Letter to Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert - Organic Trade Association
Organic Trade Association
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Feb. 25, 2003

Dear Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert:

The insertion of Section 771 into the 2003 Omnibus Appropriations Bill has caused much consternation and outcry from the organic industry and community. The Organic Trade Association expects that you may not realize the long-range damage such a provision could make to the burgeoning U.S. organic industry.

This provision, if allowed to stand, could hurt the many organic producers who are doing everything in compliance with the National Organic Program to market their products as organic. Many producers already are following national organic standards that require 100 percent organic feed for organic livestock. As such, Section 771 sets an unacceptable precedent.

The good news is that it is a mistake that Congress can easily fix. The organic community and consumers are calling for repeal of this provision. As a result, OTA is urging that Congress repeal Section 771 of the 2003 Omnibus Appropriations Bill. This week, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) are planning to each introduce a bill (in the Senate and House of Representatives, respectively) to do just that.

Voters want integrity behind the organic label. In fact, over a quarter million people weighed in when USDA was developing national organic standards, with thousands of them standing strong specifically on the issue of feeding livestock 100 percent organic feed. 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 weakening enforcement of organic standards could undermine public confidence in organic labeling.

Now is the time to make sure it is fixed. Those within Congress who have already indicated support for repealing Section 771 include: Senators Tom Harkin of Iowa, Dianne Feinstein of California, Patrick Leahy and James Jeffords of Vermont, Olympia Snowe of Maine, Max Baucus of Montana, Barbara Boxer of California, Russ Feingold and Herbert Kohl of Wisconsin, Norm Colman and Mark Dayton of Minnesota, John Kerry of Massachusetts: and Representatives Ron Kind of Wisconsin, David Price of North Carolina, Mark Udall of Colorado, Peter DeFazio of Oregon, and Sam Farr of California.

Mistakes happen, especially when the pace in Congress is as frenetic as it has been in the past few weeks. Remember, mistakes sometimes can be corrected. This is one of those times.

Should you ever have questions concerning organic agriculture and practices, please contact me.

Katherine DiMatteo
Executive Director
Organic Trade Association

Cc: Secretary of Agriculture Ann M. Veneman
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