There are a number of issues on the national stage at the moment that stand to have a profound effect on organic agriculture for many years to come. MOFFA strongly encourages farmers, consumers, and everyone who cares about the future of organic to take advantage of public comment periods on the following issues:
Keep the Soil in Organic—The public comment period ends this Thursday, March 30th. The issue is whether hydroponic operations should be able to be certified organic. We know that the vast majority of organic farmers are opposed to certifying hydroponics, but the USDA-NOP faces strong pressure from corporate interests which have invested millions of dollars in hydroponic operations, many of them outside of the United States. It is VERY important that the National Organic Standards Board hear from YOU on this issue, and the time is short. To comment, go to https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=AMS-NOP-16-0100-0001, and please do it as soon as you can. The comment period ends at midnight on March 30th. We have been informed that for previous comment periods, hydroponic operations have arranged for hundreds of comments to be submitted by employees during the final days. There currently are over 250 comments in support of soil growing, but there need to be thousands more to make the point needed to keep the soil in organic. For those who would like more information, MOFFA’s Chair Dr. John Biernbaum served on the NOSB Hydroponics Task Force, and reported on his experience in our September and December newsletters. We have seen in the past that public comments do make a difference. Please make time to comment by March 30!
The Organic Check-Off—The public comment period on this issue ends April 20. The “check-off” program would use funds collected from producers and handlers of organic products for promotion and research—it’s the program that brought us the “Got Milk?” and “Incredible Edible Egg” campaigns. Again, the vast majority of organic farmers are opposed to this additional “tax”, feeling that promoting organic sales now will not increase organic acreage in the US but may well increase demand for lower priced organic imports. The check-off has been strongly promoted by the Organic Trade Association, representing corporate organic interests. There is more information on the check-off at noorganiccheckoff.com. You can view the proposed rule and submit your comment at https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=AMS-SC-16-0112-2265.
The 2018 Farm Bill—The last item we want to mention does not require an immediate response, but we want people to be aware of what’s coming. Legislators in Washington have already begun to talk about the 2018 Farm Bill, and given the current political climate, there is a real danger that we might lose a major source of support for organic agriculture when this bill becomes law. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has been blogging about the hearings on the Hill; the initial report is here, and subsequent posts can be viewed at http://sustainableagriculture.net/category/farm-bill/. We encourage everyone who cares about the future of organic to join NSAC’s email list or RSS feed, and stay informed. There are opportunities to sign up for the email newsletter and the RSS feed on the left hand side of both webpages mentioned above.