Fwd: FW: ACRES USA, A Journal of Alternative Agriculture
Thu, 02 Apr 1998 07:12:45 -0800
>Date: Wed, 1 Apr 1998 23:51:57 -0500
>From: "S. Moore" <firstname.lastname@example.org> (by way of BIODYNAMIC MAIL LIST)
>Subject: FW: ACRES USA, A Journal of Alternative Agriculture
>X-MIME-Autoconverted: from quoted-printable to 8bit by coyote.rain.org id
>ACRES USA, A Journal of Alternative Agriculture
>30 MARCH 1998
>By Steve Sprinkel
>Within the organic community, everything seems to be occurring with the
>National Organic Program emergency serving as the background motif.
>The National Organic Standards Board met concurrently with the NOP hearing
>Ontario, California in mid-March. Much of the NOSB activities focused on it
>own formal response to the Proposed Rule. The Board affirmed that
>should not be used in producing any livestock product under the organic
>and clarified the fact that feeding animal by-products to ruminants should
>prohibited. They also rejected a petition asking that standards for poultry
>production be relaxed so that confinement was acceptable. The NOSB also
>formally asked for the Office of General Counsel to rule whether they can
>participate in re-writing the Proposed Rule
>In Chicago, the Organic Certifiers Caucus ( OCC) of the Organic Trade
>Association met in early April. Both the OTA and the NOSB meetings were the
>focus of some of the most important and contentious aspects of the Proposed
>Rule on the USDA National Organic Program: reciprocity, transparency, and
>certifying to "higher" organic standards than those legitimized by the
>The Most Important Meeting of the Year
>Most observers would agree that, based on the unlawful USDA proposal now
>disputed from every point on the compass, there would be every reason for a
>certifier to want to certify to a higher standard, when the "minimum
>standard", as some observe, isn’t acceptable to organic farmers nor to
>With lawful implementation of OFPA a distant prospect, the ball is really in
>the certifiers’ court now, and a deft forehand smash is long overdue.
>Tony Kleese, the chairman of the Organic Certifiers Caucus, in his letter
>inviting private and state certifiers to Chicago wrote:
>" We have the OFPA, NOSB recommendations, accreditation experience and data
>from the certifier's questionnaire to give us a foundation. Private
>accreditation leads to reciprocity and fills the void until implementation
>the OFPA. It also fulfills the goals of the OFPA in a self-regulatory
>context, which is the position of strength we so desperately want. The fear
>of not having control over what organic means has led us to new levels of
>cooperation. It has also raised the public and government's awareness of
>organic agriculture. We have positioned ourselves as guardians of the
>public's trust in organics and it is our only real power. Now is the time
>act proactively and secure that trust." Beautifully said.
>Area Code 202
>Reno Travis wrote to ACRES in reference to the OCC meeting; "I think this
>meeting is more important right now than the NOSB meeting. It can actually
>lead to bringing certification standards up to OFPA. If this group now
>OFPA and agrees to interim accreditation it sends a message to USDA.
>It puts us far ahead of USDA and can lay the groundwork for better
>for OFPA vis a vis Congress. If the Act is the benchmark we depend on
>dilution and unlawful implementation, we have to formally abide by it now.
>Such a move will also send a message to Codex. If we don't get tough with
>ourselves at every opportunity how can we can expect to be taken seriously?"
>Reno’s allusion to Codex concerns the World Trade Organization, which is the
>United Nations-authorized supernumerary governing trade. The Codex
>Alimentarius defines what you can call a fish stick, what can be called
>olive oil and what it means to be "organically produced". It may seem
>odd to call the WTO a special interest, but if you follow the money you can
>see who has the clout when it comes to world trade.
>Or, look at this way : The answer is DuPont. The question: Who did Terry
>Medley, the USDA/APHIS Bio-Tech specialist, go to work for last month?
>In May, the Codex Commission meets in Ottawa, Canada to once again take up
>international standards for organic production. The most important thing to
>hope for in that meeting will be a further postponement until the United
>States can get its act together.
