September 18, 2009

USDA National Organic Program Gets New Leadership, Change Coming? The USDA announced new leadership at the National Organic Program, which probably comes not a moment too soon. The program, which regulates organic agriculture in the US, has been beset by criticism. Now, with renewed focus, it will hopefully push forward. WASHINGTON, Sept. 17, 2009 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that Miles McEvoy has been hired to serve as Deputy Administrator of the National Organic Program (NOP). McEvoy assumes his position on Oct. 1. Vilsack also announced that the NOP will become an independent program area within AMS because of the increased visibility and emphasis on organic agriculture throughout the farming community, evolving consumer preferences, and the enhanced need for governmental oversight of this widely expanded program. Organically grown and marketed agricultural products are of key interest to the Obama Administration, and the NOP will be receiving increased funding and staffing in the new fiscal year. "Miles McEvoy has worked in the field of organic agriculture for more than two decades and has a solid understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing the organic community," Vilsack said. For more than 20 years, McEvoy led the Washington State Department of Agriculture's (WSDA) Organic Food Program, one of the nation's first state organic certification programs. In 2001, he helped establish the WSDA Small Farm and Direct Marketing Program. From 1993 until 1995, McEvoy was the founding Director of The Food Alliance, a program that blends sustainable farming practices and social welfare components into an eco-label program. Read the rest of...
Local Food Advocates Pumped by USDA Initiative I asked a range of people involved in local food systems to react to the announcements last week by the USDA in promoting local food. Here's what they had to say: From California, Michael Dimock, president of Roots of Change: After so many years in the trenches of the struggle to awaken the nation to the value of reconnecting with producers and the importance of food production, it is totally thrilling to see the USDA champion a valued cause. I agree with Secretary Vilsack that "local and regional food systems" are a powerful leverage point for economic, health, and environmental improvement. With this latest initiative, the People's Garden and the White House Garden, the Secretary and Administration are moving the nation into a new era, which I feel will be seen historically as a renewal and renaissance for American agriculture and rural communities, which have suffered degradation for too long. I heartily applaud the USDA, the Secretary and the President! In the video announcement, Secretary Vilsack did point out that USDA will use "existing programs" to shed light on foodsheds. This is good, but the concept is so divergent from the past trend that we may find soon, that either existing programs will need significant retooling, or that a new, specialized program focused on peri-urban agriculture could be very powerful. But I am open to working with what we currently have, particularly until the next farm bill and given the effort to contain the deficit. The farm bill is the...

Sam Fromartz

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