From Wood Prairie Farm’s always interesting Seed Piece Newsletter.
Wood Prairie’s Jim Gerritsen is also the president of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association.
Browse Wood Prairie’s website, find your organic seed potatoes, and sign up for their newsletter here. More information about OSGATA is here.
Farmer Protest in Stowe Highlights NOSB Meeting
by Jim Gerritsen
It has become a troubling and recurring pattern for the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) to disrespect and ignore the Congressionally-mandated citizen stakeholder National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). The Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 created the NOSB with the important role of advising the NOP on matters critical to the operation and success of the organic community.
When the NOP willfully ignores guidance from the NOSB trouble is soon to follow. Back in 2010, the NOSB ruled that hydroponics – crop production without soil – does not conform to the traditional definition of organic farming. Despite this NOSB position, and shockingly, despite there being no certification standards for hydroponics by which to assess compliance, the NOP – bowing to corporate pressure – has been allowing organic certification of hydroponic operations.
Two years ago, the Agrarian Elders sent a letter NOP Administrator Miles McAvoy (drop down “Organizations” menu) criticizing NOP actions on hydroponics. The NOP has also ignored our letter.
In exasperation, a tractorcade protest (scroll to photo of orange tractor) against USDA-NOP’s arrogant behavior was organized by Vermont organic farmers in the resort town of Stowe where the NOSB was holding its Fall Meeting. Speakers – including Maine’s Agrarian Elder Eliot Coleman – not only spoke against USDA misbehavior, but read specific citations from the USDA’s own groundbreaking Report and Recommendations on Organic Farming which in no uncertain terms described the foundational principle that organic farming must be soil-based. I believe they call that “Checkmate.”
To virtually unanimous support among independent organic stakeholders present in Vermont, many organic family farmers testified before the NOSB protesting the NOP’s allowance of hydroponics and calling for an immediate moratorium on the certifying of hydroponics operations. Wood Prairie Farm’s Jim Gerritsen read a statement – entered into the public record – issued by the Agrarian Elders. The statement reiterated the absolute clarity that organic must be soil-based and the illegitimacy of NOP’s actions allowing hydroponics. That statement appears immediately below.
Statement to the NOSB from Agrarian Elders. October 24, 2015
Soil is the Foundation of Organic Agriculture.
We believe organic crop production must always be soil-based.
Therefore, crops grown from non-soil-based production systems, such as hydroponics, must never be considered or labeled organic.
Signed by Agrarian Elder:
Michael Ableman, Foxglove Farm, British Columbia
Don Bustos, Santa Cruz Farm, New Mexico
Amigo Bob Cantisano, Heaven & Earth Farm, California
Eliot Coleman, Four Season Farm, Maine
Jean-Paul Courtens, Roxbury Farm, New York
Jim Crawford, New Morning Farm, Pennsylvania
Gloria & Steve Decater, Live Power Farm, California
Jim Gerritsen, Wood Prairie Farm, Maine
Liz & Jake Guest, Killdeer Farm, Vermont
Betsy Hitt, Peregrine Farm, North Carolina
Nash Huber, Nash’s Organic Produce, Washington
Norgert Kungl, Sedwood Green Farm, Nova Scotia
Anne & Jack Lazor, Butterworks Farm, Vermont
Frank Morton, Wild Garden Seed, Oregon
Hiu Newcomb, Potomoc Vegetable Farms, Virginia
Dru Rivers, Full Belly Farm, California
Susan Tyler, Whaelghinbran Farm, New Brunswick
Shirley Ward, Esalen Farm, California
Warren Weber, Star Route Farms, California
Tom Willey, TD Willey Farms, California