OFMA Board of Directors
Texas Organic Growers Association
Boot-Lickers Union Local 245
FUROR BURNS ON OVER USDA ORGANIC PROPOSED RULE
PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD OFFICIALLY EXTENDED TO MAY 1, 1998
On February 2nd the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service formally extended the
Public Comment Period for the National Organic Program Proposed Rule.
Organic farmer organizations and consumer groups, who had requested the
extension, were hopeful that the extra 45 days would provide an opportunity to
both generate broader response and a more detailed analysis from stakeholders,
aiming to change the Proposed Rule. The Comment Period now ends on May 1st,
Formal Informational Meetings are to be held in Austin, Texas, Ames, Iowa,
Seattle, Washington and New Brunswick, New Jersey. USDA Staff advertised that
public testimony given at these meetings will be transcribed and recognized as
official public comment by the Department. Written responses can also be
personally delivered at the USDA hearings, in addition to limited, five-minute
oral testimony. The Austin meeting will have concluded by the time this issue
is delivered, so only the dates and locations of the remaining sessions are
( The Austin meeting is 8AM-5PM, on Thursday 12 February at The Meeting Place,
2100 Northland Drive, Austin, Texas at the corner of Burnet Road and
Northland. Rally 8-10 AM 12 Feb. The Meeting Place. TX,OK,LA,NM,AL,GA,AR,MS
residents and others in Southern Region urged to attend to show support for
traditional organic farming.)
February 18, Ames, Iowa. Iowa State Center, Scheman Building, Benton
Suite 4, Ames, IA 50011 (515) 294-3218
February 26, Seattle, Washington Seattle Center 305 Harrison Street Seattle,
WA 98109 (206) 684-7202
March 5, New Brunswick, NJ, Rutgers Student Center 126 College Avenue
New Brunswick, NJ 08901 (732) 932-8821
California got shut out again. The state with more organic farmers, more
organic acreage and more consumers of organic products didnít rate a hearing
from USDA. This slight disappointed Mark Lipson, the chairman of the
California State Organic Advisory Board, which is empowered by the California
Department of Food and Agriculture. " We donít like it, and we think we
deserved to have a meeting here."
But they are used to being served a near-empty plate. Until Steve Pavich Jr.,
was seated on the NOSB a few short years ago, the Golden State had never had a
farmer representative on the board. The list of folks from California left off
the board is a Whos Who of organic farming, including Amigo Bob Cantisano,
Denesse and Tom Willey and Lipson himself
The Austin hearing is now the focus of a regional demonstration in support of
the Organic Foods Production Act. A crowd of perhaps as many as one thousand
supporters will rally at the building ( capacity 150) where the hearing will
be held. Organic consumers, farmers and environmentalists from other states
were asked to attend, and many were making plans to travel.
Neil Carman, a research coordinator with the Sierra Club Lonestar Chapter in
Austin, said that " hopefully the mainstream media will begin to pay better
attention to this issue if people are actually out in large numbers protesting
the distortions USDA has created in this proposal."
Newsmedia attention dropped off after the first burst of reporting at the time
of the publication of the Proposed Rule, and the press did not report the
continuing universal outcry against the proposals.
Organic advocates have had better luck in approaching local media with the
local story. There was no way to prove that nearly every organic farmer was
"madder than a wet cat" merely because a press release said so.
Bob Scowcroft, the executive director of the Organic Farming Research
Foundation in Santa Cruz, California, said that " there are really only two
major national stories left in this issue. One will probably coincide with the
closing of the Public Comment Period, and the other one will be our reaction
to the Final Rule, and whether a congressional hearing and/or litigation is
" People in the organic community should focus on local public education and
local media attention so that newspeople ask why these rules are news on the
farm or in the local food co-op. Volume of response is the key to victory."
A significant volume of complaint and criticism of USDAís NOP Proposed Rule
is being sent to the US Congress. Much of that information is gathered
frequently by local legislative aides in the home district and forwarded to
High profile meetings of organic farming advocates held in Washington, D.C.,
including an ad hoc coalition organized by former NOSB chairman Michael Sligh
of Rural Advancement Foundation International, put together a priority list
of recommendations to be made to USDA toward changing the new proposed
guidelines. The meetings laid the foundation for creating consensus on what
additional steps should be planned in order to make its implementation, as
The Organic Trade Association ( OTA) also held a planning and strategy meeting
in the nationís capitol in order to poll its membership on the issues of
greatest importance. Another similar session was held in Asilomar, California,
in conjunction with the Ecological Farming Conference, where seminars went on
, but discussion of the NOP Proposed Rule dominated the January meeting.
The OTA obtained (through a Freedom of Information Act request) a copy of an
earlier USDA draft of the proposed rules which was sent to the Office of
Management and Budget ( OMB). This "June Draft" followed the NOSB
recommendations much more closely. It had been widely discussed that during
the fall of 1997 that OMB opposed the Organic Foods Production Act because it
broke new ground in creating a regulatory partnership with government, the
states and the private sector-in other words organic thinking as well as
organic farming have been difficult for inhabitants "inside the Beltway" to
get a handle on.
OTAís Livestock Committee, Quality Assurance Council and Fiber Committees will
be composing comprehensive responses to the Proposed Rule.
The Organic Materials Review Institute released a 20 page draft, or
Preliminary Review at the Ecological Farming Conference on January 21st.
The Organic Farmers Marketing Association ( OFMA) continued to compose its
Side By Side Comparison of the Organic Foods Production Act with the USDA
Proposed Rule, having completed a review of subparts A and B of the Code of
Federal Regulations earlier in the month. That information is available on the
World Wide Web at < http://www.iquest.net/ofma >
OFMA now has developed over 200 pages of documentation in response to the
USDA/NOP Proposed Rule, is composing a Side by Side Comparison of subparts C,
D, E and F of the Proposed Rule and the Organic Foods Production Act. This
comparison will be presented to a group of state agencies and representatives
meeting in Austin, Texas, on February 10-11, 1998.
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