USA: Watchdog calls on USDA to boost transparency in organic governance
by Redaktion (comments: 0)
In a move to protect the growing organic industry from undue corporate influence, a leading organic watchdog group has released a letter calling on the USDA to collaborate with the organic community on pending appointments to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). The Cornucopia Institute, and other organic advocates, have long been concerned that representatives from corporate agribusiness have obtained a disproportionate influence on rulemaking at the USDA. "During the Bush administration we saw crass politics, at its worst, in play during the NOSB appointment process," said Will Fantle, Codirector of The Cornucopia Institute. In one instance, an employee of General Mills was nominated to fill a slot on the board that Congress had earmarked for a consumer representative. "Abuses of this nature are repugnant to the organic community and certainly betray the letter and spirit of the Organic Foods Production Act, the law passed by Congress giving the USDA authority to oversee the industry," added Mr Fantle.
Although Cornucopia and other independent industry observers have been overwhelmingly satisfied with the new direction the Obama administration has taken in staffing the National Organic Program, and responding to criticism over past ethical lapses in management, including a recent audit by the Inspector General's office, not all stakeholders have been pleased with the NOSB nominating/appointment process. In 2009, the first time the Obama/Vilsack administration at the USDA named new NOSB members, they continued the Bush administration policy of keeping secret the nominees and the related corporations or organizations they work for or represent. Some in the organic community feel that the lack of openness in the appointment process has resulted in some important missteps that have hurt the credibility of the board and its work. "Keeping nominees and their affiliations secret raises questions of the process that is a slap in the face to organic principles," said Rebecca Goodman, a certified organic dairy farmer from Wonewoc, Wisconsin.
The Cornucopia Institute
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