Supporters of Organic Farmers and Authentic Organic Food,

My very sincere thanks to all of you who have made our work possible. Organic food and farming are worth protecting. We could not do this job without your support.

April 1, 2024 was the 20th anniversary of Will Fantle and I establishing ourselves as the first full-time organic industry watchdogs. Our tactics have shifted but the imperative to protect organics remains the same. We launched OrganicEye five years ago to continue this important work.

This past year, we have challenged the USDA and corporate agribusiness, and exposed the duplicity of some of the country’s largest “independent” organic certifiers — how dare they betray our values and the true meaning of organic agriculture!

Despite our efforts thus far, the USDA refuses to enforce the laws passed by Congress to protect farmers, ethical organic businesses, and their loyal customers from fraud and unfair competition.

It’s time we, as a community, take the law into our own hands!

OrganicEye is now partnering in a lawsuit to shut down “group certification” — the illegal import of organic commodities, food, and ingredients from uninspected foreign farms. Instead of requiring inspection by accredited certifiers, the USDA is allowing the agribusiness-buyers of products to confirm the status of their own suppliers — a gross conflict of interest.

Farmers in developing countries are being exploited. They are often not paid any more for organic than conventional production and, once they become organic, they become indentured servants — only allowed to sell to the agribusiness that controls their certification. This corrupt system is driving farmers out of business in the US. And, worst of all, it’s a setup for fraud.

Some certifiers have even let US and Mexican farmers evade annual inspections by being members of “groups.” This is wrong, unethical, and illegal!

OrganicEye has exposed some of the largest certifiers (including CCOF and Oregon Tilth) for certifying giant livestock factories and hydroponic (soilless) produce — and accepting payola (contributions, advertising, and conference sponsorships) from their clients.

Federal law is very clear. To prevent conflicts of interest, certifiers need to be independent and not engage in lobbying or advocacy work or accept payments over and above certification fees from the farms and businesses they certify. But the USDA has refused to enforce the law!

OrganicEye has filed formal legal complaints under administrative law in an attempt to correct these violations of the spirit and letter of the organic laws in federal court and in the court of public opinion.

Our campaign to support farmers and businesses switching to certifiers who share our values — and I’m happy to say there are quite a few — is in full gear and gaining traction.

Please make a contribution to protect ethical organic farmers and the authenticity of the organic food supply.

There really is no other viable marketplace option if we want to protect family-scale farmers and preserve our access to truly safe and nutrient-dense food.

What are the alternatives to organic food and farming?

  • Not food labeled “non-GMO.” This can be produced on conventional farms using petroleum-based fertilizers and contaminated with insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides!
  • Not “sustainable.” Back when I was farming, that term meant regenerative agriculture: recycling animal waste and other nutrients, and building, not degrading, soil fertility. Since then, Monsanto has been touting “sustainable” agriculture! So you know the definition has drastically changed.
  • Not “regenerative.” What the heck does that even mean? Again, not that many years ago, we knew. But now that it’s been co-opted by mega corporations like Archer Daniels Midland, touting their regen credentials, we know the meaning of that term is also lost. There might be a few tweaks that benefit the environment but, unless it’s organic, it can include the use of toxins like Bayer/Monsanto’s Roundup and seeds genetically engineered to resist the herbicide.

Organic food is the only true marketplace alternative, and we desperately need to preserve its integrity. We might be able to find great local food in season, but what about rice and grains? What about avocados, chocolate, nuts, coffee, and bananas?

The USDA and some of the largest certifiers are allowing massive amounts of uninspected imports, forcing US family farmers out of business and defrauding all of us who depend on organic food.

We know what “organic” means — and unlike some of the other terms, its definition is codified in federal law. But we obviously need to compel the USDA to enforce the law!

Your financial backing is imperative. I’m asking you to underwrite this work. You supply the fuel — and, just as importantly, you give us the moral authority to speak out on these important issues!

Factory Dairy

OrganicEye has more expertise in investigating and analyzing the shift to factory livestock production than any other organization. Your membership enables us to continue our campaign to shut down this illegal economic juggernaut.

Who is really producing your organic food? Private equity investors and billionaires own many of the “organic” livestock factories and have been able to bamboozle their customers. Some are even lauded and/or top-rated by other organizations.

Organics just received another blackeye with an article from The Atlantic. It profiled the owner of three “organic” dairy CAFOs in Northern California that have been accused of several well-documented animal abuse and neglect charges.

The PR-savvy dairy operators are certified by CCOF and received the “Organic Farmers of the Year” award from the lobbyists at the Organic Trade Association. Shame on the certifier, the OTA, and the USDA for greenwashing “organic” CAFOs and eroding the brand value of the organic label, something we all own together

Delisting Unsafe Ingredients in Organic Farming and Food Production

Under the law, any synthetic and non-organic ingredient proposed for use in organics has to first be vetted for safety and environmental impacts by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). Now that 85% of that body is associated with OTA lobbyists, is it any surprise that ingredients used by conventional agribusiness are being allowed into organics?

We will continue our fight to remove possible carcinogens.

Lifting the Veil on Corruption in Organics — Material Review Organizations

After the NOSB approves basic farming materials and food ingredients, name-brand manufacturers apply for approval of their products from organic materials review organizations (MROs).

The most prominent of these is the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI), which is funded almost entirely by service fees from corporate agribusiness and private certifiers (many of which are members of the OTA). OMRI is totally unregulated by the USDA and masquerades as an independent public interest charity. After reviewing their 990s (annual reports to the IRS for nonprofit organizations), we discovered that the vast majority of their income comes from fees paid by manufacturers and subscriptions from certifiers (which are for-profit businesses). For example, in the fiscal year 2023, only $461 of their $7.5 million income came from contributions.

In comparison, certifiers who accept fees from farmers and businesses are required by law to be supervised by the USDA and periodically audited to ensure they are carrying out their duties correctly and impartially (although, obviously, we have concerns about how well the USDA is fulfilling this legal responsibility).

In the case of MROs, there’s nothing to counter the inherent conflict of interest — placing the health and safety of our families, and the credibility of organic food as an alternative, at risk.

We will report to our members soon on our research concerning these inherent conflicts.

Again, there’s no good alternative to organics when shopping. Whether it’s fresh, nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables grown in carefully stewarded soil, dairy, meat, and eggs from animals who are respectfully treated, or your favorite organic chocolate bar, if we lose authentic organics as an alternative, the integrity of the food we buy for ourselves and our families will be lost in a marketing wilderness based on propaganda rather than tangible differences in food production.

I, along with our leadership and staff, am humbled by your continued confidence in our organization. We couldn’t do this work without you. I sincerely hope you will renew your membership for 2024 (or join for the first time). If you have already contributed this year, you have my sincere thanks. And if you are a supporter who hasn’t donated yet, please consider this your formal invitation to join the team!

Sincerely yours,
Mark A. Kastel
Executive Director