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.
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.
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.
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.
The Organic Farmers Association, a national membership organization advancing the interests of certified organic farmers, said that it named Mark Rokala, a lobbyist on agriculture issues, as its policy director and also elected a policy committee. This new leadership will facilitate the association's policy platform.
At a time when U.S. farm numbers are stagnant, the organic sector continues to grow, said a recent report by the USDA. There were 14,217 certified organic farms that sold $7.55 billion worth of organic commodities last year. The number of farms was up 11 percent from the previous year, and total sales were up 23 percent, according to the agency’s Certified Organic Survey.
Consumer demand for organic food is booming, with sales topping $43 billion a year, creating the opportunity for importers to claim, fraudulently, that their goods deserve the premium attached to organics, according to a report by the office of the USDA's inspector general (OIG). "Without controls in place at U.S. ports of entry to verify the authenticity of organic import certificates, non-organic products may be imported as organic if unscrupulous parties are willing to use fraudulent organic import certificates," says the OIG.