Posts Tagged organic

New Report Puts Farmers Back in Charge of Organic Certification

Thursday, March 14th, 2019

USDA Has “Willfully Failed” on Congressional Mandate to Prevent Fraud

When farmers lobbied Congress to pass the Organic Foods Production Act in 1990, their intention was to create a level playing field in the market and to affirm the credibility of organic labeling in the eyes of consumers. Unfortunately, according to a newly released report by The Cornucopia Institute, the USDA’s poor oversight of federally accredited third-party certifiers has paved the way for illegal output from “factory farms” that now dominate the $50 billion organic market basket.

A Perfect Picture of Corruption
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Prior to 2002 when federal regulations kicked in, a hodgepodge of state laws and dozens of independently owned certifiers created their own organic standards. Although Congress intended the enforcement of uniform national regulations, a handful of the largest certifiers have allowed livestock factories producing dubious milk and eggs and hydroponic, soil-less indoor farming to illegally squeeze out legitimate family scale organic farmers and ranchers.

In addition to Cornucopia’s investigative analysis, the nonprofit farm policy research group also released a guide rating all 45 domestic certifiers on their adherence to the “spirit and letter of the organic law” as gauged by the most prominent allegations of malfeasance currently facing the organic industry.

“This might be the most provocative project we have worked on during our 15-year history,” said Mark A. Kastel, a Cornucopia founder and its current Executive Director. “Make no mistake about it, farmers will be empowered to disrupt the revenue streams of some of the largest and most powerful certifiers in the organic industry by switching to truly ethical alternatives.”

Cornucopia alleges that many of the certifiers established by farmers, some in existence since the 1970s and 80s, have morphed from nonprofits dedicated to helping promote environmental animal husbandry and the economic justice benefits of organic farming into multimillion-dollar corporations more interested in pursuing multibillion-dollar corporate agribusinesses. Read Full Article »

Farm Bill Contains Funding Boost for Organic Integrity

Friday, March 8th, 2019

Cornucopia’s Take: The article by OFARM’s John Bobbe below was originally published in The Milkweed. Bobbe is a strong ally in stopping the flow of fraudulent organic imports into the U.S. He has recently retired from OFARM, but he assures us he will continue to work on these important issues.

2018 Farm Law Boosts Funds to Fight Organic Import Fraud
The Milkweed (Subscribe here)
by John Bobbe

John Bobbe and Cornucopia’s Anne Ross
Congratulations to John on his retirement!

In the 2018 farm legislation, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) along with Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), who is also an organic farmer himself, successfully got language of the Organic Farmer and Consumer Protection Act of 2018 inserted into the signed bill (S2927).

That law gives USDA more funding for organic programs, and also stipulates what USDA must do to insure organic integrity throughout the supply chain — especially for imports. Liberal use of the word “shall” leaves little to no discretion for USDA to interpret how the provisions are to be implemented.   Implementation will require at least a year, if not more.  The following are some of the specific provisions and language.

The new farm law provides additional funding to the NOP as follows: $15 million for fiscal year 2018, and increases funding through 2023 to $24 million.  It also provides a one-time appropriation of $5 million for modernization of trade tracking and data collection systems. Read Full Article »

Organic Farmers Improve Ecosystem Services

Wednesday, February 20th, 2019

Benefiting Communities and the Planet

This article was previously published in the winter issue of  The Cultivator, Cornucopia’s quarterly newsletter.]

by Marie Burcham, JD
Farm and Food Policy Analyst at The Cornucopia Institute

Source: AdobeStock

The benefits that a healthy, functioning environment provides for humanity are called ecosystem services. For example, forest ecosystems provide the service of oxygen production. These benefits are often taken for granted, although these services are finite in nature and tied directly to the vitality of the ecosystem itself.

In the early 2000s, the United Nations sponsored the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), an effort to understand the impact of human actions on ecosystems and human well-being. The assessment popularized the concept of ecosystem services, discussed in scientific and economic circles for decades prior.

The MA ultimately identified four major categories of ecosystem services: 1.Provisioning (production of food and water); 2.Regulating (controlling climate and disease); 3.Cultural (spiritual and recreational benefits); and, 4.Supporting Services (oxygen production and nutrient cycling). Read Full Article »

Cornucopia’s Kastel Calls Scale of Organic Fraud “Jaw-Dropping”

Wednesday, December 19th, 2018

Cornucopia’s Take: Three Nebraska farmers sold their conventional as organic grain to a Missouri man who subsequently marketed it as organic—to the tune of $140 million. The farmers are awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty in October. Randy Constant, the grain marketer and alleged leader of the scheme, was charged with wire fraud and is due in federal court today (Thursday, December 20). Although this large-scale fraud dates as far back as 2004, the USDA, sadly, never discovered it. Instead, reportedly, the perpetrators tripped up by marketing “certified organic grain” that tested positive for GMOs and were caught by a buyer doing testing. Impostor “organic” farms jeopardize authentic organic farmers and the overall integrity of the label itself.

Missouri farmer charged in $140M organic grain fraud scheme
Daily Herald
by Ryan J. Foley, AP

Source: AgriLife Today

A Missouri farmer and businessman ripped off consumers nationwide by falsely marketing more than $140 million worth of corn, soybeans and wheat as certified organic grains, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

The long-running fraud scheme outlined in court documents by prosecutors in Iowa is one of the largest uncovered in the fast-growing organic farming industry. The victims included food companies and their customers who paid higher prices because they thought they were buying grains that had been grown using environmentally sustainable practices.

The alleged leader of the scheme was identified as Randy Constant of Chillicothe, Missouri, who was charged with one count of wire fraud. He is expected to plead guilty during a hearing that is scheduled at the federal courthouse in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Thursday.

The charging document calls on Constant to forfeit $128 million to the government along with his interest in 70 pieces of farm machinery and equipment. His attorney, Mark Weinhardt, didn’t immediately return a phone message seeking comment. Read Full Article »

Save the Date: #GivingTuesday November 27

Friday, November 23rd, 2018

Giving Tuesday, the annual international day of charitable giving held on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, is less than a week away! Once again, Cornucopia will be joining thousands of organizations to amplify our collective efforts and celebrate our accomplishments while strengthening our resolve to continue the good fight with your support.

While many are focused on finding deals this Black Friday or Cyber Monday, we encourage you to let your values guide your spending by shopping local on Small Business Saturday and considering a gift to Cornucopia on #GivingTuesday. With two-thirds of our revenue coming directly from individuals like YOU who are passionate about good food, every gift you give keeps us independent and strong in the fight to protect our food system and support of authentic organic farms. And it gets better—a generous Cornucopia member has offered to DOUBLE all donations made to Cornucopia this giving season.

We hope you’ll take this opportunity to double your impact with a gift to Cornucopia on #GivingTuesday. Encourage your friends and family to stand with us also on this day, to celebrate the spirit of generosity and the resolve of grassroots activism.