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USDA Listening Session Report

Jim Pierce, Oregon Tilth's Global Certification Program Manager, represented OTCO at the USDA Listening Session held on Tuesday, September 20th. Read his comments and thoughts for the USDA Listening Session.

Jim Pierce, Oregon Tilth's Global Certification Program Manager, represented OTCO at the USDA Listening Session held on Tuesday, September 20th.  Read his comments and thoughts for the USDA Listening Session.

From Jim Pierce:


"The first ever USDA Organic Listening session was held on Tuesday Sep. 20 and OTCO was there to witness and present.
Although not as well attended by the public as anticipated, the event was very well attended by USDA Staffers making it an undeniable success.

Organized by Mark Lipson, USDA Program Specialist for Organic Farming, who did a masterful job of managing a very busy staff in order to have at least 10 and often over 20 Government Employees in the room at any time.  Miles McEvoy was present almost all day, Kathleene Merregan and several Deputy Under-secretaries  were present, engaged, and accessible for networking. 

Couched as an opportunity to address the NOP and USDA and to help them establish “priorities” this was a good opportunity to directly address the Program rather than the NOSB.  To seasoned NOSB commenters many of the themes were familiar but in talking to various USDA employees afterward it became obvious that they were not aware of the issues we live with.  So the communication was definitely valuable.
 
There were a number of common themes;

  • The success of the organic “industry” even through tough economic times.
  • Appreciation and encouragement to continue with spending and cost share programs that benefit organic farmers, especially beginning farmers.
  • The need for organic focused research and statistics collection.
  • Concern that the lack of regulation of GMO technology threatens the future success of organic.

 
Several comment themes were more NOSB appropriate:

  • The need for Animal Welfare standards
  • Opposition to Aquaculture standards
  • Opposition to particular, or all synthetic materials on the National List.

 
There were a couple of Schatenfreud moments including support for Chicken Porches and Sodium Nitrate.  But even here I realized that for USDA staff outside, and within, the NOP, it is clear that every action has impact and threatens the future of certified operators who have built a business.
 
In discussing the proceedings afterword we speculate that in a few years we will reminisce fondly of the first Listening Session that only took 1 day."

Download Jim's comments at NOP Listening Session (pdf)

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