>Who goes to Codex? Who is on the US Delegation? Well, suddenly a lot more
>people want to sit in on the Ottawa discussion. The USDA now has formally
>created its own Codex office; however, the Department of Health and Human
>Services, the home of the Food and Drug Administration, remains the chief
>participating agency . A larger role for USDA may lead to broader
>representation, since the FDA and the board of directors of Monsanto are
>frequently indistinguishable. ( Sorry for the slight optimism, but one needs
>hope in order to carry on. )
>The Union of Concerned Scientists, The Organic Trade Association and the
>Organic Farmers Marketing Association are among the organizations that
>The Independent Organic Inspectors Association ( Jim Riddle) has
>representation within the International Federation of Organic Farming
>Movements, as well as certifiers like International Certification Services
>(Farm Verified Organic’s new name), providing analysis and commentary on
>organic standards review. The USDA delegation will also include Keith Jones,
>the National Organic Program Director, a representative of the Foreign
>Agricultural Service (probably Audrey Talley), and, no doubt, some new
>players who want to be the where the action is. According to long-time
>observers, Codex used to be a sleepy sidebar in world politics, but organic
>standards review and international interest in labeling genetically
>food products have raised the stakes.
>Many are calling for a new spirit of openness and cooperation in response to
>the threat to organic brought by special interest influence. In responding
>that need for better communication, the Texas Department of Agriculture
>released the minutes of its state certifiers conference held in February,
>one can see them on the Web at
<http://www.iquest.net/ofma>http://www.iquest.net/ofma. You will also
>Michigan organic farmer John Clark’s 1995 " Impact and Analysis of the OFPA"
>on that site. Clark’s essay is as timeless as it is insightful.
>As Wisconsin organic grain specialist Allen Moody wrote back in January, "
>The USDA had an opportunity to either improve the meaning of the Organic
>Production Act ( OFPA) by affirming the spirit of the law, or to diminish
>meaning by writing a Proposed Rule based on their own perceptions."
>One true general statement arising from all the over 50,000 responses to the
>Proposed Rule is this : " They didn’t follow the Act." One aspect of the
>that the government didn’t follow is the core concept itself, the Organic
>(13) ORGANIC PLAN. The term "organic plan" means a plan of management of an
>organic farming or handling operation that has been agreed to by the
>or handler and the certifying agent and that includes written plans
>all aspects of agricultural production or handling described in this title
>including crop rotation and other practices as required under this title.
>Now, there are a lot of practices described in the OFPA, from requiring that
>organic integrity not be compromised in handling and processing, to
>prohibiting the use of conventional transplants. But the individual practice
>that was specifically identified under the Organic Plan was crop rotation.
>Furthermore, in Section 2114 of the OFPA it states:
>( b) (1) SOIL FERTILITY. An organic plan shall contain provisions designed
>foster soil fertility, primarily through the management of the organic
>of the soil through proper tillage, crop rotation, and manuring.
>That is a verbatim quote. I didn’t capitalize SOIL FERTILITY. When a farmer
>reads this section on fertility management and observes that crop rotation
>identified as something that SHALL be included, the conclusion is simple: "
>They must mean here that cover cropping, including a legume-based crop
>rotation is required."
>How will a farmer obtain fertility unless cover-cropping is done according
>this title- even if it is only a rotation utilizing Sudan grass?
>But the USDA version of this crucial concept is minimized:
>205.6 Crop rotation.
>A crop rotation or other means of ensuring soil fertility and effective pest
>management in any field or farm parcel shall be established.
>" Or other means" is typical of the flawed language found throughout the
>Proposed Rule that opens the door to all the loopholes and new definitions
>found in the authorizing legislation. Some may counter that my argument is
>demanding, "splitting hairs" if you want. But being strict is what organic
>all about, continually, over the long course of organic standards
>When we pitch out crop rotations, we turn our back on all the history of the
>organic farming movement, from Sir Albert Howard to Albrecht to Malcolm
>who all teach that soil improvement is the keystone of organic agriculture.
>We also turn our back on the kind of farming and farmers who created the
>organic movement- and who depend on that historical foundation for their
>livelihood. In short, agri-business largely doesn’t want to farm according
>our rules, it just wants to trade out its inputs and call it by the same
>At this point a significant minority of producers and consumers are trying
>find another word to replace organic. I found a term to replace the "eco-
>label" promulgated in the Proposed Rule: horse shit ( or fill in the blank).
>Speaking of labels: out of Vermont comes a report that a dairy participating
>in that state’s "no-rBGH" program will face civil penalties for using the
>Monsanto-brand hormone on his cattle. Vermont has a verification and residue
>analysis system linked to the new milk labeling standards identifying such
>products for consumers.
