One in six retail food dollars was spent on ‘natural’ food
Consumers spend more on foods labeled "natural" than for items with the "USDA Organic" seal on them, said three USDA economists who looked into usage of the word "natural" on food labels. They said scanner records and other data indicated that 16 percent of retail food expenditures were for foods labeled "natural."
USDA to publish organic enforcement rule — report
The largest update to the National Organic Program since its creation, the Strengthening Organic Enforcement rule, will be published as early as Wednesday, said The Packer. It said USDA confirmed on Tuesday that publication was imminent of the rule that has been under consideration since summer 2020.
USDA closes loopholes on origin of organic dairy livestock
After years of lobbying by organic farmers, the Agriculture Department tightened its rules on how dairy animals — cattle, goats and sheep — enter organic production, in the name of fairness to farmers and consumers. The new “origin of livestock” rule would end the practice of cycling dairy …
U.S. ends organic recognition agreement with India
Organic producers in India have six months to gain certification with a USDA-accredited certifying agent, said the USDA on Monday in announcing the termination of an organic recognition agreement dating from 2006. “We need a more active oversight presence in India to more directly protect …
Organic industry backs immigration reform, covid-19 protection for farmworkers
The Organic Trade Association on Tuesday called for congressional action on two tracks to help farmworkers. The group seeks passage of an immigration reform law that would give legal status to undocumented farmworkers, and assistance in providing protective equipment to reduce the risk of infection by the coronavirus.
Six months to sow ideas for voluntary organic checkoff
Rebuffed by the Trump administration, the Organic Trade Association turned to the public on Monday for ideas on how to design a voluntary checkoff program to raise research-and-promotion money for the sector and where to put the money. "The need for more investment in organic is widely agreed upon," said OTA chief executive Laura Batcha.
Second federal court allows challenge of USDA over organic livestock
Federal judges on the east and west coasts have rebuffed the USDA and are allowing lawsuits to proceed against the Trump administration's dismissal of animal welfare standards for organic farms, a regulation that was in the works for years. The Organic Trade Association (OTA) says that by delaying and then withdrawing the livestock rule, the government "engaged in a pattern of misconduct that can only be corrected by a federal court."
How’s organic faring in the farm bill?
In FERN's latest audio report, reporter Barry Yeoman delves into the fast-growing organic food sector and explores how organic agriculture is faring in the 2018 farm bill. The piece was produced for Nebraska Public Media's "On the Table" Podcast. (No paywall)
Iconic Northwest organic produce company sold, without selling out
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
Nixed livestock rule and fraud top organic topics at food policy conference
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.
WSU’s Bread Lab gets endowed chair from Clif Bar, King Arthur Flour
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.
Reinstate organic livestock rule, industry asks Perdue
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.
USDA delays, and may rewrite the rules of care for organic livestock
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.
Organic board decides hydroponics, but not aeroponics, can be organic
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.
Cuba’s first generation of organic farmers wants to feed the island
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.
Organic Valley starts project to run on renewable energy only
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.
California congressman backs organic-ag research bill
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.
More organic production possible without huge loss of virgin land
If the world raised organic production and moved toward a vegetarian diet, farmers could feed the global population without converting large amounts of virgin land like forests to crops, says a new study in the journal Nature Communications.