<< Subj: Re: The Higher Organic STandards Issue--Reply
Date: 98-04-07 08:59:36 EDT
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Daniel D. Worley)
To: Erorganic@aol.com (Erorganic)
First, I need to advise you of an address change on my part. I have a new
ISP and will be closing this account down in the near future. You can
address all future correspondence to either of the following addresses:
Now, A few comments on your note to me. I see you made your letter direct
to me only with no CCs. My original letter went to Grace CC to Sanet. I am
replying direct to you. You may forwardit to Sanet if you desire.
>How does a $5000 annual income from farming exemption consititute an
>"untenably low exemption level." Under OFPA, all handling operations have
>be certified. Farms were allowed the under $5000 exemption for begining
>farmers or those experimenting with low acerage. In fact, to ensure that
>organic customers are getting products produced to the national organic
>standards all farms so labeling must conform to the standards. Assurance to
>every organic customer they are getting what they are paying for is the only
>way to create permanent trust in the organic label.
The exemption is for GROSS Income from sales of Orgainc Products. Gross
sales, not net. As a farmer yourself, I am sure you are fully aware that
the net income for a farm doing gross sales of $4999.99 or less, would be
well under 25% of that, or less than about $1250.00 for the year. In most
areas of teh country, that amount of income per MONTH is right at the
Eric: OFPA and the Senate Report both indicate the exemption is for gross sale
of all agricultural products from one farm, not net and not exclusive to
organic. I completely agree that is at the poverty level. What is the
difference? The purpose in OFPA is for everyone to be certified that is doing
any substantial business of producing organic.
This exemption was established so larger, conventional farms could set
aside a small acreage and play at organic farming and still be exempt from
paying the certification fees.
Eric: Incorrect. The exemption was set for back yard gardeners to be market
in their local farmers market organic without being certified. The statement
is gross sales of all ag products.
If that were changed to $50,000.00 or ten times the current level, it
might begin to be realistic. A few small farmers have suggested it be
raised to $250,000.00.
Eric: Realistic for what? Everyone doing substantial farm organic production
must and should be operating on the same level playing field. I think many
non-certified organic farmers thought this was their avenue to not being
certified. Not so. The small farm exemption does not apply to someone just
because they think they are a small farm.
>Eric: In the US the vast majority of certified organic farmers are not
>state certification fees. You are correct, that the issue is reasonable
>And further more, if the job description of the USDA/NOP is not explicit and
>limited to those responsiblities granted under OFPA and done efficiently,
>organic farmers, handlers and consumers are just paying for another
>inefficient bureacracy. After the length of time to publish the Proposed
>and the quality of job done, it is clear, there must be new efficient
>management (it appears we have it in Keith Jones) and newcompetent and
Many are paying state certification fees.
Eric: For state organic certification Kentucky charges $10, Texas $175, New
Hampshire, Maryland, Rhode Island, Idaho, Washington, Lousiana and so forth
are very nominal but this still is only a handful of the 50 states. No more
than 11 states that have organic certification programs and most of them have
very few particpants. Many of these states allow private certifiers to
operate and those certified by them pay no additional state registration fee.
Many more are paying private
certifiers. A goodly portion of these are paying both. California, Texas,
and several New England states require a state fee be paid.
Eric: There are state fees for certification and than there are state fees for
registration, California being the latter and Texas the former.
There may be
others I am unaware of. Most areas require that a private certifing agency
also provide a certification. This is either by local statuate or by local
Eric: I am unclear what you mean by "most areas require that a private
certifying agent also provide a certification"?
Maybe Keith Jones will turn it around. I hope so. But we are going to
have to keep the pressure on them.
>The final USDA/NOP standard will mean exactly what OFPA says or the Act will
>be repealed. We, the organic community, hold the trump card and it will be
I am not as sure of myself and the organic community as you seem to be.
The big chemical companies have seen what the word "Organic" is worth and
are not about to give up without a big fight. They have already had a very
significant influence on the current proposed rule, and I don't see them
backing down now.
Eric: The big chemical companies had absolutely no influence on the Proposed
Organic Rule outside of OMB putting in GMOs. Though I know you may have not
read my varied and comprehensive observations and experiences in this regard,
rather than me repeat what I know, if you would bring up the instances of
influence and how they influenced it, I will provide you with the
documentation on how a particuliar rule issue developed.
I see, instead, a digging in of the heels over at USDA
with people like Grace and what's his name apparently being ordered to go
out and propagandize against the most ardent wishes of the organic
community. And they are not "Shot-gunning" it. They are taking careful aim
at specific concerns the organic community has and taking advantage of any
actual or percieved differences we may have among ourselves.
