A last minute, behind-closed-doors provision was added to the 2003 federal spending bill that would permit livestock producers to label their meat as "organic" even if the animals are fed partly or entirely on conventional feed rather than organic grains. Although the bill was passed on February 13th, we have a short window of opportunity to raise our voices in support of those in Congress who are trying to repeal the provision. Follow the links below to learn more and act by February 24th!
The Facts of the Matter
What You Can Do to Help
Sample Telephone Script
Sample Letter/Email Text
The Facts of the Matter
Under the provision included within the Omnibus Appropriations bill, if the USDA certifies that organic feed is commercially available only at more than twice the price of conventional feed, then the department cannot enforce regulations requiring that livestock labeled organically raised be fed only organic feed.
This is in direct contradiction to the National Organic Standards, implemented in October 2002, which clearly stipulates that any meat or poultry product labeled as organic must be fed a 100% organic ration. While the National Organic Standards were developed over a twelve-year public process, this provision was added in response to a private request the night before the vote on the federal spending bill.
As reported by the New York Times, Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert added the last minute provision at the behest of Representative Nathan Deal at a closed door session on behalf of a Georgia poultry producer who has been trying to get an exemption from the USDA that would allow it to feed its chickens a mix of conventional and organic feed and still call it organic.
The Georgia company claims there is not enough organic feed available, despite the fact that producers who are already labeling their meat and poultry as organic claim they have had no problem finding organic grains and legumes to provide their livestock with 100% organic feed.
What You Can Do To Help
We need to act fast! First, forward a link to this page to all of your concerned friends and family members so we can get as many people as possible to contact Washington by February 24th. Then join Whole Foods Market in our action campaign by making your own calls, faxes or emails demanding that our Congressional representatives repeal the language inserted into Section 771 of the Omnibus Appropriations Bill that undermines the integrity of the organic label for meat and poultry. Tell them you want the 100% livestock feed regulations retained, as included in the National Organic Standards implemented in October 2002. Tell them the National Organic Standards must not be undermined by special interest groups and private companies who do not want to comply with the rules that were developed over many years in a public process.
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Representative Sam Farr (D-CA), strong supporters of the national organic program, plan to introduce legislation to repeal the provision. The New York Times quoted Senator Leahy saying, "This whole thing is absolutely outrageous. After years and years and years of work, to have someone sneak it in in the dark of night and wipe it out makes no sense. It's a poke in the eye of a lot of very hard-working organic farmers."
Since Congress is on a break next week, this gives us time to flood their offices with calls, faxes and emails supporting the legislators working to repeal the provision. (Sending a letter via U.S. Post will not be effective in this short amount of time.) The following links will provide you with phone and fax numbers and email addresses for your Congressional Representatives.
Contact Information For Senators
Contact information For House Reps If you are unsure of your Congressional district, click on the "write my representative" link on the left hand navigation bar, choose your state and type in your zip code.
Sample Email Text
Dear Senator/Representative ____________,
I am appalled to learn of the back door provision added in Section 771 of the Omnibus Appropriations Bill that undermines the integrity of the organic label for meat and poultry. The 100% livestock feed regulations, as included in the National Organic Standards implemented in October 2002, must be reinstated. These regulations came about through many years of a truly democratic public development process and must not be undermined by special interest groups and private companies. Many reputable large and small scale organic livestock producers are already in compliance with the 100% livestock feed regulations and are not experiencing any difficulty in locating enough fairly priced organic feed to meet their needs. In fact, the National Organic Program has a report in the process of being published right now that confirms the availability of organically produced feed for livestock and poultry. The 2002 Farm Bill requested this report but Congress did not wait to review it before inserting this unnecessary provision weakening the requirements for 100% organic feed.
I urge you to work with Senator Leahy and Representative Farr in their efforts to repeal this provision. Research shows that over 55% of American consumers purchased an organic product last year and a weakening of the National Organic Standards will definitely be noticed by many of your constituents. More than 275,000 comments were sent to the USDA when the draft of the organic standards was watered down; expect a similar outrage if action is not taken to repeal this provision.