First year on the NOSB: Hard work, tough
issues, good energy
It’s a privilege—and a world of intense problem management—to be a farmer rep on this organic sector advisory board to the USDA organic program.

By Jeff Moyer, The Rodale Institute® Farm Manager

Jeff Moyer is the farm manager at the 333-acre Rodale Institute research farm, and has been here for over 26 years, refining the farm's cover cropping and crop rotation systems. The farm has over 1,000 organic apple trees, a 3-acre CSA, 270 acres in a rotation of corn, small grains, hay, and edible soy beans for a Japanese market, and 25 acres of experimental research plots that have been used to test and compare the yield, soil health and environmental impact of organic and conventional systems for the last 22 years.

"It's been extremely rewarding to work at The Rodale Institute," says Jeff. "Working on projects and with people who are having a positive impact on family farm practices, economics, and environmental stewardship is very fulfilling. The positive changes I've seen on our own farm over the years—and farms around the world— convinces me that we're on the right road."

How to contact Jeff

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611 Siegfriedale Rd.
Kutztown, PA 19530

January 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

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 business venture.

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 together.

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