Eric: Here is my insight. Grace and whoever else you are talking about I do
not know, but Grace is running her mouth herself. No one has sent her or
asked her to talk about any of this. She is very concerned about presenting
her viewpoint and tremendous role in the ill conceived Proposed Rule--gosh if
I can guess why--maybe she likes the attention.
>I would not refer the first try at a Proposed Organic Rule as "the new
>standard." It is not.
That was a slip of the fingers. But I think understandably so. Those in
Europe are taking it very seriously and already consider it a doen deal, and
therefore, a "New Standard". They are writing their responses, at least to
the press, in those terms.
Eric: I guess they in Europe made a mistake in 1776 in thinking we would put
up with their conclusions also.
> The OFPA needs a bit of work. It should be ammended to correct several
>It appears to be time to discuss those flaws again in light of a second
>proposed rule. What are they?
Any changes to the law should include as a minimum, the following items.
there may be more items that need addessing which I can't think of off hand.
1. Increase the minimum gross income for an exemption from the fees to at
I am including here more discussion on this issue. Small farmers that are not
"small farmers" have misunderstood the reason for the exemption. It is for
back yard farmers. Quoting the Senate Report on OFPA:
"The Small Farmer Exemption
In order to avoid unnecessary regulation, an exemption from certification is
provided for small farmers. Producers whose gross agricultural income totals
$5,000 or less annually are allowed to market their products as organically
produced without being certified by a certifying agent. Such products;
however, shall not receive the USDA "organically produced" label. A small
producer is left to indicate in some alternative manner that his product is
organically produced and in doing so, will not be in violation of this
legislation. The Committee expects that this exemption will be used primarily
by backyard gardeners and hobbyists who sell produce at farmer markets and
roadside stands to consumers within their communities.
This exemption does not exempt small producers from adhering to the standards
in this title and the Committee does not anticipate that these standards with
be disregarded by small producers. The exemption is an exemption from
certification which is a time consuming and expensive activity relative to the
size of an operation that grosses less than $5,000 annually. The Committee
felt that the regulatory burden on USDA, the applicable governing State
Officials, and certifying agents was not justified by the size of such
operations. The Committee recommends that the Secretary consider developing
a registry of small organic producers to provide some information on this
trade and possibly require such small producers to sign an affidavit regarding
their adherence to the standards of this title."
In a message dated 98-04-08 12:42:17 EDT, email@example.com writes:
<< Subj: Re: USDA/NOP, What went wrong?
Date: 98-04-08 12:42:17 EDT
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (stephen kaye)
To: Erorganic@aol.com (Erorganic), email@example.com
> In a message dated 98-04-03 12:10:13 EST, you write:
> << Subj: USDA/NOP, What went wrong?
> Date: 98-04-03 12:10:13 EST
> From: firstname.lastname@example.org (stephen kaye)
> To: Erorganic@aol.com
> Dear Eric,
> Thanks again for your detailed comments.
I should just add one or two points by way of background.
"Agency" is a legal relationship, a body of law.
By making certification organizations or states "agents" the regulations
kind of relationship which is legally different in subtle ways than a purely
contractual one. There may be
something sinister in this choice. I recall from my notes that this
relationship was not specified by OFPA, but was a product of the USDA
When the USDA makes all certifications an agency function, then the role of
certifier is critically diminished. The certification organization loses
Eric: OFPA states in the definition section: "(3) CERTIFYING AGENT. The term
"certifying agent" means the chief executive officer of a State or, in the
case of a State that provides for the Statewide election of an official to be
responsible solely for the administration of the agricultural operations of a
State, such official, and any person (including private entities) who is
accredited by the Secretary as a certifying agent for the purpose of
certifying a farm or handling operation as a certified organic farm or
handling operation in accordance with this title." as well as mentioning the
roles, responsiblities and authority of certifying agents many places.
The USDA's role becomes paramount.
The USDA runs the show. It makes the rules. It interprets them. The
not democratic. That's the point. It can be dictatorial.
Eric: Long before OFPA was passed the Administration Procedures Act was
passed. The APA mandates that to implement every act of Congress, the
appointed agency must issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that describes
among other points how the act is to be implemented, how it will affect
people, the procedures, timetables, administrative procedures to carry the act
out. So, the Proposed Organic Rule issued by USDA is nothing out of the
unusual and truly is not in itself National Organic Standards. In fact, no
final rule can legally contradict the authorizing act of Congress. As to
interpreting the rules, indications are the certifying agents, state or
private are really the ones doing the "interpreting."
