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