Urban Ag News would like to share the following information that is important to all greenhouse vegetable growers producing organic crops using hydroponic techniques.
The following information was provided to UAN from Lee Frankel, Executive Director of The Coalition of Sustainable Organics
Many of you have done the difficult work of creating or sustaining successful controlled environment facilities producing fresh produce. You are providing an inspiration to all growers to carefully reconsider all of our assumptions about growing methods.
Unfortunately, the very success of your operations is generating a push back from established interests in the organic segment of the market. If you grow certified organic produce in containers, your livelihood may be in jeopardy. Today, a task force that reports to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is considering changes to USDA organic certification standards that could eliminate organic certification for produce grown in containers.
And a vocal group of farmers is pushing the NOSB to change the standards immediately, a move that would likely put many successful growers out of organics. Standing behind the rally cry, “Keep the Soil in Organics,” this vocal group has asked for a moratorium on certification of containerized organic growing. And they have gained the support of a number of U.S. Senators and other policymakers, including Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who has written a letter or U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
These challenges are mounting, and they threaten our ability to grow organic fruits and vegetables. This is why we established the Coalition for Sustainable Organics (CSO) – because we want to ensure that the USDA’s established certification standards remain unchanged. We’d like you to join us.
You can also make your voice heard by submitting comments to the US Department of Agriculture, the National Organic Program and the National Organic Standards Board during their open comment period. But you must act soon. The important task is that as many growers as possible speak up for our community of organic growers that incorporate containers in their production methods.
We also encourage you and your contacts to sign up to speak directly to the National Organics Standards Board. If you have the time and the money, it would be great to have you come in person in Washington, DC on April 25 and 26. If the burden is too great, there is also an opportunity to tell your story via a web conference call on April 19th between 1 and 4 PM Eastern Time.
Please be aware that the deadline to submit written comments or to sign up for a speaking slot is this Thursday at 11:59 pm Eastern on April 14, 2016.
You can electronically submit comments to the National Organic Standards Board by clicking on the following link: https://www.regulations.gov/#!
documentDetail;D=AMS-NOP-15- 0085-0001 . Once on that page, you can click on the “Comment Now!” button on the right side of the page to come to a screen to submit your comments. A template for comments is available below to help inspire or to guide you in telling your message. Feel free to edit them to suit your needs.
The following link will allow you to sign up to speak at either the web conference or in person:
constantcontact.com/register/ event?oeidk= a07ecc69cz70570249f&llr= 5eqfe4dab . Click on the “Register Now!” button, which will take you to a new page to request more information from you. You can click on the “general comment/other” space for the question that asks what topic you wish to address.
YOUR VOICE MATTERS, We must stand together to protect our livelihood and the integrity of the organic movement.
The Coalition for Sustainable Organics
DRAFT LETTER TO NOSB FROM PRODUCER
On behalf of [company name], I’m writing to urge the USDA and the National Organics Standards Board to continue the longstanding USDA policy to certify organic produce grown in containers.
We employ more than XXX people on our farm[s] [and operations] in [name the locations]. We are currently certified by [name of the certification company]. We grow organic [names of the commodities] on our farm[s].
We grow in containers because we take seriously the very definition of organic production in the USDA Organic Regulations that mandates we “respond to site-specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.”
By using containers, we’ve significantly reduced the amount of land, water and other resources needed to create a healthy root zone, a healthy plant and a bountiful harvest. Containers have allowed us to [significantly reduce/eliminate] nutrient and soil run-off from our farm[s]. [(If growing in an arid region) As all farmers know, clean water is a very scarce but important resource, so it would be irresponsible to not incorporate methods that help us conserve it.] [(If you have a local grown portion to your marketing program) Containers give us a viable opportunity to provide a locally grown product in an environmentally sustainable way.]
The real purpose of organic growing is to give families alternatives to fruits and vegetables that have been exposed to harmful chemicals and synthetic fertilizers. If the NOSB were to restrict supplies of organic foods that meet the consumer expectations of what is organic in order to raise prices for the benefit of producers, we fear that the USDA organic label will lose its reputation for integrity.
Container growing is also scalable, which allows for everyone from new and small growers to larger farms to viably help supply the growing demand for organics and nutritious food.
We urge the NOSB and the USDA to encourage, and not stifle, sound and sensible growing methods to help feed the growing population. We believe that everyone deserves organics.
Company Name ]