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NEW PROPOSAL FOR
NATIONAL ORGANIC STANDARDS

Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman has just announced a new proposal for uniform and consistent national standards for organic food.

"This is the most comprehensive and strongest organic standard in the world," said Glickman. "I believe that is exactly what American consumers and organic farmers want."

Essentially, the proposal offers a national definition for the term "organic." Currently, organic food is certified by various private and state organizations that each use their own standards for the term "organic."

"A single national organic standard, backed by consistent and accurate labeling, will greatly reduce consumer confusion," said Glickman. "Consumers will know what they are buying and organic farmers will know what is expected of them."

The proposal details the methods, practices, and substances that can be used in producing and handling organic crops and livestock, as well as processed products. It establishes clear labeling criteria and rules so that consumers know exactly what they are buying when they purchase organic food. It specifically prohibits the use of genetic engineering, sewage sludge, and irradiation in the production of food products labeled "organic." The proposal also prohibits antibiotics in organic livestock production and requires 100 percent organic feed for organic livestock.

USDA's proposal will allow organic farmers to export more easily their products because trading partners can more easily deal with one national standard rather than multiple state and private standards.

The revised proposal is the result of careful analysis of more than 275,000 comments USDA received in response to its initial December 1997 organic proposal.

"We listened to consumers and organic farmers and closely followed the recommendations of the National Organic Standards Board to develop a national organic standard that is better than our original proposal," Glickman said. "We believe these new standards fully meet consumer expectations and reflect current organic farming practices."

Secretary Glickman also announced several other steps the Administration is taking to promote organic agriculture. President Clinton's fiscal 2001 budget proposes $5 million for research to develop improved organic production and processing methods, evaluate economic benefits to farmers, and develop new organic markets. Glickman said USDA will establish a pilot organic crop insurance program to help organic farmers better manage risk. He also announced that USDA and the University of California at Davis will conduct research on organic production and ways to enhance farmers' ability to market organic fruits and vegetables.

The proposed national standard and additional steps Secretary Glickman announced today will help stimulate one of the fastest growing sectors of American agriculture. USDA estimates that the value of retail sales of organic foods in 1999 was approximately $6 billion. The number of organic farmers is increasing about 12 percent per year and now stands at about 12,200 nationwide, most of them small-scale producers.

Written by: National Organic Program


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