2009 NOAP Summit Discussion Paper: Towards a National Organic Action Plan


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February 25 & 26, 2009.
LaCrosse, WI

This National Organic Action Plan Summit Discussion Paper represents nearly five years of dialogue meetings among a wide cross section of organic movement and industry with the express purpose of encouraging the development of a National Organic Action Plan that reflects the passions, concerns, hopes, and visions of this diverse and thriving community.

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2009 NOAP Summit Discussion Paper: Towards a National Organic Action Plan

  1. 1. National Organic Action Plan Summit Discussion Paper February 25 & 26, 2009, LaCrosse WI Towards aNational Organic Action Plan
  2. 2. TOWARDS A NATIONAL ORGANIC ACTION PLAN- Summit Discussion PaperThis document is dedicated to the hundreds of participants around the country who donated their time, talent,and expertise to participate in multi-day dialogue meetings, numerous workshops, conference calls, or writteninput to share their vision of the future of organic food and agriculture in the United States.And of course, we all give thanks and acknowledgment to the family farmers who began, built, and continue toinnovate the organic production system in this country and around the world.The National Organic Action Plan (NOAP) Project is a collaborative project led by RAFI-USA which provides overallprogrammatic development and organizing support. Michael Sligh and Liana Hoodes led this work for RAFI, andled the NOAP Planning Team (listed below) -- a working group of volunteers. This Team came together to plan theProject, including the writing of this document (*denotes Drafting Team members), the Summit content and logistics,and the planning for attendance and input at Dialogue meetings and the Summit.*Liana Hoodes*Michael Sligh Published By: Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA*Elizabeth Henderson, editor PO Box 640, 274 Pittsboro*Jim Riddle Elementary School Rd,*Faye Jones Roger Blobaum Pittsboro, NC 27312*Harriet Behar Steve Etka www.rafiusa.org*Mark Lipson Steve Gilman (919) 542-1396*Lynn Coody Cynthia Hayes*Zachariah Baker Brise Tencer© 2009 Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA. No reprinting without prior permission. 2
  3. 3. National Organic Action Plan Summit Discussion Paper TABLE OF CONTENTS EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 4 INTRODUCTION 5 - The Method 5 - Why Now? 6 - Action Plans Elsewhere 6 - On-Going NOAP Dialogue 7 BACKGROUND 9 - Current Status of U.S. Organic Agriculture 10 DEVELOPING THE U.S. NOAP PROJECT 11 - Chronology of the U.S. NOAP Dialogues 11 - The Dialogues 11 - Summary of Data from the Dialogues 12 What is Working with Organic? 13 What is Not Working? 15 - Key Overarching Objectives from Dialogues 17 - Quantitative and Qualitative goals 18 - Draft Components of the U.S. NOAP 18 - SMART Objectives 19 NOAP - Priority Objectives and Benchmarks 20 A. Environment 20 B. Health 22 C. Social and cultural change 24 D. Research 26 E. Education 28 F. Organic Integrity: Standards, Enforcement, and Compliance 30 G. Marketplace 32 H. Transition and Incentives 34 Next steps for the U.s. Noap 36 what you can do 37 3
  4. 4. TOWARDS A NATIONAL ORGANIC ACTION PLAN- Summit Discussion Paper EXECUTIVE SUMMARY This National Organic Action Plan Summit Discussion Paper represents nearly five years of dialogue meetings among a wide cross section of organic movement and industry with the express purpose of encouraging the development of a National Organic Action Plan that reflects the passions, concerns, hopes, and visions of this diverse and thriving community. The true significance of organic agriculture emerges when we view it in the broad context of its potential to contribute to reversing our planetary collision course with the earth’s ecological carrying capacity. Organic agriculture offers concrete solutions to many of our societal, environmental and rural development challenges today. Mitigation of agricultural causes of global climate change, improved soil, animal and human health, and improved quality of life, water quality, and rural economic development head the list of the major contributions of the organic agricultural approach to solving the food and fiber challenges of the 21st Century. This paper establishes goals and objectives and outlines benchmarks for achieving and measuring our collective and on-going progress toward these solutions. This is not a scientific or peer-reviewed exercise but rather an organizing effort to empower the grassroots to engage more effectively in reaching organic agriculture’s potential. The real measures of progress on organic food and agriculture will only be as good as our collective abilities to articulate clear goals, benchmarks and timelines: Our central challenge is how best to continue the growth of organic agriculture while Five major themes that emerged during the dialogue sessions provide an overarching preserving organic integrity and retaining farmer and customer confidence. and broad framework for this effort: • To ensure organic integrity and continued organic quality improvements. • To ensure a fair marketplace for U.S. family farms and workers. • To ensure access to healthy organic food for all U.S. income levels. • To maximize U.S. organic production potential to ensure an increasing U.S.- produced share of the U.S. organic marketplace and ensure that each state maximizes its potential to meet in-state organic demand. • To move U.S. organic food and agriculture policy from its focus on the marketplace to encompass the significant goals associated with the public This paper attempts to reflect honestly what was heard during the grassroots listening good, including social change, public health and environmental protection. sessions, and will serve as the basis for setting priorities at the 2009 National Organic It will be the guide for prioritizing the specific major objectives to meet the five Action Plan Summit on February 25-26, in La Crosse, Wisconsin. overarching goals for the future of U.S. organic agricultural development. The resulting post-summit final report will be distributed to all dialogue and summit participants and widely posted. It will also serve as the basis for further societal, policy and civil engagement to establish mechanisms for on-going and measurable progress. Michael Sligh, founding chair of the National Organic Standards Board and member of the NOAP Drafting Team, reflects: “History will not only judge us by how well we managed our resources but by how well we defended the opportunities of future generations. Now is the time for us to set the course.” 4
  5. 5. National Organic Action Plan Summit Discussion Paper INTRODUCTION The promise of organic agriculture to provide integrated solutions to the persistent problems of modern culture and the environment has inspired farmers and non- farming citizens alike to join in a vital grassroots movement and a growing market for organic products. Underlying this movement are shared values – respect and care for the natural environment, the central importance of healthy soils for human and livestock health, and humility about the role of humans in Nature. Recent research confirms the grassroots faith that organic agriculture can help reduce world hunger and global warming, that organically grown foods provide greater nutritional value, and that family-scale farming can revitalize rural economies. The development of a National Organic Action Plan has been a multi-year effort to engage the diverse participants in the organic movement and industry in envisioning a future for organic food and agriculture in the United States as well as strategies for advancing and evaluating progress to realize that vision. The goals of this project are to articulate a shared vision, set objectives and benchmarks for measuring organic agriculture’s social and environmental benefits, and formulate proposals for the future growth of U.S. organic food and agriculture for the next decade and beyond. Just as important is creating a participatory and democratic process that engages the organic community in defining policies on the federal, state, regional, and local levels, as well as actions in the marketplace and in rural and urban communities. Through a series of dialogues over five years, citizens from all sectors of the organic food chain – shoppers, farmers, farmworkers, retailers, processors, educators and activists - participated in creating this Draft National Organic Action Plan (NOAP) Discussion Paper for the United States. Participants in the widely publicized and open summit meeting in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, February 25-26, 2009, will set priorities among the many proposals in this paper, and the public at large will have the opportunity to offer comments and suggestions. Public review and reevaluation will continue into the future. The national dialogues were organized by project leaders Michael Sligh and Liana The Method Hoodes with assistance from the NOAP Planning Team. The agenda set the parameters for the dialogues (see sample agenda, p. 12), but participants were free to bring forth any topic or concern. Lively and sometimes heated discussions took place as the agenda moved from identifying the positives and negatives in organic today to looking towards a vision of organic food and agriculture in the future. The staff at each session made every attempt to capture all contributions. With the goal of being as inclusive as possible, the Drafting Team then took the many pages of notes and boiled them down into eight general categories, eliminating repetition and consolidating closely related suggestions. The Planning Team put a lot of energy into publicizing the summit meeting all over the country and to raising funds to subsidize the cost of attending so that no one would be excluded because of financial constraints. 5
