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Pacific Northwest
Hawai'i CFS

Four Ways Organic is Winning

By: Claire Jordan, Policy and Program Coordinator

September 21, 2016
Center for Food Safety

Recent victories help keep organic the gold standard in agriculture

Organic is a label that consumers can trust. They know that buying food with the organic seal means they are using their buying power to support agriculture that is beneficial to all: the people, the planet, and the animals. With support from our members, Center for Food Safety has been at the forefront of the organic movement, working tirelessly to make organic more accessible and hold it to the strictest standards. As we strive to continuously improve organic agriculture, we can also look back and celebrate some key victories that have helped make the organic label the gold standard for food and farming.

1. Stopped the Use of Antibiotics in Organic Apples and Pears

In April 2013 and May 2014, the National Organic Standards Board, the body of organic experts that advises the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on the organic standards, voted to end the temporary allowances of antibiotics in organic apple and pear production. Oxytetracycline and streptomycin were used as a tool to combat fire blight. But the organic community recognizes that antibiotics are not compatible with organic ideology, and are thus prohibited in all other areas of organic production. Continued use of antibiotics was also a cause for public health concern over rising antibiotic resistance. Stakeholders rallied to ban their use and encourage research into viable, organic alternatives to controlling fire blight. It was a huge victory for the organic community and another step towards improving the standard.

2. Protected Organic Compost from Pesticide Contamination

Another victory that further upholds organic integrity took place this summer in June. A federal court ruled that compost contaminated with synthetic pesticides could not be used in organic agriculture. While this was originally the law and practice, the USDA created a loophole for pesticides and changed the law without any public input or an adequate decision-making process. CFS, Center for Environmental Health, and Beyond Pesticides filed a joint case challenging this new law and the process that allowed the USDA to slip it in. This victory puts USDA and other federal agencies on notice that consumers, nonprofits, and others are paying attention and won’t allow for this backroom dealing to go unnoticed. Consumers can continue to put their trust in this label and ensure that their food is not grown with pesticide-laden compost.

3. Created the First State Organic Tax Credit in Hawaii

Additionally in June we saw another monumental triumph and paradigm shift: the creation of an organic tax credit in the state of Hawai’i. This tax credit will help small-scale organic farmers offset the financial commitment of organic farming and certification through a state-funded tax credit for organic food production. This tax credit will work with other existing federal programs that help organic farmers to increase organic food production and make organic farming more accessible. With this law, the state of Hawai’i is showing its citizens that it values sustainable food production and enhancing the local food system. As the demand within Hawai’i for local and organic food grows, this new law will help the supply grow. This tax credit encourages the growth of domestic organic production and is a model for other states in the future that may be looking to pass similar measures.

4. Pushed for Stronger Regulations for Organic Animal Welfare

Consumers expect that when they are buying organic meat, they are getting a product with the highest animal welfare standards. Unfortunately, there is little in the current regulations providing clear standards for organic animal welfare, leading to a wide variety of practices and conditions. That is why it is so encouraging that after nearly 14 years, the USDA proposed a rule to improve animal welfare in organic agriculture that would establish strong, baseline principles for animal health and treatment. Aspects of the proposed rule focus on creating opportunities that encourage natural behavior of animals, increasing the indoor space for poultry, and eliminating concrete porches as outdoor access – all steps in the right direction to further improve and evolve the organic standard. With this new rule, consumers will be able to purchase organic meat and animal products without having to wonder what type of conditions the animals were raised in.

Even though we know there is so much work still to be done, it feels good to reflect on the moments that move the dial forward. We’re so grateful to have the support of our members who have helped us play a part in these victories. Learn more here about how you can help us continue the work to preserve the organic standard…and don’t forget to thank your organic farmers, shop for local, organic food, and applaud yourself for making change happen!

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