Cooperatives Work for Organic Integrity and Funding

In 2004 the National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA) joined the National Organic Coalition to ensure that the provisions of the Organic Food Production Act of 1990 are fully implemented and to develop the overall infrastructure that supports the organic industry, including retailers and producers. The National Organic Coalition (NOC) formed in response to growing concern that Act’s provisions on peer oversight and other provisions have not yet been implemented. In addition to NCGA, Coalition members include the Center for Food Safety, Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA, Humane Society of the United States, and the Northeast Organic Farming Association-Interstate Council.

NCGA’s participation in the National Organic Coalition reflects our members’ commitment to appropriate, peer-based implementation of the Act that protects the integrity of the organic label, allows food cooperatives to serve their members and meet growing consumer demand, promotes an economically and environmentally sustainable food production system, and strengthens the organic producer community with which co-ops have been working for decades.

Our fight for organic legislation was a tough one, and the integrity of this legislation will be continuously under attack by special interests that wish to capitalize on the market for these foods without maintaining the ethics and standards that were at the heart of the organic movement. Eventually, further and more comprehensive legislation will be required, and we will need a broad-based and well-organized coalition to achieve it. Working with the groups in NOC, we can begin building this strong coalition in preparation for the work to come.

As part of the Coalition, NCGA will be providing our members with regular updates on Coalition policy initiatives and issues that relate to implementation of the Act. We will encourage your active grassroots support on key coalition issues that most affect food cooperatives and the producers they work with.
NCGA is working with the National Cooperative Business Association on these initiatives. NCBA, based in Washington, D.C., will serve as the interface between NCGA and the Coalition and also will share information and encourage grassroots involvement of organic agricultural co-ops and other members in policy initiatives. NCGA and NCBA will work to identify the Coalition issues that are most important to food cooperatives.

We will provide updates on key organic issues as well as direction on grassroots lobbying efforts to members via electronic and other means, including the CGIN listserve and Cooperative Grocer. You will receive messages from Jeannine Kenney (NCBA) or myself on these issues, and I appreciate your efforts to inform and rally your members and consumers. (Contact us for a copy of the Coalition’s April recommendations to the Senate subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and Related Agencies.)

We are pleased to be a formal part of this active coalition working to ensure that implementation of the Organic Foods Production Act protects the integrity of the organic foods system for the benefit of consumers, producers and the public. It is critical that the pioneers of the organic foods system remain active and involved participants in the new federal standards setting and accreditation processes.

See other articles from this issue: #112 May - June - 2004