“We cannot import certain types of organic fruits and vegetables from certain countries because of strict food safety regulations,” Brakkee said.
The company just tries to react as quickly as possible when regulations allow for a new item to be imported to quickly address new demand. The company’s growers are certified by both European and U.S. certifying organizations, Brakkee said.
In the tree fruit industry, pear growers like Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers Inc. are hoping for a change in regulation that allows ethylene to be used to pre-ripen organic pears.
“Currently, our industry cannot ripen organic pears with ethylene, even though organic bananas are allowed to,” said Brianna Shales, communications manager. “We want that to change, as pre-ripening significantly increases consumer satisfaction of pears.”
The Los Angeles Times brought to national attention the undisclosed—or rather covered up — use of synthetic chemicals in fertilizers marketed as organic. The indictment of Kenneth Nelson Jr. of Port Organic Products Ltd., is the latest in a short string of arrests made in a U.S. Department of Agriculture crack-down on fertilizers posing as organic.
In Nelson’s case, the supposed organic fertilizer was supposed to be made from fish meal and bird guano, but was, “spiked with far cheaper synthetic chemicals,” according to the Times. Nelson had sold $9 million worth in eight years.
As of March, the USDA had seven open investigations involving the National Organic Program, according to the article.
Tom Deardorff II, president of Oxnard, Calif.-based Deardorff Family Farms, said the regulatory issues go far beyond just organics in his neck of the woods.
“California is over-regulated whether you are an organic grower, conventional grower or both. It does not matter,” Deardorff said.
Deardorff said he works with Western Growers and the United Fresh Produce Association, along with other advocacy groups, to help level the playing field for California growers when it comes to transportation and water resources, among other issues.