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E-M:/ Organic Standards Hearings-How to Comment



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Enviro-Mich message from anne.woiwode@sfsierra.sierraclub.org
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ENVIRO-MICH folks:

I don't think this has previously been posted, and apologize for the long
listing here, but wanted to call attention to Michiganders that proposed
federal standards for organic foods are currently out for public review.  The
consensus has been that these are severely flawed, and as a note from Molly
Cole of Kalamazoo mentioned earlier these might well lower the standards below
which Michigan organic foods are produced.  Below is a press release Sierra
Club put out relating to one of four hearings on this matter which I hope will
educate about the concerns we feel should be addressed in these proposed
rules.  At the bottom of this message is information on submitting comments.

AW

SIERRA CLUB TO TESTIFY AT USDA ORGANIC RULES HEARING IN SEATTLE ON THURSDAY

PRESS RELEASE: Thursday, February 26, 1998

Seattle, Washington:  Sierra Club joined organic growers and consumers today
in protesting the U.S. Department of Agriculture's proposed organic
standards.  Doris Cellarius of Olympia, a member of the Sierra Club's
Community Health Committee, praised organic farmers for leading the way in
producing food and fiber in ways that protect soil productivity and water
quality.  "One of the main reasons I buy "organic" is to support these
growers.  I am very disappointed in how the Department of Agriculture has
treated this industry."

According to Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope, "If USDA's proposed
rules are adopted as written, consumers will lose all faith in the 'organic'
label, and a $3.5 billion industry in organic products will be threatened,"

Pope has called on Sierra Club members and other environmentalists and
consumers nationwide to flood USDA with comments. "Federally-set organic
standards must reflect what the public understands 'organic' to mean.  The
USDA proposed rule is so deeply flawed that it must be withdrawn and
rewritten."

"There is no place in organic agriculture for sewage sludge, irradiation,
genetically engineered organisms, and waste materials not yet proven safe"
said Cellarius, who outlined the following additional problems with the new
rule:

- The new rule governing organic standards directly conflicts with current
practices, consumer expectations, and international trade.

- The new rule ignores the authority granted to the National Organic
Standards Board (NOSB) by Congress, and gives the U.S. Department of
Agriculture latitude to loosen standards for organic production.

- The new rule should require higher standards for livestock operations,
including allowing animals access to outdoors, prohibiting the refeeding of
animal parts and manure, excluding antibiotic-treated animals from organic
production, and requiring that all livestock feed be organically grown.

- The new rule should not price small farmers and certifiers out of
business with a regressive flat fee structure.  Instead a sliding scale fee
system should be adopted to ensure small farmers share a fair burden.

- The new rule should not allow the USDA to get into the eco-label business
by prohibiting the use of terms such as "pesticide free" or "no antibiotics
or hormones" while allowing synthetic pesticides and antibiotics in
"organic" agriculture.

- The new rule must be consistent with the Organic Food Production Act, and
the recommendations of the National Organic Standards Board.

***************************************************************************
HERE IS THE INFORMATION ABOUT WHAT WILL HAPPEN AT THE HEARINGS ON HOW ORGANIC
FOODS CAN BE GROWN AND LABELED.

February 26, 1998: Seattle Center, 305 Harrison Street, Seattle, Washington
98109, (206) 684-7202.      Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

March 5, New Brunswick, NJ,  Rutgers Student Center 126 College Avenue New
Brunswick, NJ  08901 (732) 932-8821   Hours 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

    (The deadline for comment has been extended until May 1, 1998.)  Any
member of the public may submit a comment; however, we request that those
persons who wish to comment register with USDA as soon as possible prior to
the meeting date. A person may register by calling Karen Thomas at (202)
720-3252, at which time each person will be requested to submit their name,
the topic of the comment, and the meeting location where the comment will be
submitted.  Registration will help ensure that a person will be able to
present his or her comment during the meeting.  Persons wishing to comment may
also register by sending an e-mail message to the NOP Webmaster at
http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop.

Any person wishing to comment, but who is unable to register prior to the
meetings, will be able to sign up at each meeting location on the day of the
meeting between 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.  These presenters may submit comments
on a first-come, first-served basis and these comments will be limited based
on the time available and the number of presenters.

Meeting Agenda

    Each meeting will begin with a brief opening statement followed by a
30-minute question and answer period. The remainder of the meeting will be a
listening session at which time interested parties may submit public comment
on the proposed rule. Oral comments will be limited to 5 minutes to enable
the greatest number of presenters an opportunity to speak. The question and
answer period and the public comments will be recorded and included in the
public record of comments for the proposed rule. We request that a printed
copy of each person's comments be provided to USDA at the time the comment
is submitted orally to ensure an accurate transcription.

Written Comments

    As described in the Federal Register on December 16, 1997 (62 FR 65849),
written comments may be mailed to Eileen S. Stommes, Deputy Administrator,
Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA, Room 4007-S, Ag Stop 0275, P.O. Box
96456, Washington, D.C. 20090-6456, or faxed to (202) 690-4632 by March 16,
1998, or submitted via the Internet through the National Organic Program's
homepage at http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop.



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