Letter sent to Organic Eye expressing concern for strategy

The following letter was sent to Organic Eye. 

January 29, 2020

Mark Kastel, Jay Feldman, and Terry Shistar Founders, Organic Eye
C/O Beyond Pesticides
701 E Street, SE, Suite 200

Washington, DC 20003

RE: Beyond Pesticide’s Organic Eye Post Entitled “Regulatory Capture: USDA’s Organic Governance Board Dominated by Affiliates of Corporate Lobby” (January 22, 2020)

Dear Mark, Jay, and Terry,

We are writing to express disappointment and concern with the tone and strategy of your recent letter to the organic community about the new National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) appointments.

Organic Farmers Association was created by and is run by certified organic farmers to support a strong voice for domestic certified organic farmers at the national level. As an organization, strong principles guide the way we work internally as well as with our external organic partners. We are committed to transparency and meaningful change for organic farmers that embodies social, environmental, and health values of the organic movement for current and future generations. We believe that the ways in which we work with each other and in organizations and movements must reflect the values we hold for the world.

While we welcome the creation of Organic Eye as an investigative arm to Beyond Pesticides, we disagree with the approach you have taken in your early opposition to the USDA’s appointment of NOSB members. We find the approach you have taken contrary to your mission of ensuring that organic values and commitments are not compromised in the modern food system. You cite yourself that the organic movement is built on a loving and collaborative relationship that embraces environmental stewardship and justice.

Organic Farmers Association endorsed one of the candidates selected to the NOSB, and we were not made aware of the other candidates submitting application for consideration. Both Beyond Pesticides, through your affiliation with the National Organic Coalition, and the Organic Farmers Association endorsed the candidacy of the new farmer appointee Nathaniel (Nate) Powell-Palm.

Organic Farmers Association continues to strongly stand behind Nate as a first-generation, young, successful organic farmer who has volunteered his experience representing certified organic farmers in the Western U.S. to the Organic Farmers Association Governing Council and Executive Committee. Nate farms in Montana where the average farm size is 2,036 acres and median farm size is between 4,000-

611 Siegfriedale Road • Kutztown, PA 19530-9320

202-643-5363 • info@organicfarmersassociation.org • www.OrganicFarmersAssociation.org

8,000 acres. The regional growing conditions require more land for grazing, so in a pasture-based farm operation, more pastureland is required to support a grassfed operation. Nate’s farm includes a total of 1,000 acres with 300 of those acres in hay and grain and the rest in pasture to support 40 grassfed beef cows. When looking at the facts, this size of operation is not the type of large corporate farm you describe in your letter and an unfair depiction of a young farmer committed to caring for his land and advocating for his fellow organic farmers. We feel you were out of line in your vilification of Nate and he deserves an apology.

While we are not familiar with the other NOSB members, Organic Farmers Association will be introducing our stakeholders and their policy priorities to the new members. We will continue to educate all National Organic Standards Board members on the priorities, policy positions, and concerns of certified organic farmers. We will hold them accountable to serving in their role with an objective and open view—assessing organic issues outside of their own personal occupations and personal experiences and being open to making the best recommendations based on the needs of the organic community as a whole. We will encourage them to hold special credence to the needs of certified organic farmers, the backbone of the U.S. organic market. We believe we can do this in a collaborative manner that embraces the values of the organic movement we work to uphold through our own conduct as an organization representing farmers.

While we agree with Organic Eye that the USDA should be transparent in its appointment process for the National Organic Standards Board, we disagree with the tone and attack on current appointees. We hope that in the future, your information will better embody your mission, organic values, and put fact above political agenda.


Kate Mendenhall, Director

David Colson, President