Contact: Holly Givens, 413-774-7511, ext. 18
GREENFIELD, Mass. (Oct. 27, 2005) — The Organic Trade Association (OTA) today applauded bipartisan action in Congress that will restore key provisions of the national organic standards developed through over a decade of public discussion. As a result, consumers can keep purchasing all the “USDA Organic” products currently available in the marketplace, and large and small organic farmers across the country can continue to sell their organic crops and thrive in this growing business community.
“We want to thank Congress for responding so promptly for our request for clarification,” said Katherine DiMatteo, executive director of OTA. “We took this approach because we honor the public rulemaking process that created the national organic standards that have been in place since October 2002.”
Congress also directed the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to study the impact on the organic industry and report back in 90 days.
“We are excited that Congress wants to keep the information about the organic industry flowing, and look forward to assisting USDA in its efforts,” said DiMatteo. “Our community fully supports this kind of open examination and discussion of the challenges we all face as members of the larger organic community. Our long view is to encourage more agricultural land to convert to organic production by having a vital and expanding market for organic products so that the environment, the planet and future generations are protected.”
Congress was asked to take up the issue as a result of a June 2005 court ruling which declared that there were technical inconsistencies between the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA), passed as part of the 1990 Farm Bill, and the National Organic Program standards, implemented in October 2002 after more than a decade of public input. The court decision threatened the livelihood of many organic companies and farms, both large and small.
OTA had submitted language to Congress to amend OFPA to allow the continued use of a limited list of stringently reviewed synthetic materials in post-harvest handling and processing and provisions for dairies converting to organic production. OTA’s language was adopted.
“The Organic Trade Association envisions organic products becoming a significant part of everyday life,” said DiMatteo. “OTA will continue to work with all stakeholders to improve the National Organic Program through the public process of rulemaking and to address future challenges and concerns that impact the organic industry in its various categories, channels and sectors.”
U.S. organic standards were developed with input from industry, consumers, farmers and environmental groups, and were approved and implemented after 10 years of discussion, two proposed rules, and over 300,000 public comments. These standards also reflect the recommendations of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), whose decision-making authority remains in place.
Like organic standards used throughout the world, the U.S. organic standards have always allowed specific synthetic materials that are essential to making numerous organic processed products. These are non-agricultural materials, including items such as baking powder and a type of pectin, that are necessary in certain production and processing practices and have been used in producing foods for decades.
The current labeling requirements of the USDA National Organic Standard includes a 100% organic category (fresh and processed products) as well as the organic category (95% or more organic ingredients), and the made with organic category (70% or more organic ingredients.) Consumers have a choice in the products that they purchase because of these clearly defined labeling categories.
“If Congress had not acted, many of the organic products consumers know and love would have disappeared. That’s not good for consumers or the organic farmers and organic companies that are working hard every day to continue to grow this industry,” DiMatteo said.
The mission of the Organic Trade Association is to promote and protect the growth of organic trade to benefit the environment, farmers, the public and the economy. OTA envisions organic products becoming a significant part of everyday life, enhancing people's lives and the environment. As a membership-based business association, the Organic Trade Association focuses on the organic business community in North America. OTA's more than 1,600 members include farmers, processors, importers, exporters, distributors, retailers, certifiers, and more. For further information, visit OTA's web site at www.ota.com.
October 27, 2005
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