Natural Foods Merchandiser

Rodale veteran to lead USDA NOSB

by Shara Rutberg

Jeff Moyer, farm director of the Rodale Institute, will be the 2009 chair of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Standards Board. The board elected Moyer during its meeting last week in Washington, D.C. Previously, he served as vice-chair, beginning his five-year term on the board three years ago. Moyer has worked at the Kutztown, Penn.-based Rodale Institute for more than 33 years.

The NOSB is the organic community's all-volunteer advisory body to the National Organic Program, which sets USDA organic policy as part of the nation's Agricultural Marketing Service. It's the USDA's only advisory group with statutory power mandating its advisory involvement. Members provide guidance on developing standards for substances and practices to be used in certified organic production, handling and processing. Board members receive comment from a broad spectrum of constituent organic groups and individual and attend multi-day meetings several times a year.

"This is a critical time for the organic movement and industry as forces try to dilute its hard-fought integrity with marketing terms such as 'sustainable' and 'natural,'" Moyer said in a release. "It's critical that we protect the standards and also continue to educate the public about the value of the USDA Organic seal."

Moyer manages the 333-acre Rodale Institute research farm. Through the years he has helped a host of farmers transition from conventional farming to organic or biologically sustainable methods. He holds the farmer/grower seat on the board. The current board is comprised of four farmer/growers, two handler/processors, one retailer, one scientist, three consumer/public interest advocates, three environmentalists and one USDA accredited certifying agent.

The NOSB faces a fresh round of critical issues, from creating guidance documents about biodiversity to defining rules for fish production. Moyer emphasizes the importance of balance in the board's work: "We do our best to protect the integrity of the organic industry but still allow for the expansion of the fullest range of products as organic continues to go mainstream."

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