  6. 6. TOWARDS A NATIONAL ORGANIC ACTION PLAN- Summit Discussion Paper At the summit, participants will review, revise and prioritize the many proposals. The process for the summit provides opportunities for all participants to express their views, to engage in discussion with one another, and to come to consensus around a final plan. The concluding session will be devoted to agreeing upon next steps to maximize the usefulness and effectiveness of the NOAP and to energizing and activating the participants and their communities. The Planning Team decided to undertake this NOAP project for a number of pressing why now? reasons: • Continued exponential growth of U.S. organic food and agriculture over the past three decades, • The far greater growth of organic acreage and production in European Union countries where governments are far more supportive of the development and spread of organic agriculture, and where action plans have been developed, • Failure of the U.S. government to provide vision or leadership for growth of the organic sector, • Failure of the U.S. government and U.S. food and agriculture sector to develop goals for the growth of the organic sector beyond retail/market-based growth goals, • Desire of the grassroots voices of the organic community to be better heard in federal, state and local policy arenas, and • Desire to create an expanded policy agenda that reflects the broader environmental, social, health, and economic goals and benefits of organic agriculture, including access to healthy food for people of all income levels. Most of the member countries of the European Union (EU), plus the EU as a whole, have Action Plans Elsewhere developed some form of government-supported organic action plans. In general these focus on specific goals to increase organic acreage, production, and commerce. More importantly these action plans create a broad “platform” and transparent process that provide for the public review and revision of key organic regulations and legislative mechanisms. Some of the NOAPs have been “top-down” and government-led and others have been “bottom-up” and grassroots-led. Examples of the “bottom-up” approach include Andalusia, Spain, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom (UK). Nearly all however result in plans for government action. The UK plan sets targets not only to increase organic acreage, but also to increase the UK-generated organic supply to replace imported organic foods. In 2002, the UK was importing 70% of the organic foods consumed in the country; their NOAP set the goal to reverse the percentages so that 70% would be UK- grown products. Other countries have simply sought to increase production or increase acreage (or both) by a specific percentage. 6
  7. 7. National Organic Action Plan Summit Discussion Paper In its initial plan (2004), the EU sought to “ensure the on-going development of the organic sector in the Community and also, through this development, to facilitate imports of organic produce from developing countries.” [European Action Plan for Organic Food and Farming, Commission of the European Communities, Commission Working Document, 10 June 2004, p.3] Significantly, the EU recognized early on the environmental value of organic and eco-agricultural practices. The EU plan states: “where farmers provide services to the environment beyond the reference level of good agricultural practices, these should be adequately remunerated.” [p.4] Examples of this include payments for the creation of specific habitats of targeted species and support for documented water quality protection. In the fall of 2008, the EU began to consider incorporating organic principles in the EU Common Agriculture Programme (CAP) to reach specific objectives: • Ensure food safety, including public health aspects; • Contribute to global dietary health to participate in world food safety; • Preserve the equilibrium of rural areas; and • Participate in the fight against climate change and for environmental improvement. [19/09/08 IFOAM/EU Group Press Release] By contrast, the U.S. government has been slow to acknowledge organic as more than On-Going NOAP Dialogue another marketing scheme. For example, the founding legislation, the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, limits its purposes solely to marketing; establishing national standards for marketing of organic products; assuring consumers of a consistent standard, and facilitating interstate commerce. [Sec. 2101. [7 USC6501] Purposes] In the present globalized food system, however, a focus on marketplace value does not necessarily translate into growth in U.S.-produced organic agricultural production. For instance, in the UK cheap imports have undermined domestic development. Most importantly, focusing on market growth leaves out the urgent environmental and social changes needed to achieve a sustainable system of food and agriculture. The U.S. 2008 Farm Bill may have begun to broaden that focus through the introduction of new federal programs that acknowledge some of the conservation benefits of organic agriculture. Yet without a developed vision, piecemeal programs will be slow to advance a comprehensive agenda. The energy of the organic movement in the United States springs from local and regional initiatives. While there are unifying principles, organic methods are site specific, no two farms are alike and the many organizations promoting organic food and farming are deliberately decentralized. The recent proliferation of “buy local” campaigns reflects the success of these closely related yet autonomous efforts. Nevertheless, localized projects and organizations often gain strength by learning from one another. Thus developing a set of practical, effective, and strategic local, state and regional policies will complement policy efforts at the federal level. A critical aspect of a National Organic Action Plan is to establish the proper role for the government in the organic sector, current and future. The farmers, their customers, community activists and processors who came together to ask for a federal organic 7
  8. 8. TOWARDS A NATIONAL ORGANIC ACTION PLAN- Summit Discussion Paper program believed that the establishment of a national label with consistent standards and comprehensive oversight would advance the cause of organic food and agriculture. The energy required to move government agencies in a new direction, combined with the lack of an overall strategic vision, has limited progress in realizing the multiple benefits of organic systems. As U.S. organic agriculture expands and matures, citizens must decide who will continue to define what is and what is not organic. A successful, transparent and participatory NOAP process can provide a way for citizens to periodically evaluate the role and performance of the U.S. government, and to update and perfect U.S. organic regulations and statutes. The National Organic Action Plan Project is an on-going dialogue, in which the voices of the organic grassroots from all sectors listen to one another in a dynamic process that lays out goals for the development of organic food and agriculture in the United States for the next decade and beyond.Geographic Distribution of Certified Organic Growers in the United StatesGeographic Distribution of Certified Organic Producers and Handlers in the U.S., 2006 Source: Organic Farming Research Foundation, 2007, by Jose Torres, from USDA National Organic Program Data, using Google Earth software. 8
