Corporate Lobby Circles the Wagons

UPDATE: Below please find important follow-up information and documents regarding the recently filed lawsuit (Pratum Farm vs. USDA) alleging illegal, uninspected “organic” imports undercutting US farmers and exposing consumers to fraud. 

  1. Last month OrganicEye announced the filing of a lawsuit against the USDA, with one of our Oregon farmer-members as the plaintiff, accusing the agency of ignoring federal law by allowing “self-certification” of copious amounts of imported organic food (please see earlier press release).
  1. The news was picked up by Politico and the Capital Press, a major West Coast farm publication. 
  1. A follow-up story by Politico, published October 19, quotes Tom Chapman, CEO of the industry’s lead lobby organization, the Organic Trade Association (OTA), discounting the concerns articulated in the federal lawsuit. What Chapman neglects to say when describing the “strong internal control system” for monitoring groups of small farmers is that the for-profit certifiers are allowed to design their own internal control systems (rather than complying with a set USDA standardized framework).

Along with the lawsuit alleging the illegality of certifying “groups” rather than annually inspecting individual farmers, OrganicEye vehemently objects to the USDA’s practice of allowing for-profit certifiers to subcontract to their “clients” the inspections of their own farmer suppliers — doing away completely with the independent third-party certification which was intended by federal law.

  1. The OTA held a webinar to organize blowback against the legal challenge in an effort to protect the interests of their multinational member-corporations taking advantage of the group certification structure to import cheap commodities (“organic on paper”).
  1. Finally, this lawsuit has caused enough of a dustup in Washington that Congresswoman Chelle Pingree of Maine has sent a letter expressing her “concern” to USDA Secretary Thomas Vilsack and asking for an investigation of fraud.

Photo Description: A harvest crew works its way through a hazelnut orchard in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Credit: