Miles McEvoy, deputy administrator for the National Organic Program at the USDA, said he was stepping down Sept. 30 after eight years in the position, and moving back to his home state of Washington while he considers new opportunities.
The USDA's National Organic Program said it revoked the certification of a Turkish company because it exported soybeans certified as "organic" to the United States that had been treated with pesticides. The action came after the Washington Post last month revealed that significant imports of both corn and soybeans had been labeled organic when they were not.
Millions of pounds of corn and soybeans imported to the United States in the past year were labeled “organic” but actually did not meet the requirements of the USDA label, according to The Washington Post.
Mammoth farms can illustrate “critical weaknesses in the unorthodox inspection system that the Agriculture Department uses to ensure that ‘organic’ food really is organic,” says a report by the Washington Post.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack hopes that new proposed organic regulations for animal welfare will be complete before President Obama leaves office in January, but isn't sure. “I’m hopeful that we get them done,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a report by Harvest Public Media. “I can’t guarantee that they’ll get done, but I’m hopeful they get done.”
The USDA "has quietly allowed a flood of hydroponically produced fruits and vegetables, largely imported, to be illegally labeled and sold as 'organic,'" says Cornucopia Institute in a complaint filed with the Agricultural Marketing Service, which oversees the organic food program. Cornucopia acted ahead of a meeting of the National Organic Standards Board, on Nov. 16-18, where the USDA advisory board may vote on whether hydroponic crops may be labeled as organic.
A USDA task force set out to determine in September 2015 whether fruit and vegetables are ‘organic’ if they’re grown in a medium other than soil. More than 10 months later, they issued a report that is “anything but conclusive,” writes Civil Eats.
Thanks to seemingly unquenchable consumer demand, the U.S. organic industry tallied sales of $43.3 billion in 2015, up 11 percent from the previous year and the latest in a string of records.
For years, organic food has been the fastest-growing segment of U.S. agriculture, with a sales total of nearly $36 billion a year at latest count. "A deepening divide" is splitting the industry and "sparking litigation and allegations that the well-known label marking foods as organic no longer assures consumers that foods are free from chemicals and other materials, or that organic meat was raised naturally," says Huffington Post.