Organic Production Act Debate August 1, 1990
This is the House debate on the DeFazio amendment. Congressman DeFazio lead the battle to include the Organic Foods Production Act in the House farm bill. Congressman Stenholm lead the opposition against inclusion of this amendment in favor of his organic study amendment.
H6622 CONGRESSIONAL RECORD — HOUSE August 1, 1990
VIOLATIONS OF SUBTITLE
(a) Misuse Of Label.—Any individual who knowingly sells or labels a product as organic, except in accordance with this subtitle, shall be subject to a civil penalty of not more than $10,000.
(b) False Certification.—Any individual who issues a false certification under this subtitle to the Secretary, a governing state official, or a Certifying Agent shall be subject to the provisions of section 1001 of title 18. United States Code.
(1) IN GENERAL.—Except as provided in paragraph (2), any producer who—
(A) issues a false certification:
(B) attempts to have an organically produced label affixed to an agricultural product that such producer knows, or should have reason to know; to have been produced in a manner that is not in accordance with this subtitle
(C) otherwise violates the purposes of the national organic certification program established under section 14S4C(a) as determined by the Secretary or the applicable governing state official, after notice and an opportunity to be heard, shall not be eligible, for a period of 5 years from the date of such occurrence, to receive certification under this subtitle with respect to any farm or handling operation in which such producer has an interest.
(2) WAIVER.—Notwithstanding paragraph (1), the Secretary may reduce or eliminate such period of ineligibility if the Secretary determines that such modification or waiver is in the best interests of the national organic certification program established under this subtitle.
(d) REPORTING OF VIOLATIONS.—A Certifying Agent shall immediately report any violations of this subtitle to the Secretary or the governing State official (if applicable), and shall decertify any individual determined to be in violation of this subtitle.
(e) VIOLATION BY CERTIFYING Agent.—A Certifying Agent that is a private individual that violates the provisions of this subtitle or that falsely or negligently certifies any farming or handling operation and that does not meet the terms and conditions of the applicable organic certification program as an organic operation, as determined by the Secretary or the governing State official (if applicable} after notice and an opportunity to be heard, shall—
(1) lost its accreditation as a Certifying Agent under this subtitle; and
(2) be ineligible to be accredited as a Certifying Agent under this subtitle far a period of not less than 3 years subsequent to such determination.
(f) EFFECT OF OTHER LAWS.—Nothing in this subtitle shall alter the authority of the Secretary of Agriculture under the Federal Meat Inspection Act (21 U.S.C. 601 et seq.) and the Poultry Products Inspection Act (21 U.S.C 451 et seq) concerning meat and poultry products, nor any of the authorities of the Secretary of Health and Human Services under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. 301 et seq.), nor the authority of the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (7 U.S.C. 138 et seq.)
(a) EXPEDITED APPEALS PROCEDURE—The Secretary shall establish an expedited administrative appeals procedure under which persons may appeal an action of the Secretary, the applicable governing State official, a Certifying Agent, or a certified farming or handling operation under this subtitle that—
- adversely affects such person: or
- is inconsistent with the organic certification program established under the subtitle.
(b) Appeal of Final Decision.—A final decision of the Secretary under such process may be appealed to the United States Court of Appeals of the District in which such person is located.
SEC. 1494U. ADMINISTRATION.
(a) REGULATIONS.—Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this subtitle, the Secretary shall issue proposed regulations to carry out this subtitle.
(b) ASSISTANCE TO STATE.—
(1) TECHNICAL AND OTHER ASSISTANCE.—The Secretary shall provide technical, administrative, and Extension Service assistance to each state that implements an organic certification program under this subtitle.
(2) FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE.—The Secretary may provide financial assistance to any state that implements an organic certification program under this subtitle.
SEC. 1494V. AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.
There are authorized to be appropriated for each fiscal year such sums as necessary to carry out this subtitle.
Mr. DeFAZIO (during the reading). Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent that the amendment be considered as read and printed in the Record.
The CHAIRMAN. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Oregon?
There was no objection.
The CHAIRMAN, Pursuant to House Resolution 444, the gentleman from Oregon [Mr. DeFazio] will be recognized for 10 minutes and a Member opposed will be recognized for 10 minutes.
The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Oregon [Mr. DeFazio].
The Chair would ask the gentleman from Oregon [Mr. DeFazio] if he is opposed to the amendment offered by the gentleman from Texas [Mr. Stenholm] and wishes the 10 minutes in opposition.
Mr. DeFAZIO. I am, Mr. Chairrnan, and I would claim that time.
The CHAIRMAN. The Chair will then allocate 20 minutes to the gentleman from Texas [Mr. Stenholm] and 20 minutes to the gentleman from Oregon [Mr. DeFazio].
Mr. STENHOLM. Mr. Chairman, is it 20 minutes total for both amendments?
The CHAIRMAN. No. The Chair would state it will be 20 minutes on each amendment and each side will get 20 minutes on both the amendment and the substitute-amendment.
Mr. DeFAZIO, Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent that the total debate be limited, in the interest of moving through the House here, to 20 minutes, 10 minutes per side.
The CHAIRMAN. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Oregon?
There was no objection.
The CHAIRMAN, The time will be divided 10 minutes to the gentleman from Texas [Mr. Stenholm] and 10 minutes to the gentleman from Oregon [Mr. DeFazio]
The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Texas [Mr. Stenholm].
Mr. STENHOLM. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 2 minutes.
Mr. Chairman, I want to commend the committee’s ranking minority member, Mr. Madigan, the chairman of the Defense Marketing, Consumer Relations, and Nutrition Subcommittee. Mr. Hatcher, and the subcommittee’s ranking minority member, Mr. Emerson, and other members of the Agriculture Committee, for their assistance in developing the various provisions of this amendment.
