Organic Trade Overcomes Threats
In the past two years, since the National Organic Program (NOP) program was implemented, there have been two serious threats to the integrity of the organic standards.
First, in early 2003 there was a surprise amendment in an Appropriations bill that would have allowed livestock operators to use non-organic feed instead of organic feed based on economic conditions. This would have undermined both the standards and the trust of the consumer, and it became law as the very last rider in the Appropriations budget. By calling on our friends in Congress, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) was able to get it repealed in just seven weeks.
Second, the USDA issued four directives this April that would have also seriously eroded the integrity of the NOP organic standards. OTA was told that these were final policies, with no opportunity for public comment. We again turned to our friends in Congress, so that on May 26 Secretary Veneman rescinded them and directed USDA officials to consult with both the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) and the organic industry. This was the second victory in two years accomplished with the help of our friends in Congress.
OTA would like to thank all those Members of Congress who have helped save the standards.
More Work Remains: Accreditation of Certifying Agents
Request: Please ask USDA to comply with the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA) and immediately implement Sec. 2117, appointing a peer review panel by January 1, 2005.
It is vital that the work of certifying agents be reviewed by a panel including their peers, as issues specific to organic certification, such as maintaining an organic system plan, require specialized knowledge.
SEC. 2117. PEER REVIEW OF CERTIFYING AGENTS.
(a) PEER REVIEW- In determining whether to approve an application for accreditation submitted under section 2115, the Secretary shall consider a report concerning such applicant that shall be prepared by a peer review panel established under subsection (b).
(b) PEER REVIEW PANEL- To assist the Secretary in evaluating applications under section 2115, the Secretary may establish a panel of not less than three persons who have expertise in organic farming and handling methods, to evaluate the State governing official or private person that is seeking accreditation as a certifying agent under such section. Not less than two members of such panel shall be persons who are not employees of the Department of Agriculture or of the applicable State government.
A Peer Review Panel has not been appointed, no report has been prepared as outlined in Sec. 2117(a), and therefore, the accreditation of all certifying agents to date has not been informed by peer review of certifying agents.
Request: Please ask USDA for a copy of the report filed by the American National Standards Institute regarding NOP’s accreditation program.
NOP has stated its desire to meet or exceed international accreditation requirements (ISO Guide 61), and has voluntarily agreed to an audit by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Nonetheless, OTA does not know that the initial accreditation was evenly implemented, or what criteria NOP used for applicants for accreditation “to demonstrate expertise in organic production or handling techniques” (7 CFR 205.504). NOP has indicated that the ANSI audit has been completed and will be available, together with USDA’s response, in late November, 2004. The final report should demonstrate how NOP meets or exceeds international standards. Please request a copy by sending a letter such as the one attached.