The USDA Organic Working Group and the USDA National Organic Program have scheduled a public listening session for September 20, 2011 in Washington, DC to receive input concerning the Department’s activities and priorities related to supporting organic agriculture production, handling and markets. Specifically, members of the public are invited to comment on USDA’s activities and priorities in two general categories:
1. Activities and priorities of the USDA National Organic Program, other than those specific to the business and work plans of the National Organic Standards Board;
2. Activities and priorities of USDA agencies and programs beyond the USDA National Organic Program.
In an email to NOAWG mail group subscribers, Gary Jensen (NIFA) advises that “much work has been done over the recent years to gain USDA approval to certify farm-raised aquaculture products as organic and be eligible to use the USDA organic logo on products certified against specific USDA organic standards for aquaculture. The dedicated and effective work by the Aquaculture Work Group led by George Lockwood resulted in recommendations by the National Organic Standards Board for USDA to promulgate a new regulation that would allow for the certification, labeling and marketing of organic aquaculture products. The National Organic Program in USDA is responsible for the public rulemaking”.
“Recently there have been some internal discussions and increasing interest by USDA to move forward with the rulemaking”, he said. “To help realize this action under increasingly challenging budget and resource conditions, USDA needs to hear the voices and support from the aquaculture community for USDA to take action. There are a few points that are worth stating as well as others, but I list a few:
· Aquatic food is the last major food group that does not have USDA national organic standards today
· The inability to access organic food markets under the USDA creates an unlevel playing field among animal protein products
· The National Aquaculture Act of 1980 includes a national policy to encourage the development of aquaculture in the United States
· Several consumer and retail surveys indicate strong interest in the market for organic certified aquaculture products (seafood)
· The USDA-HHS 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that consumers double consumption of seafood for a healthy diet and lifestyle
· USDA organic standards will provide an incentive for entrepreneurs to pursue new markets and products
· An important argument in the Administration today is the opportunity to grow new businesses for new markets and increase JOBS
· The organic market is small compared to the market for conventional products but provides new business opportunities for some
· The State of California passed a law that forbids the sale of any seafood product labeled as organic until USDA has completed its regulation
· The US imports seafood from more than 125 countries today with an annual trade deficit topping $10 billion that represents more than 85% of our seafood supply
You may agree or disagree with these points and likely have others to add for a compelling argument for USDA to take action on completing the public rulemaking”.
“I encourage you to take the time now and put some thought and energy into providing input in writing or in-person to ask USDA to take action on organic standards for aquaculture products. Comments can be submitted in writing before midnight on October 1. For those in the DC area in-person presence and input at the public listening session on September 20 are also encouraged. Now more than ever is the time to raise your voices and be heard. See the information below for more details and special attention to yellow highlights”.
Additional information about the USDA National Organic Program
Contact: Questions may be directed to Mark Lipson who is an Organic & Sustainable Agriculture Policy Advisor with the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service at 202 720 4256; e-mail: 2011OrganicListening@AMS.USDA.gov
Questions? Please contact Mark Lipson, Organic & Sustainable Agriculture Policy Advisor
Email: 2011OrganicListening@AMS.USDA.gov | 1 (202) 720-4256