OEFFA Applauds the USDA’s Commitment to Improve the National Organic Program

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 23, 2010

Contact: Lexie Stoia Pierce, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 221, lexie@oeffa.org

OEFFA Applauds the USDA’s Commitment to Improve the National Organic Program

Columbus, Ohio—On March 18, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released its much-anticipated review of the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP), which was created to administer federal organic standards and to require mandatory certification of organic products. The report presents data from several years of audit and review of the NOP and outlines seven key findings and fourteen recommendations needed to ensure the integrity of the organic program.

The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which is charged with establishing national standards for the production and handling of organic products, has accepted the OIG’s critique and has already begun the process of addressing the problems identified in the report.

“Organic certification agencies are the frontline in ensuring that consumers can trust that organic foods are produced sustainably and humanely. We support the OIG’s findings and are pleased that the NOP and AMS are embracing the changes called for in this report, which will increase the effectiveness of the program,” said OEFFA Organic Certification Program Manager Lexie Stoia Pierce.

In general, the report outlines specific ideas for improving administration and management of the NOP, strengthening enforcement of organic requirements, and increasing oversight of accredited certifying agents and organic operations.

Specifically, the report documented the need for NOP officials to improve enforcement, tracking, review, and monitoring of businesses when serious violations have been found, such as products labeled as “organic” when farm practices are under investigation or found in violation.

“The USDA has are already taken steps to bolster public confidence in the organic label through issuance of a long overdue pasture rule for organic ruminants and increased staffing and funding for the NOP,” said Stoia Pierce.  President Obama has requested $10.1 million for the NOP, a $3.1 million increase over Fiscal Year 2010 and the AMS plans to expand NOP staffing to 31 positions by the end of the year.

“Consumers and farmers can continue to be assured that the organic label ensures the highest level of integrity and will continue to live up to its standards,” concluded Stoia Pierce.

To read the OIG’s report, go to http://www.usda.gov/oig/webdocs/01601-03-HY.pdf.

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The Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association (OEFFA) is a non-profit organization founded in 1979 by farmers, gardeners, and conscientious eaters who committed to work together to create and promote a sustainable and healthful food and farming system. OEFFA has operated a Certification Program since 1981. In 2002, when the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) was created, OEFFA was among the first group of certifiers to be accredited by the USDA to certify under the new national standards. Today, OEFFA certifies a diverse group of over 650 operations throughout the Midwest, including mixed vegetable and grain farms, family dairies, food processors, and everything in between. For more information, go to www.oeffa.org.