  9. 9. National Organic Action Plan Summit Discussion Paper BACKGROUND In the United States and many other countries, farmers and other citizens who were determined to resist the accelerating industrialization of agriculture were inspired to promote and define organic agriculture as an alternative. By 1972, the adherents of organic had the resources to establish the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), which has grown to include over 700 organizations from over 100 countries. A central purpose of IFOAM was to write standards for organic farming and processing in a democratic and participatory way. The IFOAM Basic Standards served as the template for most of the organic standards used today. The European countries were the first to develop governmental policies and regulations for the promotion of certified organic agriculture. In addition to the multi-lateral, UN-based Codex organic food labeling guidelines, more than 50 countries now have national organic policies and/or regulations. While organic standards have not been harmonized globally, there is an increasing movement in that direction. This may further spur worldwide growth in production and international trade. Global certified organic acreage has increased steadily at the impressive rate of 20% per year, reaching over 76 million acres in 2008 with global sales of over $40 billion USD. Sales of organic products have paralleled the expansion of acreage, growing at 20% per year for more than a decade in the United States. Even in a down economy, this growth appears to be continuing. The largest geographic area of organic production, as the table on this page demonstrates, is in the Oceania region with its large expanse of pasture-based organic acreage.Source: Willer and Yussefi, editors, The World of Organic Agriculture, Statistics and Emerging Trends, 2007,2007. 9
  10. 10. TOWARDS A NATIONAL ORGANIC ACTION PLAN- Summit Discussion Paper The United States remains the largest single-country market leader with over $16 billion USD in organic sales in 2007 and a projected continued growth rate. The chart illustrates continued U.S. growth in the number of organic farms and CURRENT STATUs OF U.S. ORGANIC AGRICULTURE acres in certified organic production. However, the United States continues to import a major portion of its organic food and fiber from the EU, Asia, Canada, and Latin America to meet growing consumer demand. USDA sources estimate the ratio of organic imports to exports to be approximately 10 to 1. A major opportunity exists for a much greater portion of U.S, organic food and fiber consumption to be produced by U.S. farmers.United States Organic AcreageSource: Adapted from USDA/ERS 2005; Courtesy of RAFI-USA Archives. 10
  11. 11. National Organic Action Plan Summit Discussion Paper DEVELOPING THE U.S. NOAP Initiative In 2004, following a decade of advocacy for family-scale farming and small scale certification programs during the development of U.S. federal organic regulations and the 2002 Farm Bill, RAFI and the groups that formed the National Organic Coalition (NOC) agreed the time was ripe for a more comprehensive process for advancing organic food and agriculture. Tired of just reacting, they initiated work on a grassroots organic vision, similar to National Organic Action Plans developed in the EU countries and elsewhere. The early phases of this U.S. NOAP process focused on outreach to stakeholders to develop an organic agenda for the 2007/08 Farm Bill, later broadening the discussion to include goals beyond the federal policy arena. 2004 Pre-Dialogue Workshops Chronology of the U.S. NOAP regional dialogues: Input to Farm Bill priorities 2006 National consensus for Organic Agenda in 2007 Farm Bill 2007 Regional Dialogue Meetings 2008 Synthesis and Draft Plan 2009 National Summit Final Draft Plan Final Document shared with stakeholders, appropriate officials, and authorities 2010 -- 2011 Policy implementation and Ongoing re-evaluation 2012 Farm Bill Development Beginning in the Summer of 2006 and continuing, through 2007 and 2008, National The Dialogues Organic Action Plan dialogue meetings were held in 11 venues, engaging over 300 participants from 35 states in structured discussions about the current state and future vision for organic food and agriculture in the United States. DIALOGUE VENUES • Northeast Organic Farming Association meeting, Amherst, MA, August 2006; • Oregon Tilth Annual Meeting, Salem OR, October 2006, • North Carolina State Dialogue Meeting, November 2006, • Southern SAWG Annual Meeting --Kentucky, January 2007, • California Ecological Farming Conference, Asilomar, CA, January 2007, • Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture Meeting, State College, PA, February 2007, • Upper Midwest Organic Farm Conference, LaCrosse, WI, February 2007; plus an 11
  12. 12. TOWARDS A NATIONAL ORGANIC ACTION PLAN- Summit Discussion Paper update workshop in 2008 • Washington, DC Environmental Groups meeting, June 2007, • New Mexico Organic Farming Conference, Albuquerque, NM, February 2008, • Southeast African American Farmers Organic Network, Savannah, GA, April 2008, • Expo East Industry groups meeting, October 2008 Dialogue meetings generally took place over a full day or day-and-a-half, usually prior to/or following an existing conference venue. These meetings have been genuine dialogues. Only one hour of the total was presentation; the rest was facilitated discussion. The agenda allowed for celebrating the successes of organic and articulating complaints about what needs to be improved (See a sample Agenda below). The section dealing with the implications of Wal-Mart’s entrance into the organic market guaranteed vigorous debate regarding mainstreaming of organic as well as alternatives. The dialogue process built on that energy, taking the discussion beyond venting and toward creating regional solutions, such as sustainable food and fiber production chains and independent retail stores and cooperatives that institutionalize regional and local buying. In general, we found a surprising level of optimism despite the fears of a “Wal-Mart- ization” of organic or declining contract/price structures. The role of organic agriculture in addressing peak oil, global climate change, the Farm Bill, and local foods as well as international food security were a few of the hot topics. Sustainable family farmers recognize that they can capitalize on the local premium if they can offer products that consumers seek and are willing to pay a fair price for. It is the growing demand for local PLUS organic PLUS fair trade that is igniting enthusiasm. The identification of the many facets and benefits of the organic approach helps guide the farmers’ struggle through the fast- changing economic landscape. The first part of each of the NOAP regional dialogues Summary of Data from the Dialogues posed questions leading to an assessment of the current U.S. state of organic, using a variation of the typical “SWOT” analysis: strengths – weaknesses – opportunities – threats. It allowed for a full brainstorming of what has gone right and what has gone wrong with the industry, government involvement, the marketplace and the system of agriculture itself. This led to discussions aimed at defining specific challenges and opportunities. The questions were broken down into: • What is working with organic? • What are the challenges or problems? • Specifically, what about challenges from the changing marketplace? 12
  13. 13. National Organic Action Plan Summit Discussion Paper • Specifically, what about challenges of re-inventing regional organic food systems? • What are needed federal reforms based on this analysis • What are the best ways to strengthen farmer and consumer voices? In an attempt to synthesize this very rich and powerful input we have summarized some of the major successes, progress and challenges ahead for U.S. organic. We hope to set the stage and create a common framework to view the work ahead. Organic agriculture has continued its very impressive domestic and international What Is Working With Organic? growth -- in acres, sales, supply, consumer demand, number of farmers, as well as in institutional recognition and support from businesses, government, universities, and civil society. The growth and impacts of organic agriculture in the United States and around the globe are emerging with an ever-widening range of benefits and successes and promising new activities that are expanding rapidly and in very diverse directions. They range from local to international; from health to social justice; from protection of soil and water quality to biodiversity enhancement; from global warming response to addressing the energy crisis; from research to education; and from all aspects of civil society. Organic agriculture has now reached a new major international milestone in its acceptance as an agriculture system by being recognized by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as a real contributor to addressing world hunger and local food security challenges [Organic Agriculture and Access to Food, International conference, May 3 – 5, 2007, FAO, Italy]. Organic production