: Francis Thicke runs Radiance Dairy, a 236-acre grass-based dairy in Iowa. He retired from his position as an environmental representative on the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) last year, offering deeply honest and memorable closing comments. Francis is presently the chair of the Policy Committee of the Organic Farmers Association and sits on the Real Organic Standards Board. He gave testimony at the recent NOSB webinar on the European Union’s prohibition of hydroponics in organic. Read his comments below.


Francis Thicke testimony to the NOSB webinar:

Francis Thicke

My name is Francis Thicke, and I am speaking today on behalf of the Organic Farmers Association. The Organic Farmers Association is a national membership organization for certified organic farmers and their supporters. Our mission is to provide a strong and unified voice for U.S. certified organic producers.

The Organic Farmers Association has learned of very recent developments in the European Union that have major ramifications for US hydroponic production that is certified organic.

Just this morning (April 19) the European Parliament voted on and passed a regulation that does three things: First, it confirms an existing EU ban on hydroponic production; second, it introduces a stricter definition of soil-bound production, that it must be connected to subsoil and bedrock; and third, it will prohibit the importation of hydroponically produced organic food from non-EU nations, including the United States. This new regulation, approved today, will take effect January 1, 2021. Read Full Article »

EU Bans “Organic” Hydroponic Imports

April 24th, 2018

Cornucopia’s Take: Beginning in 2021, the European Union will no longer accept produce labeled “organic” that has been produced hydroponically, including so-called “container production.” European hydroponic producers who use approved organic inputs will still be able to export their produce to the U.S., although their produce will not be eligible for organic status in their own country. It remains to be seen whether this will increase hydroponic exports from the EU to the U.S. Cornucopia continues to insist that soil-less hydroponic production of vegetables and fruits should not be eligible for sale in the U.S. as organic.


New EU organic law bans hydroponic organic imports
Sustainable Food News

Revised organic production and labeling rules to go into effect in 2021

Hydroponic production is not organic in the EU
Image source: AgriLife Today

Members of the European Parliament on Thursday voted to approve new regulations for the certification and labeling of organic food.

The EP members voted 466 to 124, with 50 abstentions, to adopt the new EU law on organic production and labeling, as agreed by Parliament’s negotiators and EU ministers in June.

Once the new regulations are formally approved by the Council of EU ministers, the revised law on organic production and labeling of organic products would go into effect in January 2021.

The EU’s annual retail sales of organics reached €30.7 billion in 2016 with an annual growth rate of 12 percent.

For exporters of organic products to the EU, the new law means producers from non-EU countries who want to sell their products in the EU need to comply with the same rules as producers in the EU. Read Full Article »

Suspicious Organic Grain Shipment Intercepted at U.S. Port

April 23rd, 2018

UPDATE: Interim Victory for Organic Farmers

A federal judge has denied Sunrise Food International, Inc.’s request that it be allowed to immediately unload 25,000 metric tons of what is purportedly “organic” corn currently stranded off the shore of California.

Sunrise asked the court to issue an emergency order allowing it to dock and unload the shipment, arguing that it faces catastrophic monetary losses and damaged business relationships if it is forced to comply with a U.S. Customs directive to re-export or destroy the shipment.

United States District Court Judge A. Mendez concluded that allowing Sunrise to unload and distribute the corn at this stage would essentially determine the outcome of the case and would be improper under the law.

The judge was also unconvinced by Sunrise’s argument that its monetary losses justified immediate court action.  If Sunrise was able to sustain approximately $11,500 in daily losses for nearly a month before asking the court to issue the restraining order, it failed meet the requisite standard for the court to act on an emergency basis.

Sunrise can pursue another avenue for interim relief, or it can elect to proceed in arguing the merits of the case. Should Sunrise pursue additional interim relief, a hearing is tentatively scheduled for May 22, 2018.

For now, the corn will remain offshore.  Cornucopia will continue to follow this important case.


Russian Corn Rejected; Lawsuit Filed

An organic industry watchdog, The Cornucopia Institute, which has been monitoring imports after investigations in 2007 discovered wholesale fraud, reports that twenty-five thousand metric tons of purportedly organic corn, grown in Russia, Moldova, and Kazakhstan, currently sit idle on the M/V Mountpark, a United Kingdom-flagged vessel lingering off the coast of California.

A previous shipment of suspect imported grain
being unloaded in Indiana

Whether the shipment, which also contains organic soybean meal, is ultimately allowed entry into the United States rests on a ruling by a federal district judge in California. On March 29, 2018, Sunrise Foods International, Inc., a Canadian-based importer, sued the USDA and U.S. Customs for rejecting the shipment, which Sunrise attests is worth millions of dollars.

Farmer-owned cooperatives in the United States contend that domestic grain producers have lost hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue in recent years, facing competition from fraudulent grain being imported to feed certified organic livestock in the U.S. Despite a decade of pressure from Cornucopia, the USDA’s National Organic Program did not start paying attention to the massive alleged improprieties until The Washington Post published an investigative story last year.

Read Full Article »

Controversial USDA National Organic Standards Board to Meet in Tucson

April 22nd, 2018

Possibly the Least Consequential Meeting in Its 26-Year History

When members of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) assemble in Tucson later this week, it will be the first meeting since it has become painfully obvious to the organic community that their power, created by an act of Congress, has been almost entirely stripped away.

Above:The NOSB at the Fall 2017 Meeting
Below: USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue

Unusual for a federal advisory board, the NOSB was endowed with specific statutory power by the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA), with its members appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture.  The undermining of the NOSB’s authority began during the Obama administration, when it was stripped of the ability to set its own agenda. The agency has since been embroiled in ongoing litigation challenging the undercutting of NOSB power.  Now, during the Trump Administration, NOSB decisions are being disregarded on a wholesale basis under USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue.

Prominent on the agenda at the spring meeting will be a review of the safety and essentiality of a number of non-organic materials for use in organic production and a discussion of long-overdue plans to crack down on documented fraud in the importation of organic feed grains.

Although successive Republican and Democratic administrations have paid lip service to the NOSB’s authority while frequently ignoring its recommendations, in a series of unprecedented decisions, Perdue has rendered the board’s expert advice nearly obsolete. Read Full Article »

The Cornucopia Institute
P.O. Box 126 Cornucopia, Wisconsin 54827
Ph: 608-625-2000
Email: