|Feb. 25, 2003
Dear Fieldale Farms officials:
Our records show Fieldale Farms has had conversations with the Organic Trade Association (OTA) during at least the past three years concerning organic production standards for organic livestock operations. Thus, OTA believes your company has been well aware of the requirements that it would take for your operation to be in compliance with organic standards.
OTA would like to remind you of the following:
- Prior to the adoption of a definition for commercial availability in the national organic standards, the issue was broadly debated within the industry. It was agreed upon that the term does not include any price stipulations.
- The 100 percent organic feed requirement for organic livestock was also debated. Not only did producers agree on this requirement, but several thousand consumers, weighing in on the issue in 1997, indicated that they expected 100 percent organic feed for livestock operations.
- Full implementation of national organic standards came after more than 12 years of hard work by the industry since the enactment of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990.
Knowing this, it is evident that Fieldale Farms has been knowledgeable of what is required, and has had the time to comply. However, it appears that your company has spent a lot of energy trying to find ways to circumvent the requirements, rather than trying to set up a reliable organic feed supply.
As an industry association, the Organic Trade Association would like to work with you. OTA would prefer that you not set yourself apart, but become involved in the conversations within the industry so that together we can grow our organic businesses.
Your company may not be aware of the long-range damage Section 771 of the 2003 Omnibus Appropriations Bill could make to the burgeoning U.S. organic industry. This provision, if allowed to stand, will hurt organic producers who are in full compliance with the National Organic Program. Many livestock producers are following national organic standards that require 100 percent organic feed for organic livestock.
Consumers want integrity behind the organic label. They have welcomed the new standards because the new labeling lets them know what they are choosing and paying for when they shop. This provision, which weakens the enforcement of organic standards, could undermine public confidence in organic labeling, and sets an unacceptable precedent. If consumers cannot trust the organic label, producers wishing to market organic products—including Fieldale—may find there is no longer a market.
If every individual producer were allowed to change the requirements for its particular needs, there would be no consumer demand for organic products. You, too, would lose the margins you are hoping to make in selling your chickens as organic.
Rather than disappointing consumers nationwide, Fieldale Farms has the opportunity to take a leadership role in producing poultry products that follow the requirements of the national organic standards should you wish to market products as organic. As evidenced by the continued growth of organic product sales, your investment will pay off in the long run.
We are working to garner bi-partisan support for Senator Leahy and Representative Farr’s bills to repeal Section 771 from the Omnibus Appropriations Bill. We could all save resources in the future if we worked together on organic issues.
Please feel free to contact me.
Organic Trade Association