Organic Leaders See Concerns with Direction of USDA Organic Program

Caitlin Dewey reported on Thursday at The Washington Post Online that, “The pioneers of the sustainable farming movement are mourning what they call the downfall of the organic program, following a Wednesday night vote by a group of government farming advisers that could determine the future of the $50 billion organic industry.

At issue was whether a booming generation of hydroponic, aquaponic and aeroponic farms — which grow plants in nutrients without using soil, frequently indoors — could continue to sell their produce under the ‘organic‘ label.

“In a series of narrow votes, an advisory board to the U.S. Department of Agriculture voted to allow the majority of these operators to remain a part of the organic program, dealing a blow to the movement’s early leaders.”

Ms. Dewey noted that, “Organic pioneers have argued that including hydroponic produce under the label has undermined the integrity of the program they fought decades to establish, and at a time when it is already under intense scrutiny. Some have said they will consider leaving the USDA-regulated program entirely.”

The Post article also stated that, “Organic sales topped $47 billion in 2016, according to the Organic Trade Association, representing 5 percent of all U.S. food sales. That growth has not been driven by idyllic family farms, either. Increasingly, the organic market is dominated by industrial brands that look little different from their conventional counterparts.”

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