B-Corp Response Dismisses Public Concerns on Danone B Corp Violations

On December 16, 2021 after multiple attempts from the Organic Farmers Association to seek a response from B-Lab complaints against Danone North America submitted on November 8 and November 22, B-Lab responded with a dismissive response.

B-Lab Response to 2 Complaints Against Danone North America

From: Standards Management <standardsmanagement@bcorporation.net>
Date: Thu, Dec 16, 2021 at 8:32 AM
We appreciate your patience in our response, and thanks to you and the petition signatories for playing your role in the accountability mechanisms established as part of the B Corp Certification process.  We take complaints against companies who have achieved B Corp Certification very seriously, and as such it sometimes takes more time than stakeholders desire to provide an appropriate response.

B Lab acknowledges and is deeply sympathetic to the fact that the farmers affected by this decision find themselves in a difficult financial situation that may affect their livelihood and well-being.  Certified B Corps are expected to make decisions with consideration of the impacts on stakeholders in mind.  While these decisions may still nonetheless lead to a potential negative impact on a particular stakeholder group, it is also considered how a company engages in ways to mitigate that negative impact to the extent possible.

Upon reviewing the information available, including the information shared in the petition, and considering the stakeholder concerns raised and the impact on affected farmers and communities, we have determined that Danone North America’s certification is upheld with disclosure of this situation required on its B Corp public profile in order to be transparent with stakeholders around the reasoning for and impacts of its decisions and document the management practices in place so that stakeholders can make their own informed judgment about its impact and the adequacy of measures taken. You may access the information required in their Disclosure Report on their profile here. B Lab will continue to monitor the situation, and if new material information arises related to the decision, a complaint process may be reopened.

For more context on our decision, a company must achieve a minimum verified score of 80 points in the B Impact Assessment in order to become a B Corp, which is designed to help measure and manage a company's positive impact across five key impact areas: governance, workers, community, customers, and the environment. The B Impact Assessment awards credit for specific, positive practices of companies to determine their eligibility for the certification, but does not stipulate or mandate specific individual positive practices.  For example, while the B Impact Assessment acknowledges as best practices, among other things, supporting small scale and local suppliers, maintaining long term relationships with suppliers (average tenure), and purchases from organic producers, these practices are not required components of the certification if, as described above, the company is meeting the overall score of 80 points.

In addition, B Corp Certification also includes a review of potential negative practices that may warrant further action or ineligibility for the certification, and has a complaint process designed to allow stakeholders to raise concerns about existing B Corps who may be violating the spirit of the certification. B Lab investigates material, credible, and specific complaints, with the possible outcomes of any complaint including no further action, additional transparency required, remediation required, or ineligibility for the certification.

B Lab uses feedback from stakeholders like yourself not only to determine whether or not an individual B Corp is in violation of the certification requirements, but also to inform the development of the certification requirements over time. We are currently undertaking a comprehensive review of the B Corp certification performance requirements and have recently gone through an extensive stakeholder consultation process regarding the possibility of additional specific minimum requirements as a component of the certification. There will be ongoing opportunities to submit feedback throughout this review. Further details can be found here.  Thanks again for your interest and engagement, and we encourage you to provide feedback to continue to improve our standards.

Best,

B Lab Standards Management Team


Danone’s Concessions to Northeast Dairy Farmers Is a Small Step Towards Honoring their Social Responsibility Commitment

December 14, 2021.  Danone North America, owner of Horizon Organic, announced yesterday they will meet one of the requests of Northeast organic producer groups resulting from Danone’s decision to move its milk sourcing to the west, leaving 89 organic dairies in the northeast without a market. The requests Danone is honoring, include extending farm contracts to 18 months.  They will also provide a small (6% of the milk check for 6 months or $2 per hundred pounds of milk) transition payment for the affected farm families. Five Northeast organic farm organizations met with Danone in November to discuss the company’s response to the 15,324 petition signatures submitted by nine organic advocacy organizations a few weeks prior. In this meeting, the northeast organizations made specific requests of Danone to repair the damage that leaving the entire Northeast region will have on the farm economy and rural communities.

Danone North America is one of the largest B Corporations and thus has committed to putting people over profits—a commitment its corporate decision to leave the Northeast region decision directly violates.

“We’re glad to get a response to our requests, which is one small step in the right direction. There are still many details to figure out for our producers and lots of work to be done to improve infrastructure and ensure a future for organic dairy in the region.  We look forward to continuing our discussions with Danone to ensure that they meet their commitments and work toward viable long-term solutions for northeast dairies,” stated Sarah Alexander, Executive Director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.

On November 18, Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, Inc., Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, and Organic Farmers Association met with Danone North America executives to outline the petition requests including two options the company could take to rectify the negative impact on the Northeast region and violation of their B Corporation commitment.

The first option presented asked Danone to stay in the Northeast and invest in a processing plant that would make Danone’s supply chains more sustainable and reduce truck miles. The alternative option the group presented was for Danone North America/ Horizon Organic to leave the northeast but financially invest in the region, providing necessary support for the transitions the 89 dairy families are facing. The group asked Danone to give a significant severance pay totaling $15M to all 89 dairy farmers who will either be forced into an early retirement or will be required to make costly changes to their farms to be picked up by another company. This second request also asked Danone to provide a $25M investment towards a new organic dairy processing plant in New England. In Danone’s response, they maintain they will leave the region, but made some concessions on contract extensions and payments.

“We would have preferred for Danone to stay in the region,” says Grace Oedel, Executive Director, NOFA-VT.   “Horizon Organic has been in the Northeast region for over two decades and has a long-term relationship with all the organic farm organizations and our farmer-members. If they are determined to leave, we are glad that they are working towards meeting some of our requests to leave the region in a stronger position.”

In a letter dated December 13, 2021, that Danone sent to the Northeast organic producer groups Danone announced its plans to provide the affected producers with the option to extend their current contract for a total of 18-months, ending on February 28, 2023; provide modest transition payments of an additional amount per hundredweight on the milk purchased from the producers during the last 6 months of their contracts, including to farms that have already exited Danone’s network after receiving the non-renewal notification; provide farm consultants at no charge to the affected farms; and explore co-investment solutions for Northeast dairy infrastructure.

“It’s great for producers to be able to extend their contracts for an extra six months; however, the proposal lacks any substantive financial support to assist with the trauma that this decision has caused. Farmers are being offered myriad services by State governments and non-profits so any farm consultancy will not be helpful. Unfortunately, with Danone’s decision to leave the region, these farms will need to figure out what their future looks like. The contract extension will give them a little bit more time to investigate new paths forward for their families but what they really need is a sound market with a good pay-price to give them a living wage,” said Ed Maltby, Executive Director of the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance.

“We hope to hear more specifics about how Danone plans to co-invest in solutions for Northeast dairy infrastructure. The region needs a new organic dairy processing facility to be able to secure a future for Northeast dairy and provide local milk for the Northeast,” says Kate Mendenhall, Organic Farmers Association.  “We estimate that a new facility will cost at least $50 million to support the milk processing for the region as well as supplementary dairy processing needed to balance the local supply. Danone has the fiscal capability to help make that a reality for these farmers.”

The producer groups will continue their work to manage the crisis on the ground and help the affected farm families.  They also plan to continue to work to hold Danone accountable to its B Corporation social responsibility commitments. The group encourages consumers to buy directly from local organic dairy farmers and processors as an antidote to corporate consolidation in the organic sector.  Support from consumers, policy-makers and businesses committed to the northeast will enable investments in local infrastructure, allowing farmers to regain control of their hard work and ensure consumers have access to healthy and locally-produced food.

###

PRESS PICKUP:

  • FERN (Food & Environment Reporting Network): https://thefern.org/ag_insider/danones-offer-is-a-small-step-say-northeast-organic-dairy-farmers/
  • Times Union: https://www.timesunion.com/state/article/Organic-dairy-farmers-get-concessions-from-16701967.php
  • Whole Foods Magazine: https://wholefoodsmagazine.com/grocery/news-grocery/danone-agrees-to-help-mitigate-damage-caused-by-pulling-out-of-northeast/
  • Maine Biz: https://www.mainebiz.biz/article/danone-will-give-northeast-organic-dairy-farmers-financial-help-more-time-on-contracts
  • 7 Days VT: https://www.sevendaysvt.com/OffMessage/archives/2021/12/14/organic-dairy-farmers-win-a-six-month-reprieve-from-horizon
  • Agri-Pulse: https://www.agri-pulse.com/articles/16970-daybreak-dec-16-biden-administration-promises-coordinated-action-on-trucker-shortage+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

Dairy Farmer Comments Needed – Origin of Livestock Rule

Since 2013, the organic community has been working to fix a loophole in the Origin of Livestock rule for organic cow dairies. The USDA National Organic Program’s failure to strengthen the standards for organic livestock has allowed large-scale organic dairies to continuously transition animals into organic, undermining those organic farms that comply with the intent of the organic label.

In 2015, the NOP published a proposed rule to clarify that, after completion of a one-time transition from a conventional dairy farm, all new dairy animals milked on an organic dairy farm would need to be managed organically from the last third of gestation. The 2015 proposed rule garnered strong public support from the entire organic community but has never been finalized.

Now, after years of advocacy by the organic community, the NOP has released a revised proposed rule for public comment. They need to hear from organic dairy farmers! Here are some points you can include in your comment.

WITH THIS NEW COMMENT PERIOD, THE NOP IS ASKING FOR INPUT ON TWO MAIN IDEAS:

1. Whether the final rule should prohibit organic dairy operations from acquiring transitioned animals to expand or replace animals to produce organic milk.

OFA supports the final rule prohibiting organic dairy operations from acquiring transitioned animals. A transitioned animal should only be considered organic on the farm it was transitioned on.

2. Whether the final rule should use the term “operation” to describe the regulated entity [instead of "producer".]

OFA supports using the term “operation” to describe the regulated entity, with the addition of linking the transition of animals to a "responsibly connected person(s)."  In accordance with the “responsibly connected person” approach, any person who is a partner, officer, director, holder, manager, or owner of 10 percent or more of the voting stock of an applicant or a recipient of certification would be allowed a one-time herd transition exemption. Any person with a significant financial or managerial stake in a dairy operation would utilize their one-time eligibility once a transition occurs at that operation.

THE NOP IS ALSO ASKING FOR COMMENTS ON SEVERAL ADDITIONAL ISSUES.  You can add these to your comment if you have thoughts to share:

1. IMPLEMENTATION TIMEFRAME: The NOP had proposed that all requirements be implemented upon the effective date of a final rule, with an exception for any transition that was already approved by a certifying agent. They request comments about whether an implementation timeframe is necessary for organic dairies to comply and what that timeframe should be.

OFA supports an immediate effective date for the final rule. For those operations who have not yet entered the certification process, they should be able to plan for their transition with their certifier using the one-time transition allowance. For those operations that are in the process of getting certified on the final rule’s effective date, they should complete the one-time transition approved by their certifier within that first year.

2. ECONOMIC IMPACT: The NOP requests feedback related to the costs and benefits of this proposed rule.

This is where you can provide examples to USDA to make the case that failure to close this loophole is harming organic farms. Any examples you can provide could be helpful. Does your operation already meet the requirements laid out in this proposed rule? Have years of delay in closing this loophole caused economic harm for your operation? Have you had trouble selling organic animals, or not been able to get an adequate price, because of competition from transitioned animals offered for sale to organic operations?

HOW TO COMMENT:

To read the revisions to the proposed rule and SUBMIT A COMMENT, GO HERE.

