A series of four workshops beginning on Oct. 27 will focus on the future of organic production in the United States, said the Organic Trade Association and the Swette Center at Arizona State University on Wednesday. "We need everyone seated at the table to successfully plot the next 30 years of organic," said Swette Center director Kathleen Merrigan.
Organic food is everywhere, from nationwide retailers to the local corner store, and facing increased price competition that slowed sales growth to its lowest rate since 2009, said the Organic Trade Association in an annual report on Wednesday.
As the National Organic Standards Board opened its semi-annual meeting this week, the USDA announced two appointments to the group’s 15-member board.
Francis Thicke, who owns a certified organic dairy farm in Iowa, is ending his five-year term on the National Organic Standards Board with criticism of the influence of “big business” on the USDA organic program and with support for an add-on organic label that “represents real organic food.”
At a hearing to gather ideas for the 2018 farm bill, Senate Agriculture chairman Pat Roberts hinted at an overhaul of organic agriculture regulations, citing “uncertainty and dysfunction” at the National Organic Standards Board, which advises the USDA on what should be allowed in organic production.
At its three-day spring meeting in Denver, the National Organic Standards Board delayed, until fall at the earliest, a decision on whether hydroponic crops should be classified as organic production, said The Packer magazine. As a result, "hydroponics will be considered organic for a while longer," as they have for 15 years.
On a 10-4 vote, the National Organic Standards Board sent back to subcommittee the contentious question whether bioponics, a term covering hydroponics, aquaponics and aeroponics, are part of organic agriculture, reports Food Safety News. "This means that food grown using hydroponic methods may continue to be certified as organic" if producers meet other criteria for the organic label, said FSN.
The Cornucopia Institute—an organic watchdog group—has filed a lawsuit against the USDA, claiming that the agency stacked the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) with agribusiness representatives, instead of farmers.
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.
USDA's organic food label, the gold standard for shopper wanting food free of genetically modified organisms and chemical pesticides, "has come under increasing attack as a handful of consumer groups question the USDA’s handling of the National Organic Standards Board," says Roll Call.
Americans believe USDA's organic label on food means no antibiotics and no synthetic pesticides were used in producing the food, says Consumer Reports in objecting to exemptions to those general rules.