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Profile of Jim Riddle, An OCA Recommended Candidate for USDA Chief

31762 Wiscoy Ridge Road, Winona, MN  55987 
Ph/fax: (507) 454 8310, Cell: 507-429-7959 
E-mail: jriddle AT riverland DOT org

I was raised on a small dairy and produce farm near Colfax, Iowa. As with many farm kids, I spent my summers baling hay, de-tasseling corn, and walking beans, until I received a Maytag Foundation scholarship. I graduated from Grinnell College, where I received degrees in Biology and Political Science and an Iowa teaching certificate in 1978. I worked as an Iowa State Senate aide, researching alternatives to Iowa's property tax system, and taught junior high school in Grinnell, before moving to MN in 1980.

Since 1980, I have been an organic farmer, gardener, conservation district supervisor, organic inspector, educator, policy advisor, author, organizer, and avid organic eater. My wife, Joyce, and I have lived off the grid since 1984, producing all of our power from the sun, wind, and woods, living in our owner-built, energy-efficient earth-sheltered home. We raise a big garden and put up much of our food. For us, sustainability and green living are not just slogans - they are a way of life.

My involvement in agricultural policy began in 1983, when I was asked to serve on the Lewiston, MN steering committee of the Land Stewardship Project, a group dedicated to "stop treating our soil like dirt" and "keeping the land and people together." I have been a member of the National Farmers Union since 1986, the year I was elected to serve on the Winona County Soil and Water Conservation District Board, where I helped implement innovative programs such as tree plantings with school groups and soil-building crop rotation incentives for farmers.

In 1987, I was founding president of the Winona Farmers Market Association, which remains a thriving local foods market. I continue my work on local food systems as an active member of the Winona County Economic Development Authority, helping provide economic opportunities to area farmers and processors. As a Jesse Jackson delegate to the DNC in 1988, I spoke of the need to invest in local, organic, and environmentally-sound food and farming systems.

I began doing organic inspections in the late-1980's, and was founding chair of the International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA). I am co-author of the IFOAM/IOIA International Organic Inspection Manual, which has been translated into 5 languages and is used as the definitive text for the training of organic inspectors worldwide. Since 1991, I have trained hundreds of organic inspectors throughout the world. I helped develop standardized organic certification and inspection forms, which are used by numerous USDA-accredited certification agencies. I served as a member of the US delegation to Codex, helping develop and adopt the Codex International Organic Guidelines. I co-authored the Organic Trade Association's 1999 American Organic Standards, an influential document leading up to adoption of the US National Organic Program (NOP) Final Rule.

I have served on the Minnesota Department of Agriculture's Organic Advisory Task Force since 1991, and, in 1998, was instrumental in passage of Minnesota's landmark organic certification cost-share program, which reimburses a portion of a farmer's certification fees, now a national program in the 2008 Farm Bill. I helped the MN-NRCS establish incentives for conventional farmers to convert to organic production under EQIP. I contributed to adoption of the Minnesota Organic Memorandum of Understanding, signed by the leaders of 4 Federal (NRCS, RMA, FSA, USDA-RD), 3 State (MDA, DNR, MPCA), and 3 University departments (CFANS, UMN-EXT, UMN-ROCs).

In January 2001, near the end of the Clinton Administration, I was appointed to the USDA's National Organic Standards Board. I served on the Executive Committee for 5 years and was chair in 2005. I have worked with the Agricultural Marketing Service; Economic Research Service; Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service; Agricultural Research Service; Natural Resource Conservation Service; Risk Management Agency; National Ag Library; Foreign Ag Service; National Ag Statistics Service; and Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education.

I have provided support to State Departments of Agriculture in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Texas, Maine, Oregon, North Dakota, Montana, North and South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, California, Washington, Georgia, Utah, Idaho, and New York. I have collaborated with numerous universities, certification agencies, and non-profit food, agriculture, consumer, and environmental groups, implementing policies that support sustainable systems. 

Since January 2006, I have worked as the University of Minnesota's Organic Outreach Coordinator, developing and giving farmer workshops and presentations, and managing the UMN's Organic Ecology website. I also chair the Leadership Team for eOrganic, a national multi-university Extension Service initiative developing electronic resources for organic farmers, researchers, and Extension Agents. I am a frequent speaker at food and agricultural conferences and a leading voice for sustainable agriculture and local food systems.

Given the challenges of climate change, ocean dead zones, groundwater contamination, soil erosion, energy, obesity, diabetes, food safety, farm subsidies, nutrition, and food security, the Obama Administration has the opportunity to make a significant shift in US agriculture policy by investing in cost-effective sustainable food and farming systems.

The USDA must lead the transition to a green economy by implementing policies that support ecologically-sound food and fiber systems; conservation and environmental stewardship; renewable and efficient energy; and consumer-driven markets, providing stable and sustainable incomes for family farmers and ranchers; supporting vibrant, web-accessed rural communities; and encouraging a new generation of farmers, ranchers, and gardeners. There is work to do!

Online CV for Jim Riddle: