Natural Foods Merchandiser

James Riddle on Vilsack and organics

By Cara Hopkins

With the confirmation of former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack likely to come on Tuesday, organics industry insiders are speculating as to who will fill sub-Cabinet appointments at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Natural Foods Merchandiser has confirmed that James Riddle, organic outreach coordinator for the University of Minnesota and former chairman of the USDA's National Organic Standards Board, has submitted his name for consideration. Riddle is backed by some in the organics industry, such as the Wisconsin-based watchdog group, the Cornucopia Institute.

In order to heal the rift with his critics, Riddle said that Vilsack should take a few key steps in support of organics. First, he should "establish organic working groups within the USDA to ensure that various agencies are working together and coordinating their organic activities." Then he should ensure "full implementation of the organic provisions in the 2008 Farm Bill." And he should demand "quick turnaround of a clear and enforceable pasture standard for organic ruminants."

Riddle added that the appointment of an organic program coordinator within the secretary's office, especially if that person was already a well respected member of the organics community, would go a long way to establishing a good working relationship with detractors.

"I would like to see organic agriculture elevated to a high priority, fully integrated into long-term U.S. agricultural policy, recognizing the multiple benefits of environmental protection, climate change mitigation, food security, nutrition, health, biodiversity and sustainable farm income," Riddle said.

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