Rainbow Valley Farm, Sydney, ME
It’s a spring day on Jeff and Kathy Bragg’s Rainbow Valley Farm; a quintessential late April day with a sparkling blue sky and temperatures hovering in the mid-60’s. The patio wind chimes sing and birds chatter, oblivious to the hub of economy and industry that surrounds this peaceful abode. A CROPP producer, Rainbow Valley is one of the largest organic dairy farms in the state of Maine, milking roughly 160 cows, primarily Holstein and Jersey/Holstein crosses with some traces of Normande, and more recently German Fleckvieh. The average yearly production per cow hovers around 18,000 pounds. Certified organic in 2004 during the second major wave of transition to organic production, the Braggs manage nearly 1000 acres of open land. To read the complete article please go to:
Proposed Rule: Organic Livestock
and Poultry Practices
On April 13, 2016, the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) published regulations concerning Animal Welfare with a Proposed Rule entitled Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices. The expectation of the organic livestock community was that this rule would concentrate on poultry, especially clarifying outdoor access and building on the Access to Pasture regulation of 2010 by implementing NOSB recommendations. Unfortunately, this is not what happened. Despite assurances from the NOP that the regulation should be viewed through the interpretations of the accompanying webinar (https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/organic-livestock-and-poultry-practices) the language within the Proposed Rule is what will become law. One of the reasons for the regulation is that both enforcement of existing regulation and NOP Guidance about interpretation of access to the outside for poultry has been ignored, allowing the porch-style poultry operation to double over the last five years. The difficulty of enforcing the access to the outside for poultry and the amount of market share and profit at stake was further emphasized as conventional and organic poultry producers joined together to override the USDA NOP process of comment on regulation through Congressional action. The National Organic Coalition and the Farmers Union, plus many organizations and individuals, worked together to stop a rider being attached to the appropriations bill in the House and Senate. See their letter >
We delayed the print publication of the May 2016 NODPA News in order to include an article on the Proposed Regulation to ensure that those organic dairies without internet connection would be able to read the rule and send in their comments. To read the article, please go to:
The Federation of Organic Dairy Farmers (FOOD Farmers) is developing comments to respond to the NOP to ensure that we have a Final Rule that we can live with. We hold regular conference calls and welcome anyone who wants to join the discussion. Until we hear about any extension we are under a tight time limitation to get our comments into the NOP by June 13th 2016, so please send us your comments as soon as possible. Comments can be sent to Ed Maltby at email@example.com , or faxed to 1-866-554-9483 or mailed to NODPA, 30 Keets Road, Deerfield, MA 01342.
OTA updates its Organic
The Organic Trade Association (OTA) has sent an amended proposal for an organic checkoff to the USDA AMS, which published it on their website. They have made some technical edits based on USDA feedback, plus some changes based on the nine partial proposals developed by producer groups and their supporters. The OTA changed the definition of research based on feedback from NODPA and the National Farmers Union (NFU) and they made a change to how funds are allocated to ensure that agriculture research and producer education are a higher priority. OTA continue to propose a rather complicated system of nomination of the governing Board members to represent a region based on a non-existent database of organic operations with more than $250,000 in gross organic sales in the previous year. Plus they gave producers fewer seats on the Board, and producers make up only 6 out of the 16 members. Both the allocation of checkoff funds and the final appointment of Board members is the decision of a political appointee, the Secretary of Agriculture. We are all familiar with how those decisions are made in Washington DC.
In conversations with USDA AMS, the no-organic check-off coalition of producer groups has surmised that there is no timeline for when AMS might publish a full proposal on the Federal Register. USDA did say they will accept further comment and analysis of OTA’s amended proposal which we will be supplying in the next few weeks. You have probably been bothered by “robo calls” about the organic checkoff. Producers who have tried to tell the caller that they want to register a no vote have not been allowed to. Producers who have questioned how the $250,000 figure of gross organic sales and the calculation of net organic income will be determined have been told it will be on the honor system of self-declaration. That makes it the first tax levied that is based on the honor system. You will also have received literature claiming that everyone will pay a little and that the majority of the checkoff tax will be paid by handlers/processors. Consumers, retailers, marketers, transportation companies and other service providers will pay nothing, and the system that producers know well, of trickle-down economics, will come into effect as processors pass any check-off costs on to producers with a lower pay price. Growth in organic sales is being fueled by cheap imports, some with questionable integrity, that are undermining the pay price of domestic producers. As we have said many times, if we need domestic organic production to increase we need to pay producers a fair and sustained price for their organic products.