methods are useful to all types of farmers in developing and developed regions, including those who do not wish to become certified organic producers, by aiding them in production practices that lessen dependence on outside inputs while improving soil, plant, and animal health as well as farm profitability. The benefits of a consistent U.S. nationwide organic program were initiated through the enabling legislation, the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA), and implemented in the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) regulation. It defines the “USDA Organic” label and regulates use of the word “organic” in the United States. Certification and compliance capacities have increased consumer confidence, raised organic farmer status, provided a basis for research funding, and helped expose more potential customers to organic products. This benefit has been borne out in the political arena with increased political clout and recognition, as exemplified by inclusion of significant organic provisions in the 2008 U.S. Farm Bill legislation. The 2008 Farm Bill contains numerous provisions that directly and indirectly expand support for organic agriculture. Among such provisions, the legislation: • Re-authorizes and expands funding for the national organic certification cost share program; • Expands funding for the Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI); • Creates an organic conversion incentive program; • Expands support for organic data collection; • Authorizes removal of surcharges placed on organic farmers for federal crop insurance; and 13
  14. 14. TOWARDS A NATIONAL ORGANIC ACTION PLAN- Summit Discussion Paper • Authorizes funding for beginning farmers, farmers markets, value added grants, breeding research, farm-to-school, specialty crops, and conservation assistance programs, all of which are open to organic producers. There is also growth and development of new organic infrastructure to service the production sector. This is evidenced by the emergence and growth of such diverse groups as the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI), Organic Trade Association (OTA), National Organic Coalition (NOC), Sustainable Agriculture Coalition“Organic proves there isan agriculture beyond the (SAC), Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF), International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA), Organic Consumers Association (OCA), the Cornucopiaindustrial model.” Institute, The Organic Center, Congressional Organic Caucus, Accredited Certifiers Association (ACA), National Association of State OrganicWashington, DC Dialogue meeting, 2007 Programs (NASOP), and eOrganic. These groups, and many others, provide services to meet the ever-expanding demand for information and institutional support from farmers, the market, and their customers. The availability of and access to organic foods and fibers have expanded, along with the quality, quantity, and varieties of organic food and fiber products. There is also major growth in the scope of organic into non-food and non-farm organic products and services (e.g., personal care, pet food, and landscaping). Organic agriculture is now in the process of being mainstreamed in the marketplace. This has important positive impacts by increasing access to greater diversity and numbers of consumers, and increasing the variety of marketing opportunities for producers. For example, organic dairy products are viewed as a gateway into organic food for new mothers, leading to the purchase and consumption of additional organic products. The environmental and health benefits of organic production are now being more widely researched, identified, and recognized, including wide-ranging benefits from increased health of soils to the health of plants, animals, children, and adults. There has been recent widespread recognition of the benefits of organic agriculture for increased soil organic matter, carbon sequestration, moisture retention, and drought tolerance, with organic being generally recognized as a ‘climate and environmentally friendly’ way to farm. Emerging research demonstrates that organic systems protect ground and surface water quality from pollutants. Organic foods are shown to have significantly lower levels of pesticide residues and higher levels of nutrients, compared to non-organic foods. Improved taste and nutrition, as well as expanding educational outreach to families, nutritionists, and health care providers, are now being seen as very important because of recognized health benefits of organic food, especially for children. Farmers are attracted to organic farming as a way to be good stewards of their land, both in respect to those who preceded them on the land and for those who will follow them. Organic agriculture gives them the tools and knowledge to enhance crop and animal health and yields, while at the same time enhancing environmental quality and improving the ecosystem where they live and work. The improved quality of life of farmers, workers, their families, and rural communities, as well as improved prices and the promise of additional market-based claims for social justice and animal welfare, are hopeful signs that the organic sector can provide much needed additional market protections for farmers and workers. 14
  15. 15. National Organic Action Plan Summit Discussion Paper There is an emerging recognition of the broad-based societal contributions of organic production, including a growing awareness that organic agriculture contributes to an increased sense of community and a re-kindling of some basic social values, including a better understanding of where our food comes from. This leads to an important restoration of closer farmer/buyer relationships and creative new market chains, enabling U.S. organic farmers to remain profitable in the face of global sourcing. Because of these opportunities, organic agriculture helps draw both new and younger farmers either back to family lands or as new entrants into agriculture from suburban, immigrant, or non-agricultural backgrounds. Many view organic agriculture as a hopeful direction for restoring culture and values that have been lost due to the rapid industrialization of conventional agriculture, contributing to a much-needed return to a “systems” approach to agricultural production, and a critical shift from reductionism to holistic problem-solving in agriculture. Organic production is attractive to researchers, who are expanding their scope from input-based agriculture which studies only the efficacy of specific products, to more long-term research trials that study natural systems and use this information to improve crop and livestock production. Consumer demand for organic foods and the resulting increased presence of organic products in the marketplace has shown that organic regional producers can supply a significant portion of the food needs for the local community, from fresh and processed fruits and vegetables to meats and dairy products. Customers of organic foods seek to know more about the farmers who grow their food and fiber, building much needed bridges of knowledge and understanding between producers and consumers. Finally, organic agriculture builds upon the historical contribution of entrepreneurial farmers who led to the strength and growth of a fledgling United States. Many of the concerns about the state of the U.S. organic sector mirror the successes and What Is Not Working? progress highlighted in the above section. Concerns about the “industrialization” and “mainstreaming” of organic agriculture, and the many threats and pressures from both the marketplace and government on the integrity of the organic label, are now strongly being expressed. Examples of large confinement dairies being certified as organic, changes to OFPA in response to lawsuits, the Congressional rider allowing “organic” chickens to be fed non-organic feed (which was subsequently overturned before being implemented), and overall concerns about lack of consistent NOP oversight, compliance, and enforcement, all illustrate recent and on-going threats to organic integrity and consumer confidence. The question of how close we are coming to a “tipping point” where organic will no longer be viewed as the “gold standard” of the food system is now being openly discussed, with the media increasingly willing to challenge organic food’s superiority. The overall low level of federal support for organic agriculture, despite progress in the 2008 Farm Bill, and the key lack of federal recognition of the multiple benefits of organic production to health, environment, and society remain major barriers to sustained growth. In fact, the continued resistance of the U.S. government within and outside USDA, to articulate any vision for the growth of organic beyond the marketplace or any advantage of organic for the public good is a major stumbling block to significant organic policy advancement. In U.S. government parlance, organic must never be seen as better; it is only a “niche market.” 15
