Organic Farmers Marketing Association,
8364 S SR 39, Clayton, IN 46118
Further information at: www.iquest.net/ofma/
National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides,
701 E Street, Washington, DC 20003,
202-543-5450, (fax) 202-543-4791, email@example.com
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Eric Kindberg, OFMA
Jay Feldman, NCAMP
Re: Meeting #1 Austin USDA National Organic Program Hearing
February 12, 1998
Date: 98-02-15 02:25:17 EST
From: Neil Carman
To: Erorganic@aol.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Extraordinary -- 100% of the speakers opposed the USDA's
proposed national rules!
Every single person who spoke was strongly opposed to the USDA's
proposed rules. In my 18 years dealing with state and federal
regulatory agencies, I have never witnessed such lopsided testimony -
-100%--by the public for or against any proposed rules.
Only about 65 people got to speak during the hearing while more than
100 signed up. More people wanted to speak but were not allowed
since it ended at 5:00 PM.
The people attending were strong organic food supporters since they
clapped loudly after every speaker finished to show support.
Who spoke? Mothers, farmers, retailers, consumers, wholesalers,
health care professionals, scientists, attorneys, persons with chemical
sensitivity, students and others. This is also highly unusual in my
If 100% of the public oppose they rules at every single hearing, USDA
will look pretty bad.
2. News coverage of the USDA's hearing in Austin - Excellent!
We had live coverage by several TV stations during different times of
the day, and four TV stations attended the event mainly in the
morning. The Associated Press, Austin American- Statesman and local
radio stations also covered the hearing. We had several dozen signs
made up the night before and it helped make the 200-300 people look
like a rally for organic foods.
A. Have enough copies of any handouts or testimony to give to the
media and put out on tables to share with others.
B. Talk to the media people about your concerns. The hearing did not
get going with testimony until after 9:30 am. The media needs
educating on this complex issue.
C. Try to coordinate getting the press out for the hearing. I have
heard that several organizations are planning press conf. on Feb 18th.
D. If people had time and energy; they might consider some kind of a
Camp Out at the site the night before to draw public attention to the
hearing to help dramatize the nature of the bad rules and importance
of starting over to write good ones. TV stations and reporters might
cover a Camp Out the night before and help get more publicity.
E. Signs--make 1 or 2 signs to bring and hold up at the hearing. They
could also be used outside. We had a big sign that said: Don't Nuke
F. Networking--the hearing is a wonderful opportunity to meet people
and share information and concerns. Some people are still learning
about how bad the rules are.
USDA officials wanted specific comments and most made general
comments. Wiggle words ("incidental additives," "non-active
residues," "active or inert ingredient in any input other than pesticide
formulations," "commercially available," etc.) are legal loopholes.
These are another major reason why the rules are poorly written if we
want to protect the integrity of organic.
I think it is fine to make some general and specific comments.
Let me know if anyone has any questions.
Neil Carman, Ph.D.
Lone Star Chapter Sierra Club
Re: Meeting #2 USDA National Organic Program Hearings, Ames Iowa
February 18, 1998
Eric Kindberg, email@example.com
Testimony at the Ames Iowa USDA Hearing on the Proposed
Organic Rule Calls for Complete Overhaul
Quoting Dale Cochran, the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture made at the
recent Ames Iowa Hearings on the Proposed Organic Rule, February
" The task of the National Organic Program is to set national standards
for the organic industry. Diluting the standards in use by many in the
industry undermines the integrity of the organic industry and places
well-established markets at risk.
I believe that national organic standards should explicitly differentiate
organic production and handling and be maintained at the level of
existing certifying agencies.
"....genetically engineered organisms, ionizing radiation, and the land
application of biosolids...are just the tip of the iceberg, and other less
publicized issues in relation to national standards could also have
devastating impacts on the organic industry...Definitions must be
added, clarified or, in some cases, deleted."
" The terms ' bio-diversify" and "ecological harmony," long accepted by
the industry have been removed from the definition of the " system of
organic farming and handling."
Over 80 consumers, organic farmers, an former NOSB Board Member,
coops and handlers unanimously testified that the USDA Proposed
Organic Rule, if implemented, would destroy the credibility of "organic"
for consumers. 100% of the statements made at the Hearing were
against implementation of the Proposed Rule as written.
