“We've got this tradition all throughout agricultural history in North America of having to step up at different times to counter these corporate interests that want to take land, take water, take our resources, take our markets… And when needed, farmers come together. And this seems to be one of those times,” begins Real Organic Project farmer, Dan Hobbs.
Dan and Nanna of Hobbs & Meyer Farms in Avondale, Colorado grow heritage grains, garlic, pepper and seeds adapted to the arid Southwest. For them, the organic label has been invaluable. They sell their heirloom seed to National seed companies and their produce to big chains such as Whole Foods and Natural Grocers.
Hobbs and Meyer irrigate their high mineral Arkansas River Valley soils deeply every 10 days. This increases the drought tolerance of the seed and “teaches these plants to work for a living.” Dan works to regionally adapt open-pollinated seed and conserve the genetic biodiversity of food crops. His work increases our resilience in a changing climate.
Sharing his skills and knowledge is a big part of why Dan farms. He works for the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union in the winter to help develop local co-operative distribution systems around the state so that the many young farmers that want to farm can succeed.
“I have seen more farmers come and go than I have fingers and toes,” said a farmer from Southwest Farm Fresh, one of the distribution hubs that Dan has helped get up and running. “And it’s not because they can’t grow,” referring to the challenge of securing markets.
The organic label is crucial to the success of farms across rural America that are isolated from the people who want to support them. But, these organic farmers are losing their markets to fraudulent organic grain imports, or hydroponic or confined livestock operations that have used their financial influence to get certified. These operations figured out that it was easier to lobby for changes in the meaning of USDA organic, instead of actually farming organically!
To be clear, the USDA organic law is mostly good. It is USDA enforcement that is lacking. But, to walk away from organic would be leaving rural farms (that depend on USDA Organic for marketing) to struggle.
So we must work to protect it.
Organic farmers across the country emailed USDA Secretary Perdue this week to tell him to implement and enforce the Origin of Livestock Rule. Confinement diaries have been using loopholes to continuously convert conventional cattle to organic production rather than keep their own organic calves as replacements. The Real Organic Project's standards eliminate these Origin of Livestock loopholes. Dairies that are continuously bringing in conventional cows, and the certifiers allowing them to do this, are creating a significant financial disadvantage to the organic dairies following the current organic rules.
Now we are asking the USDA to follow the Real Organic Project’s example.
The National Organic Coalition took this issue to the organic farmers of America. We support them in this effort. Below is the letter Dave wrote asking Secretary Perdue to “Do Better”!
Dear Secretary Perdue,
The USDA in the organic dairy and poultry sectors are not only leading to great economic hardship for the real organic farmers of America. They are also misleading the eaters of America, thus destroying consumer confidence in the USDA organic seal. The very reason for the creation of the NOP was to ensure integrity and transparency in the organic market. You are failing! Please work to quickly resolve these issues. Government doesn't NEED to fail. Do Better.
Real Organic Project
East Thetford, VT 05043
You can send your own letter to Secretary Perdue and copy these email addresses:
We are powerful when we all come together around the issues that we hold in common.
Thank you for joining us.
Yours in the dirt,