August 19, 2009
Michael Sligh is an organics veteran who calls the new No. 2 at the USDA by her first name—“Kathleen is a great help for us to have back in the leadership at the USDA,” he says—and who measures his part in the fight to promote, preserve and improve organics in terms of decades. A former large-scale farmer and founding member of the National Organics Standards Board, Sligh now heads the Just Foods program, which promotes a systems-based approach to a more sustainable food and fiber system, for the Rural Advancement Foundation International.
NFM spoke with Sligh about what’s going well and the biggest challenges facing organics—including pesticide exposure, unregulated genetically-modified crops and irradiation—but also internal tensions and disputes that threaten to derail the movement’s many recent successes.
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