In a message to attendees of the third annual Organic Summit ( www.theorganicsummit.com) on Thursday, Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan pledged that organic will be integrated across all agencies at USDA. Delivering pre-recorded comments, Merrigan stated that, “here is where I’d like to fulfill a promise I made to many of you…and that is, organic should be integrated across all the agencies, not just the NOP, but each and every agency at USDA should have some engagement with the organic sector.” In addition to the integration, Merrigan said, “Organic can no longer be stove-piped at USDA.”
The Deputy Secretary provided an overview of the organic policy trajectory at USDA, which included the organic provisions in the 2008 Farm Bill. She praised the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) for its work in garnering strong support for organic from “both sides of the aisle.” She also noted the upcoming deadline of June 17, 2009 for the Organic Production Survey -- the first ever wide-scale survey of organic farming in the United States. Information from the survey will be used to shape policy and priorities with an eye toward helping small organic producers grow their operations into mid-sized farms and ranches.
“This kind of data will help us do more at USDA and help us in conversations with members of Congress to talk about the organic need,” said Merrigan. She urged the organic community to encourage full survey participation among organic producers.
Commenting further on the future of organic policy within USDA, Merrigan said she was confident the US will have a historic Canadian equivalency agreement in the near future that is beneficial for both producers and consumers.
Next on the horizon for the National Organic Program (NOP) is an era of strong enforcement, said Merrigan. Referring to the roots of the NOP in 1989, Merrigan expressed the need to match the rules of the NOP to ensure compliance. “We spent a lot of time developing standards, and now let’s make sure they have the teeth and that they are followed and adhered to,” said Merrigan.
Bob Scowcroft, Executive Director of OFRF, thanked the Deputy Secretary for taking time out of her schedule for a very informative presentation to the Organic Summit attendees. He reminded the attendees that, “she can only succeed if we hold up our end of the organic bargain.”
Jylle Lardaro, Director – Organic Industry from New Hope Natural Media and the co-chair of the Organic Summit, expressed appreciation to the Deputy Secretary for her acknowledgment of the considerable contribution made by Organic Summit attendees – whom she referred to as “the organic brain trust” -- and for her recognition of New Hope Natural Media and OFRF for bringing them together.
The video recording of the Deputy Secretary will be posted at www.theorganicsummit.com on Tuesday, June 9, 2009.
About New Hope Natural Media
The Organic Summit is produced by New Hope Natural Media, a division of Penton Media, in partnership with the Organic Farming Research Foundation. New Hope Natural Media ( www.newhope.com), a division of the Penton Media, Inc., is the leading media resource and information provider for the natural, organic and healthy products industry with print, in-person/event, and e-business products and services. Penton Media, Inc. is the largest independent business-to-business media company in the U.S., serving more than six million business professionals every month. The company's market-leading brands are focused on 30 industries and include 113 trade magazines, 145 Web sites, 150 industry trade shows and conferences, and more than 500 information data products. Headquartered in New York City, the privately held company is owned by MidOcean Partners and U.S. Equity Partners II, an investment fund sponsored by Wasserstein & Co., LP, and its co-investors. For additional information on the company and its businesses, visit www.penton.com.
About the Organic Farming Research Foundation
The Organic Farming Research Foundation was founded in 1990 to foster the improvement and widespread adoption of organic farming systems. OFRF sponsors organic farming research and education projects, disseminates the results to organic farmers and to growers interested in adopting organic production systems, and educates the public and policymakers about organic farming issues. The majority of OFRF’s board members are working organic farmers.