By The Cornucopia Institute, Special for USDR
In a letter to the USDA’s Office of Inspector General, The Cornucopia Institute has requested an independent audit of the National Organic Program, charging multiple illegal actions and inactions. The Wisconsin-based farm policy research group alleges that the National Organic Program has failed to enforce the laws governing organic agriculture thereby allowing multinational corporate agribusinesses to squeeze out family-scale farmers, compromising the integrity of the organic label.
“By failing to vigorously enforce the organic standards, USDA political appointees and NOP management have betrayed ethical family farmers and businesses, along with consumer trust,” said Mark A. Kastel, Cornucopia’s codirector. “The NOP has ceded control of organic rulemaking and enforcement to lobbyists from the nation’s most powerful agribusinesses.”
Cornucopia’s audit request cites a number of enforcement violations including: allowing soil-less hydroponic/container growing, which substitutes liquid fertilizers for careful stewardship of soil; allowing documented cases of “willful” violations on factory dairies confining livestock instead of grazing; and allowing as many as 200,000 “organic” chickens to be kept in single buildings without outdoor access.
“When the organic farming movement was commercialized, in earnest, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, stakeholders petitioned to Congress for strict regulations to maintain high integrity in organic agriculture,” said Kevin Engelbert, an organic dairy farmer from Nichols, New York. “The exponential increase in ‘organic’ milk coming from CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) in the desert west, many allegedly cheating, continues to push down pricing and jeopardize the livelihoods of hard-working farm families across the country.”
Cornucopia’s audit request to the Office of the Inspector General also asked them to look into financial mismanagement, conflicts of interest, and illegal withholding of public documents by the National Organic Program.
In addition to their letter to the Inspector General, Cornucopia has sent a request to the two primary authors of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Congressman Peter DeFazio of Oregon, asking the legislators to consider holding oversight hearings in the new Congress.
NOTE TO EDITORS AND PRODUCERS: The full press release includes quotes from former National Organic Standards Board members, details regarding complaints on organic factory farming, and an explanation of the National Organic Program’s financial mismanagement and conflicts-of-interest. Mark Kastel is available for interviews.
SOURCE The Cornucopia Institute