Arthur Harvey writes to Congress
Regarding Harvey v. Veneman
Arthur Harvey v. Ann Veneman, Secretary of Agriculture - United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit / Appeal from the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine no. 04-1379 26jan2005
Arthur Harvey, Plaintiff v. Mike Johanns, Secretary of Agriculture, Defendant. Consent and Final Judgement by United States District Court for the District of Maine. 9jun2005
MORE. . .
To: Congressmen Wayne Gilchrist
April 7, 2005 Ron Kind Jim Walsh Peter DeFazio
From: Arthur Harvey, Hartford, Maine 04220
I have just read your joint letter to Mike Johanns, Secretary of Agriculture, on March 3, 2005. In that letter you say, among other things:
"Based on the Harvey v. Veneman lawsuit, the USDA will have to rewrite the regulations to implement the court decision. This will have the impact of eliminating most organic food and food products from the marketplace."
There are two comments I have about the above. First, it is based on an opinion by staff at the National Organic Program, unsupported by any lawyer prepared to sign his name to a written opinion.
Second, since this opinion was repeated before the National Organic Standards Board, when I was present, I filed a motion for clarification with the Court of Appeals. I enclose the response from that Court. In short, there is no validity to the NOP opinion.
Throughout this case, I have repeatedly made it clear that farmers and manufacturers were operating in good faith, and that changes in the Rule should be implemented over a long enough period to minimize disruptions---meaning 24 months before full compliance. As of today, USDA has held to its preference for 12-18 months of phase-in. I hope you gentlemen will use your influence on USDA to advocate the longer phase-in period.
In regard to the dairy herd conversion issue: When the 80/20 feed allowance was begun in the organic industry, 10 - 15 years ago, GMO feed was almost unknown. Today, this allowance, in addition to being a violation of the law, also guarantees that cows will be fed GMO corn, GMO soybeans and other products up to 90 days bfore producing "organic" milk. To the extent that this is made known to consumers, it discredits organic dairy products.
A cornerstone of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, is a total ban on the addition of synthetic ingredients in processing, except those required under other health and safety laws. Any attempt to legislate changes to this bedrock principle will open the door to an endless parade of corporate lobbyists who wish to allow their own particular synthetics. This can be another discrediting feature for our industry.
On the other hand, it is clear that a 24-month phase in for a synthetic ban, will give manufacturers time to search out natural alternatives for most of the synthetics that are now used primarily as cost-saving ingredients. Organic consumers prefer the naturals.
Sincerely, Arthur Harvey, 1197 Main St, Hartford, Maine 04220 207 388 286
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To: Congressmen Wayne Gilchrist Ron Kind Jim Walsh Peter DeFazio
From: Arthur Harvey, 1197 Main St, Hartford, Maine 04220 207 388 2860
Subject: Follow-up to yesterday's letter
I want to point out that the Appeals Court verdict does not affect organic farming practices, except for dairy herd conversions.
Also, it does not affect the practices of manufacturers of processed foods containing organic ingredients. It simply requires a correction in the labeling of such foods. The regulation already contains provision for labeling foods with synthetic ingredients as "made with organic". The cost of these labeling changes will be slight over a period of years.
The effect of the verdict is to phase out the mislabeling of such foods, which do not meet the higher standards of the USDA seal. Probably some manufacturers will devote more resources to upgrading their products so they qualify for the reformed labeling requirement.
I do expect some temporary variation in the demand for organic ingredients after the phase-in period is completed. However, this will almost certainly be within the margin of the annual increase the industry has experienced---between 15 and 20%. In the long run, the reform of labeling requirements can only increase consumer confidence and hence, market demand for organic processed foods.
When in 1990 Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act, consumers were assured that processed "organic" foods would not contain synthetic ingredients. Although the current regulation allows synthetics, very few consumers are aware of that, and the ingredient lists generally do not mention them. When the reform caused by my lawsuit is completed, the beliefs of consumers will finally be true.
At the same time, Congress provided a lesser labeling category for foods with synthetics, and this will continue to meet the market demand from those consumers who are satisfied with a lesser standard.
Independent Organic Inspectors Association You Expect It, We Inspect It Visit our website at http://www.ioia.net
Many thanks to Arthur Harvey for sending this to Mindfully.org!