  16. 16. TOWARDS A NATIONAL ORGANIC ACTION PLAN- Summit Discussion Paper Additionally, concerns about farmer and farmworker rights, migrant labor, changing organic contracts, and farmer and worker pay prices and benefits are now being challenged with more public attention. The need to find ways to institutionalize fair prices, wages and benefits, and to build bridges to the worker community as well as the need to address scale, ownership, and control of the organic sector are all viewed as critical to the long-term success and sustainability of organic agriculture. Organic market concentration and increasingly corporate appointments to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) are new concerns for civil society and organic supporters. The lack of continuous quality improvements in organic standards and the difficulties in tightening federal organic regulations remain common concerns. Especially expressed are concerns about organic becoming simply an “input substitution” approach, rather than a holistic, ecologically-sound agricultural system, when farmers and processors receive certification to the lowest enforceable standard. The development and implementation of a functioning organic system, as envisioned in OFPA, are at times viewed as impossible achievements by some, while other long- time committed organic producers know this is the only way to truly have vibrant organic farms, where weeds, pests and diseases are well managed and nutrient-dense foods are produced. The lack of practical, transparent and participatory mechanisms to continually improve the OFPA, the NOP regulation, and enforcement mechanisms, are clearly major challenges and needs. The NOP, as the only federally mandated accreditation body, has yet to produce an accreditation manual, implement the required peer view oversight requirements, or address many NOSB recommendations. The NOP, as accreditor, is not in compliance with internationally accepted accreditation norms, such as 1SO 17011. These deficiencies are all indicative of the many growing pains, bureaucratic bottlenecks, and lack of political will impacting this relatively new government program and regulation. All dialogue sessions, as well as significant numbers of other comments, have pointed to the problem of an under-funded and under-staffed National Organic Program, its poor record of enforcement, and the lack of clarity in specific standards development. Lack of clarity and enforcement of the pasture standard alone has the potential to destroy the high integrity of the entire label. Interestingly, while these items may individually be on the road to being addressed, they highlight the potential for very specific federal program implementation issues to define the success of the organic industry. Concerns about the pressures, costs and access for small organic farmers and the great need for additional technical support and education for new farmers, school systems, and consumers are frequently expressed. The need for a knowledgeable, fully-funded, and empowered organic extension-type service, staffed by organic farmers, non- government experts, and others with specific organic knowledge is identified as part of the missing infrastructure needed to more systematically meet the demands of farmers converting to organic production. These concerns, coupled with the urgent need for strategies to address and balance the pressures between market/pull and supply/push while embracing our national need to re-invent our regional food systems and infrastructure, are emerging as major themes, challenges, and opportunities for the organic sector. Concerns about unfair organic imports and trade are also increasingly heard. The misconception that organic food fills a “niche” in the marketplace that is available only to those who can afford higher prices contributes to blocking access to organic foods by people of all income levels, compounding the injustice of the current “cheap 16
  17. 17. National Organic Action Plan Summit Discussion Paper food” system. Food justice would demand that everyone, regardless of income, have access to the most nourishing food. The failure to adequately address animal welfare and food safety concerns, or to respond to the growing number of “eco-labels” and “buy-local” campaigns also poses major challenges for the organic community. The lack of sophisticated measures and standards for soil quality, biodiversity, and carbon sequestration has increased the push for private “eco-labels” and become a barrier to increased support for organic production. The perennial call for a research system that is more participatory, meets farmers’ needs, and addresses demands to expand the current scope of organic standards, remain as compelling, yet unresolved, challenges. There is also the broad-based concern that the lack of holistic or systems research leads toward more “input substitution,” justified by reductionist research. The lack of organized political power for organic farmers, as well as the increasing “push-back” from agribusiness due to the organic sector’s successes, is a growing concern. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) contamination and threats to our seed and food supply, along with the need for real GMO liability mechanisms, remain as major threats to the future of the organic marketplace. Many view one of the negative outcomes of the USDA organic regulation as the prohibition of organic farmers to sit on their own organic certification boards. Many viewed this as having “decapitated” organic farmers in the organic regulatory process. This development has led to a loss of an organized organic farmers’ voice, since it was organic farmers who had launched and developed many of the U.S. organic certification programs. These gaps and challenges can best be filled (at least in the short term) from the grassroots with regional and national structures being organized to provide greater access, capacity, and effective collaboration. Finally, establishing full-cost accounting systems to better quantify and promote the real benefits of organic agriculture, and to highlight the real costs associated with so- called “cheap foods,” stands out as a major challenge with great potential payback. Despite these challenges, organic agriculture holds enormous potential to deliver multiple benefits to society, the environment, and to the economic and social stability of our food system. The dialogues created a vast array of creative ideas and passionately held goals. Key Overarching Objectives: However, several very broad key goals emerged consistently and were repeated at each of the individual dialogue venues, despite the fact that the results from previous dialogues were carefully withheld and not shared during the input process to preserve the authenticity of the data from each venue. Some of the most consistent overarching objectives were: • To ensure organic integrity and continued organic quality improvements • To ensure a fair marketplace for U.S. family farms and workers • To ensure access to healthy organic food for the entire range of U.S. income levels • To maximize organic production potential to ensure an increasing U.S.-produced share of the U.S. organic marketplace and ensure that each state maximizes its 17
  18. 18. TOWARDS A NATIONAL ORGANIC ACTION PLAN- Summit Discussion Paper potential to meet in-state organic demand • To move U.S. organic food and agriculture policy from its focus on the marketplace to encompass the significant goals associated with the public good, including; social, health and environmental benefits. Quantitative and Qualitative goals • Organic acreage targets to increase overall U.S. organic acreage. The dialogues identified the following general goals: • Production targets – increase the domestic organic production share of the U.S. organic market. • Increase the number of organic products available. • Increase the number of farms while maintaining the diversity of their sizes. • Keep family farmers an integral part of U.S. organic production. • Increase organic research. • Increase access to organic for all incomes. • Increase public procurement of organic products. • Measure, maintain and enhance organic integrity. • Measure and create mechanisms for the continual upwards innovation of standards and for a transparent process for revision of the OFPA. • Establish GMO contamination liability mechanisms. • Institutionalize marketplace rewards for fair prices to farmers and fair treatment and wages for all workers in the organic food industry. • Establish rewards for organic farmers’ contributions to carbon sequestration. • Develop infrastructure and support for plant and animal germplasm appropriate to organic. • Increase dollars for research that develops and expands organic agriculture. The following categorized lists of draft objectives have been synthesized from the DRAFT Components of the U.S. NOAP: composite input derived from the actual dialogue sessions, entitled (“Developing the National Organic Action Plan”) and were transmitted in a rapid assessment style. We have taken the liberty of combining, refining and organizing the participant input by the following categories and have added where necessary and possible draft testable benchmarks and timelines for success. Our goal during the upcoming national summit is to further refine, evaluate and build agreement for a prioritized set of goals which are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely, or SMART. A well-defined range of benchmarks and timelines is needed to evaluate progress. These too will be open for discussion and refinement during and after the national summit. The finished product will be essential to conduct periodic evaluations of the NOAP implementation and to trigger activities and/or greater focus on where certain benchmarks are failing to be achieved, or where certain objectives may need to be re-adjusted. 18
