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Sneak Attack: US Senate Moving to Weaken Organic Standards

Contact: Ronnie Cummins
218-349-3836

9/15/05
Web Note:
OCA is lobbying members of Congress in Washington this week not to re-open the federal statute that governs U.S. Organic standards (the Organic Food Production Act—OFPA), but rather to let the “organic community” resolve our differences internally and then proceed to a open public comment period. If Congress reopens the statute now it is likely that corporate lobbyists for the food giants who have set their sights on a takeover of the organic industry (Dean Foods/Horizon Organic, Smuckers/Knudsen/Santa Cruz Organic, Kraft/Boca Burger, and Wal-Mart) among others will succeed in their long-term goal of degrading organic standards. Here is the letter that OCA is circulating to U.S. Senators today:

Dear Senator,

As a nationwide organization representing 750,000 organic consumers, including thousands of your constituents, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) urges you to reject all authorizing language amendments to the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) when you take up consideration of the Agriculture Appropriations Bill. We believe that proposed draft amendment language will undermine organic integrity and consumer faith in the “USDA Organic” seal. The overwhelming majority (85%) of U.S. consumers do not want synthetic ingredients in products labeled as “organic,” nor any other federal laws or amendments to be passed that lower organic standards.

OCA strongly believes that it is not a good idea to reopen the entire Organic Food Production Act (OFPA) for Congressional revisions at this time, but rather to use the USDA rulemaking process, whereby the organic community and the NOSB will propose rule changes to the USDA that are published in the Federal Register and then subjected to a full comment period.

Organic agriculture is the fastest growing component of our food and farming system. It not only safeguards public health and the environment, but also provides what is likely the only viable economic future for the nation’s small and medium-sized farmers. At current rates of growth, in 20 years, most food sold in U.S. grocery stores will be organic. Now is not the time to reopen OFPA, nor to lower organic standards along the lines that some industry groups are advocating. We appreciate your timely attention to this to this crucial matter.

Sincerely,

Ronnie Cummins, National Director, Organic Consumers Association

OCA urges you to call your U.S. Senators right away and ask them not to weaken organic standards by reopening the Federal Statute (the Organic Food Production Act) that governs U.S. Organic standards. Tell them the organic community can and will resolve its differences internally and then submit its recommendations to the National Organic Standards Board and the USDA. You can find the phone number of your U.S. Senators at http://www.senate.gov. A toll free number to call is 1-888-355-3588

__________________________________________________________________________________________
Subject: Attempt to weaken organic standards underway! (Email being circulated in the coop community)

Friends,

[Food coops across the USA] just received notice (14 Sept 2005) from Robynn Shrader, Director of Marketing & Communications of NCGA (National Cooperative Grocers Association) of an immediate threat to the organic standards we rely so heavily on.

Robynn says, "Right now, attorneys and lobbyists for the Organic Trade Association, Dean Foods, Smuckers, Kraft and other large companies are pitching a rider to the Senate ag appropriations bill to be brought to the floor very soon, amending the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990."

According to Robynn, while the rider strengthens the act in some areas, it weakens it in others. More importantly, it would set a dangerous precedent for how to amend the standards in the future.

The time to act is NOW! "This is serious folks," said Robynn "the laws governing organic standards could be changed as a rider to budget approval as early as this evening or tomorrow morning."

Please let OTA, these big processing companies and Congress know that this is the wrong way to go about resolving the issues resulting from the Harvey lawsuit <http://justfood.coop/latest/Harvey/harvey.html . The precedent set by this effort, if successful, is a very bad sign for what’s to come in organic legislation.

Call [your Senators] now; their contact information is available at http://www.senate.gov. Please address your comments to your senator, and/or their ag. staff. Phone calls are best; with email second best. Snail mail has to route through too many anthrax filters and is not timely.

The organic standards need your help! Please take a few moments and help reinforce a better process, and a better outcome.

A toll free number to call your senator is 1-888-355-3588