The Organic Trade Association (OTA) today expressed delight at the selection of Miles McEvoy as the new Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) National Organic Program (NOP).
"As Organic Program Manager for Washington State Department of Agriculture's Organic Food efforts, Miles has been very active as a long-time member of the Organic Trade Association (OTA). OTA is pleased that he will be filling this very important position in USDA. OTA is confident that, with his experience, he will provide invaluable guidance and clear thinking that will further the integrity of the National Organic Program," said Christine Bushway, OTA's Executive Director.
As an active participant in OTA activities, McEvoy most recently served on OTA's Canada-U.S. Equivalency Task Force and is currently a member of OTA's Fertilizer Verification Task Force. He also participates in OTA Member Forums on aquaculture, farm supplies, international trade, and U.S. governmental affairs. McEvoy has also led the National Association of State Organic Programs, an organization of state officials that provides a forum for discussing the promotion and regulation of the organic farming industry.
This new position and the elevated status for the National Organic Program were announced at OTA's Policy Conference held in March in Washington, D.C.
In its first nine months in office, the Obama Administration has taken numerous steps to build NOP and to include provisions for organic agriculture within USDA agencies.
Most recently, Kathleen Merrigan, USDA's Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, announced that USDA had applied to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for a review of its accreditation process and program. Under the review planned for fiscal year 2010, NIST's National Voluntary Conformity Assessment Systems Evaluation program will evaluate NOP's accreditation program to assess its ongoing conformity with international standards for managing accreditation programs. Receiving such recognition would support NOP's credentials as an accrediting body and satisfy regulatory requirements for NOP to obtain peer review.
In May, Merrigan announced USDA's intentions to create a division dedicated to organic agriculture within the department. Historically, NOP has been part of the Transportation and Marketing Program within USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service. In addition, efforts are underway to expand staffing at NOP, including bringing in compliance and enforcement capability within the agency.
Meanwhile, the 2008 Farm Bill has jump-started organic data collection, and provided more money for organic research. USDA also is conducting the first-ever wide-scale survey of organic producers. In addition, USDA hopes to complete an evaluation of crop insurance prices and surcharges for organic crops by the end of the year.
Also in May, USDA offered $50 million in new funding to encourage greater production of organic food in the United States. Available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program administered by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, the program was open to producers either certified through NOP or in the process of transitioning to organic production.
"These efforts are all ones that the Organic Trade Association has worked towards. It is exciting to see NOP receiving more resources to do its job and to uphold the integrity of organic agriculture and production," said Bushway.
The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is the membership-based business association for organic agriculture and products in North America. Its members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers' associations, distributors, importers, exporters, consultants, retailers and others. OTA's mission is to promote and protect the growth of organic trade to benefit the environment, farmers, the public and the economy (www.ota.com).