Don't Miss Out

Subscribe to OCA's News & Alerts.

USDA Maintains Pattern of Corporate Appointments

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's All About Organics page.

One of the nation's preeminent organic industry watchdogs, The Cornucopia Institute, expressed renewed criticism of the process used for the selection of four new appointees to the USDA's National Organic Standards Board (NOSB).  The NOSB is a 15-member volunteer board composed of various organic stakeholders that makes decisions regarding any synthetic materials allowed for use in organic agriculture and food production and also advises the USDA Secretary on policy.

"The selection process was conducted in secrecy despite requests to cast sunlight on the decision making and solicit input from a very engaged community of organic farmers, businesses, and consumers," said Will Fantle, Cornucopia's Codirector. "We think a more transparent process would ensure the selection of the best and brightest for the various vacancies on the board - instead of, once again, appeasing the organic corporate lobby."

Cornucopia has been critical of past appointments that were more representative of the agribusiness sector than meeting requirements detailed in the federal law that created the board, the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA).  As powerful food processing interests have increasingly sought to add synthetic and non-organic materials to foods, the NOSB has become a focal point of controversy over what some deem a watering down of organic integrity.

Under both the Bush and Obama administrations the USDA has violated OFPA by appointing agribusiness executives, instead of those "owning or operating" a certified organic farm, to sit in seats intended to represent farmers. Currently, two of the four "farmers" on the board were employees of large agribusinesses when appointed.

"Congress deliberately set aside the majority of seats for independent organic stakeholders as a way to prevent the kind of unseemly corporate influence we have witnessed in recent years on the NOSB," Fantle lamented.