What’s on the table for the organic industry in USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) this coming year?
Organic agriculture’s presence and legitimacy in the USDA continue to grow as evidenced by:
– work to incorporate organic into the implementation of the Farm Bill;
– establishment of a department-wide Organic Working Group to facilitate inter-agency coordination and communication about policies, programs, data and research results pertaining to organic agriculture, products and markets;
– a new Organic Policy Advisor position;
– more inter-agency projects such as establishing international tracking codes to facilitate international trade of organic products.
A new Office of Inspector General audit will evaluate whether milk marketed as "organic" meets NOP standards and to determine the adequacy of oversight provided by certifying agents.
NOP is also launching "Organic Integrity from Farm to Table, Consumers Trust the Organic Label," a strategic plan to facilitate trade and ensure integrity of organic agricultural products by consistently implementing organic standards and enforcing compliance with regulations around the world.
Now that the Republicans have taken over the House, at least 15 of the 28 Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee will be gone. Frank Lucas (R-OK) is likely to take over as Chair; Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) will probably chair the Horticulture and Organic Subcommittee. On the Senate side, Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) will likely be Chair.
Among the Organic Trade Association’s (OTA) priorities is to educate new committee members on the benefits that organic products provide for human and environmental health, and rural economies.
OTA members identified continuing consumer education on the benefits of organic and subsidies of conventional agriculture as major barriers to the growth of the industry. Other barriers include contamination by genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and inconsistent enforcement of organic regulations.