Call it the paradox of the organic food industry: Small companies that position themselves as alternatives to mainstream food brands become popular, grow quickly, add employees, and eventually get sold — often to Big Food companies. Now one company is trying to avoid that fate by selling itself to what’s known as a purpose trust. No paywall
The Department of Agriculture’s withdrawal of an organic animal welfare rule and fraudulent organic imports were hot topics at Wednesday’s National Food Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. The conference, held by the Consumer Federation of America, is underwritten by some of the biggest food companies in the country, including Cargill, DowDuPont, General Mills, Walmart, and Tyson Foods.
The Bread Lab, a research institution at Washington State University that focuses on local grains, was awarded a $1.5-million endowment so that it can further its work breeding grains adapted to organic farming practices, Clif Bar announced.
On one of the last days before USDA can carry out its plan to kill the organic livestock rule, the organic food movement put a full-page ad in the Washington Post, asking Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to drop the idea. The USDA announced in mid-December that it lacked statutory authority to implement the rule, which was a decade in the making, and set a 30-day comment period before it would withdraw the regulation.
For the third time this year, the Agriculture Department is holding up a regulation that would give livestock on organic farms more elbow room than is common at conventional operations, and this time, it says, it may rewrite the rule, which already is a decade in the making. "We will see the department in court and are confident that we will prevail on this important issue for the organic sector," said the Organic Trade Association, which sued USDA two months ago for unlawful delay of the animal welfare regulation.
For 15 years, USDA has allowed hydroponic crops to be sold as organic and, at a meeting this week in Jacksonville, Fla., the advisory National Organic Standards Board decided to let that practice continue. The board rejected, 8-7, a proposal to deny the USDA Organic label to hydoponics and aquaponics despite a long-running campaign to limit the label to plants grown in soil.
In Cuba, a movement of rural, organic farms is trying to both feed the island's people and heal its soil, writes Roger Atwood in FERN’s new story with The Guardian. In recent years, Cuba has been romanticized as an island full of urban farms, but in reality the government imports 60-80 percent of the nation's food and farmers make abundant use of agro-industrial chemicals and synthetic fertilizers on their farms. Yet, an increasing number of growers are realizing the virtues of organic.
Wisconsin-based Organic Valley, the largest U.S. cooperative for organic farmers, launched a project to become the largest food company in the world to get all of its electricity from renewable sources. The co-op will be part of a "community solar partnership" that will install 12 megawatts of solar power in the state.
Congressman Doug LaMalfa, a Republican representing Northern California's first district, joined a bipartisan effort to increase funding for the USDA Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI). The bill, originally sponsored by Reps. Chellie Pingree of Maine, Dan Newhouse of Washington, and Jimmy Panetta of California, seeks to renew OREI and increase its funding to $50 million per year.