As previously reported, in 2002 the federal government moved to unite the labeling of organic produce with one standard, administered by the Department of Agriculture. Earlier, Congress had created the National Organic Standards Board, which advises the Secretary of Agriculture on matters that effect organic farming, as well as to review inputs that are not defined as organic for approval or removal from use in organic farming. “The organic community came together and actually asked the government, in order to maintain a level playing field and organic integrity, to regulate our industry,” said Mark A. Kastel, Codirector of The Cornucopia Institute. “How many other industries have ever asked the federal government for tough regulations and enforcement?”
In a recent development, the semi-annual NOSB meeting has been cancelled, due to the government shutdown. That meeting would have taken place during the week of October 21, in Louisville. "Progress in managing the organic industry, enforcement and oversight have all come to a screeching halt with the gridlock in Washington,” said Kastel.
The Cornucopia Institute, and others who advocate for small farmers and consumers, is also concerned about the power large organic producers are gaining in this regulatory process. The Institute published a report in 2012, The Organic Watergate, which raised concerns about the relationship between these large agribusinesses who chose to move into the organic arena, and the USDA.
Issues like these have raised another disincentive for small farmers to become certified organic with the USDA. Many are choosing alternatives, such as the peer-reviewed Certified Naturally Grown. According to their website, “Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) is a non-profit organization offering certification tailored for small-scale, direct-market farmers and beekeepers using natural methods. CNG was founded when the National Organic Program (NOP) took effect in 2002.” Jeff’s Gourmet Garlic Farm in Sullivan, Ohio, is one of CNG’s newest members. About 800 farmers in total have joined CNG.