The only area where I
see peer review is in the materials list.
Eric: I don't know if I would use the term "peer review" to describe the
National List process. Under OFPA a "Peer Review Panel" is authorized to
assist the Secretary in determining accreditation of certfying agent
I read with interest the publication sent out by the OFMA in which you and
gave additional background on how we got where we are.
I thought it curious that the organization set up to call attention to
use should trust that part of the federal government which is most involved
funded by the chemical companies to run the organic show. OFPA asks the
to run that which is in direct competition to how the USDA serves
Eric: My experience of the US society is that it made up of conflicting
groups, many striving for the same outcome. In fact, we, I think, would have
to admit that the conventional food system is striving to provide healthful
food for its customers. So is organic. As we, organic farmers, handlers and
customers take our rightful place within the government infrastructure, the
resistance will collapse. In fact, this is happening daily. In speaking with
Mark Lipson in California last weekend, the Farm Bureau of California is now
undertaking to represent the legitimate interest of organic farmers in that
state. The very issues of whether USDA can pervert OFPA will be seen 3 years
from now as one of the collapsing points of the old USDA heirarchy that ushers
in the new order. We must be vigil forever, but we must be smart enough to
know which way the wind blows and solidify our gains for the common good.
This is what the organic to me is about and OFPA is a long step forward to
break the monopoly of chemically intensive agriculture.
The USDA sees production agriculture as that which is most central to
its mission. That mission can be served through new and better chemicals,
particularly the new class of bio-engineered seeds and pesticides, etc.
is at the opposite end and is gaining ground, threatening the big chemical
seed companies who have the most influence at USDA. The Proposed Organic
the USDA makes sense in light of this relationship. It seems that those who
backed OFPA trusted the USDA.
Eric: In the PAY/OO you can find the information. Bluntly, the greatest
abroggations of OFPA proposed for institutionalization by the Proposed Organic
Rule, were recommended by the National Organic Standards Board. Why keep
blaming the chemical companies, biotech companies for running the show through
USDA/NOP. In fact the manufacturing members of OTA, and some self interested
certifiers and the processing clique, and Fred Kirschermann to put it bluntly
again fucked it up.
I can not figure out why. I personally think
organic is doomed if it is run by the USDA. Certification will only work
few who can put up with the bureaucracy. But the USDA will eventually
integrity of organic, because it is in the interest of Monsanto and DuPont
ADM to do so, and in this democracy, they are better able to influence
than are the thousands of organic growers.
Eric: I think it is time to say your opinion will prevail if enough certified
organic farmers hold it. From my viewpoint no one is going take away the
term "organic" from the people who invented it, us. OFPA is the greatest
security for a quality and well run National Organic Program. However, if it
is not run in the interest of and for most part by certified organic farmers,
it will be worthless. If you and others do not take advantage of it and make
it work, so be it. You will harvest what you expect.
Eric: And now the rest of your note is very interesting. I could discuss some
statements in light of my experience and observation that contradict your
experiences. However, to get to the point, the existing NOSB authority and
OFPA delegated authority, if followed by the USDA/NOP meshes perfectly for a
private/public national relationship that will benefit all. What I am going
to call politics riddles every level of US community, from the township,
county, state, region to the nation. There is to my observation, no way
around the politics. What is absolutely necessary is an ethic that is fair
and "right" on every level of community. If we cannot get away from the
politics than the best we can do is only be involved in local politics is our
thoughts. My observation is it does not work. All of a sudden, out of the
blue comes a new edict of program. I guess I am saying one of the amazing
things about OFPA is it covers all the political arenas in one wide sweep.
And as a check and balance on the feds comes the NOSB. However, if the NOSB
does not see its role as that of states men and women, all is lost.
I entered into this dialogue with the hope than I could plant an idea which
think has promise, the idea that the rule making, monitoring, and functioning
of organic certification could be kept in the private sector, free of direct
involvement of government. We have seen how the process of promulgating
regulations takes ages, can easily be perverted, and is not at bottom
or transparent. I can conceive that a UN type organization created by the
constituent certification organizations, including states, could act in a
role to how the Soils Association works in England, recognized by the federal
government as the rule making, interpreting and enforcing body. They would
a permanent secretariat to carry out the functions, develop forms and publish
timely interpretations, rulings and developments. The government could be
represented, so it could be quasi government, or it could be strictly NGO.
