Kind, House Organic Caucus propose bill to improve oversight of standards

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WKBT) — U.S. Rep. Ron Kind and other members of the House Organic Caucus joined Friday to introduce bipartisan legislation to improve federal oversight of organic food standards.
The bill aims to establish a new framework for organic standards and improve enforcement of new rules and guidance at the same time it clears regulatory red tape that has hampered innovation in the industry.
“This legislation will take necessary steps to ensure our organic farmers can continue to succeed and innovate for generations to come,” said Kind, a La Crosse Democrat who co-chairs the caucus.
“This legislation is not about any one standard but about ensuring the process for updating the organic regulations are more accountable and transparent,” he said.
The move prompted appreciation from Adam Warthesen, government and industry affairs director for La Farge, Wis.-based Organic Valley.
“Let’s be honest — over the last decade, the National Organic Program has been paralyzed with an inability to upgrade high-profile standard topics the organic community wants resolved,” Warthesen said. “We need a better process, and that’s what this bill does.”
Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, another House Organic Caucus member who co-sponsored the bill, said, “Consumers trust that when they buy food marketed as organic, it meets a high standard approved by the USDA.”
DeFazio faulted the federal bureaucracy for thwarting measures the organic sector supports, adding, “It’s time for USDA to cut the red tape, expeditiously act, and allow improvements that both the industry and consumers demand.”
Rep. Rodney Davis, an Illinois Republican also in the caucus, said, “Each year, more and more consumers are choosing products with the USDA Organic label, yet producers are held back from fully meeting the demand for organic products due in part to slow rule-making at the USDA.”
The proposed bill, titled the Accountability in Organic Standards Act, “will clear the backlog of rule recommendations from the National Organic Standards Board and speed up and improve rule-making in the future,” said Davis, co-chairman of the House Organic Caucus.