Cornucopia Suing USDA Over Organic Board Appointments
USAgNet - 04/20/2016
The Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute has filed a lawsuit challenging the USDA's appointment of non-farmers to positions reserved by Congress for organic producers on the National Organic Standards Board.
The NOSB is a 15-member citizens' board that determines what synthetic materials are safe and appropriate for use in organic food and agriculture, and to provide advice to the USDA Secretary of Agriculture on organic policy. The Cornucopia group says Congress has the obligation to appoint four positions on the NOSB for individuals who own or operate an organic farm.
According to their complaint, Cornucopia's alleges that two of the four farmer positions are occupied by full-time agribusiness executives, rather than producers--despite the fact that at least two actual producers expressed interest in serving on the board.
"This type of appointment is part of a pattern of actions taken by the USDA to make the NOSB and the National Organic Program friendlier to the needs of big business interests," said Cornucopia Co-Director Will Fantle. "Not only are farmers being denied their voice and right to participate in organic decision-making, but statistics illustrate the corporate representatives sitting in farmer seats have been decisively more willing to vote for the use of questionable and controversial materials in organics, weakening the organic standards."
The Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown University Law Center has filed the lawsuit on Cornucopia's behalf. They said as the organic industry has grown into an almost $40 billion a year market, major agribusinesses have purchased many of the leading national organic brands and are 'wielding undue influence at the USDA.'
Cornucopia, which is an organic industry watchdog, determined the organic producers were passed by after filing several Freedom of Information Act requests with the USDA to obtain a full record of applicants to the NOSB during the years that these appointments were made.