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Daily News Blog

02
Aug

Tell USDA to Ensure that Organic Farming Protects Ecosystems!

(Beyond Pesticides, August 2, 2021) One reason to eat organic food is to join with a crucial national and global campaign to eliminate toxic, petroleum-based pesticides and fertilizers and protect ecosystems in the urgent fight to curtail the climate crisis and biodiversity decline—in addition to local and immediate health and environmental benefits. Despite an important and timely vote by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) in 2018 to protect native ecosystems as a critical tool in sequestering carbon and improving environmental resiliency, and despite the Biden Adminstration’s stated commitment to fighting the climate crisis, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its National Organic Program (NOP) have not acted to put this recommendation in force.

As our understanding of the connection between protecting intact ecosystems and combating climate change has grown, the urgency to implement this recommendation cannot be overstated. We must act now!

Sign the petition to tell the National Organic Program (NOP) to take action to finalize the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) recommended rulemaking that will protect Native Ecosystems and thereby preserve the integrity of the organic seal, help reverse the biodiversity crisis, and reduce global climate change. Sign by September 20, 2021.

The Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) and implementing regulations and guidance issued by the NOP contain several provisions to increase biodiversity on organic farms.  Consistent with consumer expectations of organic, these provisions mandate protection of the natural resources present on an organic operation, including the physical, hydrological, and biological features of the farm. The soil, water, wetlands, woodlands, and wildlife must be maintained or improved by the organic operator. Three of the NOSB members must have expertise in areas of environmental protection and resource conservation. 

Biodiversity is essential to organic farming, but all farming inherently reduces biodiversity from natural ecosystems. These natural ecosystems contain ecological communities that are diverse and resilient because of their coevolution over millennia. In addition, they are more effective in sequestering carbon than any form of agriculture. Unfortunately, the requirement in OFPA that no prohibited substance be applied within three years of harvesting certified organic crops encourages prospective organic growers to plow up land containing native ecosystems. 

The NOSB voted nearly unanimously to recommend policy changes to remove the incentive to convert native ecosystems to organic farms. Wild Farm Alliance, Beyond Pesticides, and others supported these policy changes. So far, NOP has not acted to put this recommendation into the regulations. Again, the organic solution is within our grasp as a key part in taking on the existential environmental crises in front of us. It is a travesty that the Biden Administration is not acting on this now using its executive powers and responsibility to carry out this critical recommendation of the NOSB.

Sign the petition to tell the National Organic Program (NOP) to take action to finalize the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) recommended rulemaking that will protect Native Ecosystems and thereby preserve the integrity of the organic seal, help reverse the biodiversity crisis, and reduce global climate change. Sign by September 20, 2021.

PETITION TO USDA/NATIONAL ORGANIC PROGRAM:

YES! I want the National Organic Program (NOP) to take action to finalize the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) recommended rulemaking that will protect Native Ecosystems and thereby preserve the integrity of the organic seal, help reverse the biodiversity crisis, and reduce global climate change. 

In 2018 the NOSB voted near unanimously to protect native ecosystems and, in so doing, leading the national effort to take on the existential threats of the climate crisis and biodiversity decline. The NOSB sought to change the current perverse regulation that incentivizes the immediate destruction of native ecosystems and conversion to organic production as a cheaper and faster option than transitioning existing conventional farmland over a three-year period.

Protecting native ecosystems slows climate change. Native ecosystems store carbon in woody plants, in the soil’s duff layer and its deeper horizons. Native grassland and forest soils contain 20 to 50 tons of organic carbon per acre in about the top three feet of soil, which is so much more than farmers can ever hope to store in converted cropland.

Native ecosystems can be used in organic production, including low-impact grazing, mushrooms, maple syrup production, and other kinds of wild crop harvesting.

Organic consumers are distressed to learn that the NOP rules incentivize native ecosystem destruction. Organic farmers don’t think it is fair that this loophole allows immediate certification, when many have waited three years to transition conventional land. 

Wendell Berry has said “Land destruction is easy. For it only requires ignorance and violence. But to restore the land, and to conserve it, requires humanity in its highest, completest sense.” 

Please immediately initiate rulemaking to remove the incentive to convert native ecosystems to organic farms.

 

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