  • You can type your comment directly in the text box on the regulations.gov site or attach a word or pdf file.
  • Mention "Docket No. AMS-NOP-11-0009-2321" in your letter.
  • You can cover as many of the questions USDA posed for public comment as you want, but you don’t have to comment on all of them.
  • Mention that you are an organic dairy farmer and give any relevant examples about how failure to close this loophole has impacted your operation.
  • Questions? Contact Patty Lovera at patty@organicfarmersassociation.org

OFA Starts the New Year Strong!

January 1, 2021

Organic Farmers Association (OFA) and Rodale Institute are proud to announce an exciting new chapter for farmers: OFA has obtained its own IRS 501(c)(5) status to operate as an independent agricultural organization.

This is a significant milestone for both Rodale Institute and OFA, as OFA will become the first, and only, independent national policy organization led by certified organic farmers. OFA will continue to provide a strong voice for domestic certified organic producers in Washington, D.C. and around the country.

Since OFA was founded in 2016, Rodale Institute has acted as the organization’s fiscal sponsor—ensuring OFA has the organizational capacity to allow its organic farmer leadership to focus on impacting policy. Together, we aimed to ensure that farmer priorities were authentically represented among the other organic stakeholders in the Farm Bill, NOSB decisions, and other national arenas. Five years later, OFA is strong enough to stand on its own, having built a solid foundation as a leading voice for organic farmers in D.C. and beyond.

Moving forward, Rodale Institute will continue to support OFA’s efforts in a reduced capacity. While the nature of our partnership is changing, the close relationship between the two organizations will remain, with Rodale Institute maintaining a voting seat on OFA’s Governing Council and continuing to provide 501(c)(3) support when necessary.

Obtaining 501(c)(5) status allows OFA to become its own tax-exempt agricultural organization, enabling us to achieve our primary mission—giving organic farmers independent control of the organization. This status also allows us more freedom in policy advocacy, fundraising, and legitimacy in the agricultural policy space.

With this update, OFA is excited to begin an independent relationship with the Biden administration as well as the new leadership at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Farm Bill discussions will begin this year, and OFA will be there to make sure organic farmer priorities are represented. OFA collaborates with the other national organic organizations and together we intend to see to fruition a final Origin of Livestock rule, re-introduction and implementation of the Organic Livestock & Poultry Practices Rule, and stronger NOP enforcement to ensure the integrity of organic and uniform application of organic standards.

OFA will host virtual lobby days this March, open to all OFA members. The advocacy days allow organic farmers an opportunity to share their priorities with their elected officials. OFA provides training and support for the lobby days and hopes for strong farmer attendance this year due to the virtual nature of the event.

As we close one chapter and start another, OFA and Rodale Institute are proud to move forward together as two organizations committed to supporting organic farmers, the organic movement, and protecting the health of people and the planet.

We thank Rodale Institute for all their support in our founding years and ensuring that the voices of organic farmers are always at the table.

Kate Mendenhall
Executive Director
Organic Farmers Association


2021 OFA Elected Leadership

The following certified organic farmers and organic farm organizations were elected to fill open seats in their region for the Governing Council or Policy Committee.  The ballot closed November 15.  Their terms begin in March 2021.  Only OFA farm members have the right to vote on OFA decisions.  OFA policy is ONE FARM, ONE VOTE.  Each farm has an equal place at the table.

CALIFORNIA                      

Governing Council: Farmer
Judith Redmond, Full Belly Farm, Guinda, CA
Policy Committee: Farmer
Kenneth Kimes, Greensward / New Natives, LLC, Aptos, CA

MIDWEST   (Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania)                  

Governing Council: Farmer
Dave Bishop, PrairiErth Far, Atlanta, IL
Policy Committee: Farmer
Michael Adsit, Plymouth Orchards, Plymouth, MI
Policy Committee: Organization
Illinois Stewardship Alliance (ISA), Molly Gleason, Communications Director, Springfield IL

NORTH CENTRAL   (Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin)                           

Governing Council: Farmer
Mike Kelly, High Meadow Farm, Johnson Creek, WI
Governing Council: Organization
Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES): David Perkins, President, Spring Valley, WI
Policy Committee: Farmer
DeEtta Bilek, Tom & DeEtta Bilek Farm, Aldrich, MN

WEST   (Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, Idaho, Utah, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas)                           

Governing Council: Farmer
Linley Dixon, Adobe House Farm, Durango, CO
Governing Council: Organization
Montana Organic Association (MOA): Becky Weed, Board of Directors, MT
Policy Committee: Farmer
Nathaniel Powell-Palm, Cold Springs Organics, Bozeman, MT
Policy Committee: Organization
Tilth Alliance: Melissa Spear, Executive Director, WA

SOUTH (Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa)                        

Governing Council: Farmer
Shawn Peebles, Shawn Peebles Organic Farm LLC, Augusta, AR
Policy Committee: Farmer
Laura Freeman, Mt. Folly Farm, Winchester, KY
Policy Committee: Organization
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association: Roland McReynolds, Executive Director, NC

NORTHEAST   (New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware)                          

Governing Council: Farmer
Eve Kaplan-Walbrecht, Garden of Eve Organic Farm & Market, Riverhead, NY
Governing Council: Organization
Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance: Edward Maltby, Executive Director, Deerfield, MA
Policy Committee: Farmer
Luke Gianforte, Gianforte Farm LLC, Cazenovia NY

 

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California: GOVERNING COUNCIL 

Judith Redmond, Full Belly Farm, Guinda, CA

Bio/Statement: I have been a co-owner and farmer at Full Belly Farm since 1989. I also serve as an adviser to the California Climate and Agriculture Network, the Community Alliance with Family Farmers, and as a Commissioner of the Capay Valley Volunteer Fire Department. With the diversity of livestock, produce and flowers that we raise here at Full Belly, we are constantly made aware of the importance of regulations and policy and how they strongly influence the viability and success of different kinds of

farms. People making policy and the public at-large do not understand on-the-ground challenges of farming. Through the work of OFA, organic farmers can build a stronger voice for themselves as part of reducing agriculture’s environmental footprint. Full Belly Farm is a certified organic, multi-generational farm founded in 1985. We enjoy cooking, eating, growing, harvesting and selling fruits, nuts and vegetables year-round. We also grow beautiful flowers and top off our activities caring for a herd of sheep and a flock of chickens. We make every effort to foster sustainability on many levels — from fertility in our soil and care for the environment, to creating a stable and respectful workplace for our employees. We attend farmers markets, have a CSA program and sell to many stores and wholesalers. We often invite our CSA members and customers to the farm and offer numerous events for people who want to learn more about organic agriculture and the farmers that grow their food. Through this work we hope to invigorate the agricultural economy and build the social well-being of the small communities in our Valley.

California: POLICY COMMITTEE 

Kenneth Kimes, Greensward / New Natives, LLC, Aptos, CA

Bio/Statement:  I have been farming greenhouse microgreens year-round for over 35 years and have always farmed organically (certified since 1982) and have only ever used organic seed (90k lbs. per year). We lobby the public to promote organic continuously at the farmers markets. My wife and I run the farm with ten full-time employees and five part-time employees. I have served on the Board of Directors for the following organizations: Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) (10+ years), Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau Board (6 years), Agriculture Policy Advisory Commission (10 years), Monterrey Bay Certified Farmers Markets, Action Pajaro Valley (farmland preservation task force), Santa Cruz County GMO Commission (we banned GMO's), and was on the Board of Directors for CCOF for many years.

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Midwest Region: GOVERNING COUNCIL 

Dave Bishop, PrairiErth Far, Atlanta, IL

Bio/Statement:  PrairiErth is a 300-acre farm with diverse crops and livestock and has been certified organic since 2004. With my family we also run the 100- acre farm where I grew up. Over these combined 400 acres, we grow organic corn, soybeans, oats, wheat, livestock forages, vegetables, fruit, and flowers and produce organic beef, pork, eggs and honey. We sell at local farmers’ markets and to restaurants and stores and offer a vegetable CSA and winter CSA. PrairiErth Farm has been participating in research with the University of Illinois for many years. Current research is studying the impact of various cover crop mixtures on weed suppression, soil microbial activity, and field productivity. We are passionate about growing organically, a system I adopted after years of conventional farming. I view organic farming as a way to limit our ecological footprint by caring for the earth, not just for us, but for future generations. We've reduced our farm “footprint” even further by using solar-powered pasture fencing and livestock watering systems. In addition to farming, I have lobbied in DC with NSAC for organic and local food issues, both in writing the farm bill and in the appropriations process. He currently serves as President of the Illinois Food, Farms, and Jobs Council, a Governor appointed entity created to advise the Governor and the Legislature on agricultural issues.

Midwest Region: POLICY COMMITTEE 

Michael Adsit, Plymouth Orchards, Plymouth, MI

Bio/Statement: I also served as a member of the founding OFA Steering Committee. During this time, serving OFA, I have spent a significant amount of time establishing communications with other organic farmers, promoting OFA to farmer interest groups and meeting with members of the Congress and Senate on behalf of OFA. I am committing to doing everything I can to represent and further the interests of organic farmers. My farm, Plymouth Orchards, is a 120-acre organic orchard and farm. We are also a regional agri-tourism destination. The farm was originally started in 1977. We grow organic apples, raspberries, asparagus, vegetables, small grains and hay. Plymouth Orchards is also certified as a processor for organic dried apples. Vegetables are marketed through a CSA. Fruits are direct marketed and wholesale. At Plymouth Orchards, I am responsible for organic crop production and marketing.

Organization 

Illinois Stewardship Alliance (ISA), Molly Gleason, Communications Director, Springfield IL

Bio/Statement:  I was raised on my family's 4th generation grain farm in Elkhart, Illinois and currently manage 63 acres of that farm. In the future, I hope to diversify our land into organic production. While my family farm does not currently use organic practices, my involvement with the farm provides a front-row seat to the issues involved with making the decision to transition to organic and all the challenges that entails, especially as it relates to generational transfer of farm management. In addition, my experience at Illinois Stewardship Alliance brings me into contact with direct-market fruit and vegetable growers on a regular basis, many of which use organic practices or who have gone through the certification process. I work with them to understand the barriers and opportunities facing local food producers, drive demand for local food, and shape and promote local food policy. I bring strong communications skills, community-organizing and coalition-building experience, and an in-depth knowledge of the food system. If elected, I would love to put these assets to work to raise the profile of organic farming, advance organic initiatives, and garner recognition for organic farming as more than a niche method of farming, but as a real and lasting solution to restore soils, feed communities, and build thriving local economies and ecosystems.  Illinois Stewardship Alliance (ISA) is a membership-based organization. We are an organization of local food producer, concerned citizen or food-systems related organization. Alliance members span the state and have one thing in common: they all care about the food that is produced and consumed in Illinois and want to support the increase of fresh, local foods.

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North Central Region: GOVERNING COUNCIL 

Mike Kelly, High Meadow Farm, Johnson Creek, WI

Bio/Statement:  My family and I started a Community Supported Agriculture program in 2009, and today raise certified organic veggies, poultry and sheep on our gorgeous, well-maintained 40-acre certified organic farm with the help of farm friends, volunteers and employees. Our CSA has over 200 members, we also sell wholesale accounts, and have workplace CSA relationships with local businesses. I served on the FairShare CSA Board of Directors and currently serve as a county supervisor with Jefferson County and on the Farmers Union water committee. Prior to farming, I had a career as a utilities superintendent. I am very interested in promoting organic agriculture and do that from my work on the farm and through my position as county supervisor.

Organization 

Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES): David Perkins, President, Spring Valley, WI

Bio/Statement: Educating farmers about organic and sustainable production is the foundation of our work. The cornerstone of this foundation is the annual MOSES Organic Farming Conference, the country’s largest conference on organic and sustainable farming, which draws 3,000+ people each February to La Crosse, Wis. We also educate farmers about specific farming practices through MOSES Organic Field Days and the MOSES Organic Answer Line. We manage several projects to support and empower organic farmers: Farmer-to-Farmer Mentoring Program, New Organic Stewards program, and our Rural Women’s Project. We also advocate for national policies that encourage organic production.

