GREENFIELD, Mass. (Oct. 26, 1998)óThe Organic Trade Association (OTA) announced today its concern with the timing and the process the United States Department of Agriculture has chosen for releasing three "Issue Papers" to the USDA web site and the Federal Register for a 45-day public comment period. The Issue Papers, released October 28, 1998, are said to be the first set of 15 such papers and represent the following key subjects concerning organic agricultural production: 1) livestock and medication 2) livestock and confinement, and 3) certification enforcement.
"The timing and the process makes little sense if the USDA wants genuine industry and public response," said Katherine DiMatteo, OTA executive director. "Although the organic industry welcomes an additional opportunity to reiterate our stance on organic regulations, these papers raise more questions than they answer."
The OTA additionally questions the USDAís timing of the papersí release during the Oct. 27-29 meeting of the National Organic Standards Board in Washington. "The USDA has indicated that they wish to work with the NOSB on re-drafting their regulations. If thatís the case, they should have released these papers one month prior to the NOSB meeting so that public comment could be incorporated into NOSBís expert counsel to the USDA," said DiMatteo.
The USDA released its first draft of proposed regulations for organic production December 16, 1997. The USDA received a record number of more than 280,000 public responses to that proposal.
"Itís been overtly demonstrated that consumers and our industry want stringent federal regulations for organic. OTA will be diligent in ensuring the USDA hears what the organic industry has to say about these issue papers," said DiMatteo. The OTA will solicit input from its more than 850 members to respond to the Issue Papers. Additionally, the OTA Livestock Committee and the OTA Certifiers Council will use their expertise to gather input from members to be used in the associationís official comments to the USDA.
OTA estimates that the organic industry is a $4.7 billion industry growing at over 24 per cent annually. The New York City-based market research firm Packaged Facts predicts that sales of organic foods in the U.S. will increase to $6.6 billion by the year 2000.
October 26, 1998
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