|US regulatory Framework and Policy; Case Studies for Organic Agricultural Development|
In the early period, standards were developed by farmers who had been incorporating organic methods popularized by Rodale and based on shared knowledge. The standards only included production practices with an emphasis on soil health and natural methods for pest, weed, and disease control. These early standards did not have broad public input and were owned by the farmer organizations (CCOF, Tilth, OCIA, NOFA) and certification businesses (FVO). OCIA and FVO standards reflected IFOAM standards.
By 1980, at the urging of the organic farmer organizations, several states began to regulate the organic label generally to protect consumers from fraud. By the late 1980s there were 13 state laws and regulations about organic production and labeling, with a variety of approaches to certification and enforcement. The number of private standards and certification agencies had increased to 35.
In 1985 the Organic Foods Production Association (OFPANA) was formed by US and Canadian traders, farmers, and certification agencies to produce a North American combined standard and accreditation of certifiers to bring consistency and value to the organic label. As a reaction to this initiative, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the National Association against the Misuse of Pesticides, and Rural Advancement Fund International advocated for a national law for organic production, handling, and labeling. In a series of meetings between Kathleen Merrigan, agricultural aide to Senator Leahy, and the environmental, consumer, and organic farm organizations, there was agreement on a national standard for organic production, handling, and labeling, and a national accreditation program to approve certification agencies.
The Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) [Title XXI of the 1990 Farm Bill] passed in Congress. After 10 years of intensive stakeholder participation a final regulation was completed in 2000 [National Organic Program: Final rule 7 CFR Part 205. [Docket Number: TMD-00-02-FR], RIN: 0581-AA40 (Dec 21, 2000)] and implemented in 2002. The introduction of national government regulations has expanded the market for organic products. 60% of consumers look for the USDA Organic label when they purchase organic products. For export markets the organic sector has urged the US government to negotiate equivalency or recognition agreements to help solve the regulatory barriers.
Now that there is an implemented national standard for organic and common ground has been established, the alliances among stakeholder groups have broken down. Individuals and stakeholder groups expect that the National Organic Standards Board will sort through the different opinions and create compromise positions to present to the US National Organic Program (NOP) In addition, new watchdog organizations have emerged to monitor the NOP, but are motivated by specific interests beyond organic production practices, such as family farms, food safety, government accountability and local agriculture and trade.
Organic agriculture policy
The NOP is considered by the government as a labeling and marketing regulation, not an endorsement of organic farming and not a food safety or conservation regulation. In 2002 Congress recognized organic as a good agricultural practice. This recognition opened access to crop insurance and agricultural disaster programs that previously had been closed to organic farmers.
It has taken the combined efforts of various stakeholders to lobby for sufficient money from Congress. Funds have been allocated to support the implementation and enforcement of the National Organic Program, to support research on organic methods, and for a cost-share program to help farmers and handlers cover the cost of certification. The successes achieved in gaining government financial support for organic are overshadowed by the size of the national budget to support GMOs and farm subsidies based on conventional practices. Because there has not been extensive government support either in policies or funding, the organic sector has remained market-driven.
(Author: Katherine DiMatteo)
Further reading on Early Organic Sector Development In the US:
Case Study Overview
Organic Agricultural Conditions
Early Organic Agricultural Development
Organic Market Development
Regulatory Framework and Policy
Supporting Structures and Lessons Learned
(Adapted From IFOAM, Building Sustainable Organic Sectors)
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