David Perkins currently serves as President of MOSES. David returned to his rural roots in 1994 to create Vermont Valley Community Farm located in southern Wisconsin. After a wonderfully successful 24 years of connecting thousands of people to their food, the CSA was retired in 2018. The farm continues its organic seed potato business. Committed to nurturing more CSA farms, David has spoken across the country on CSA, organic vegetable production and financial management. Certified organic since 1999, David is passionate about organic. He is the current Board President of Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Services (MOSES) and served on the FairShare CSA Coalition Board, the Organic Farmers Association Board, and the UW- Madison Center for Integrated Agriculture Systems council.

North Central Region: POLICY COMMITTEE 

DeEtta Bilek, Tom & DeEtta Bilek Farm, Aldrich, MN

Bio/Statement:  My husband and I have owned and operated our 220-acre farm since 1977. We have been certified organic since 1998. On the farm we have crop production, graze beef cattle, and maintain forest. My primary role on the farm is the paperwork and help with overall management. My past experience with farm policy includes several opportunities to testify at Minnesota Legislature hearings and meetings with individual policy makers to share organic and sustainable agriculture information from a farmer perspective. I have attended two NOSB meetings and presented on behalf of OCIA International. At that time, I was a Board member and served one year as President of the Board. From 1997 - 2003, I was Program Manager for the Sustainable Farm Association of MN. From 2004 - 2016, I was Chair for the MN OCIA Chapter's Education Committee. I have also served on the MISA Certification Board of Directors and have participated on the Land Stewardship's Federal Farm Policy Committee.

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Western Region: GOVERNING COUNCIL 

Linley Dixon, Adobe House Farm, Durango, CO

Bio/Statement: Starting on rented land, over the past 10 years, our family has worked hard to build our farm business and finally purchase a farm on which we can live and continue to grow. This experience has exposed me to the challenges new organic farmers face to get started and succeed. I have a Masters in Plant and Soil Science and a PhD in Plant Pathology. My hope is that OFA can help ensure that USDA organic standards and enforcement continues to represent the values of the organic community and the way the vast majority of us farm, that is with the responsibility to maintain healthy soil and pasture. For the past ten years, we have farmed 3 acres of vegetables intensively in Durango, CO, with a prime focus on soil health. We direct market to local restaurants, SWFF Local Distribution Cooperative, James Ranch, and the Durango Farmers Market. Our specialties are soil-grown greenhouse tomatoes, salad greens, peppers and strawberries. Daily operations are managed by my husband, Peter Dixon, and brother, Reid Smith. I am the associate director of the Real Organic Project by day and tomato pruner extraordinaire by night.

Organization 

Montana Organic Association (MOA): Becky Weed, Board of Directors, MT

Bio/Statement: Montana Organic Association currently serves on the OFA Governing Council and will serve another term. Becky currently represents Montana Organic Association on the Governing Council and would like to serve another two-year term. Since 2002, The Montana Organic Association has been the voice of Montana's organic community. MOA believes that the organic movement is the one best hope for keeping small family farms viable while providing clean, nutritious, and safe food to the community; helping secure our food system by supporting farm diversity; and contributing to a healthier environment which helps protect our precious wildlife and natural resources. MOA's mission is to advocate and promote organic agriculture for the highest good of the people, the environment and the state's economy.

Becky Weed and her husband Dave Tyler have owned and operated Thirteen Mile Farm in Southwest Montana for thirty years (certified since 1999). They primarily run a certified organic grassfed sheep flock, although their operation has included a wool processing mill (2003-2017), as well as grassfed organic cattle and small-scale commercial vegetables intermittently. One of Becky’s employees is purchasing and continuing the wool mill, opening up time for Becky to return her focus more fully to her land, integrating crops and livestock, and to agriculture more broadly. Becky has served on the Montana Board of Livestock, and the boards of the Wild Farm Alliance, People and Carnivores, and has recently joined the board of the Montana Organic Association. She also served on the Conservation & Science Board of a very large ranch operation in Central Idaho, Lava Lake Land & Livestock, continuing her lifelong interest in the interface of agriculture and conservation. Before becoming involved in agriculture, Becky worked for more than ten years as a geologist with degrees in the Geological Sciences from Harvard (B.A.) and University of Maine (M.S.). That mixed background in research in some of the wildest places on earth, along with hazardous waste cleanup in some extremely urban locations continue to influence Becky’s perceptions and hopes for agriculture.

Western Region: POLICY COMMITTEE 

Nathaniel Powell-Palm, Cold Springs Organics, Bozeman, MT

Bio/Statement: I am a certified organic grain and beef cattle producer located in Bozeman, MT. As a first-generation farmer and rancher, I started my operation in 2004 and received organic certification in 2008. From my original leased 10 acres in 2004 my operation today consists of 875 acres on which I produce organic small grains and grass finished beef cattle. In addition to my farm, I work as an IOIA trained independent organic inspector. Currently contracted with 6 Accredited Certifying Agencies, I inspect approximately 225 operations per year. I have inspected organic operations to the NOP standard in 36 states for all three scopes (crops, livestock, and processing). I hold a BS in Environmental Science, with a focus on soil and water resources from Montana State University. My training as an agronomy researcher and my research history in soil chemistry has allowed me to hone a strong analytical skill set directly related to organic production agriculture. I believe my 9 years as a certified organic beef and grain producer has equipped me with significant technical expertise in organic production. My experience as an organic inspector has allowed me to examine operations and listen to the concerns of organic producers in every region of the country. If selected to serve on the Governing Council, I would bring both my expertise as a producer and broad experience as an organic inspector to my work with the OFA. Lastly, as a young farmer, I have experienced firsthand the challenges of starting a successful farming business and have spent most of my time farming certified organic. As the organic production community expands to include more and more young growers, I will bring a viewpoint and understanding to my work with the OFA that will align closely with a quick growing sector of the industry.

Organization 

Tilth Alliance: Melissa Spear, Executive Director, WA

Bio/Statement: Tilth Alliance works in community with Washington's farmers, gardeners and eaters for a more sustainable, healthy and equitable food future. Our strategic priorities include advancing organic, regenerative, and sustainable growing practices, to increase demand for healthy food grown in Washington using organic, regenerative and sustainable growing practices, and to raise awareness of the critical relationship between food production and climate change. Our membership base is composed primarily of certified organic farmers. We serve our base through advocacy at the state and county level, by providing training opportunities, by directly connecting organic farmers to consumers through the Washington Farm and Food Finder, and by producing an annual conference where organic farmers from Washington can convene to learn, network and socialize.

Melissa Spear has worked at the intersection of conservation and agriculture for the past 15 years. She started out at The Trust for Public Land, successfully protecting several iconic farms in Connecticut. She then spent 9 years as Executive Director of a non-profit organic urban farm and environmental education center serving the city of New Haven, CT. She served as the vice-chair of the Working Lands Alliance in Connecticut, an advocacy organization working to ensure farming remained a viable enterprise in the state. She moved to Seattle and became Executive Director of Tilth Alliance in 2018 where her focus is squarely on promoting and supporting the adoption of organic practices. Under her leadership, Tilth Alliance is leading the formation of a Coalition for Organic and Regenerative Agriculture that will advocate for organic farmers and farming practices both here in Washington and in Washington D.C.

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Southern Region: GOVERNING COUNCIL 

Shawn Peebles, Shawn Peebles Organic Farm LLC, Augusta, AR

Bio/Statement: Our farm is solely organic. I am a third-generation farmer. I started farming early with my dad and branched out on my own about 20 years ago. I switched to organic farming in 2009. We farm approximately 1500 acres. We grow sweet potatoes, edamame, black eye peas, soybeans, and corn. We find it exciting to find new crops to grow and diversify more each year. I handle some of each aspect that goes into a farming operation. I am hands on and fully involved in each decision that goes into the operation. I am currently serving on the USDA's Specialty Crop Committee. I have also served on a dicamba specialty task force. I enjoy speaking at meetings and conventions to share my knowledge and experience with others. I think organic farming is the future and want to see it grow. I will stand tall for my beliefs and advocate for what I believe in.

Southern Region: POLICY COMMITTEE 

Laura Freeman, Mt. Folly Farm, Winchester, KY

Bio/Statement: I own and run Mt. Folly Farm. Mt. Folly includes 1250 acres of pasture, timber, and crop land. About 70% of our crop and hay land is certified organic, making 290 organic acres and one organic high tunnel. I own and run the farm and have since 1982. I am also currently working to certify our cattle. I am also a climate change activist and farm entrepreneur, especially focused on hemp and heritage grains. Our farm is located in Kentucky, which has a nascent organic farming movement, so we are early adopters. Our core group is under 40, representing the future of farming. We are spreading the value of organics in the region by hosting multiple field days each year and connecting with our elected officials--introducing them to organic farming.

Organization 

Carolina Farm Stewardship Association: Roland McReynolds, Executive Director, NC

Bio/Statement: The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) is a farmer-driven, membership-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that helps people in North and South Carolina grow and eat local, organic food by advocating for fair farm and food policies, building systems that family farms need to thrive, and educating communities about local, organic agriculture. Founded in 1979, CFSA is the oldest and largest sustainable agriculture organization in the Southeast. We provide training and technical assistance to farmers on organic farming practices, including: consulting on organic high tunnel production of specialty crops; providing NRCS TSP services for farmers seeking CAP-138 plans (supporting organic transition); hosting numerous workshops throughout the year; running the only organic certified incubator farm in the Southeast, Lomax Farm in Concord, NC; conducting research on organic vegetable production practices at Lomax Farm and other farms; and hosting two annual conferences for organic farmers. We also conduct extensive policy advocacy on issues of importance to organic farmers in North and South Carolina, at the state and federal levels.

Roland Reynolds is an attorney and has served as the Executive Director of the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) for almost 14 years. His experience in the areas of environmental and agricultural law gives him a thorough understanding of the regulatory issues related to natural resource conservation in agriculture. He has led CFSA’s government relations activities on behalf of sustainable agriculture stakeholders, served on a variety of state and national boards and committees, and provided information to state and federal elected and administrative officials. In his work on the USDA’s Fruit & Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee, Reynolds led the committee to unanimously call for increased USDA funding for public plant breeding programs, which is a high priority of the organic community. He is effective at resolving conflicts; influencing government agencies, businesses and industry organizations; and establishing and strengthening working relationships with outside entities. Reynolds has built bridges with ‘conventional’ farmers and farm organizations, and has strengthened CFSA’s relationships with colleges and land grant universities in the Carolinas, serving on a number of departmental and college-level advisory boards and helping those institutions better serve the region’s organic producers and the goals of environmental stewardship in agriculture.

