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'Dark Forces' Are Coming for Your Organic Food

So says the former Obama USDA appointee who helped create national organic standards.

The Freedom Caucus is a rowdy band of GOP US House members most famous for triggering government shutdowns, pushing to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and driving former GOP Speaker John Boehner from his post on the theory he wasn't conservative enough. And now they're coming for your certified-organic food.

Back in December, the Freedom Caucus released a "recommended list of regulations to remove."  Among its 228 targets—ranging from eliminating energy efficiency standards for washing machines to kiboshing rules on private drones—the group named the National Organic Program.

Operated by the US Department of Agriculture, the NOP was established by the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 to set uniform national standards for foods and agricultural products labeled "USDA Organic," replacing the patchwork of state-level standards that had held sway for decades previously. The NOP ensures that food labeled organic really is raised without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers—it also oversees USDA-accredited organic certifying agents and takes "appropriate enforcement actions if there are violations of the organic standards," according to the USDA.

As of 2015, annual organic food sales stood at $39.7 billion, representing nearly 5 percent of total food sales. And sales for organics are growing at an 11 percent annual clip—nearly four times the rate of overall US food sales.

It's not clear what the Freedom Caucus meant by putting the National Organic Program on a list of regulations to "remove"; the staff of US Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the Freedom Caucus stalwart who authored the list, has not returned my calls and emails asking for clarification. Organic food makes a strange target for deregulation, because organic regulations only apply to farms and food processors that voluntarily accept them. They prohibit, say, the spraying of synthetic pesticides only for a very certain kind of operation—ones that want to be certified organic.