>Higher Standards from the Ground Up
>I have to admit that when I moved to Texas from California one motive for
>going Lonestar was that Jim Hightower ( and Keith Jones) had created a state
>certification program at TDA. After dealing with conflict-of-interest
>on so many occasions in private certification, I was ready for a change. "
>Governments certify undertakers," I used to say, " So why not organic
>In a recent conversation with Tom and Dinesse Willey, organic farmers in
>California’s Central Valley region, I was reminded of one role the private,
>farmer-run, organizations have played, relating to the local/regional
>concept. Sometimes you get the best work out of volunteers. Especially when
>those volunteers are vitally concerned with community service that benefits
>producers as well as consumers. That commonality is another positive feature
>missing from the USDA overview.
>I don’t know how the role of CCOF’s South Coast Chapter or OCIA’s Iowa # 2
>be confirmed bureaucratically, but they got us in large measure to where we
>now stand. Perhaps what is missing in the federal standard is the
>acknowledgment that there are positive attributes in those systems that need
>to be contrasted with the overreaching interest of government to preclude
>farmer participation. In the eight year history of the National Organic
>Standards Board, a small-farm vegetable producer was never appointed. But we
>did have plenty of PhD’s, processors, and folks whose main farm implement is
>cellphone. We never had as much contention over organic standards when we
>asked for them from the states of Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Texas;
>small-farm proprietors continue to play a key role at the state level. And
>that participation is planted in the fundamentals of grassroots association
>and peer review.
>Great Britain: No Thanks, Hold the Genetically Modified Ag products.
>Iceland Stores, all 770 of them throughout the United Kingdom, has turned
>back on genetically engineered agricultural products, declaring that all of
>its storebranded products will be certified "GE Free".
>The March 19 London Guardian wrote that Iceland Stores " has broken ranks
>Tesco, Safeway and Sainsbury's, although they plan to label all genetically
>modified goods by the end of the year. The decision is part of a personal
>crusade by Malcolm Walker, founder, chairman and chief executive of Iceland,
>which has 770 stores and a £1.4 billion turnover.
>"Consumers are being conned," he said. "The introduction of genetically
>modified ingredients is probably the most significant and potentially
>dangerous development in food production this century, yet the British
>is largely ignorant of it and they are likely to be eating genetically
>modified foods already without their knowledge."
>He quoted Professor Philip James, the head of the Government's new Food
>Standards Agency, who said: "The perception that everything is totally
>straightforward and safe is utterly naive. I do not think we fully
>the dimensions of what we are getting into."
>Following their announcement, An Iceland Stores representative at the
>Foods Expo in Anaheim in March said that Iceland will also serve as a
>wholesale distributor of non-GE certified products for the British isles,
>perhaps the European continent. Consumers in Europe, as well as marketers,
>seem to be light years ahead of their counterparts in the United States on
>From: "Growing For Market":
>The USDA decided that Community Supported Agriculture farms were not
>to accept food stamps, even though a CSA is one of the least expensive ways
>for folks to obtain fresh quality food. The USDA somehow has to connect the
>dots between this action and the information found in the publication listed
>in the next paragraph:
> "A Time to Act." The report of the USDA Commission on Small Farms can be
>accessed through the internet at:
>The report is in two formats: WordPerfect Document text file which can be
>downloaded and retrieved as text document or Adobe Acrobat PDF format
>(available in 5 parts) which is in color and with pictures.
>For a copy of "How To Find Agricultural Information On The Internet" from UC
>Davis call 1-800-994-8849. Price: $15.00, but just one correct answer off
>Web makes that a good price.
>Jim and Megan Gerritsen’s Web-Catlaogue opens by saying: "A true potato
>is left chronically disappointed by the common unnamed supermarket potatoes
>that have been grown with a lot more thought given to production qualities
>than to taste." The Gerritsens are selling certified organic potatoes and
>shipping direct from their Wood Prairie Farm in Maine. <
><http://www.woodprairie.com/>http://www.woodprairie.com > or call 1-800-
>After having bragged about great things going on in Iowa last issue, we are
>brought back to earth by the news that the Iowa legislature may pass an
>authorization measure opposed by 160 organic farmers there, including
>like NOSB member Bill Welsh. The bill would lead to a state-run organic
>certification program. What they don’t like about it? Well, in the first
>place, few producers were consulted beforehand.
>And in a similarly self-effacing gesture, allow me to confess that he who is
>his own weatherman doesn’t necessarily know which way the wind blows or
>anything about chaos theory. Not five days after sending last month’s column
>full of balmy weather forecasting to the home office, a terrible blizzard
>the Midwest, froze out a good portion of the Florida vegetable and
>production and hammered peach growers in Georgia and the Carolinas.
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