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Northeast Region: GOVERNING COUNCIL 

Eve Kaplan-Walbrecht, Garden of Eve Organic Farm & Market, Riverhead, NY

Bio/Statement: Eve Kaplan-Walbrecht and her husband Chris founded Garden of Eve organic farm in 2001, dedicated to providing delicious organic vegetables, fruits and beautiful flowers and to “making changes in the world by living them.” Invited to sell some extra produce from their garden (zucchini!) at a local farmers market they made $40 and were launched on their farming career. In the 20 years since then, they have expanded and now grow 60 acres of certified organic vegetables, flowers, raise 1500 pastured laying hens, and oversee a team of 20 at the height of the season. Garden of Eve sells produce through a large on-farm Market, 3 farmers markets, and nearly 1,000 households participating in their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs at 20 locations in New York City and on Long Island. Eve holds a BA from Harvard in Environmental Science and a MS in Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She has also worked as a land preservation advocate with the North Fork Environmental Council and as Principal Planner for the Town of Southampton. In Eve's over 20 years of operating a family-scale organic farm, She has been constantly challenged to overcome the innumerable challenges that farmers face, as well as the ways that the chemical farming industry overrides the interests of real farmers in national policy. She is a longtime supporter of several OG watchdog groups and has seen how "Big Food" continues to try to water down the organic standards that the rest of us work so hard to uphold. She is well qualified for the OFA Governing Council with her skills in advocacy and lobbying, through her longtime involvement in land planning and farmland preservation on the North Fork of Long Island. She has worked with groups both inside and outside of local government to help secure the preservation of large tracts of vulnerable land including what became the Hallock State Park; North Fork County Park, and farmland that has now been preserved for perpetuity through Purchase of Development Rights.

Organization 

Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance: Edward Maltby, Executive Director, Deerfield, MA

Bio/Statement: Ed Maltby served on the founding OFA Steering Committee and Advisory Committee. NODPA started in 2001 and is the largest grassroots organization of organic dairy producers. It has remained true to its original goal of advocating on behalf of producers, regardless of who they sell their milk to, for a sustainable pay price plus protect the integrity of the USDA Organic regulations. NODPA is governed by organic dairy producers who meet regularly by conference call and annually in-person as either Board members or State Representatives. NODPA has a very active and committed Board and team of State Representatives that work together with NODPA staff to fulfill the mission of the organization. NODPA Bylaws protect the integrity of the organization and ensure that organic dairy producers control the association rather than any one brand, advocacy group or individual. NODPA represents organic dairy producers in the east of the country and has an active involvement with its sister organizations in the Midwest and the west which ensures that it can always remain connected to and controlled by its members.

Ed Maltby is a producer with over 45 years of experience managing conventional and organic dairy, beef, sheep and vegetable enterprises on a variety of different farms in Europe and the United States. For the past 20 years, Ed has worked with regional farms to cooperatively market their products into mainstream markets, ranging from direct marketing of lambs and organic produce, to establishing a cooperative of dairy farmers who direct market their own brand of milk in Western Massachusetts. Since 2005, Ed has worked as Executive Director of NODPA. He also developed a national umbrella organization, Federation of Organic Dairy Farmers (FOOD Farmers), to provide a national voice for organic dairy family farms. Ed served on the USDA Dairy Industry Advisory Committee to advise the Secretary of Agriculture on dairy policy. In 2006 when one of the last two remaining USDA slaughterhouses in MA was destroyed by fire, Ed worked with the family-owned Adams Farm Slaughterhouse to rebuild. The plant opened in November 2008 and in March 2009 Ed was asked to provide management assistance which later turned into a contract as General Manager.

Northeast Region: POLICY COMMITTEE 

Luke Gianforte, Gianforte Farm LLC, Cazenovia NY

Bio/Statement:  Gianforte Farm has been certified organic since 1998 and currently operates 600 acres of grains and row crops in Upstate New York. The farm currently grows small grains for the food grade market as well as corn, soybeans, and dry beans. I returned to the farm in 2014 after graduating from Cornell University and serve as the managing partner. Since returning to the farm, I have focused on adopting new technology relevant to organic agriculture and developing new markets for the farm's products. In 2016, Gianforte Farm won the Conservation Farm of the Year through the Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District.

I was raised on my family's farm that started transiting to organic when I was five years old. I always had a deep passion for agriculture and knew I wanted to be a farmer. After high school I attend Cornell University where I had the chance to visit and learn about all types of farms all over the world. After graduation I returned home to the farm full time. I have been active in the local agricultural community through serving on the FSA County Committee and on the board of a non-profit which serves the refugee community through agriculture. I am also currently in the LEAD-NY agricultural leadership development program which has already proven to be a strong networking and personal development opportunity. As a young farmer I believe it is critical to be actively involved in the conversations regarding agricultural practices and policy decisions, especially when it comes to the Organic program. Agriculture is constantly changing, and as organic producers we need to ensure the intentions of the Organic label remain sound while continuing to move forward. Consumers are facing more food choices than ever before, making it more critical than ever to preserve the meaning of the Organic label.


2021 OFA Leadership Candidates

The following certified organic farmers and organic farm organizations are running for open seats in their region for the Governing Council or Policy Committee.OFA farm members will vote on their regional candidates.  OFA policy is ONE FARM, ONE VOTE.  Each farm has an equal place at the table.

The ballot is open until November 15.

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California: GOVERNING COUNCIL Candidates

Farmer Candidates

Judith Redmond, Full Belly Farm, Guinda, CA

Bio/Statement: I currently serve as an officer on the OFA Governing Council, and I would like to be re-elected for another two- year term. I have been a co-owner and farmer at Full Belly Farm since 1989. I also serve as an adviser to the California Climate and Agriculture Network, the Community Alliance with Family Farmers, and as a Commissioner of the Capay Valley Volunteer Fire Department. With the diversity of livestock, produce and flowers that we raise here at Full Belly, we are constantly made aware of the importance of regulations and policy and how they strongly influence the viability and success of different kinds of

farms. People making policy and the public at-large do not understand on-the-ground challenges of farming. Through the work of OFA, organic farmers can build a stronger voice for themselves as part of reducing agriculture’s environmental footprint. Full Belly Farm is a certified organic, multi-generational farm founded in 1985. We enjoy cooking, eating, growing, harvesting and selling fruits, nuts and vegetables year-round. We also grow beautiful flowers and top off our activities caring for a herd of sheep and a flock of chickens. We make every effort to foster sustainability on many levels — from fertility in our soil and care for the environment, to creating a stable and respectful workplace for our employees. We attend farmers markets, have a CSA program and sell to many stores and wholesalers. We often invite our CSA members and customers to the farm and offer numerous events for people who want to learn more about organic agriculture and the farmers that grow their food. Through this work we hope to invigorate the agricultural economy and build the social well-being of the small communities in our Valley.

Albert Vera, Vera Ranches, Culver City, CA

Bio/Statement: Albert Vera is a business owner, city commissioner and lifelong Culver City resident. Continuing a legacy of leadership begun by his father. Vera owns Sorrento Italian Market, a specialty food store filled with old-world charm, as well as the family’s 26 ranches encompassing thousands of acres north of Bakersfield. He is a member of the Culver City Exchange Club and has served on both the Culver City Landlord/Tenant Board and the Culver City Civil Service Commission, where he currently serves as part of the five-member commission charged with advising the City Council on all matters concerning Human Resources administration, recommending adoption of amendments to the Civil Service Rules, making any appropriate investigation regarding Human Resources administration and providing an appeals procedure for classified employees. Vera also serves on the Culver City Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and the Culver City Palms YMCA Board of Managers.

California: POLICY COMMITTEE Candidates

Farmer Candidates

Kenneth Kimes, Greensward / New Natives, LLC, Aptos, CA

Bio/Statement: I currently represent California on the OFA Policy Committee and would like to be elected for another 2-year term. I have been farming greenhouse microgreens year-round for over 35 years and have always farmed organically (certified since 1982) and have only ever used organic seed (90k lbs. per year). We lobby the public to promote organic continuously at the farmers markets. My wife and I run the farm with ten full-time employees and five part-time employees. I have served on the Board of Directors for the following organizations: Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) (10+ years), Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau Board (6 years), Agriculture Policy Advisory Commission (10 years), Monterrey Bay Certified Farmers Markets, Action Pajaro Valley (farmland preservation task force), Santa Cruz County GMO Commission (we banned GMO's), and was on the Board of Directors for CCOF for many years.

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Midwest Region: GOVERNING COUNCIL Candidates

Farmer Candidates

Dave Bishop, PrairiErth Far, Atlanta, IL

Bio/Statement: I currently serve on the OFA Governing Council and would like to be re-elected to another two-year term. PrairiErth is a 300-acre farm with diverse crops and livestock and has been certified organic since 2004. With my family we also run the 100- acre farm where I grew up. Over these combined 400 acres, we grow organic corn, soybeans, oats, wheat, livestock forages, vegetables, fruit, and flowers and produce organic beef, pork, eggs and honey. We sell at local farmers’ markets and to restaurants and stores and offer a vegetable CSA and winter CSA. PrairiErth Farm has been participating in research with the University of Illinois for many years. Current research is studying the impact of various cover crop mixtures on weed suppression, soil microbial activity, and field productivity. We are passionate about growing organically, a system I adopted after years of conventional farming. I view organic farming as a way to limit our ecological footprint by caring for the earth, not just for us, but for future generations. We've reduced our farm “footprint” even further by using solar-powered pasture fencing and livestock watering systems. In addition to farming, I have lobbied in DC with NSAC for organic and local food issues, both in writing the farm bill and in the appropriations process. He currently serves as President of the Illinois Food, Farms, and Jobs Council, a Governor appointed entity created to advise the Governor and the Legislature on agricultural issues.

Jason Holly, Hempsylvania, Inc, Drums, PA

Bio/Statement: Jason farms a 23-acre farm located on the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains where he cultivates hemp, garlic, beets, mushrooms and pumpkins. He also uses waste product from hemp production to create a fermented fertigation product, brewing high volumes of aerated compost tea. Currently all hemp cultivated by Hempsylvania is intended for human consumption in a variety of our post-processing pathways, as such, he grows using only organic methods, without pesticides or other harmful growth regulators. He takes pride in ensuring that only natural ingredients and procedures are used in his cultivating, curing and extraction processes.

Midwest Region: POLICY COMMITTEE Candidates

Farmer Candidates

Michael Adsit, Plymouth Orchards, Plymouth, MI

Bio/Statement: I currently serve on the OFA Policy Committee and would like to be re-elected for another two-year term. I also served as a member of the founding OFA Steering Committee. During this time, serving OFA, I have spent a significant amount of time establishing communications with other organic farmers, promoting OFA to farmer interest groups and meeting with members of the Congress and Senate on behalf of OFA. I am committing to doing everything I can to represent and further the interests of organic farmers. My farm, Plymouth Orchards, is a 120-acre organic orchard and farm. We are also a regional agri-tourism destination. The farm was originally started in 1977. We grow organic apples, raspberries, asparagus, vegetables, small grains and hay. Plymouth Orchards is also certified as a processor for organic dried apples. Vegetables are marketed through a CSA. Fruits are direct marketed and wholesale. At Plymouth Orchards, I am responsible for organic crop production and marketing.

Organization Candidates

Illinois Stewardship Alliance (ISA), Molly Gleason, Communications Director, Springfield IL

Bio/Statement: I currently serve on the OFA Policy Committee and am interested in serving another term. I was raised on my family's 4th generation grain farm in Elkhart, Illinois and currently manage 63 acres of that farm. In the future, I hope to diversify our land into organic production. While my family farm does not currently use organic practices, my involvement with the farm provides a front-row seat to the issues involved with making the decision to transition to organic and all the challenges that entails, especially as it relates to generational transfer of farm management. In addition, my experience at Illinois Stewardship Alliance brings me into contact with direct-market fruit and vegetable growers on a regular basis, many of which use organic practices or who have gone through the certification process. I work with them to understand the barriers and opportunities facing local food producers, drive demand for local food, and shape and promote local food policy. I bring strong communications skills, community-organizing and coalition-building experience, and an in-depth knowledge of the food system. If elected, I would love to put these assets to work to raise the profile of organic farming, advance organic initiatives, and garner recognition for organic farming as more than a niche method of farming, but as a real and lasting solution to restore soils, feed communities, and build thriving local economies and ecosystems.  Illinois Stewardship Alliance (ISA) is a membership-based organization. We are an organization of local food producer, concerned citizen or food-systems related organization. Alliance members span the state and have one thing in common: they all care about the food that is produced and consumed in Illinois and want to support the increase of fresh, local foods.

