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Wise Words - Organic Trade Association
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Wise Words

 

September 23, 2005

The following is a clarification of the CROPP Cooperative position regarding efforts to go to Congress to fix the damage done by the Federal Court ruling, (referred to as the “Harvey Lawsuit”), that the USDA, through the National Organic Program (NOP) and the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB),  went beyond the foundation enabling legislation – the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA).  

 

For the record, since our inception in 1988, we have been consistent leaders helping define the standards that eventually led to the passage of OFPA.  CROPP has been diligent through 13 years of NOSB process and have coordinated farmer response to the proposed rule. I have been both chair of the Organic Trade Association (OTA) Livestock Committee and am currently retiring NOSB Livestock chair, having spent the past five years serving on the NOSB.

 

For the past thirteen years we have tirelessly and consistently pressed for both the strictest standards in all areas of production while fighting for standards that allow family farmers to convert to organic.  For example we have fought for what is referred to as  “the new entry herd clause”  that makes it possible for family farmers  to enter organic dairy.  We stubbornly fought for the elimination of antibiotics and added synthetic hormones in organic (both of these were a real struggle in 1993-99). Throughout this we have seen a vibrant public process through NOSB as the key vehicle that reflects the organic community's desire to be openly engaged in participating in the writing of the standard and rule making.   Many were, and still are concerned that forces in the USDA may steer our program down the wrong path. NOSB has a most unique status in the USDA and the retention of that process is a critical element to our relationship to USDA.

 

The Harvey lawsuit declared that some of the work of NOSB was illegal (not reflecting OFPA), but it does not say that the standards vetted by the NOSB public process were the wrong standards.  After all these years meeting to reach consensus, we at CROPP feel we need to honor that process and that the critical and safe position now is to support the NOSB standards as we have hammered them out. To do that, we need to go to Congress and change the wording of OFPA to reflect our hard work of the past thirteen years.

We support restoring the new herd clause as a crucial clause to encourage family farms to enter organic dairy. Besides helping family dairy farmers convert to organic, the new herd clause ties the animals to the land. Without it the organic milk supply will be tilted to large dairies that enter through the “12 month heifer clause”. They simply raise heifers off the land and drop them in their lots after 12 months. CROPP family farms will fight for regaining this clause.

 

The next primary issue is losing the use of synthetics in organic processed products. CROPP hardly uses any synthetics in our products.  Hydrogen peroxide, a synthetic, is used to sterilize milk cartons, for example. However, without allowing the minimal amount of benign synthetics approved by NOSB in the organic seal, most manufactured products will be forced to “made with organic” – which means using only 70% organic ingredients. Products manufacturers will be forced to use 'made with organics' (70% organics in stead of 95%).  This will have a large impact on demand for organic production and therefore on organic farmers.  As the organic ingredient market disappears, so will the manufacturers’ ability to “balance” their supply further damaging organic producers globally and domestic producer cooperatives such as CROPP.

I could go on as this is a complex issue but let it be enough that CROPP’s position represents hundreds of hours of meetings in the last 16 years, and deep experience working for what is best for the organic farmer and all the organic stakeholders including the organic consumers. The result has been the toughest, strictest standard in the world.

 
OTA has taken the lead with CROPP's support to do the right thing and correct the OFPA to uphold this standard. CROPP has always felt that any process should be an open process as we have many passionate stakeholders who must be at the table. Unfortunately, the lawsuit resulted in a split organic community.  I have done everything I could to weld them together however, that did not happen and we are now seeing a divided camp while we are going to Congress which is an extremely risky move. I am not happy about the lack of cohesion and don’t want to point fingers as to why that has happen. I  feel that it is crucial to all sit down and work through this and to let our love of organics be our guide and not allow fractions and sensationalism blur our past commitment to consensus. Organics to me is about 'the parts making a whole' and throwing rocks at each other is not organic and will not protect our common love of organic foods. 


George L. Siemon

CEO, CROPP/Organic Valley

One Organic Way, La Farge WI, 54639

(608) 625-2602

 
 
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