Federal program overseeing sector marks 10 years

11/02/2012 12:03:00 PM
Melissa Shipman

The National Organic Program reached its 10th year this October.

The Organic Foods Production Act was signed in 1990, setting the stage for the nation’s organic standards. Two years later, in October, the first National Organic Standards Board had its first meeting.

Then in 2002 U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations “went live,” according to the October 2012 issue of “The Organic Integrity Quarterly” newsletter.

Miles McEvoy, deputy administrator of the program, said the past 10 years have been characterized by the development of standards, better opportunities for farmers, category growth and the protection of the program’s integrity.

“Our staff closed 279 complaints of suspected regulatory violation, enforcing the USDA organic regulations to the fullest extent of the law when investigations confirmed violations,” McEvoy said in the newsletter.

Soo Kim, USDA spokeswoman, said the anniversary marks a decade of giving growers the resources and means to provide their products to consumers who want the assurance of USDA enforcement.

“The anniversary presents a wonderful opportunity to celebrate farms and businesses that use practices to steward the environment, promote biodiversity and support their local economies,” Kim said.

To demonstrate some of the successes of the program, the National Organic Program reported that at the end of 2011 there were 17,673 organic farms and processing facilities in the U.S. that were certified to the USDA’s organic standards, an increase of 478 from 2010.

Since 2002, when the National Organic Program began tracking this data, that’s a 240% increase.

In total, there are now 28,779 certified organic operators across 133 countries, according to a National Organic Program Organic Insider post from March 18.

As part of its future goals for the program, Kim said the USDA wants to have 20,000 U.S. farms and businesses certified to the USDA organic regulations by 2015.

The Organic Literacy Initiative is an important aspect to the anniversary, Kim said.

“In light of the continued growth of organic, USDA’s new Organic Literacy Initiative helps prospective farmers, ranchers and processors learn about not only how to be certified, but also how to access related USDA programs,” Kim said.

The program features a toolkit designed to help farmers decide if organic is an option suited to their business.

Resources for the literacy program can be found at www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/organicinfo.



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