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North Central Region: GOVERNING COUNCIL Candidates

Farmer Candidates

Mike Kelly, High Meadow Farm, Johnson Creek, WI

Bio/Statement: I currently serve on the OFA Governing Council and am interested in serving another term. My family and I started a Community Supported Agriculture program in 2009, and today raise certified organic veggies, poultry and sheep on our gorgeous, well-maintained 40-acre certified organic farm with the help of farm friends, volunteers and employees. Our CSA has over 200 members, we also sell wholesale accounts, and have workplace CSA relationships with local businesses. I served on the FairShare CSA Board of Directors and currently serve as a county supervisor with Jefferson County and on the Farmers Union water committee. Prior to farming, I had a career as a utilities superintendent. I am very interested in promoting organic agriculture and do that from my work on the farm and through my position as county supervisor.

Organization Candidates

Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES): David Perkins, President, Spring Valley, WI

Bio/Statement: We currently serve on the OFA Governing Council and we are interested in serving another term. Educating farmers about organic and sustainable production is the foundation of our work. The cornerstone of this foundation is the annual MOSES Organic Farming Conference, the country’s largest conference on organic and sustainable farming, which draws 3,000+ people each February to La Crosse, Wis. We also educate farmers about specific farming practices through MOSES Organic Field Days and the MOSES Organic Answer Line. We manage several projects to support and empower organic farmers: Farmer-to-Farmer Mentoring Program, New Organic Stewards program, and our Rural Women’s Project. We also advocate for national policies that encourage organic production.

David Perkins currently serves as President of MOSES. David returned to his rural roots in 1994 to create Vermont Valley Community Farm located in southern Wisconsin. After a wonderfully successful 24 years of connecting thousands of people to their food, the CSA was retired in 2018. The farm continues its organic seed potato business. Committed to nurturing more CSA farms, David has spoken across the country on CSA, organic vegetable production and financial management. Certified organic since 1999, David is passionate about organic. He is the current Board President of Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Services (MOSES) and served on the FairShare CSA Coalition Board, the Organic Farmers Association Board, and the UW- Madison Center for Integrated Agriculture Systems council.

North Central Region: POLICY COMMITTEE Candidates

Farmer Candidates

DeEtta Bilek, Tom & DeEtta Bilek Farm, Aldrich, MN

Bio/Statement: I currently serve on the OFA Policy Committee and am interested in serving another term. My husband and I have owned and operated our 220-acre farm since 1977. We have been certified organic since 1998. On the farm we have crop production, graze beef cattle, and maintain forest. My primary role on the farm is the paperwork and help with overall management. My past experience with farm policy includes several opportunities to testify at Minnesota Legislature hearings and meetings with individual policy makers to share organic and sustainable agriculture information from a farmer perspective. I have attended two NOSB meetings and presented on behalf of OCIA International. At that time, I was a Board member and served one year as President of the Board. From 1997 - 2003, I was Program Manager for the Sustainable Farm Association of MN. From 2004 - 2016, I was Chair for the MN OCIA Chapter's Education Committee. I have also served on the MISA Certification Board of Directors and have participated on the Land Stewardship's Federal Farm Policy Committee.

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Western Region: GOVERNING COUNCIL Candidates

Farmer Candidates

Nathaniel Powell-Palm, Cold Springs Organics, Bozeman, MT

Bio/Statement: I currently serve on the OFA Governing Council and would like to be re-elected to another term. I am a certified organic grain and beef cattle producer located in Bozeman, MT. As a first-generation farmer and rancher, I started my operation in 2004 and received organic certification in 2008. From my original leased 10 acres in 2004 my operation today consists of 875 acres on which I produce organic small grains and grass finished beef cattle. In addition to my farm, I work as an IOIA trained independent organic inspector. Currently contracted with 6 Accredited Certifying Agencies, I inspect approximately 225 operations per year. I have inspected organic operations to the NOP standard in 36 states for all three scopes (crops, livestock, and processing). I hold a BS in Environmental Science, with a focus on soil and water resources from Montana State University. My training as an agronomy researcher and my research history in soil chemistry has allowed me to hone a strong analytical skill set directly related to organic production agriculture. I believe my 9 years as a certified organic beef and grain producer has equipped me with significant technical expertise in organic production. My experience as an organic inspector has allowed me to examine operations and listen to the concerns of organic producers in every region of the country. If selected to serve on the Governing Council, I would bring both my expertise as a producer and broad experience as an organic inspector to my work with the OFA. Lastly, as a young farmer, I have experienced firsthand the challenges of starting a successful farming business and have spent most of my time farming certified organic. As the organic production community expands to include more and more young growers, I will bring a viewpoint and understanding to my work with the OFA that will align closely with a quickly growing sector of the industry.

Linley Dixon, Adobe House Farm, Durango, CO

Bio/Statement: Starting on rented land, over the past 10 years, our family has worked hard to build our farm business and finally purchase a farm on which we can live and continue to grow. This experience has exposed me to the challenges new organic farmers face to get started and succeed. I have a Masters in Plant and Soil Science and a PhD in Plant Pathology. My hope is that OFA can help ensure that USDA organic standards and enforcement continues to represent the values of the organic community and the way the vast majority of us farm, that is with the responsibility to maintain healthy soil and pasture. For the past ten years, we have farmed 3 acres of vegetables intensively in Durango, CO, with a prime focus on soil health. We direct market to local restaurants, SWFF Local Distribution Cooperative, James Ranch, and the Durango Farmers Market. Our specialties are soil-grown greenhouse tomatoes, salad greens, peppers and strawberries. Daily operations are managed by my husband, Peter Dixon, and brother, Reid Smith. I am the associate director of the Real Organic Project by day and tomato pruner extraordinaire by night.

Organization Candidates

Montana Organic Association (MOA): Becky Weed, Board of Directors, MT

Bio/Statement: Montana Organic Association currently serve on the OFA Governing Council and are interested in serving another term. Becky currently represents Montana Organic Association on the Governing Council and would like to serve another two-year term. Since 2002, The Montana Organic Association has been the voice of Montana's organic community. MOA believes that the organic movement is the one best hope for keeping small family farms viable while providing clean, nutritious, and safe food to the community; helping secure our food system by supporting farm diversity; and contributing to a healthier environment which helps protect our precious wildlife and natural resources. MOA's mission is to advocate and promote organic agriculture for the highest good of the people, the environment and the state's economy.

Becky Weed and her husband Dave Tyler have owned and operated Thirteen Mile Farm in Southwest Montana for thirty years (certified since 1999). They primarily run a certified organic grassfed sheep flock, although their operation has included a wool processing mill (2003-2017), as well as grassfed organic cattle and small-scale commercial vegetables intermittently. One of Becky’s employees is purchasing and continuing the wool mill, opening up time for Becky to return her focus more fully to her land, integrating crops and livestock, and to agriculture more broadly. Becky has served on the Montana Board of Livestock, and the boards of the Wild Farm Alliance, People and Carnivores, and has recently joined the board of the Montana Organic Association. She also served on the Conservation & Science Board of a very large ranch operation in Central Idaho, Lava Lake Land & Livestock, continuing her lifelong interest in the interface of agriculture and conservation. Before becoming involved in agriculture, Becky worked for more than ten years as a geologist with degrees in the Geological Sciences from Harvard (B.A.) and University of Maine (M.S.). That mixed background in research in some of the wildest places on earth, along with hazardous waste cleanup in some extremely urban locations continue to influence Becky’s perceptions and hopes for agriculture.

Western Region: POLICY COMMITTEE Candidates

Farmer Candidates

Nathaniel Powell-Palm, Cold Springs Organics, Bozeman, MT

Bio/Statement: I am a certified organic grain and beef cattle producer located in Bozeman, MT. As a first-generation farmer and rancher, I started my operation in 2004 and received organic certification in 2008. From my original leased 10 acres in 2004 my operation today consists of 875 acres on which I produce organic small grains and grass finished beef cattle. In addition to my farm, I work as an IOIA trained independent organic inspector. Currently contracted with 6 Accredited Certifying Agencies, I inspect approximately 225 operations per year. I have inspected organic operations to the NOP standard in 36 states for all three scopes (crops, livestock, and processing). I hold a BS in Environmental Science, with a focus on soil and water resources from Montana State University. My training as an agronomy researcher and my research history in soil chemistry has allowed me to hone a strong analytical skill set directly related to organic production agriculture. I believe my 9 years as a certified organic beef and grain producer has equipped me with significant technical expertise in organic production. My experience as an organic inspector has allowed me to examine operations and listen to the concerns of organic producers in every region of the country. If selected to serve on the Governing Council, I would bring both my expertise as a producer and broad experience as an organic inspector to my work with the OFA. Lastly, as a young farmer, I have experienced firsthand the challenges of starting a successful farming business and have spent most of my time farming certified organic. As the organic production community expands to include more and more young growers, I will bring a viewpoint and understanding to my work with the OFA that will align closely with a quick growing sector of the industry.

Organization Candidates

Tilth Alliance: Melissa Spear, Executive Director, WA

Bio/Statement: Tilth Alliance works in community with Washington's farmers, gardeners and eaters for a more sustainable, healthy and equitable food future. Our strategic priorities include advancing organic, regenerative, and sustainable growing practices, to increase demand for healthy food grown in Washington using organic, regenerative and sustainable growing practices, and to raise awareness of the critical relationship between food production and climate change. Our membership base is composed primarily of certified organic farmers. We serve our base through advocacy at the state and county level, by providing training opportunities, by directly connecting organic farmers to consumers through the Washington Farm and Food Finder, and by producing an annual conference where organic farmers from Washington can convene to learn, network and socialize.

Melissa Spear has worked at the intersection of conservation and agriculture for the past 15 years. She started out at The Trust for Public Land, successfully protecting several iconic farms in Connecticut. She then spent 9 years as Executive Director of a non-profit organic urban farm and environmental education center serving the city of New Haven, CT. She served as the vice-chair of the Working Lands Alliance in Connecticut, an advocacy organization working to ensure farming remained a viable enterprise in the state. She moved to Seattle and became Executive Director of Tilth Alliance in 2018 where her focus is squarely on promoting and supporting the adoption of organic practices. Under her leadership, Tilth Alliance is leading the formation of a Coalition for Organic and Regenerative Agriculture that will advocate for organic farmers and farming practices both here in Washington and in Washington D.C.

Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (WODPA): Jill Smith, WODPA Consultant, WA

Bio/Statement: WODPA represents dairy farmers in the Western United States. The mission of the Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance is to preserve, protect, and ensure the sustainability and integrity of organic dairy farming across the west.

Jill Smith is the owner and founder of Pure Éire Dairy in Othello, Washington, actively involved with the farming, dairying, processing, and marketing of her family's own brand of dairy products sold throughout the state of Washington. The scope of her work includes working directly with consumers, retailers, and distributors, allowing her to understand what organic buyers’ expectations are with organic products. She has been an organic producer since 2005, is also currently working as a Consultant for the Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance and is actively involved with several sustainability groups throughout the Pacific Northwest. Organic integrity and policy directly impact her livelihood and the commitment she has made to her consumers.

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Southern Region: GOVERNING COUNCIL Candidates

Farmer Candidates

Jordan Pool, F&S Pool Farms, Inc, Dalhart, TX

Bio/Statement: We currently grow both conventional and organic crop . Between conventional and organic we farm about 8500 acres, 1500 of those being certified organic. Our certified organic crops grown are corn, cotton, pima cotton, peanuts, alfalfa, and milo. I started farming 16 years ago working for my father, then in 2010 when I married my wife, I started branching out on my own. I make all the major decisions on the farm and my wife takes care of our financial part. We have a great partnership and love what we do!

