I've read with interest the continuing dialogue concerning the NOSB standards
and would like to see it continue. We are entering our 5th year as growers for
an organic CSA and beginning the transition from conventional to organic
production on about 200 acres in the Finger Lakes region of New York. We are
not certified at this time. My comments are as follows:
1) I think the nationalization of certification standards is probably a good
idea. I'm not at all confident the USDA has the proper motivation for
successfully overseeing this venture.
2) I don't buy that consumers are behind the NOSB standards. I think certified
growers are. I don't think the average consumer understands the difference
between certified organic and otherwise which makes it tough for certified
folks to get a bigger buck for their products. I DO NOT like the idea of
losing the right to use the word organic to describe the methods we use to grow
because consumers are confused. If certified growers feel the need for
protection, the effort should be to more effectively DIFFERENTIATE between
certified organic and not. IN MY OPINION that has been a big part of the
motivation behind the national standards movement. Non-certified growers
should not be forced to participate in certification to use a word that is an
acceptable representation of what they do. (I understand the "big corporate
liars" argument, but don't think controlling them justifies doing in the little
We are not certified because it has not been an issue for our shareholders. We
have considered certification, grow according to the NOFA certification
standards and may well become certified in 1998. However, this action would be
taken more in an effort of solidarity with our fellow certified NOFA members
than anything else. Up until this point we could not justify the expense of
certification in relation to our organic farm earnings.
3) Our overriding motivation is to convert consumers to the organic movement.
To paraphrase Abbie Hoffman when he spoke about Save the River, people listen
to economic arguments, not environmental ones. While more and more consumers
are purchasing organically grown items, I don't believe we will ever convert
the masses until organic products look better, taste better and IS THE SAME
PRICE as conventionally grown food. If it's the prettiest stuff on the shelf
and the same price as everything else, that's what consumers will go for. I
probably won't win awards for saying that, but here's the point: justifying
the (increased) cost of certification because people charge more for
organically grown stuff is short sighted and self defeating in the long run.
4) To Eric: I don't believe NOFA certifiers are volunteers or even
semi-volunteers. My understanding is that the NOFA certification program is
self sustaining and inspectors are paid; you're right though - people should
verify what the put in print. Since you used them in your argument, why don't
you check into it for the rest of us?
Finally, I do appreciate all the fine efforts put forth by organic farmers
who've participated in the formulation of NOSB. I just hate to see it divide
the organic community. Most of us have faith in each other and in our regional
certification programs. Eric (and others) shouldn't take it personally that
everybody isn't ready to blindly transfer that trust and loyalty to the USDA.
Be gentle its my first time (sending a reply)
A.J. Teeter Farm
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