This Week’s Harvest
Beets OR Bell Peppers
Ida Red and Jonathon (these are very similar looking apples but the Ida Red is larger, tarter and crisper)
Save the Date!
Our CSA member potluck will be Sunday Oct. 8 from 4 to 7. Members are asked to bring a dish to share and after touring the farm and fields, we will feast! It’s a celebration of the season and a time of good food and conversation. We hope you and your family can make it!
Last week I responded to a series of articles written by The Washington Post investigating organic food. This is part 11 of that so go back a week if you haven’t read Part 1 yet.
The organic label is definitely threatened- specifically in the organic row crop and livestock industries. At a sustainable farming conference I attended last winter I was saddened to hear from Ohio organic row crop farmers that they couldn’t complete with the price of organic imports which had the price dropping by as much as a third. As was long suspected by the farmers, turns out the beans and corn coming in weren’t even organic. The Post examined 3 shipments of millions of pounds of “organic” beans and corn imports and found the shipments to be fraudulent. In July The Post reported that the USDA revoked the organic certification status of two companies involved in “organic” imports. And just last week The Post reported that the USDA’s Office of Inspector General newly released audit indicates concern about the lack of enforcement of the organic label at US ports. The news reports as well as pressure from small farmer and consumer watchdog groups have lead to results. The USDA has admitted a problem and there has been a hearing of the Senate agriculture committee on the matter. I am hopeful fraudulent imports are caught right way in the future and our organic grain growers can get a fair price again.
But foreign players in the game aren’t the only threat to organics. Some incredibly large domestic livestock operations have been outrageously interpreting organic rules and not following the spirit of the law. For example, organic production requires that animals have access to the outdoors and some farms think a tiny concreted over porch meets this rule. Fortunately, the National Organic Standards Board looked into the problem, decided clearer language was necessary and recommend a new animal welfare standards rule. These regulations set forth minimum indoor and outdoor space requirements. Outdoor access is more clearly defined ensuring that all organic animals live in pasture-based systems and animal welfare practices are clarified. Small farmers and consumer groups fought hard for YEARS for the livestock rule to keep the integrity of organics strong. Most organic farmers were already doing these things and most organic consumers think that’s what they’re getting. Sadly, the rule is currently in limbo. It was to go in effect in March but President Trump’s executive order that put a freeze on all new regulations halted the implementation. Now the rule has been delayed until Nov. 14 at which point a decision on wether to implement the rule or not will be made. There was a public comment period last spring (for the second time since public comments were taken back when the rule was just a proposal). I have my fingers crossed that this very important rule- that clarifies and strengthens what organic production means- will go into effect.
As a vegetable farmer these particular cases threatening the organic label don’t necessarily apply to our specific operation. I want to be clear that I stand by the organic label and am proud of our organic status and the hard work farmers before me did to build the National Organic Program. The certification process has always been thorough and rigorous and I still think it’s the gold standard. I also want to be clear that I have nothing against farms being larger than mine and think it’s great if an organic operation can expand its reach to more consumers. I’ve always wanted organic food to reach more households and be affordable. And I think it can without farms practicing grossly inadequate interpretations of the rules. Less than 1% of farmland in the US is organic. There is so much potential! I just hope the label doesn’t get spoiled as the movement grows. I am grateful for farmer and consumer advocate groups that do the hard work they do.
If you are interested in this topic and want to keep up to speed, groups to check out include The Cornucopia Institute, The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s listserve for policy work, and the Young Farmers Coalition.