Shawn Peebles, Shawn Peebles Organic Farm LLC, Augusta, AR

Bio/Statement: Our farm is solely organic. I am a third-generation farmer. I started farming early with my dad and branched out on my own about 20 years ago. I switched to organic farming in 2009. We farm approximately 1500 acres. We grow sweet potatoes, edamame, black eye peas, soybeans, and corn. We find it exciting to find new crops to grow and diversify more each year. I handle some of each aspect that goes into a farming operation. I am hands on and fully involved in each decision that goes into the operation. I am currently serving on the USDA's Specialty Crop Committee. I have also served on a dicamba specialty task force. I enjoy speaking at meetings and conventions to share my knowledge and experience with others. I think organic farming is the future and want to see it grow. I will stand tall for my beliefs and advocate for what I believe in.

David Faison, Dface Farm, LLC, Hephzibah, GA

Bio/Statement: David Faison, Jr. is a second-generation farmer and former Army NCO, now serving as a Dept of the Army employee, Intensive care unit LPN at Eisenhower Army Medical Center where he has served since 1995. He has been a certified organic farmer running Dface Farm, LLC since 2018. Dface Farm is a small USDA certified organic farm in Richmond county Georgia. On this farm, David produces a small amount of diverse vegetables on 3 acres. He grows okra, pea's, kale, greens, peppers, tomatoes and some other veggies and berries. He supports their local Veggie Park Farmers Market (Augusta, GA) sales and online sales and teaching a sustainable farming lifestyle.

Seth Fortenberry, SSF Farms Inc, New Deal, TX

Bio/Statement: Seth Fortenberry is a 4th generation farmer who grew up in the south plains of West Texas farming since he was a young boy. Seth’s Great Grandfather W.O Fortenberry bought some of the land that Seth farms to this day. Seth began farming in 2002 using conventional practices. In 2006 Seth’s farming practices started to change after meeting oncologist, cancer survivor, and organic advocate Dr. Lillian Chou. In 2006, Dr. Chou asked Seth to farm one of her fields but required he farm it organically. Through his friendship with Dr. Chou Seth learned of the health benefits of farming organic and how organic farming can be done on a large scale. Currently, Seth farms 3000+ acres of certified organic farmland and another 3000+ acres of uncertified farmland (farmed using organic methods) in Lubbock and Hale County, Texas. His organic crops consist of Cotton, Corn, Milo, Black Eyed Peas, Garbanzo Beans, Wheat, Barley, and others. He is committed to on-farm research and has opened up several acres for research of organic crops and crop production systems. In 2015, he purchased a feed mill and started New Deal Grain to process his and other local farmers' organic commodities. He is passionate about producing the healthiest food from the healthiest soil, and helping others do the same.

Southern Region: POLICY COMMITTEE Candidates

Farmer Candidates

Laura Freeman, Mt. Folly Farm, Winchester, KY

Bio/Statement: I currently serve on the OFA Policy Committee and would like to be re-elected to another term. I own and run Mt. Folly Farm. Mt. Folly includes 1250 acres of pasture, timber, and crop land. About 70% of our crop and hay land is certified organic, making 290 organic acres and one organic high tunnel. I own and run the farm and have since 1982. I am also currently working to certify our cattle. I am also a climate change activist and farm entrepreneur, especially focused on hemp and heritage grains. Our farm is located in Kentucky, which has a nascent organic farming movement, so we are early adopters. Our core group is under 40, representing the future of farming. We are spreading the value of organics in the region by hosting multiple field days each year and connecting with our elected officials--introducing them to organic farming.

Jordan Pool, F&S Pool Farms, Inc, Dalhart, TX

Bio/Statement: We currently grow both conventional and organic crop . Between conventional and organic we farm about 8500 acres, 1500 of those being organic. Our certified organic crops grown are corn, cotton, pima cotton, peanuts, alfalfa, and milo. I started farming 16 years ago working for my father, then in 2010 when I married my wife, I started branching out on my own. I make all of the major decisions on the farm and my wife takes care of our financial part. We have a great partnership and love what we do!

David Faison, Dface Farm, LLC, Hephzibah, GA

Bio/Statement: David Faison, Jr. is a second-generation farmer and former Army NCO, now serving as a Dept of the Army employee, Intensive care unit LPN at Eisenhower Army Medical Center where he has served since 1995. He has been a certified organic farmer running Dface Farm, LLC since 2018. Dface Farm is a small USDA certified organic farm in Richmond county Georgia. On this farm, David produces a small amount of diverse vegetables on 3 acres. He grows okra, pea's, kale, greens, peppers, tomatoes and some other veggies and berries. He supports their local Veggie Park Farmers Market (Augusta, GA) sales and online sales and teaching a sustainable farming lifestyle.

Organization Candidates

Organic Association of Kentucky: Brooke Gentile , Executive Director, KY

Bio/Statement: The Organic Association of Kentucky (OAK) advances organic agriculture to improve the health of the environment and our communities. We grow ecological resilience, economic viability and socially just futures for Kentucky farmers through educational, technical and market resources. OAK's programs include Organic Transition Technical Assistance, Farmer Field Days, Annual Organic Farming Conference, Employer Sponsored CSA Programs, and Consumer Education. Founded by farmers and researchers in 2011, OAK has grown significantly in the past few years and continues to serve farmers with nearly 400 members and programs that reach 3,000 participants annually. Learn more about us at www.oak-ky.org.

Brooke Gentile joined the Organic Association of Kentucky (OAK) in 2017 as the Executive Director. She is a Kentucky native and brings a background rich in food and farming non-profit program development, evaluation and management. Brooke has been committed to strengthening organic food and farming systems ever since working on Italian farms over two decades ago. Inspired to grow the small farm and local food revolution, Brooke worked with Cornell Cooperative Extension and Red Hook Farms in New York City to develop youth urban agriculture programs. She then moved to Northern California and lived and worked at Occidental Arts and Ecology Center in the gardens, focusing on production, education and organizing. From there, Brooke shared five years with Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard, a community food pantry with gardens and nutrition education in Bloomington, Indiana. As the Executive Director she led the organization through the strategic planning process, increased food access advocacy programming while more than doubling program capacity during the 2008 recession, strengthened partnerships and won state recognition for impacts. Back in Kentucky, Brooke then taught undergraduate students at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment about issues in agriculture and sustainable farming practices for four years. Now with the Organic Association of Kentucky she melds a passion for farming, organic practices, education and advocacy to support OAK’s growing programs and state-wide farmer network.

Carolina Farm Stewardship Association: Roland McReynolds, Executive Director, NC

Bio/Statement: The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) is a farmer-driven, membership-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that helps people in North and South Carolina grow and eat local, organic food by advocating for fair farm and food policies, building systems that family farms need to thrive, and educating communities about local, organic agriculture. Founded in 1979, CFSA is the oldest and largest sustainable agriculture organization in the Southeast. We provide training and technical assistance to farmers on organic farming practices, including: consulting on organic high tunnel production of specialty crops; providing NRCS TSP services for farmers seeking CAP-138 plans (supporting organic transition); hosting numerous workshops throughout the year; running the only organic certified incubator farm in the Southeast, Lomax Farm in Concord, NC; conducting research on organic vegetable production practices at Lomax Farm and other farms; and hosting two annual conferences for organic farmers. We also conduct extensive policy advocacy on issues of importance to organic farmers in North and South Carolina, at the state and federal levels.

Roland Reynolds is an attorney and has served as the Executive Director of the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) for almost 14 years. His experience in the areas of environmental and agricultural law gives him a thorough understanding of the regulatory issues related to natural resource conservation in agriculture. He has led CFSA’s government relations activities on behalf of sustainable agriculture stakeholders, served on a variety of state and national boards and committees, and provided information to state and federal elected and administrative officials. In his work on the USDA’s Fruit & Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee, Reynolds led the committee to unanimously call for increased USDA funding for public plant breeding programs, which is a high priority of the organic community. He is effective at resolving conflicts; influencing government agencies, businesses and industry organizations; and establishing and strengthening working relationships with outside entities. Reynolds has built bridges with ‘conventional’ farmers and farm organizations, and has strengthened CFSA’s relationships with colleges and land grant universities in the Carolinas, serving on a number of departmental and college-level advisory boards and helping those institutions better serve the region’s organic producers and the goals of environmental stewardship in agriculture.

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Northeast Region: GOVERNING COUNCIL Candidates

Farmer Candidates

Eve Kaplan-Walbrecht, Garden of Eve Organic Farm & Market, Riverhead, NY

Bio/Statement: Eve Kaplan-Walbrecht and her husband Chris founded Garden of Eve organic farm in 2001, dedicated to providing delicious organic vegetables, fruits and beautiful flowers and to “making changes in the world by living them.” Invited to sell some extra produce from their garden (zucchini!) at a local farmers market they made $40 and were launched on their farming career. In the 20 years since then, they have expanded and now grow 60 acres of certified organic vegetables, flowers, raise 1500 pastured laying hens, and oversee a team of 20 at the height of the season. Garden of Eve sells produce through a large on-farm Market, 3 farmers markets, and nearly 1,000 households participating in their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs at 20 locations in New York City and on Long Island. Eve holds a BA from Harvard in Environmental Science and a MS in Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She has also worked as a land preservation advocate with the North Fork Environmental Council and as Principal Planner for the Town of Southampton. In Eve's over 20 years of operating a family-scale organic farm, She has been constantly challenged to overcome the innumerable challenges that farmers face, as well as the ways that the chemical farming industry overrides the interests of real farmers in national policy. She is a longtime supporter of several OG watchdog groups and has seen how "Big Food" continues to try to water down the organic standards that the rest of us work so hard to uphold. She is well qualified for the OFA Governing Council with her skills in advocacy and lobbying, through her longtime involvement in land planning and farmland preservation on the North Fork of Long Island. She has worked with groups both inside and outside of local government to help secure the preservation of large tracts of vulnerable land including what became the Hallock State Park; North Fork County Park, and farmland that has now been preserved for perpetuity through Purchase of Development Rights.

Matthias Reisen, Healing Spirits Herb Farm & Education Center , Avoca, NY

Bio/Statement: Matthias and his partner have been producing certified organic medicinal herbs since 1992. Before that he was an organic dairy farmer. He produces over 60 medicinal botanicals plus produce value added products. The farm consists of 40 acres, 20 acres of river bottom land and 20 acres of woodland. They have been farming this land since 1982. Matthias has a B.Sc. in Agronomy (the study of plant and soil sciences). He was a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines working with subsistence farmers on crop diversification. His role working with Cornell Cooperative Extension was that of a Field Crops and Vegetable Agent but also worked with greenhouse and maple syrup producers. Healing Spirits Herb Farm and Education Center has been in operation since 1991. Over the years Matthias has volunteered with the USDA Farmer to Farmer program assisting small scale farmers in Nepal, Jamaica, Belarus, Colombia and the Dominican Republic. Matthias is also past president of the International Herb Association and the Northeast Herbal Association.

Nicole Zlotnikov, Zfarms Organic, Dover Plains, NY

Bio/Statement: The certified organic products on Nicole's family farm are livestock, beef, lamb, goats meat, poultry, eggs, vegetables, orchard, and berries. The farm is a total of 220 acres, 80 acres in production. While Nicole is currently a junior in High School, she takes a management role on the farm with financial planning, advertising and marketing strategies. Nicole is passionate about preservation and restoration of ecology for the future of the planet. She feels that organic regenerative agriculture is an important piece in the solution of the problem. She feels that food justice is an important issue and that organic local farms can help to supply people of different social background with the high-quality healthy food. Recently, Nicole launched a charitable volunteer organization, Farm to Food Pantry. It has been promoting local food pantries' volunteers to come to farms and help farmers to donate their products for people in need in local communities.