  19. 19. National Organic Action Plan Summit Discussion PaperThe EU “ORGAP” Project [European Action Plan for organic food and farming – Development of SMART Objectivescriteria and evaluation procedures for the evaluation of the EU Action Plan for Organic Agriculture]summarized a common framework for evaluating objectives – making sure that objectives shouldbe SMART – [ORGAP, No. CT-2005-006591]a Specific:Objectives should be precise and concrete enough not to be open to varying interpretations.a Measurable:Objectives should define a desired future state in measurable terms, so that it is possible to verifywhether the objective has been achieved or not. Such objectives are either quantified or based on acombination of description and scoring scales.a Achievable:If objectives and target levels are to influence behavior, they must be accepted, understood andinterpreted similarly by all who are expected to take responsibility for achieving them. a Realistic:Objectives and targets should be ambitious while realistic – setting an objective that only reflectsthe current level of achievement is not useful.a Time-dependent:Objectives and target levels remain vague if they are not related to a fixed date or time period. The draft objectives with their and benchmarks are presented according to the following categories: A. Environment B. Health C. Social and Cultural Change D. Research E. Education F. Organic Integrity: Standards, Enforcement and Compliance G. Marketplace H. Transition and Incentives 19
  20. 20. TOWARDS A NATIONAL ORGANIC ACTION PLAN- Summit Discussion Paper NOAP – Priority Objectives and BenchmarksThe United States government remains one of the last of the industrialized countries to recognize the “publicA. ENVIRONMENTgoods’ delivered by organic agriculture. The environmental and health values of organic production are often thevalues understood most clearly by the public in and outside of the organic community. But, they are not formallyrecognized through the USDA/NOP program.Worldwide, nearly every government with any focus on organic agriculture lays out the environmental values oforganic alongside its marketplace value, and most distinguish organic farmers’ “services to the environment” asmajor public contributions beyond what the organic farmers may retrieve in the marketplace. Governments oftenacknowledge the need to pay for or reward those services as public goods delivered.As increasing amounts of data accumulate demonstrating the quantifiable, long-term environmental benefits oforganic agriculture, as well as its unique ability to mitigate some of the negative effects of global climate change,the U.S. Government needs to acknowledge and embrace these as well.In the development of goals, mechanisms, and benchmarks at the dialogues, the environmental category spurredthe deepest and broadest discussion and detail. Implementation will require coordinated efforts to better define theissues, delineate the values, and formulate the strategies needed to incorporate these values into both marketplacerewards and governmental policies. 1. Use organic practices to help reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 to 50% Environmental objectives and benchmarks: of 2009 levels. 2. Track and improve watershed health by converting farms to organic in key watersheds by 2020. 3. Establish organic agriculture as a leading strategy to promote agricultural biodiversity by 2020. Track by measuring key biodiversity indicators. 4. Link NRCS soil conditioning index to organic farm plans by 2012. 5. Create a baseline to track and increase biological system health on organic farms by establishing measurements of biodiversity, habitats, ecosystems, watersheds, and foodsheds on the local and regional levels by 2020. 6. Identify and apply soil health measures for organic by 2020, including soil food web health measurements. 7. Establish baselines by 2012 to track and demonstrate pesticide use and exposure reductions in the U.S. as organic acres expand. 8. Provide funding for a national pesticide reporting system by 2020. 9. Track the amount of nitrogen fixed from organic techniques and track the reduction and application of synthetic nitrogen, as organic farming expands its contributions to the environment by 2020. 10. Establish organic food chain energy audits by 2020 with goals of measuring and balancing energy produced vs. consumed. 20
  21. 21. National Organic Action Plan Summit Discussion Paper 11. Measure carbon sequestration contributions from organic production and increase carbon sequestration by 2020 through organic farming, organic forest management, and grassland and pasture increases. Establish organic farmer carbon credit incentives and rewards by 2020. 12. Establish baselines with sustainability and life cycle analysis targets by 2020 for: • Packaging • Distribution • Transportation, food miles, and costs of transport • Energy use – electric, water, manufacturing • Recycling of agricultural and packing plastics 13. Implement land use planning which places high value on agricultural lands for organic use in all regions by 2020. 14. Shift buffer responsibility for both GMO and chemical trespass to manufacturers and/or patent–holders, to be implemented by 2020. 15. Pass legislation placing the liability for contamination with GMOs on the manufacturer by 2012. 16. Implement regulations that better protect organic farms from contamination by pesticides and GMOs by 2020. 17. Reduce runoff into rivers and protect groundwater quality through a significant increase in organic farming by 2020. 18. Implement marketplace incentives for the eco-system “services” and stewardship practices of organic production by 2020. 19. Establish the polluter-pays principle as federal policy by 2020 by instituting taxes on synthetic fertilizers, GMOs, xeno-biotics, and other synthetic substances, with proceeds used to fund organic research and market incentive programs by 2020, (replicating the successful Danish program). 20. By 2012, establish enhanced producer payments through the Conservation Stewardship Program, by assigning points to raise organic farmer applications to a“Organic as ‘climate friendly’farming” California Dialogue meeting, 2007 higher tier, in recognition of the environmental benefits delivered by organic management practices. 21. Move conservation set-aside lands, such as land coming out of the Conservation Reserve Program, into working organic agricultural lands through 2020. 21
