For Immediate Release
CONTACT: Holly Givens, 413-774-7511, Ext. 18
(after 5:30 EST: 413-834-2758)
OTA praises USDA Secretary for taking gigantic step to save organic standards
Greenfield, MA (May 26, 2004) - The Organic Trade Association today praised U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman for rescinding recent Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) moves that had undermined the whole process of developing and establishing national organic standards.
"By rescinding recent National Organic Program 'clarifications' and directing the agency to work with the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) and the organic industry, Secretary Veneman has taken a gigantic step toward reestablishing the public-private trust that went into developing U.S. national organic standards in the first place," said Katherine DiMatteo, OTA's executive director.
In a closing statement at a press conference today, Secretary Veneman announced she had directed AMS to rescind its recent statement of clarification and to work with NOSB and the organic industry to reach the best solutions to issues that have been raised in implementing national organic standards. Claiming the agency "had acted in good faith," Secretary Veneman, however, said that she was taking this action because of recent outcry by the organic community, particularly in the press, that the process for formulating organic standards had broken down. In support of the organic industry, Senator Patrick Leahy rallied members of Congress to express their concern as well.
In fact, OTA last week had written a letter to Secretary Veneman requesting that she review recent actions of USDA's National Organic Program and issue a statement on the matter. OTA had asked Secretary Veneman to give assurances that changes would be made to bolster industry confidence in NOP's work. OTA and others within the industry, including NOSB members, had decried that recent action taken by NOP had, in effect, been major rule changes, setting dangerous precedent, and had shown disregard for the needs of organic farmers, processors and, ultimately, consumers who would be most affected by the agency's arbitrary changes in the nation's organic regulations.
"Allowing NOP to create and implement new directives 'at will' without open dialogue with stakeholders was creating confusion for businesses and consumers alike," said DiMatteo, adding, "By her announcement today, Secretary Veneman has taken a giant step forward. We are eager to work with NOP in this process, and trust that together the right decisions can be made for the good of organic farmers and producers and consumers of organic products."
The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is the business association representing the organic agriculture industry in North America. Its over 1,400 members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers' associations, distributors, importers, exporters, consultants, retailers and others.
Headquarters: 60 Wells Street, P.O. Box 547, Greenfield, MA 01302 USA ( (413) 774-7511 Fax: (413) 774-6432 ( e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ( web site: www.ota.com Legislative Office: 600 Cameron Street, Alexandria, VA 22304 USA ( (202) 338-2900
May 26, 2004
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