Organic food lobbyists balk at USDA oversight

Lobbyists for 20 organic organic farm and consumer groups have filed a petition to make the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) a permanent fiefdom inside USDA, with its own oversight and accountability. Currently, NOSB exists as an advisory board, a right that was granted them when the industry was tiny. 

Now, as they approach the $100 billion revenue mark, they are clearly Big Ag and the USDA is worried about the lack of standards, a lack of surprise spot testing to insure compliance, as conventional farms have, and numerous exemptions to organic standards that allow dozens and dozens of synthetic ingredients to be included while maintaining organic status. The petitioners object to recent changes to the NOSB charter, renewed on May 8, 2014, that change the verbiage of the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990. In renewing the charter under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), USDA reaffirmed that NOSB is a time-limited Advisory Board subject to USDA's discretion.

The NOSB Board is appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture and is charged with establishing and renewing the list of synthetic and non-organic materials allowed to be used in organic production, known as the National List.

The petitioners, ranging from the reviled Organic Consumers Association to militant activists like Beyond Pesticides, also include groups and corporations such as Center for Food Safety, Cornucopia Institute, Food & Water Watch, Equal Exchange, La Montanita Co-op, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Northwest Organic Farming Association (NOFA) Interstate Council, NOFA Connecticut, NOFA Massachusetts, NOFA New Hampshire, NOFA New Jersey, NOFA New York, NOFA Vermont, Organically Grown Company, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, and PCC Natural Markets.