12, 2007: You know the old saying: “The older
you get, the faster time seems to go.”
I must be getting old because it hardly seems possible that
my first year on the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB)
is over. Yes, even though I still feel like it, I’m
no longer a rookie. We have a whole new class of rookies just
about ready to start their own adventure. (Learn more about
the NOSB members, recommendations and comments submitted to
the advisory organization at its website www.ams.usda.gov/nosb/.)
And it really has been an adventure. Let me start by saying
to those of you involved in the organic community—It
is an honor and a privilege to serve you and the world of
organics as a farmer representative on the board.
So what have I learned since this time last year?
Well, I’ve learned there is a lot of energy embodied
in this industry from the consumer who purchases one food
item a year to the largest processor. Everyone who is touched
by organics is energized. Some of the energy comes out in
very positive ways and some, well, some is negative ways.
I’ve also learned that nowhere can more energy be felt
than at the USDA/NOP (National Organic Program) or through
the tireless efforts of the members of the NOSB.
One of the toughest lessons I’ve learned is that what
on the surface seems to be a simple and straightforward issue
can often be far more complex when viewed from many angles.
I’ve learned I need to listen to every point of view
on a subject, participate in every discussion, and do my homework
before making a decision that impacts the very heart of someone’s
I’ve learned the wheels of anything involving the federal
government move very slowly. Deliberately, but slowly. Of
course this is both good and bad, depending upon which side
of the fence you happen to be sitting. In many cases I’d
like us to move more quickly—as in the livestock pasture
issues. But I hope we take our time on the aquaculture standard.
I’ve also learned not everyone—not every farm,
not every business and not every stakeholder—has the
integrity of the word "organic" at heart. As I said
earlier, I’m not that young anymore, and I'm not so
young as to believe the dollars at stake here are not inconsequential.
Or that I don’t know there are forces at work here that
are purely financial. But there has to be a way for farms
and businesses to make a profit growing, selling, processing
and delivering organic products that satisfy the needs of
all and still adhere to a practical, realistic and ethical
understanding of this great word "organic."
I’ve learned my decisions will not please everyone.
Heck, they may not please anyone—and that’s OK.
My decisions need to be based on my understanding of how the
facts, the science and the integrity of the industry all come
And, most importantly, I’ve learned the future of the
organic industry is in the hands of 15 of the hardest-working
volunteers I’ve ever had the privilege of working with.
We don’t always see eye to eye. But, through careful
discussion, dozens and dozens of emails, phone calls—then
some more emails— we all “rise to the occasion.”
We do our best to protect the integrity of the organic industry
but still allow for the expansion of the fullest range of
products as organic continues to go mainstream.
There are many important issues on the plate of the NOSB
for 2007. We will continue to work on pasture recommendations
for livestock as well as dairy animal acquisition regulations.
We will continue to make progress on the aquaculture recommendations,
the research variance guidance document and the pet food guidance
document. And then there are all the new petitions for materials
to be added to the 205.606 list following the Harvey case,
and the stream of other projects that need attention. This
could easily be a full-time job, but fortunately I have the
farm to keep me sane.
My final thoughts after one year on the NOSB: I wouldn’t
have missed the adventure for anything. This past year has
challenged me, renewed my enthusiasm, and refreshed my perspective
on this industry. It has broadened my view and carried me
far beyond the confines of The Rodale Institute and my own
farm. And, while the challenges are many, the folks who are
hard at work on the tasks are more than up to it.
I’m sure you’ll all keep us on our toes.
From One Farm to Another