Miles McEvoy, deputy administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program, will leave his role at the end of September.
McEvoy announced his decision in a letter to the organic community. He said he looked forward to returning to the state of Washington and listed a number of accomplishments for the organic industry, including implementing National Organic Standards Board recommendations, improving the NOP’s quality system, enforcing regulations, and improving communication.
The organic program will be overseen by Agricultural Marketing Service acting administrator Bruce Summers and acting deputy administrator Jenny Tucker until agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue names McEvoy’s successor.
McEvoy joined USDA’s organic program in the fall of 2009, after leading the Washington State Department of Agriculture Organic Food Program.
In his letter, he listed what he considered his top 10 accomplishments:
1. Quality Management - We developed a quality management system to improve program consistency and effectiveness. We implemented the NOP Strategic Plan that incorporates the vision of the program - Organic Integrity from Farm to Table, Consumers Trust the Organic Label. We initiated a peer review process as required by the Organic Foods Production Act.
2. Communication - We improved communication and the transparency of the program through improvements to the website and the NOP Organic Insider.
We implemented the Organic Literacy Initiative, which trains USDA personnel and farmers about certification and market opportunities in the organic food industry.
3. Certification - We developed and implemented the NOP Handbook, which has transformed the organic control system by providing all NOP policies and guidance in one place. We implemented a Sound and Sensible certification process to make organic certification more affordable and attainable for organic operations. We developed new interactive training programs for certifiers and inspectors, and improved the certification process by requiring unannounced inspections and residue testing.
4. Accreditation - We ensured that all audits were conducted, and tightened up the accreditation process to promote consistency between certifiers. We strengthened the quality of the organic control system by suspending, revoking, or accepting the surrender from certifiers who did not embrace the “Age of Enforcement.” We ensured that all certifiers improved the rigor of their inspections and certification processes.
5. NOP Appeals - We reengineered NOP appeals, cutting appeal times in half.
6. Enforcement - We implemented the “Age of Enforcement” and now use civil penalties regularly for violations to the USDA organic regulations. We assist certifiers in their enforcement actions, which have included over 900 suspensions or revocations over the last 5 years. We assisted the Department of Justice with multiple cases of fraud including liquid fertilizers and seeds.
7. Standards - We finalized and implemented the Pasture rule to ensure that all organic ruminant livestock operations are pasture based. We published and implemented the Residue Testing rule. We published the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rules. We published multiple Sunset Materials rules, as well as multiple National List rules.
8. National Organic Standards Board - We collaborated with the NOSB, and moved the NOSB meetings out of Washington, DC. We received an Office of Inspector General “No Findings” Report on NOP’s management of the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. This was particularly significant, as advocacy groups and the media have scrutinized the program’s handling of the National List over the last few years. We revised the Sunset Review Process to provide for more public input and a fair and transparent process.
9. International Activities - We negotiated the U.S. – EU Organic Equivalency Arrangement, opening up the second largest organic market to U.S. organic producers and handlers. We conduct regular assessments of all equivalency and recognition arrangements. We’ve conducted competent authority and certifier training for governments and certifiers operating in Latin America.
10. Organic Integrity Database - We went from having no public listing of organic farms and businesses, to having a robust database updated by certifiers in near real time.