Organic farmers deserve strong standards, enforcement


WASHINGTON, D.C. – The American family farmers and ranchers who grow and raise organic foods and goods for our nation adhere to strict standards – set by the National Organic Program under guidance of the National Organic Standards Board – that protect the integrity of the industry. So when major producers and importers of organic products fail to comply with these standards, it puts organic family farmers and ranchers at a major disadvantage.
National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson highlighted the importance of strong U.S. Department of Agriculture enforcement of the NOSB standards in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, dated Aug. 3.
“While the U.S. farm economy continues to cause stress in rural America, one bright spot remains: organic agriculture,” Johnson said. “Critical to the success of organic family farming is the integrity of the organic seal. Recently, the integrity of the organic label has been publicly challenged.”
Johnson noted two major examples of behavior that has challenged the integrity of the organic label to illustrate his claims. The first addressed longstanding concerns the nation’s largest organic milk producer, Aurora Organic Dairy, has not complied with the Organic Access to Pasture rule.
“This rule attempted to create consistency across the standards applied to organic dairy operations both out of fairness to the organic producers and transparency to consumers,” said Johnson. “Unfortunately, a rule or regulation is only as good as its enforcement.  In this instance, enforcement of the regulations for the largest organic milk producer failed. This is harmful not only to the reputation of the organic program, but also to the farmers who played by the rules.”
Johnson also cited recent imports of corn and soybeans from Eastern Europe that were fraudulently labeled “organic.”
“U.S. farmers have entered into organic production to capture added value on their farms using a management-intensive method of production,” he said. “The fraudulent imports caused a drastic reduction in prices of organic grain and caused consumers to have suspicion in the veracity of the program. U.S. farmers cannot compete with these unfair
trade practices.”
Johnson recognized the challenges facing USDA’s National Organic Program and it’s ability to police the industry. Organic agriculture has exploded in popularity in recent years, and additional resources for auditing and enforcement have not been made available.
“However, NFU urges USDA to act swiftly and decisively to address both of these issues,” said Johnson. “Family farmers and ranchers depend on USDA and the accredited certifying agents to enforce the organic program’s rigorous, NOSB-driven standards. NFU stands ready to assist USDA in maintaining the strong standards and enforcement associated with the National Organic Program.”

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