Organization Candidates

Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance: Edward Maltby, Executive Director, Deerfield, MA

Bio/Statement: Ed Maltby currently represents NODPA on the OFA Policy Committee and would like to also serve on the Governing Council. He has also served on the founding OFA Steering Committee and Advisory Committee. NODPA started in 2001 and is the largest grassroots organization of organic dairy producers. It has remained true to its original goal of advocating on behalf of producers, regardless of who they sell their milk to, for a sustainable pay price plus protect the integrity of the USDA Organic regulations. NODPA is governed by organic dairy producers who meet regularly by conference call and annually in-person as either Board members or State Representatives. NODPA has a very active and committed Board and team of State Representatives that work together with NODPA staff to fulfill the mission of the organization. NODPA Bylaws protect the integrity of the organization and ensure that organic dairy producers control the association rather than any one brand, advocacy group or individual. NODPA represents organic dairy producers in the east of the country and has an active involvement with its sister organizations in the Midwest and the west which ensures that it can always remain connected to and controlled by its members.

Ed Maltby is a producer with over 45 years of experience managing conventional and organic dairy, beef, sheep and vegetable enterprises on a variety of different farms in Europe and the United States. For the past 20 years, Ed has worked with regional farms to cooperatively market their products into mainstream markets, ranging from direct marketing of lambs and organic produce, to establishing a cooperative of dairy farmers who direct market their own brand of milk in Western Massachusetts. Since 2005, Ed has worked as Executive Director of NODPA. He also developed a national umbrella organization, Federation of Organic Dairy Farmers (FOOD Farmers), to provide a national voice for organic dairy family farms. Ed served on the USDA Dairy Industry Advisory Committee to advise the Secretary of Agriculture on dairy policy. In 2006 when one of the last two remaining USDA slaughterhouses in MA was destroyed by fire, Ed worked with the family-owned Adams Farm Slaughterhouse to rebuild. The plant opened in November 2008 and in March 2009 Ed was asked to provide management assistance which later turned into a contract as General Manager.

Northeast Region: POLICY COMMITTEE Candidates

Farmer Candidates

Luke Gianforte, Gianforte Farm LLC, Cazenovia NY

Bio/Statement: I currently serve on the OFA Policy Committee and am interested in serving another term. Gianforte Farm has been certified organic since 1998 and currently operates 600 acres of grains and row crops in Upstate New York. The farm currently grows small grains for the food grade market as well as corn, soybeans, and dry beans. I returned to the farm in 2014 after graduating from Cornell University and serve as the managing partner. Since returning to the farm, I have focused on adopting new technology relevant to organic agriculture and developing new markets for the farm's products. In 2016, Gianforte Farm won the Conservation Farm of the Year through the Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District.

I was raised on my family's farm that started transiting to organic when I was five years old. I always had a deep passion for agriculture and knew I wanted to be a farmer. After high school I attend Cornell University where I had the chance to visit and learn about all types of farms all over the world. After graduation I returned home to the farm full time. I have been active in the local agricultural community through serving on the FSA County Committee and on the board of a non-profit which serves the refugee community through agriculture. I am also currently in the LEAD-NY agricultural leadership development program which has already proven to be a strong networking and personal development opportunity. As a young farmer I believe it is critical to be actively involved in the conversations regarding agricultural practices and policy decisions, especially when it comes to the Organic program. Agriculture is constantly changing, and as organic producers we need to ensure the intentions of the Organic label remain sound while continuing to move forward. Consumers are facing more food choices than ever before, making it more critical than ever to preserve the meaning of the Organic label.


September Policy Update

By, Patty Lovera, Policy Director

COVID-19 RESPONSE

It’s getting a little repetitive, but once again there is still no clear sign what Congress will do next to address the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and related economic disruption. The House passed its version of a stimulus/pandemic response bill in May, but the Senate has not yet passed its own bill. On September 10th, the Senate voted on a Republican version of a limited or “skinny” version of a pandemic response bill, which failed, 52-47 (most bills need 60 votes to advance in the Senate.) 

This means that the negotiations between Democrats and Republicans will continue, with major issues to be resolved, including aid to state and local governments, unemployment assistance, and a proposal to provide 

businesses with immunity from lawsuits by workers or customers. The two sides seem to be as far apart as they were earlier this summer, but as we get closer to the election, there may be more pressure on both sides to come up with something that can pass both the House and Senate.

So far, the negotiations remain focused on those big picture economic issues, with not much discussion of specific sectors like agriculture. All the bills that have been introduced would provide more funding for USDA to make direct payments to farms and processors that were impacted by the pandemic, with the same vague instructions that give a lot of discretion to USDA on how to set up these payments.

USDA continues to run the two main programs established by the CARES Act that Congress passed earlier this year. You can read more about these programs here. The deadline for applying for the direct payment program, the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, just passed but USDA has said they will soon be making an announcement about a new round of funding for that program. We will post an update on the OFA website when details are released.

USDA Regulations on Origin of Organic Livestock

Earlier this summer, we made sure to remind the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) that Congress had set a deadline for them to finalize a long-delayed rule about how livestock are transitioned into organic production. Congress set a deadline of mid-June for NOP to finish this rule in the 2020 appropriations (spending) bill for USDA.

Unfortunately, the NOP not only failed to meet that deadline, but has now explained that they believe there are significant problems with the proposed rule they have been working on since 2015 that need to be addressed before they can finish it.

OFA is going to continue to push NOP to finish this rule, which is critical for creating a level playing field for all organic dairy producers and closing the loopholes in existing regulations that are being exploited by large operations.

Organic Certification Cost-Share

On August 10, the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced that funds were being released for the annual organic certification cost share program. OFA has been working with allies like the National Organic Coalition for several months to pressure FSA to make this year’s funds available so that organic farmers and handling operations could begin to apply for reimbursement for part of their annual certification costs.

Unfortunately, the FSA announced that due to an unexpected shortfall in funding, they were lowering the reimbursement rate to 50 percent of the certified organic operation’s eligible expenses, up to a maximum of $500 per scope. This is reduced from a rate of 75 percent of the certified organic operation’s eligible expenses, up to a maximum of $750 per scope in previous years (and the level that was specified for this program in the last Farm Bill.) OFA has been working with NOC and other allies to understand what happened to cause this funding shortfall and to alert members of Congress who support the cost share program. In late August, 39 members of the House sent a letter to FSA objecting to this cut in the reimbursement rate and in September, Senator Collins (R-ME) sent her own letter expressing concern. We are going to keep working with members of Congress to try to restore the funding for organic certification cost share this year and to prevent funding shortfalls like this in the future. You can find out how to take action on cost share here.

Don’t Forget to Comment on Stopping Fraudulent Organic Imports!  

OFA has worked for years to demand better enforcement to prevent fraud in organic markets. In last month’s policy update, we gave some detail on the proposed rule on Strengthening Organic Enforcement. The public comment period for this proposed rule is open until October 5th, so check out what is in the rule and find out how to add your comment here.

COMMENT ON STRENGTHENING ORGANIC ENFORCEMENT RULE

National Organic Standards Board Fall Meeting

The fall NOSB meeting will be held online, spread out over several days. The public comment sessions will be from noon until 5:00 eastern on October 20 and 22, and the NOSB meeting will be from noon until 5:00 eastern on October 28, 29 and 30th.

You can get information about registering to watch the meeting online, how to submit written comments and how to sign up for a public comment slot on the USDA’s website for this meeting. The deadline to submit written comments and sign up for a public comment slot is October 1st.

You can see the full agenda for the meeting on the USDA’s website, but two items that might be of interest to OFA members are paper pots and a parasiticide for laying hens called fenbendazole. You can read more about the proposals the NOSB will vote on at the October meeting here. OFA will be urging the board to approve paper pots as an allowable synthetic because they are similar to already-approved inputs and because they are particularly important to smaller operations. And we will be urging the board not to allow the use of fenbendazole with no withholding period and no defined parameters for use. There are real concerns about the potential for residues of the drug to remain in eggs laid by treated birds as well as concerns about how this drug fits into a properly managed organic system with adequate outdoor access.

 

TAKE ACTION ON ORGANIC ENFORCEMENT

We also need OFA members to weigh in during the public comment period for the Strengthening Organic Enforcement proposed rule to make sure it gets finalized quickly and that the final rule is a strong as possible.

Here’s how you can comment:

The fastest way to submit a public comment is through the federal government’s online system. This proposed rule has its own web page and you can click on the “Comment Now” button on the top right to enter your comment. You can either copy and paste your comment into the system or attach a file.

If you want to submit a hard copy of your comments instead (you don’t need to do this if you submit online), send it to:

Jennifer Tucker, Deputy Administrator, National Organic Program, USDA-AMS-NOP, 1400 Independence Ave. SW, Room 2642-So., Ag Stop 0268, Washington, DC 20250-0268;  Fax: (202) 260-9151

What to include in your comment:

  • Make sure to include the docket number for this proposed rule in your written comment: AMS-NOP-17-0065.
  • Explain that you are an organic farmer and mention any specific concerns you have or examples of how fraud in organic supply chains has impacted you.

TALKING POINTS:

  • This proposed rule is necessary and long overdue. I especially support the end to exemptions for uncertified handlers in the supply chain and the requirement of electronic import certificates.
  • I urge the USDA to finalize this rule as soon as possible and speed up the effective date so that the agency can start enforcing these rules to prevent fraud in organic supply chains.
  • For section 205.273(c), I urge the USDA to shorten the time frame allowed for an importer to submit an electronic import certificate into the ACES system. Allowing importers 10 days to file the electronic certificate after the shipment has reached a U.S. port could mean the difference between preventing fraudulent products from entering the U.S. and having to try to retrieve them once they have entered commerce.
  • I appreciate the proposed rule’s requirements that non-retail containers be labeled with more information about the organic status of products (section 205.307). But I urge the agency to expand this requirement to large non-retail containers such as trailers, tanks, rail cars, shipping containers, grain elevators/silos, vessels, cargo holds, freighters, barges, or other method of bulk transport or storage. Providing a visual indicator that these contain organic products serve as a valuable backstop to other methods, such as organic certificates, and provide one last opportunity to prevent unintended commingling or treatment with irradiation or other prohibited substances. I also urge the agency to investigate technologies that indicate whether containers have been opened or tampered with during shipping for large-scale shipments.

 


NOC & OFA Issue Press Release on Cost Share

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 26, 2020

Media Contact:
National Organic Coalition, Abby Youngblood, abby@nationalorganiccoalition.org, 646-525-7165
Organic Farmers Association, Kate Mendenhall, kate@organicfarmersassociation.org 202-643-5363

National Organic Coalition and Organic Farmers Association

Thank House Members for Their Bipartisan Letter to USDA Calling for Restoration of Organic Certification Cost Share Funding

Washington, D.C. – August 26, 2020 — Yesterday, 39 Members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) to urge the restoration of funding for the Organic Certification Cost Share program (OCCSP), and to extend all applicable program deadlines to ensure that farmers who are still dealing with COVID-19 impacts have ample time to access these funds.  The letter was led by Representatives Stacey Plaskett (D-VI), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Anthony Brindisi (D-NY), and Dan Newhouse (R-WA).  All signers of the letter are members of either the House Committee on Agriculture or the House Organic Caucus.

