The organic industry has been working on defining and applying animal welfare requirements to the organic standards for over a decade. This work culminated in a final rule released just prior to the Administration change in January. Since that time, the effective date of the final rule has been delayed twice. Accompanying the most recent delay to November 14, the U.S. Department of Agriculture opened a comment period asking the public to weigh in on four options:
Major league baseball player Jayson Werth doesn’t look like an organic farmer—especially when he’s at the plate or in the outfield in his Washington Nationals uniform. But, looks can be deceiving.
The star hitter and outfielder has batted in almost 800 runs, hit more than 200 home runs and helped win a World Series in his now 15-year major league baseball career. He’s kept his eyes on the ball and on his health, and has eaten organic for more than a decade. And for almost a decade now, he’s also been an organic farmer.
Have you ever wondered what exactly this thing called Organic PAC is? What does “It” do, and why is “It” important to the organic industry? Short answer: Organic PAC is one of the most critical tools available to cultivate champions of organic on the Hill in Washington, D.C.
In response to the discovery of fraudulent imports of soybeans from Turkey that violated federal organic regulations, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) National Organic Program (NOP) in June revoked the organic certification of Beyaz Agro—a major Turkish grain exporter. The soybeans in question had been fumigated with aluminum phosphide—a prohibited substance under USDA’s National Organic Program—prior to arrival in the United Sates, yet were sold here as organic.
Engaging with members of Congress and their staff is a critical component to advocating on behalf of organic. The good news is that the Organic Trade Association has an excellent story to tell.
Laura Batcha, Executive Director and CEO of the Organic Trade Association, recently represented industry as part of an invited five-person panel on organic hosted by the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research. Other panel participants represented the federal government, the research community, and the production side of organic.
Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Dan Newhouse (R-WA) and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) this spring introduced the Organic Agriculture Research Act of 2017, which would invest in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) to meet the needs of the growing organic sector. Sales of organic products in the U.S. reached approximately $47 billion in 2016, and expectations are for continued growth as more consumers choose organic.
In late 2016, more than 500 organic operations, from organic fruit and vegetable growers, grains and oilseed farmers, livestock and poultry producers, dairy farmers, organic processors, and food makers across 45 states, participated in a comprehensive farm bill survey conducted by the Organic Trade Association (OTA).
Organic food and farming have many health benefits for consumers—they have lower levels and frequencies of pesticide residues, and can have higher levels of antioxidants and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. However, another less well-known health benefit centers on the welfare of farmworkers and families in agricultural areas.
I read with interest the May Washington Post article about shipments of corn and soybeans from Turkey that arrived in the United States labeled organic, but that clearly were not. The article raised important issues about organic supply chains and certification documents, but it raised a more fundamental issue as well: when there is an opportunity for added value in a supply chain, how can we make sure farmers, and not unscrupulous middlemen, reap these rewards?