The clarification of organic standards does not have to be done by
The interests of interstate commerce, reciprocity and a single standard, can
obtained through the workings of the private/state sectors. I think it is
possible that even without amendment, OFPA can be interpreted as authorizing
Secretary to delegate his powers and authority to a quasi governmental
organization or to an organization composed of the certifying agents,
Eric: IFOAM has indicated that the above should be done and IFOAM should be
the delegated accreditor in the name of USDA for at least 7 years.
only such powers as to assure procedural due process, fairness and the
accomplishment of the purposes for which the Act was passed. The NOSB
Eric: The NOSB at this point has been a virtual total failure, but it is still
redeemable, because the USDA/NOP is worse.
The USDA does not. Therefore build on the NOSB model.
I can agree that such a structure is a long way from that which was
envisioned. Such a structure will probably not end the bureaucratic
nor will it be less costly. It could be inherently more democratic, however,
more farmer friendly.
Eric: The NOSB is the route although neither certifiers nor OTA will let it
carry on open, informed and transparent discussions.
The grass-roots nature of organic agriculture could be
preserved, that is, it could be more of a bottom up approach and not so much
a top down approach.
The Secretary does not know best.
Eric: The Secretary doesn't know anything about organic but what he buys at
I must spread manure now, and harrow and get the ground ready for planting.
I take my hat off to you for your leadership and energy.
Eric: And I do likewise to you. We know what we need. I am ready to force it
down the throat of the USDA chicken now.
Lithgow Cottage Farm
Millbrook, NY 12545
2. Absolutely forbid the use of any form of municipal sewage sludge as
fertilizer on organic acreages. Failing in an absolute ban, make complete
testing for heavy metals, pesticide residue, residue of other contaminaents
and materials not aceptable for use in organic production, and the existence
of hazardous levels of pathogenic organisms a requirement. If any levels of
these materials are present, the sludge may not be used.
Eric: Nothing in OFPA allows such and the Proposed Rule does not allow such.
All the Department asked was for public comment and I believe they got it.
3. Absolute ban on the use of irradiation in any form, at any point in the
production and processing of organic foods.
Eric: Under OFPA it is banned. No synthtetic substance can contact or be part
of processed organic food during the post harvest handling of an "organically
produced" processed food. .
4. Forbid USDA or FDA from usurping the duties of, or otherwise over-riding
the recommendations of, all agencies, groups, committees, and organizations
established in the law for the purpose of creating or develioping such
recommendations. This is directed mainly at the USDA's usurping of the
duties of the NOSB, but must be general enough to insure the USDA and FDA do
not find a way around the law.
Eric: That is what OFPA now says, although it limits that authority to the
NOSB only regarding the initial Proposed National List or amendments to it.
5. Forbid the sale of any animal, or meat from any animal as organic which
has been treated with non-organic drugs or chemicals such as, but not
limited to,; antibiotics, hormones, de-wormers, and other such medications.
Eric: OFPA doesn't quite go this far, but it does mandate a petition, review
and evaluation procedure for an active synthetic substance used as an animal
medicine or a synthetic parasiticide. In reality, if the review was done as
OFPA directs, it would be extremely unlikely that any acive synthetic
substance could be used on dairy, eggs or meat products labeled or sold as
>But any law is only as good as the government agency or
>agencies empowered to enforce it. And the manner in which USDA wrote the
>proposed rules shows a total disregard for the provisions of the exisiting
One major change the law also needs is to make the Secretary of
Agriculture and the Secretary of Health and Hunman Services, personally
accountable for any intentional deviation from the law. And in this case,
"Intentional" shall mean any deviation that can be rpoven to have either
been by intent, or by neglect or overt action where the person in that
office should have known not to permit. In other words, make them just as
accountable as any average citizen is held accountable for their actions or
Eric: To me this is excellent. Let's do it, though I question whether a law
needs to be passed. Enough laws exist and enough people are roiled up over
these issues to make it stick through contacting our Senators and
>The only issues brought forward for amendments I have heard is rewriting to
>allow a larger exemption for small farms and perhaps allowing private
>certifiers the same ability to have their certification programs approved by
>the Secretary as States may choose to do under OFPA.
See above. And as I have said, there may be more that I am not thinking
of of the top of my head this morning.
Thanks Dan for responding. I think we both agree that organic should be pure
and unadultuerated food and fiber. Best, Eric
--Dan in Sunny Puerto Rico--
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Date: Tue, 07 Apr 1998 08:59:36 -0400
To: Erorganic <Erorganic@aol.com>
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Daniel D. Worley)
Subject: Re: The Higher Organic STandards Issue--Reply
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