The letter is in response to the announcement on August 10 announcement by the FSA of the agency’s plans to reduce reimbursement rates for the organic certification cost share program, which provides reimbursements to organic farms and handling operations. The Federal Register notice stated that FSA is “revising the reimbursement amount to 50 percent of the certified organic operation’s eligible expenses, up to a maximum of $500 per scope,” because of lack of funding. The 2018 Farm Bill clearly set reimbursement rates at 75 percent of the certified organic operation’s eligible expenses, up to a maximum of $750 per scope.

“The National Organic Coalition thanks Representatives Plaskett, Davis, Brindisi and Newhouse for their leadership in organizing this letter calling on USDA to restore funding for this crucial organic program.” said Abby Youngblood, Executive Director at the National Organic Coalition. “Producers and other organic operations need this support now more than ever because they are faced with economic disruptions and loss of markets due to COVID-19.”

"The Organic Certification Cost-Share Program is especially important for small and mid-size organic farms,” said Kate Mendenhall, Director of the Organic Farmers Association. “Organic farmers scrambled this season to make sure healthy food was available for our local communities in a time of crisis.  This is a time when the USDA should be looking for ways to support organic farmers, not harm them."

This action by USDA is unwarranted and completely unacceptable. The 2018 Farm Bill provided new funding for the program and also directed USDA to use the program’s carryover balances from previous years to fund the program for fiscal years 2019 through 2023. Given these sources of funding, there should be plenty of funds available for the program’s operation in fiscal year 2020. Either USDA’s accounting for this program is flawed or the agency has redirected some of the organic certification cost share funding to other programs, in conflict with the funding directives in the 2018 Farm Bill. In addition, the FSA has done a huge disservice to the organic community in this time of crisis by delaying the release of funds by many months while organic operations struggle to stay in business as they weather a pandemic and loss of markets.

In addition, NOC and OFA urge organic operations to apply for certification cost-share assistance as soon as they are able to do so with their state agency or local FSA office: https://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/occsp/index

Operations have until October 31, 2020 to apply for funding. FSA has stated that “if additional funding is authorized at a later time, FSA may provide additional assistance to certified operations that have applied” for the organic certification cost share program.

About the National Organic Coalition:

The National Organic Coalition (NOC) is a national alliance of organizations working to provide a "Washington voice" for farmers, ranchers, conservationists, consumers, and industry members involved in organic agriculture. NOC seeks to advance organic food and agriculture and ensure a united voice for organic integrity, which means strong, enforceable, and continuously improved standards. The coalition works to assure that policies are fair, equitable, and encourage diversity of participation and access. Learn more at NationalOrganicCoalition.org.

 

About the Organic Farmers Association:

The Organic Farmers Association (OFA) provides a strong and unified national voice for domestic certified organic producers, by supporting a farmer-led national organic farmer movement and national policy platform, strengthening the capacity of organic farmers and farm organizations, and supporting collaboration and leadership among state, regional and national organic farmer organizations. Rodale Institute supports this initiative as fiscal sponsor and partner with OFA’s farmer leadership. Learn more at OrganicFarmersAssociation.org.


TAKE ACTION: ORGANIC ENFORCEMENT

DEADLINE: OCTOBER 5

We need OFA members to weigh in during the public comment period for the Strengthening Organic Enforcement proposed rule to make sure it gets finalized quickly and that the final rule is a strong as possible. 

COMMENT ON STRENGTHENING ORGANIC ENFORCEMENT RULE

Here’s how you can comment:

The fastest way to submit a public comment is through the federal government’s online system. This proposed rule has its own web page and you can click on the “Comment Now” button on the top right to enter your comment. You can either copy and paste your comment into the system or attach a file.

If you want to submit a hard copy of your comments instead (you don’t need to do this if you submit online), send it to:

Jennifer Tucker, Deputy Administrator, National Organic Program, USDA-AMS-NOP, 1400 Independence Ave. SW, Room 2642-So., Ag Stop 0268, Washington, DC 20250-0268;  Fax: (202) 260-9151

What to include in your comment:

  • Make sure to include the docket number for this proposed rule in your written comment: AMS-NOP-17-0065.
  • Explain that you are an organic farmer and mention any specific concerns you have or examples of how fraud in organic supply chains has impacted you.

TALKING POINTS:

  • This proposed rule is necessary and long overdue. I especially support the end to exemptions for uncertified handlers in the supply chain and the requirement of electronic import certificates.
  • I urge the USDA to finalize this rule as soon as possible and speed up the effective date so that the agency can start enforcing these rules to prevent fraud in organic supply chains.
  • For section 205.273(c), I urge the USDA to shorten the time frame allowed for an importer to submit an electronic import certificate into the ACES system. Allowing importers 10 days to file the electronic certificate after the shipment has reached a U.S. port could mean the difference between preventing fraudulent products from entering the U.S. and having to try to retrieve them once they have entered commerce.
  • I appreciate the proposed rule’s requirements that non-retail containers be labeled with more information about the organic status of products (section 205.307). But I urge the agency to expand this requirement to large non-retail containers such as trailers, tanks, rail cars, shipping containers, grain elevators/silos, vessels, cargo holds, freighters, barges, or other method of bulk transport or storage. Providing a visual indicator that these contain organic products serve as a valuable backstop to other methods, such as organic certificates, and provide one last opportunity to prevent unintended commingling or treatment with irradiation or other prohibited substances. I also urge the agency to investigate technologies that indicate whether containers have been opened or tampered with during shipping for large-scale shipments.

 COMMENT ON STRENGTHENING ORGANIC ENFORCEMENT RULE  


August Policy Update

By, Patty Lovera, Policy Director

COVID-19 RESPONSE

The end of July and early August in Washington D.C. have been consumed by what will happen next in Congress to respond to the ongoing disruption caused by Covid-19. The House passed the HEROES Act in May, which would largely continue the approach from the CARES ACT (passed in March) of providing funding for USDA to make payments to producers, as well as some additional funding for things like protective equipment.

We have been waiting since May for the Senate to come up with their version of a bill. At the end of July, Senate leadership released a draft of their package. On many topics – unemployment insurance, aid to state and local governments, increasing SNAP benefits, and creating immunity from liability for businesses, healthcare institutions and schools – the Senate draft and the bill passed by the House are very different.

On agriculture, they are not all that different. The House bill uses a different source of money (the Commodity Credit Corporation) to fund USDA Covid-19 response, while the Senate bill would give USDA direct appropriations. The House bill has a few more strings attached to how the money should be spent than the Senate bill, but neither provides very strong standards for how USDA designs their programs.

At the end of last week, the leadership of the House and Senate and the White House were still negotiating about what will be in a final package, with major disagreements over the big economic issues that differ between the two bills. Once these big items are worked out, there may be some opportunity for members of the agriculture committees to weigh in and add more provisions related to the USDA programs. OFA continues to be in touch with members of Congress who are on the appropriations and agriculture committees to stay on top of this process and urge them to make sure these programs work better for organic farmers than the initial round of programs.

While Congress continues to debate what’s next, the USDA is still running two programs created by the CARES Act – the Farmers to Families Food Box (contracts to ship boxes of food to food banks) and the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (direct payments to farmers for eligible commodities).

The USDA has opened a third round of contracts for the Farmers to Families Food Box and is now accepting bids. They have changed the requirements for this round, and now require contractors to deliver larger boxes (20-30 pounds of food per box) and are also requiring that each box contain a variety of meat, dairy and fruits and vegetables (previous rounds allowed contractors to provide 5 pound boxes with one type of product.) If you are interested in pursuing a contract through this program, check out the USDA’s website.

For the farmer direct payment (CFAP) program, you can get more information here, including which crops are eligible for direct payments (based on USDA’s assessment of whether they suffered a significant price drop between January and April.)  USDA has expanded the list of additional fruits and vegetables that are now eligible for direct payments to producers. The USDA recorded a series of webinars about this program, which might be useful if you are considering whether to apply.

 

 

STRENGTHENING ORGANIC ENFORCEMENT PROPOSED RULE RELEASED!

After many months of delay, the National Organic Program has released the proposed rule on Strengthening Organic Enforcement. In early August, the proposed rule was finally published in the Federal Register, which starts the clock on a 60-day public comment period, ending on October 5th.

This proposed rule is required by language that OFA supported in the 2018 Farm Bill, which gives the NOP additional authority to track imported organic products, including requiring imports to have an electronic import certificate. The need for better systems to prevent and detect fraud in both imports and domestic supply chains has been clear to OFA members for many years, as Harriet Behar’s article, The Tragedy of Fraud, on our website lays out.

The new proposed rule addresses not only the provisions required by the Farm Bill, but also other issues including:

  • applicability of the regulations and exemptions from organic certification;
  • import certificates;
  • record keeping and product traceability;
  • certifying agent personnel qualifications and training;
  • standardized certificates of organic operation;
  • unannounced on-site inspections of certified operations;
  • oversight of certification activities;
  • foreign conformity assessment systems;
  • certification of grower group operations;
  • labeling of non-retail containers;
  • annual update requirements for certified operations;
  • compliance and appeals processes;
  • and calculating organic content of multi-ingredient products.

You can read the proposed rule (or a summary) on USDA’s website (go to the “Supporting Documents” section near the bottom of the page).

OFA’s policy committee is working to do an in-depth analysis of the proposed rule and OFA will make detailed comments about ways to make the proposed rule even more effective, including decreasing the time importers would have to provide import certificates, expanding the requirement for indicating organic products on bulk shipping containers and speeding up the effective date of the rule.

 

TAKE ACTION ON ORGANIC ENFORCEMENT

We also need OFA members to weigh in during the public comment period for the Strengthening Organic Enforcement proposed rule to make sure it gets finalized quickly and that the final rule is a strong as possible.

Here’s how you can comment:

The fastest way to submit a public comment is through the federal government’s online system. This proposed rule has its own web page and you can click on the “Comment Now” button on the top right to enter your comment. You can either copy and paste your comment into the system or attach a file.

If you want to submit a hard copy of your comments instead (you don’t need to do this if you submit online), send it to:

Jennifer Tucker, Deputy Administrator, National Organic Program, USDA-AMS-NOP, 1400 Independence Ave. SW, Room 2642-So., Ag Stop 0268, Washington, DC 20250-0268;  Fax: (202) 260-9151

What to include in your comment:

  • Make sure to include the docket number for this proposed rule in your written comment: AMS-NOP-17-0065.
  • Explain that you are an organic farmer and mention any specific concerns you have or examples of how fraud in organic supply chains has impacted you.

TALKING POINTS:

  • This proposed rule is necessary and long overdue. I especially support the end to exemptions for uncertified handlers in the supply chain and the requirement of electronic import certificates.
  • I urge the USDA to finalize this rule as soon as possible and speed up the effective date so that the agency can start enforcing these rules to prevent fraud in organic supply chains.
  • For section 205.273(c), I urge the USDA to shorten the time frame allowed for an importer to submit an electronic import certificate into the ACES system. Allowing importers 10 days to file the electronic certificate after the shipment has reached a U.S. port could mean the difference between preventing fraudulent products from entering the U.S. and having to try to retrieve them once they have entered commerce.
  • I appreciate the proposed rule’s requirements that non-retail containers be labeled with more information about the organic status of products (section 205.307). But I urge the agency to expand this requirement to large non-retail containers such as trailers, tanks, rail cars, shipping containers, grain elevators/silos, vessels, cargo holds, freighters, barges, or other method of bulk transport or storage. Providing a visual indicator that these contain organic products serve as a valuable backstop to other methods, such as organic certificates, and provide one last opportunity to prevent unintended commingling or treatment with irradiation or other prohibited substances. I also urge the agency to investigate technologies that indicate whether containers have been opened or tampered with during shipping for large-scale shipments.

COMMENT ON STRENGTHENING ORGANIC ENFORCEMENT RULE