Expressions at the hearing were explicit, extremely well thought out
and presented with gusto bordering on rebellion. Every speaker
received a clapping ovation. Organic farmers wanted to know who
wrote the Proposed Rules. The single USDA representative at the
meeting, Eileen Stommes, refused to answer the question. A
consumer asked why the existing standards of organic certifiers were
not synthesized with the Organic Foods Production Act to compose the
Proposed Rule. Ms Stommes responded they had to follow the Act. At
that point people in the audience responding without recognition
asking "Than why didn't the USDA follow the Act in the Proposed
Rule?" Joe Vogelsberg from Kansas along with many others said when
ever you use a synthetic medicine on livestock, divert that livestock to
the conventional market after the FDA withdrawal time. Questions
were raised how do you know your not feeding organic livestock
genetically modified feed products if 20% not organically produced
feed is allowed? A former USDA DC employee, now organic dairyman,
stated the reason USDA is holding these 4 public meetings is so the
USDA building doesn't get burned down. He further pointed out that
Eileen Stommes, in her position is personally responsible for the
Proposed and Final Rule. Many testifiers presented detailed listings of
the contradictions between the Proposed Rule and the Organic Foods
Production Act. USDA stated that the quantity and quality of the
testimony was extremely helpful. And the Greenpeace Fishberry
costume symbolizing the genetically modified strawberry was ever
Re: Meeting #3 USDA National Organic Program Hearings, Seattle, Washington
February 26, 1998
FROM CRAIG WINTERS
The USDA hearing on the proposed rules for the National Organic Standards
Act was held today in Seattle. Here is a review of the activities from my
Since I teach at Bastyr University Thursday mornings from 8:00-10:00am, I
was not able to get to the event until 10:30am. The USDA hearing was held
at the Seattle Center in one of the large meeting rooms. For those of you
reading this not familiar with Seattle, the Seattle Center was built for
the World's Fair in 1962 and is the home of the Space Needle, the Arena,
the Opera house, etc.
I was scheduled to be speaker #15, but by the time I arrived, they were
already at speaker #16. However, the panel members were very courteous and
let me speak right away instead of having to go to the end of the line of
speakers which at this point numbered over 100 people. I gave my
presentation for five minutes pointing out the obvious shortcomings and it
seemed to go over well with the audience. Now I could relax a little,
listen to the other speakers, and observe.
At first I was a little concerned. There were only about 100 people in the
room at that time and only two protest signs. I said to my activist friend
Joe Katroscik that I was somewhat disappointed that there were not more
people and more signs. After all, Seattle is a very progressive city and
Washington State is quite positive on alternative medicine. There should
have been more people here and more protest signs. Shortly thereafter,
things started changing for the positive in a wonderful way.
Jennifer Hillman of Greenpeace arrived at 11:00 and told me she had the
Fishberry costume in her van along with about 50 Fishberry T-shirts. Plus,
flyers started to get posted about a protest organized by Washington Tilth
over the proposed rules that would start at noon at the base of the Space
Needle. At about 11:45am, Jennifer and I went to her van to get the
Fishberry costume and then to the base of the Space Needle. My eyes lit up
as I saw about 75 people with lots of protest signs. Jennifer put on the
Fishberry costume and was joined by several other human fruits and
vegetables. There was a person wearing a excellent "bunch of purple grapes"
costume complete with a gas mask. There was the Puget Consumers' Co-op
Carrot, and five other fruit costumes. It was quite a sight to behold.
The crowd continued to grow to close to 100 people. Finally we started our
march with the local television channels filming the excitement. To the
beat of conga drums, we walked around the Seattle Center. Someone finally
started to chant "Hi-Hi, Hi-Ho, Organic Standards Have to Go". We continued
this chant until we reached the outside court area were the USDA meeting
was taking place. There was a PA system and podium set up outside and four
people, including myself, spoke for about ten minutes. Again the cameras
were rolling. Then everyone in the audience threw mock versions of the
proposed rules into a large garbage can.
Next we began our march into the meeting room, again chanting with conga
drums beating. I cannot express the incredible energy in the room as 100
chanting activists with signs and conga drums entered. The over 100 people
already in the room stood up and gave a standing ovation to the new
participants. Now the room had over two hundred people with dozens of
signs, human fruit, and Fishberry t-shirts. We quieted down after a few
minutes and the speakers continued to give their presentations. A couple
television cameras continue to film the speakers.