  22. 22. TOWARDS A NATIONAL ORGANIC ACTION PLAN- Summit Discussion PaperThe health benefits of organically grown foods have long been appreciated and widely understood as one of the mainB. healthattributes that continue to draw new supporters to organic foods and remain a bedrock for long term supporters.In recent years organic milk has been seen as a “gateway” food for new mothers or families with young children.A promising trickle of new research, mostly coming from the EU but with a few studies at U.S. universities, isdocumenting what consumers have long suspected: that organic foods not only reduce exposure to toxic pesticidesfrom the foods consumed but that organic foods exhibit nutritional qualities not found in so-called ‘conventional’foods. In addition, the reduction of occupational exposure for both farmers and workers is increasingly appreciatedas a concrete health and safety contribution from organic farming. The U.S. government, however, has refused torecognize this contribution in any way, shape or form. Both research and education are key to enabling the manypotential organic contributions to public health, safety and well-being. 1. Develop and implement food safety protocols that address specific scale and Health objectives and benchmarks: organic-appropriate strategies for farmers and small-scale processors to meet new food safety requirements and compliance by 2010. 2. Commit federal research dollars to support major studies on the nutritional, health and safety benefits of organic diet by 2015 and ensure that the results of these studies receive wide distribution. 3. Federal Government to publicly recognize the positive contributions of organic food to public health and safety by 2015. 4. Build alliances within urban health and hunger networks and the progressive health community to educate the general public about the health benefits of an“Access to good food is limited tothose who can afford it.” organic diet, including support for organic as preventive health care endorsed by progressive health providers by 2012.Georgia Dialogue meeting, 2008 5. Change federal Food Stamp and WIC program requirements to allow food stamps and WIC coupons to be used to purchase organic food nationwide by 2010. 6. Increase funding for and availability of the Farmers Market Nutrition Program and the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program with provisions to ensure that coupons can be used for organic purchases, by 2012. 7. Provide health insurance discount incentives for organic farmers and consumers by 2020, replicating Wisconsin’s example where insurance companies provide “health discounts” to CSA members. 8. Require that food labels provide full disclosure of all materials used as ingredients in production and in processing by 2020. 9. Combine required food safety certifications with organic certification by 2010. 10. Make the public case for organic raw milk and change regulations to allow retail outlets to carry raw milk by 2010. 11. Implement mandatory GMO labeling by 2020. 22
  23. 23. National Organic Action Plan Summit Discussion Paper 12. Provide public funding for scientific studies on the health consequences of GMO foods by 2012. 13. Provide substantive organic food in Senate and House cafeterias by 2012. 14. Establish organic farm-to-school programs throughout the U.S. by 2020. 15. Create additional focus on safety and nutrition of organic products through consumer education and targeted market research by 2010.“We need to grow culturalcrops – crops our communitiesare used to eating.”Georgia Dialogue meeting, 2008 23
  24. 24. TOWARDS A NATIONAL ORGANIC ACTION PLAN- Summit Discussion PaperThis category is by far the most expansive, reflecting the broadest range of values and vision for where and howc. CULTURAL and SOCIAL CHANGEorganic food and agriculture can truly reflect the heartfelt desires of the stakeholders, ranging from health andeducation to reform of the entire food and agriculture system. Social and cultural goals reflect the range of whatcaptivates the imagination of what organic can offer.These goals require many different mechanisms to be achieved: some are clearly definable, while some are moredifficult to quantify; all will need ongoing assessment to evaluate the best mechanisms for success. 1. Require the price of food to reflect the true costs of production: for all organic Cultural and Social Change objectives and benchmarks: farmers, the farm-gate price should cover the cost of production of the food, maintenance of the farm, and a sustainable living wage for the producer. Establish baselines and tracks to ensure that organic farmer income increases and stabilizes by 2020. 2. Target consumer education at understanding the broader values of organic agriculture by 2012 : e.g., Health and Justice, Nutrition, Environmental Protection, and Social values. 3. Assure fair organic food access throughout the marketplace by 2020, including “food deserts” where access to fresh and healthy food is lacking. 4. Rekindle the process of organic standards creation in the public arena by 2020 to provide pressure for continuous innovation and improvement. 5. Convene organic summits every three years with government, farmers, workers, traders, and consumers to establish codes of conduct to refine and implement NOAP and to strengthen collaboration among members of the organic community. 6. Establish a real and enforceable ethical code of conduct for the organic marketplace by 2010. 7. Increase attention/resources for smaller producers, with a focus on under-served, immigrant, and limited access communities. Begin by implementing Small Farm Commission policy goals by 2012. 8. Strengthen links between the international food sovereignty movement and U.S. organic movement by 2012 to support the rights of all for healthy, nutritious food. 9. Adopt organic as part of real homeland security by ensuring local organic food production and processing, including increased energy sustainability by 2020. 10. Strengthen organic farmers’ voices and connect to organic consumers’ voices by creation of a National Organic Farmers’ Association, based on Northeast Organic Farming Associations (NOFA), with regional chapters by 2020. 11. Build a broad coalition of activists to promote organic agriculture; train more NGO activists to see organic as a career path; and build stronger links with other movements, including energy, health, labor, transportation and ecology, by 2020. 12. Integrate organic agriculture as the vehicle for reconstruction of soil, ecologic, food, cultural, and spiritual communities throughout the United States by 2020. 13. Broaden and measure the diversity of race, ethnic groups and classes of people growing and buying organic foods by 2010. 24
  25. 25. National Organic Action Plan Summit Discussion Paper 14. Establish, measure and monitor the continuous improvement of labor issues in organic food system chains, including access to benefits for workers on organic farms by 2012. 15. Increase the number of types of farmer cooperatives and monitor and nurture the growth and emergence of successful organic farmer cooperatives by 2012. 16. Create baseline data by 2012 to track organic enterprise diversity, diversity of scale, and diversity of ownership.“Organic is making the 17. Increase local and regional access to land and credit through education of the banking community by 2012:connection– ‘re-localize,re-regionalize, and include Identify the best working examples, create a baseline of current success, and track progress goals. 18. Establish an organic traders’ code of conduct by 2012 tojustice.’” Boston Dialogue meeting, 2008 foster international organic cooperation with the goals of fair access to international trade, including no organic export or import dumping. 19. Establish organic garden programs in all U.S. major cities by 2020. 20. Form alliances with organized labor: push for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act in 2009. 21. Pressure the Department of Justice to enforce laws against excessive monopolization of markets through agricultural mergers and acquisitions in the organic sector by 2010. 25
  26. 26. TOWARDS A NATIONAL ORGANIC ACTION PLAN- Summit Discussion PaperThe lack of high quality scientific information and its efficient dissemination are severe limiting factors for thed. RESEARCHimprovement and increased adoption of organic systems. “Fair share” funding1 of organic research and extensionis a first critical benchmark for overcoming these limitations. While significantly increased funding is necessaryto catalyze the overall goals of this NOAP, it alone is not sufficient. To fully meet the need for the identification,improvement and wide adoption of “best organic management practices,” increased resources must be employedwithin a more holistic, systems-oriented approach. Expanded organic research must be more timely, participatory,and based on real farm-level systems and experiences.The historic taboo in the United States on conducting research for organic farming (which continued well into thelate 1990s) has ensured a very large backlog of research objectives to be pursued. The first (and still unfulfilled)compilation was published in 1980 by USDA itself and then buried. Since then farmers and their organizationshave continued to assert and develop research agendas, with institutions slowly but gradually following behind.Notably, the privately funded Rodale Institute has continued to carry on serious organic research throughout thelast 30 years and has the largest historical data set for an organically managed cropping system. The OrganicFarming Research Foundation (OFRF) produced the most recent iteration of national research goals for organicagriculture. OFRF’s 2007 National Organic Research Agenda contains national research goals and objectives onthe topics of Soil Management, Systemic Pest Control, Organic Livestock, and Genetics. The publication is availablefree online at <http://ofrf.org/publications/pubs/nora2007.pdf>.The 2008 Farm Bill (“Food, Energy and Conservation Act of 2008”) provides a down payment towards the fairshare funding goal. Further increases to reach that initial goal will still require significant advocacy efforts.What remains to be constructed is a system of agroecological research and technology development that is broadand diverse enough that organic principles permeate the entire agricultural research agenda. Organic farmersstress the need for more farmer-friendly methodologies and farmer-to-farmer peer learning modalities as criticalcomponents of our future organic research. A robust organic research enterprise will provide solutions for organicand beyond and systematically cross over into more conventional agricultural practices outside the formal sphereof organic certification to enable improved family farm profitability and performance towards environmental andclimate change goals.1 “Fair Share funding” means matching the percentage of institutional resources explicit to organic agriculture withat least the market share of organic products in the U.S. retail marketplace. In 2007 the USDA research funding dedicated toorganic systems was about 1.2%, while the organic retail market share was measured at 3.5%. 