“People really wanted to ensure that there was grower representation on the board and that there was representation of different sizes of operation, so that they would have a voice in the conversation about practices they would have to adhere to,” Pegg said.
Technical review committee
Other changes to the proposed agreement include new membership on the technical review committee.
“There were a lot of concerns over co-management with food safety and conservation practices, so the proposal includes the Natural Resource Conservation Service having a seat on the committee,” Pegg said.
Variables still to be decided include the fate of leafy greens marketing agreements in Arizona and California.
“A couple of concepts have been talked about,” Giclas said. “One is there may be no need for the state agreements. The industry wants to minimize duplication of efforts, fees and administration. The national and state agreements need to evaluate how they dovetail into each other. It may be that the state agreements become regional arms of the national agreement. It may be that they just dissolve.”
“It may be possible to work in conjunction with a national program,” said Scott Horsfall, chief executive officer of the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement. “Or it may make the need for state programs go away. It’s not a matter of putting the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement in place nationwide — it’s building a whole new program.”
The National Organic Coalition and the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York called the USDA proposal misguided.
The organizations said in a news release the agreement is biased in favor of chemical fertilizers, which they called part of the food safety problem. And in their view, participation would not be fully voluntary.
“If their handler signs the agreement, the grower has no market unless they follow whatever growing practices are dictated by the agreement,” Steve Etka, coalition legislative director, said in the release.
Barbara Haumann, spokeswoman for the Organic Trade Association, said the association had not taken a position on the proposed rule as of April 27.