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(Article Summarized by Meridian Institute) The proposed farm bill winding its way through the House of Representatives contains measures that would re-shape the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), which is the citizen group that oversees organic regulations. Congress, this article says, “is proposing two big changes to the NOSB: Allowing employees of organic farmers or producers to be permitted to occupy board positions, and allowing politicians to sidestep the NOSB’s authority to approve substances such as the fertilizers and pesticides used in organic production—changes that raise alarms for some in the organic industry.” Industry insiders are worried such changes could further erode the strict standards of organic production, and could dilute its value. The National Organic Coalition gave the draft farm bill an “F” for its reforms to the organic program. But an unnamed House Agriculture Committee aide said, “Today’s farms, including organic farms, come in all shapes, sizes, and business structures. This policy will ensure those who have applicable expertise and a vested interest in the organic program are not arbitrarily excluded from the process.” Jay Feldman, the executive director of Beyond Pesticides and previously the environmental representative on the NOSB, says he is concerned. “There are so many large companies getting involved with organic that do not have the history with organic, and that makes them less than optimal members of the NOSB,” he said. “They don’t have the insight into organic practices.” And, he adds, “My biggest fear, bottom line, is that if we allow the chipping away of this statute we will destroy the integrity of this label and the public will no longer pay the premium in the marketplace.” Morgan DeBates, the legislative liaison for the Organic Trade Association says the majority of the association’s 9,500 member oppose changes to the NOSB. Tom Chapman, the director of ingredient sourcing at Clif Bar, and an NOSB member, agrees, “The changes are not coming from the organic industry. I would like to dialogue with these folks about those concerns.” It remains unclear who, exactly, is pushing for these reforms, this article states. “The process hasn’t been very transparent,” said DeBates. “If there are people advocating for changes [behind closed doors], then that’s a big red flag.” The organic industry, she adds, is on high alert.

Posted May 15th, 2018