1. Increase overall organic research dollars, based on fair share targets for organic Research objectives and benchmarks: research, so that budgets for organic research by 2012 are at least proportional to the percentage of organic food sold. 2. Set specific percentage targets for organic research dollars tied to organic production and acreage numbers, with built-in annual increases to anticipate market growth and to reflect the environmental, social, and economic benefits associated with the adoption of organic systems by 2010. 3. Create an Organic Research Service, operated as an NGO/farmer/Land Grant University research, technical assistance, and mentoring network by 2020. 4. Increase funding for interdisciplinary research to meet the real world needs of organic producers by 2012. 5. Provide ATTRA, SARE, eOrganic, & NAL AFSIC with full mandatory funding by 2012. 26
  27. 27. National Organic Action Plan Summit Discussion Paper 6. Direct funds and training resources to the NRCS so that staff, supervisors, and technicians understand and are comfortable with a systems approach and the conservation benefits of organic agriculture by 2012. 7. Establish Regional Organic Research Councils, using the SARE “model,” in all SARE regions by 2012. 8. Target research funds to help with loss of certain chemicals as the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) is implemented, with a focus on the development and adoption of organic practices to replace toxic inputs by 2020. 9. Conduct objective, public-funded assessment of new and emerging technologies (e.g., GMO, animal cloning, nano-technology) to determine impacts on organic agriculture prior to approval, by 2012.“We now have specific examples 10. Create centralized, searchable organic researchof organic farming measurablyincreasing biodiversity.” database by 2012.Washington, DC Dialogue meeting, 2007 11. Research that better differentiates organic from conventional product qualities Specific Research Topics: related to production practices. 12. Full-cost accounting to determine the true cost of food and fiber. 13. Research into nutritional differences in processing methods for dairy (UHT, HTST, raw). 14. Value of carbon sequestration in organic. 15. Quantify nutritional and environmental benefits and link them with existing benefits research. 16. Create and/or identify strategies, practices, and equipment to better manage weeds in various organic cropping systems. 17. Public plant and animal breeding. 18. Research food safety connections. 19. Impact of organic practices on soil health, climate change, and other environmental benefits. 20. Benefits of organic practices on various aquatic ecosystems and water resources. 21. Safe, effective, and farmer-friendly composting systems. 22. Organic no-till research. 23. Alternatives to the internal combustion engine. 24. Assess efficacy and impacts of approved fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, parasiticides, and livestock medicines. 25. Comprehensive economic analysis of organic production, processing, and markets in the United States. 27
  28. 28. TOWARDS A NATIONAL ORGANIC ACTION PLAN- Summit Discussion PaperOrganic education is the key to the expansion of the organic marketplace as it stimulates the growth of the nexte. educationgeneration of organic supporters, activists, policy makers, processors and farmers. Widespread understandingof organic practices leads to knowledgeable consumers and producers who can effectively advocate for organicintegrity as well as increased organic food choices.Organic agriculture relies on both the wisdom of past generations and the latest technologies. Since everyone insociety, as a consumer of food and fiber has a stake in agriculture, education about organic agriculture covers alllevels from kindergarten to high school, technical colleges to post doctorate, farmers to chefs, and food scientiststo consumers.The success of the various urban school gardens has demonstrated that even those with no family ties to farmingare attracted to working with and understanding agriculture. Agricultural research stations across the UnitedStates have begun transitioning a portion of their land to organic agriculture. Food technology laboratoriesare developing foods that do not rely on synthetic inputs that are prohibited in organic production. Across thecountryside conventional farmers are asking their neighboring organic farmers to help them transition to organicproduction. The opportunities to integrate organic learning into every age group, economic class and walk of lifeare only limited by our imaginations. 1. Increase existing favorable perception of organic food and farming through truthful, Education objectives and benchmarks: appropriate and targeted public education by 2010. 2. Increase overall public interest in all farm policy (commodity programs, pricing, etc.) through compelling public education by 2020. 3. Increase seasonal organic eating systems by 2010. 4. Increase the number of positive articles on organic agriculture by 2010. 5. Increase consumer clarity regarding the organic label by 2010. 6. Increase understanding of organic as a sustainability goal, including widespread understanding of the multiple benefits of organic to society as whole by 2010. 7. Quadruple the number of organic experts at government agencies and universities by 2020, with focus on experts who can help farmers and ranchers convert to organic production. 8. Establish Undergraduate, Master, and PhD programs in organic agriculture offered by at least 30 universities by 2020. 9. Develop nationwide locally-based transition to organic education programs by 2012, including farmer-to-farmer mentoring and farmworker training programs, with resources available to underserved, disadvantaged, and immigrant farmers and farmworkers. 10. Require land grant universities to teach organic agriculture and establish Organic Master Gardener programs as prerequisites for receiving federal research funds by 2020. 11. Create an Organic Extension Service by 2020 with the missions of improving connections for farmers to better access technical assistance and government programs, and of developing more synergy in paperwork among programs. 28
  29. 29. National Organic Action Plan Summit Discussion Paper 12. Establish regional centers of organic agriculture training in all SARE regions by 2020 to focus on technology transfer, farm business management, season extension and local food systems. 13. Institutionalize academic rewards for organic inter-disciplinary and systems research, education, and“The best protection for outreach by 2012. 14. Train bankers, economic developmentorganic integrity is an educatedconsumer” Wisconsin Dialogue meeting, 2007 authorities, and investors in organic agriculture and food systems in all regions by 2020. 15. Establish organic curricula for 4-H, FFA, vocational agriculture, and adult education programs in all regions by 2020. 16. Develop curriculum and establish pilot programs in all states, tribal lands, and territories to teach children to grow organic food by 2020. 17. Improve point of purchase information so that shoppers readily understand the benefits of organic food and farming systems by 2012. 18. Develop and promote cooking skill training courses in public and private schools nationwide by 2020, based on organic products. 19. Develop and promote consumer information to increase demand for transitional products by 2012, including technical assistance and public education to stimulate the consumption of transitional organic products. 20. Provide incentives for Extension Agents, by 2012, to be trained in organic production and to provide outreach materials and activities for organic producers. 29