So, overall, the energy was great and I am sure the USDA got the message
loud and clear. A statement one of the USDA representatives made was cause
for optimism. He stated pretty definitively that the USDA would re-submit
new proposed rules for additional comments. In other words, rather than the
USDA taking in all the comments and then issuing final rules, they will
issue new proposed rules, receive comments again on those, and then issue
final rules. So, on that level, there is reason for optimism.
One point was made that was similar to feelings that seem to come from the
other USDA hearings. That is the fact that although the USDA
representatives at the meeting seemed to genuinely be listening, will the
top officials in Washington, DC have the same sentiments? Or are these
hearings just a public relations scam? Personally, I feel we will win on
eliminating the irradiation, genetic engineering, and municipal sludge.
But, will the USDA adopt the recommendations of the National Organic
Standards Board? Nothing less than that will be acceptable to most of us.
So the battle rages on...
I left the meeting about 3:30pm because of other activities I needed to get
to. However, I understand the USDA is continuing the public hearing until
7:00pm to accommodate as many speakers as possible.
I want to thank Tilth and Greenpeace for their great work. I also want to
thank Mark Epstein of the Save Organic Foundation for flying in from
Chicago to attend this hearing. If we all keep working together we will win
this battle -- sooner or later.
6920 Roosevelt Way NE #250
Seattle, WA 98115
Subj: Some Seattle experience.
Date: 98-02-28 14:46:19 EST
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (David DeCou)
As i believe you have previously heard there was 100% negative
testimony against the Proposed Rule in Seattle. Many people spoke very
well. I happened to be the first of the speakers and set an appropriate
negative tone, but 5 minutes is not much time.
It was stated by someone named Tom from the USDA who was there with
Eilleen Stommes that Secretary Glickman, in a press release, recently
stated that the Proposed Rule would be reissued and be available for Public
Comment prior to a final rule coming out. That was his interpretation. The
quote from Glickman which he stated (and which I do not remember in detail)
did not seem to be as clear as he stated. In one sense we may have achieved
our first goal but I am not yet sure of that. If we have the another issue
which has come up is that there is a pretty consistent although not
universal call (at least in Seattle) to rewqrite the rule using the NOSB
recommendations. As Eric has indicated there are inconsistencies between
the recommendations of the NOSB and OFPA. We will need to assess those as a
group and see how we can fit with them. As well the OTA has just about
finished a rewrite of th rules and I will get a copy and see what those are
like. My suspicion is that the heavy public pressure around the current
Proposal will dissipate soon if what Tom said is true and our work will
need to be even more carefully done. If the smoke screen of GMOs,
irradiation, and sludge are dropped we still have serious problems but the
public will probably be less interested.
93780 River Road
Junction City, OR
Education and Training should not be confused,
Training makes good workers, Education makes good citizens.
Subj: [Fwd: Organic Rules hearing in Seattle]
Date: 98-03-01 10:59:04 EST
From: Doris/Terry Shistar
Over 120 people signed up to testify. Time was extended until 7 PM. I
believe they will have extended hours at Rutgers also. They have had to find
a bigger room at Rutgers since so many have signed up. I will contact the NJ
Conservation Chair to see if they have someone, maybe someone in New
Brunswick, who could go to the hearing. WSDA said we would see the next draft
but did not commit to public hearings after the rule is revised. Several of
us called for hearings in other states and better hours.
We were told that at the three hearings so far NO ONE has testified in support
of the draft rules. As of Tuesday Feb. 24, 11,000 comments had been received
and could be read on their web page. A man from a foundation in Chicago that
is following the issue - Lets Keep Organic "Organic" - gave me his card after
I spoke. They have a website: www.saveorganic.org
About 50 people young and old dressed as veggies and fruit held a rally at the
Space Needle and then came to the hearing chanting about dumping the rule.
They got the most TV coverage. Staff faxed out my press release but I have not
seen any coverage yet of Sierra Club speaking out. People appreciated our
speaking up, however. I made the point that we were ther to support
them because organic growers protect water quality; they depend on a clean
environment. They have struggled for over 20 years to learn how to rebuild
depleted soils and grow safe food in a "polluted world". Now that they are
successful, now that polls tell us that consumers will pay MORE for organic
food, the multinationals want to take over the term and share in the profits.
