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TAKE ACTION: Cornucopia Alleges Corruption at the USDA’s National Organic Program, Demands New Management

(National Organic Standards Board meeting, photo courtesy of The Cornucopia Institute)

As we are getting ready to see either Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump take up residence in the White House, many of you may be wishing that we had another four years of President Obama.

But whether you are for or against this current president, one thing has been irrefutable: he has been a complete and utter disaster for organic.

Not only did he recently sign the worst GMO-labeling bill imaginable, which has put the future of organic in serious jeopardy, but his administration has approved every single genetically-modified crop that has been applied for, including genetically-engineered salmon, Agent Orange Corn and three types of genetically-engineered apples that don’t turn brown.

And these are just the high-levels initiatives that the much of the organic industry knows about. Yet, when you dig into the details of the day-to-day operations at the National Organic Program, it gets even worse.

The Cornucopia Institute, one of the organic industry’s most important non-profit organizations, believes that things are so bad that it has alleged corruption and asked USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to remove Miles McEvoy, who oversees the National Organic Program (NOP). Furthermore, Cornucopia has just delivered 5,000 letters from organic stakeholders, who are also demanding a change in management at the NOP and the replacement of Miles McEvoy.

(Miles McEvoy, photo courtesy of the USDA)

According to Cornucopia, Miles McEvoy unilaterally announced sweeping changes in the operation of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), the 15-member body established by Congress to make organic recommendations to the USDA, and stripped much of the power from the NOSB. To the casual observer, this might not seem like a big deal, but the NOSB is everything in organic.

In its letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Cornucopia asked that it stop the following corrupt practices:

  • Cease ignoring the advice and counsel of the National Organic Standards Board: The NOSB has been bypassed, and policy resolutions it has adopted have been ignored or countermanded. These include recommendations to prohibit engineered nanomaterials in organics, carrageenan in organic infant formula, and soilless/hydroponic production from being certified as organic.
  • Stop undermining the authority of the NOSB: In a break with congressional intent and a 20+ year precedent of respecting the NOSB’s authority, NOP leadership and Miles McEvoy stripped the board’s ability to set their own procedures, work plan, and agenda. This demonstrates gross disrespect to the organic community.
  • Restore the Sunset provision Congress established to limit synthetics/non-organic ingredients and inputs in organics: The two primary authors of the Organic Food Production Act (OFPA), Senator Leahy and Congressman DeFazio, both have stated to you that the action to gut the Sunset provisions was a violation of the intent of Congress. This decision should be reversed and its architect should be removed from his position of authority.
  • Establish judicious enforcement: The NOP has allowed “factory farms” to operate that are clearly in violation of the law, refusing to investigate scofflaws. In cases where willful violations of organic standards have been found, the NOP has failed to publicly identify these operations, preventing their examples from acting as a deterrent to other industry players. Furthermore, the NOP has let violators off the hook with “sweetheart” negotiated deals (again, in secrecy) and has mishandled serious cases of alleged fraud.
  • Safeguard the integrity of seats on the NOSB: Congress specifically created designated positions on the board to assure diverse representation by all organic stakeholders: farmers, certifiers, consumer advocates, retailers, manufacturers, environmentalists, and scientists. This mandate has been illegally violated by the appointment of corporate executives representing agribusiness interests and by individuals who have never even attended an NOSB meeting. The appointment process should be open to public scrutiny, and only the best and brightest in the organic community should be appointed to the NOSB.
  • Cease the investments in public relations and disingenuous proclamations about “transparency”: Start posting all public documents on the NOP website and fully complying with requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Cornucopia has filed nine federal lawsuits against the USDA concerning the agency’s failure to comply with access to public records under the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).


If you want to see an end to the alleged corruption and more protection of organic, this is what you need to do.

Click HERE, print out and sign the form, and send it back to Cornucopia. Absolutely no donation is necessary. This is NOT a fundraiser.

Even though 5,000 individual forms have already been submitted, Cornucopia is encouraging everyone to continue participating in the proxy campaign.

Why can’t you just do an e-petition instead of having to print something out?

Because politicians have informed Cornucopia that the e-petitions are virtually meaningless. However, when they receive actual signatures from upset citizens, this carries a lot more weight.

Don’t forget that when Vani Hari wanted Kraft to remove artificial colors from its Mac & Cheese, she showed up at Kraft’s corporate headquarters in Chicago with 270,000 signatures! She literally had box after box of signatures with her.

Because of this, Kraft took notice, and the company eventually made the change. Had she not done this and simply forwarded the e-signatures, the impact would not have been the same.

As such, we need to take a similar approach here if we really want to see change at the USDA and if we want to see organic truly protected.

Thank you so much for your concern and effort.

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