USA: Improprieties at USDA's NOP
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After an extensive audit and investigation of alleged improprieties at the USDA’s National Organic Program, the agency’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) made public their formal report, dated March 9, substantiating the allegations of prominent organic industry watchdog groups - that under the Bush administration, the USDA did an inadequate job of enforcing federal organic law. Since 2002, when the USDA adopted the federal organic regulations, the agency has been plagued by underfunding and a number of scandals and complaints about its cozy relationship with agribusiness interests and lobbyists, The Cornucopia Institute reports.
“We are satisfied with the thoroughness of the investigation conducted by the USDA’s Inspector General,” said Mark Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at The Cornucopia Institute. “And, we are pleased and impressed by the earnest response of the current management at the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), and its National Organic Program, in responding to the report’s critical findings.” The audit of the National Organic Program found that improvements in the program had been made, but also identified 14 major concerns requiring better management controls and the need to strengthen enforcement as well as oversight of organic certification agents. Some of the most troubling findings of the new audit include not following through on enforcement after violations were confirmed by federal law enforcement investigators. When enforcement was pursued, the USDA sometimes delayed action for as long as 32 months. And the NOP could not document for investigators the status of 19 complaints it had received, since 2004, that alleged illegal activity.
The Cornucopia Institute
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