Testimony was largely from organic growers, coming from Alaska, Montana,
Oregon, etc. It was said that their industry has ALREADY been hurt by the
PUBLIC perception that "organic" is linked to many contaminants. Washington
state testified as to how the rules would destroy our very successful
certification program, which is far more stringent. WA has certified 295
organic farms and 73 processors. Growers suggested that they adopt
Washington's programs. Hearing officers said that Texas and Iowa also claimed
their programs were best and should be adopted.
I stayed to hear 78 people testify what was said was very interesting. It
was implied that the rule got really bad when OMB got their hands on it.
Everyone acts helpless about this. Can Congress do domething about this?
Defazio and Metcalf sent people to speak for them and Rep. Metcalf made a
speech on the floor of the House on Tuesday.
The farmers identified a lot of loopholes, costs of really unnecessary
nitpicky recordkeeping, standards that could be different for every farm so
the bureaucracy would inflate. I did not realize the USDA was given discretion
to allow food to be grown on contaminated land that had not been cleaned up.
I will have to check this.
A major concern was the "gag order" that would restrict labeling as to how
food was produced. It would provide a legal basis for prosecuting producers
for giving information to consumers that they need to make wise choices. The
ACLU may become involved. Threat to right to know. People can't control
their air or water, want to have some control over food.
Norma Grier explained that only 8 of the 2500 known inerts would be
prohibited. They only mention 2 kinds of inerts, but there are actually 5.
Many commented that if these USDA standards were adopted, small growers,
losing their market niche, would go out of business. Organic food consumers
could trust would not be available, and consumers would buy imported organic
food from countries which still have stringent standards. US growers would
also lose export markets in Europe and the Far East because they could not
meet their organic standards. It was suggested that this was the start of
globalized reductions in standards. One organic producer said that they
should tell EPA and the Administration to stop forcing their weak standrads
for toxic waste onto the food industry.
Rewriting the dictionary. "Organic" should be defined by how the people view
organic, ie pure and natural, not by how multinational corporations want to
rewrite the dictionary.
I thought you'd like to see this testimony submitted to the USDA by Peter
DeFazio at the Seattle Hearing. I'll attach it to this email and also copy
it into the body of the email so (hopefully) everyone will be able to read
it one way or the other.
Testimony of Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR)
USDA Hearing on the Proposed Organic Rule
February 26, 1998
As the House author of the legislation mandating national organic
food standards, I would like to comment on a particular aspect of the
Department of Agriculture's (USDA) proposed organic standards rule. I will
be submitting further comments on the proposed rule.
I am extremely concerned with the USDA's interpretation of the
authority granted to the Secretary of Agriculture to determine the National
List of allowed synthetic materials. The USDA's interpretation of Section
6516 (d), Procedure for Establishing National List, threatens the integrity
of a national organic label and discourages public comments. It is my
understanding that the USDA has interpreted this section as giving the
Secretary the authority to add items to the National List rejected by the
National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). The law was never meant to grant
the Secretary this authority.
The intent of the law was to give the NOSB sole authority to place
items on the National List. The Secretary is granted the authority to
remove items from the NOSB's proposed national list. However, the
Secretary was not given the authority to add items to the National List
because it would completely undermine the authority of the NOSB. In fact,
the fear of the Secretary being granted too much power over the National
List was the reason part two of the procedure for establishing a National
List was added. Section 6516 (d) (2) states, "The Secretary may not
include exemptions for the use of specific synthetic substances in the
National List other than those exemptions contained in the Proposed
National List or the Proposed Amendments to the National List." If the
title of part two, "No Additions," was not clear enough, surely the
explanation removes any doubt.
Public input was a major factor contributing to the success of the
organic industry. The Organic Food Production Act (OFPA) of 1990 was based
on the historical practices of the organic industry. A national organic
label was meant to be developed as a public/private partnership with
minimal influence by the Secretary. It is not much of a partnership if the
Secretary can undo all of the input of citizens by
adding items to the National List that the pubic has already rejected. This
interpretation says to the public, "comment all you want, in the end the
national organic label will be whatever the Secretary wants it to be." I
cannot think of a better way to destroy the organic industry than to ignore
the input of the organic growers and consumers, as this interpretation
If the USDA continues to stand by this interpretation, it is very
likely that it will be challenged in the courts. It would be ironic if the
organic industry has to go to court to protect the national label
from abuses by the Secretary. The possibility of deceit, fraud and abuse
of organic labels was one of the main reason the industry sought a federal
law requiring a uniform national label.
The USDA's interpretation of the law threatens the future of the
organic food industry. Even if the current administration has the best
intentions toward the organic industry, future administrations may not.
Unfortunately, even this administration has used this authority to add
items to the list that the public has already rejected.
Failure to address this problem now will render any other changes
to the proposed rule worthless. The USDA's interpretation of the power
yielded to the Secretary can easily undo any changes to the proposed rule
that the public demands. I sincerely hope the USDA will keep the future of
the national organic label where it belongs, in the hands of the people.
Re: Meeting #4 USDA National Organic Program Hearings, New Brunswick, NJ
March 5, 1998
Subj: New Jersey NOP hearing report
Date: 98-03-07 09:26:03 EST
This report is from Drew Stuckey of New York.
The NJ USDA hearing was yesterday. Figueroa, Joan Gussow (NOSB),Eileen
Stommes, Bob Anderson(chr. NOSB, Keith Jones, and another USDA suit whose name
I couldn't read. Stommes moderated until the midday break and then she and
Jones traded chairs and He moderated. 146 registered speakers, and they spoke
of going until 7:30 pm and shortened the testimony time to 4 minutes to give
everybody time to testify. Large campus police presence. Joan Gussow
apparently had a USDA security person follow her around during the lunch break
for her protection. (?!?) All doors to the building posted for this event
with signs- "do not block access to the building" and " do not use sticks or
boards mounted on signs".
A rally was staged outside at midday with about 150-200 people and 50
placards, so a respectable media event. Lots of press, though none of the
mainstream network people.
Unanimously anti PR, testimony ranging from Congressional aids, Mel Coleman,
NJ rep of the Natural Law Party - extremely knowledgeable, by the way) on down
to drum bangers and screamers.
In all, largely what was expected, and confirmation for the uSDA people that
they didn't want any more of these, I'm sure four very long days for them, but
there has to be some price to pay for producing that PR.
Subj: news from NJ USDA hearing
Date: 98-03-07 11:31:26 EST
The USDA hearing in NJ was great, a huge turnout estimated 500-600 people.
Definitely the largest of the hearings, with a vocal consumer and
environmentally outraged base. Many groups from NYC, a boisterous rally,
signs, costumes, music. Farmers from NY, NJ., PA, MA, Ct, one from NH,and also
Mel Coleman senior showed up.
Most of the commentary was general, basic outrage, people concerned about
their food. Farmers got a huge amount of support from the crowd. No one
supported the proposed rule in any way. NJ Sen. Toricelli and Congressman
Pallone sent reps with statements opposed to the rule.
USDA sent Keith Jones, Enrique Figueroa, Dick Clayton, Eileen Stommes; and
Bob Anderson and Joan Gussow graciously sat and listened on behalf of the NOSB
for the whole thing, which went on till about 7:15 pm, with one 10 minute
break. 140 people signed up to speak, and they had to reduce the time allowed
to 4 minutes, then 3 minutes.
Figueroa made general statements: the goal is listen, take more public input,
they will not put forth a final rule that the industry does not want. USDA has
gotten the word that that the organic proposed rule is not acceptable to the
community. He said there will be a further role for public comment, after the
comment period ends.
In a later conversation, I asked more specifically what this means. He said
the department has not decided what path to take, but that there are a couple
of options short of re-proposal that they are considering. ("interim" rule, or
"under discussion") They will provide more an opportunity for comment before a
final rule, but have not definitely decided to re-propose. Dick Clayton,
associate Administrator ( and has been there longer then Figueroa) thinks that
it will have to go to another proposed rule as the next step, since the rule
making process is already underway.
Keith Jones is committed to fixing the rule. He said he would not have come on
board if he did not think it possible. He has just started in Washington this
week, and has a lot on his agenda, but seems to be intent on turning things
around, and working closely with NOSB. He was receptive to my comments about
the problems with loss of authority for certifiers (no denial or termination
of certification) and said there is no way the NOP wants to handle that kind
of local issue. I think we have an ally as the new director of the NOP.
There's still a long way to go on this one, but at least they are listening.
Emily Brown Rosen
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