AmericanFarm.com

Organically, what’s in a name? (Editorial)

There is little doubt that organic production of food and other agricultural output is gaining acceptance and popularity across a broad spectrum of American consumers.
The USDA reports that, as of the end of 2011, 17,673 organic farms and processing facilities in the United States were certified to the USDA organic standards.
That’s 478 more operators than at the end of 2010, and a 240-percent increase since the department’s National Organic Program’s tracking began in 2002.
Worldwide, there are now 28,779 certified organic operators across 133 countries.
What is organic? Officially, organic is a labeling term that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.
Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used in production.
Under the National Organic Program, the mission of the program is to ensure the integrity of USDA organic products in the United States and throughout the world.
And that ensurance is backed up by certification, production, handling and labeling regulations strictly monitored and enforced by the National Organics Standard Board, whose members are appointed by USDA.
John Jeavons, noted organic production enthusiast, promotes the organic mission of “feeding the world, one garden at a time.”
Now, that isn’t going to happen, but as long as consumers favor organic, there are going to be producers who will see that they get it.
And those consumers can feel confident that what they are buying is indeed “organic,” certified as such by an agency of the U.S. government.
Of course, traditionally, it costs more than its non-organic relative, but the choice is the consumer’s.
Could not the raw milk debate — and the condemnation of the product — be solved in a similar manner?
Draft, enact and enforce the rules and regulations by which it must be produced and sold to guarantee its safety, place governance of the program under a National Raw Milk Standards Board whose members are appointed by the USDA and let the consumer decide.
There are a lot of dairymen in these parts who would like to see that happen.