31 October 1998
Vice President Albert Gore
Dear Mr. Vice President,
I am writing to you to summarize the current facts on the ground regarding the
USDA National Organic Program, and to advise you of strategies now unfolding
within the grass roots organic community that will politically undermine
regulation and authority at the national level and in the various inter-
national and world associations of countries. Only your personal intervention
as an authentic environmental champion will avert futher economic and
emotional disruption for organic farmers and consumers.
The Secretary of Agriculture said this summer that a revised Proposed Rule on
the National Organic Program would be released on or before the 1st of
January, 1999. That completion date has now been jeopardized by the
interminable disregard for efficient and lawful process on the part of the
private and public sector. Some of the formerly most resolute grassroots
proponents of uniform federal and WTO regulation are now willing to pursue
broader strategies. In my opinion, the base of support for the implementation
of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 is barely intact. The organic
agriculture movement will in all likelihood wait only two months after your
receipt of this letter before beginning to formally participate in the
elaborate private sector options for accreditation and uniform organic
certification now being planned and effected.
You may ask, “ What is the reason why this is happening?”
The Program sought to legitimize organic agriculture and amend lawful
The alternative agriculture movement, with organic agriculture its
revolutionary apogee, has proven to be difficult to codify. Disbelief in the
process permeates leadership and the rank and file. Consumer trust in the
organic label, the chief historical motive for organic verification
procedures, remains at great risk. Eight years have now passed since the
rulemaking process started. The NOP is more than 1000 days overdue. Parallel,
independent organic certification and accreditation initiatives are promoted
by members of the National Organic Standards Board. The leadership in
longstanding institutions within the organic agriculture movement find their
I am asking you to identify this modest program as an administration priority
for timely expedition. If the revised rule on the National Organic Program is
not published as promised, those dissenting sectors within the production
community will have no other recourse other than official rejection of OFPA.
Purposeful ignorance of USDA and FDA authority over the organic marketplace
will be the result.
If the administration pursues litigation in response to the nearly inevitable
broad disaffection growing, and potential renunciation of federal power, the
political affects will greatly injure fundemental Democratic Party support
within the agriculture and consumer sectors.
The National Organic Program is now wholly political. All regulatory parties
must understand that organic agriculture will stand alone and self-defined
within the context of federal policy when OFPA is implemented or we will not
The USDA, FDA, EPA and the OMB will have to structure their participation in
implementing the Organic Foods Production Act so that the intent of that
public law is enhanced, not limited.
I personally wish you well, and hope that through your leadership the impasse
I describe may be avoided.
Jacob Lew, Director, OMB
Daniel Glickman, Secretary, USDA
Carol Browner, Administrator, EPA
Donna E. Shalala, Secretary, HHS
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