The purpose of the amendment is to achieve, through public hearings and formal rule making conducted by USDA the adoption of standards to govern the production and processing of food that is to be labeled as organically produced.
More specifically, this amendment does not mandate just a study, but rather establishes the proper process for developing national standards for organic food labeling and allows an adequate period for comment by all interested parties. This approach represents both a commitment to the organic industry and a realistic assessment of the ground that must be covered in order to insure that a workable program is developed.
Quite clearly, the US. Department of Agriculture possesses the resources to create a forum by which to properly achieve the resolution of the conflicts among the various opinions regarding the nature of organic food and among the various State approaches to certifying food as having been organically produced.
There is unquestionably a segment of society that is interested in purchasing organically produced food. The development of Federal standards will ensure that organic food standards are consistently applied and meaningful to the consumer.
This amendment enjoys the support of producer organizations such as the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Milk Producers Federation, National Pork Producers Council, National Cattlemen’s Association, and several State farm organizations to name just a few.
As indicated during a hearing held on June 19,1990, conducted by the Agriculture Committee, significant differences of opinion exist among administration officials, producers, and processors with respect to what production and processing practices are organic practices. Therefore, this amendment reflects a good-faith attempt to move forward with the establishment of a program with the suggestions and advise of all interested parties.
Some in the organic movement commonly use the word “organic” as a synonym for “natural,” and regard “organically grown” food as superior /nutritionally to conventionally grown food. Let the record be clear that scientifically, natural substances are not necessarily organic, and organic substances are not necessarily natural.
The statement that a food has been organically produced implies and is often accompanied by assertions that such food is superior in safety or nutrient content to food not labeled in this fashion. There is no scientific evidence that organic food is any safer or any more nutritious than foods produced using conventional methods.
Chemicals in general, and organic chemicals in particular, cannot be classified as safe or unsafe on the basis of their origin. Some organic chemicals that are synthesized by living organisms are extremely toxic to humans. In fact, whether natural or synthetic all fertilizers consist wholly of chemicals, be they derived from animal, vegetable, or mineral sources. Food produced using substances from any of these sources can be wholesome, fully nutritious, and safe. It is important to recognize that a chemical becomes hazardous only when the degree of exposure is sufficient to cause toxic effects. The thousands of chemicals that constitute the food supply are collectively beneficial in the quantities normally ingested, but all would have detrimental effects if ingested individually in excessive quantities.
Where or how a specific chemical compound is formed is irrelevant as far as the properties and effects of the compound are concerned. Today, many of the simpler organic substances produced by living organisms can be synthesized in the laboratory by chemists. When the synthetic version of a naturally occurring organic chemical is produced in a laboratory or factory, the resulting chemical is identical to the one produced naturally by plants or animals. For example, vitamins are the same organic chemicals and have the same effects whether synthesized in a laboratory or by living organisms.
In many of today’s progressive farming systems, extensive use is made of nutritional supplements in animal feeds. Mineral and other nutritional supplements increase animal productivity, and they are of greatest importance in feeds for poultry and swine.
Further increases in production efficiency are achieved in modern conventional animal agriculture by use of hormonally active substances. Most of the hormones and other active substances useful in conventional animal agriculture are naturally occurring organic compounds, but their purposeful use is unnatural and thus is objectionable to some persons.
In crop and livestock production practices, conventional and organic f arming have more in common than not. The principal divergence is in the use of modern chemical technology.
We must recognize that greater diversity in both our crop and livestock systems often can lead to improved economic stability for producers. It seems we have only begun to tap the rich pool of products that could be produced efficiently from agricultural species. Because farmers sometimes feel they are caught in a squeeze between weather and markets, if can be psychologically helpful to ensure that they have plenty of options to choose from and different potential profit sources.
Let me conclude by stating that the goal of any farming system should be to provide an abundance of food and fiber that is safe and nutritious to consumers and harmless to the environment and sustainable for generations to come. In order to commit land and financial resources to organic production, farmers must have a clear and well developed set of standards which allow organized, efficient interstate commerce. In addition, proper incentive, in the form of Federal standards, is needed so that all producers are playing by the same set of rules.
The primary focus of this amendment is food labeling, and not food safety. It is clearly not the role of the Federal Government to encourage organic production over traditional production. Agriculture has and continues to be responsive to consumers’ needs and tastes. If consumers want food with an organic label, then that label should mean the same thing throughout the country. Those wishing to buy and those wishing to grow organic food should be encouraged to do so, but that choice should be on the basis of complete and accurate information.
Mr. DeFAZIO. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Chairman, the gentleman from Texas and I share the same goal: The establishment of a uniform national standard for use of the word “organic” in marketing food products. Both amendments will have these standards in place 3 years from now. While Mr. Stenholm and I are in agreement on the final goal, we differ on the best way to get there. Extensive hearings in the House and Senate have vividly demonstrated that organic growers, organic processors and retailers, conventional farm groups, consumers, environmental groups, State departments of agriculture, and others are in strong agreement; we need to define a tough, enforceable national standard now.
This is a pro-consumer amendment. Consumers want to buy organic foods—that is why the market is growing by more than 40 percent every year. A consistent, nationwide standard is the only way consumers will know whether or not they are getting what they pay for.
This is a pro-farmer amendment. I applaud the Chairman’s assertion that this farm bill is about American jobs. I have supported him repeatedly over the past week in protecting those jobs. This amendment is about American jobs. Your farmers see an exploding national and international market. They want us to set the ground rules and let them at it. They want consistent standards, that are clear well in advance, not some tenuous promise for action by bureaucratic whim. Family farmers win benefit; organic production is a godsend for smaller acreage, high-value crops. That is why my amendment is supported by the National Farmers Union and the National Family Farm Coalition. Big farmers benefit, too. The Dole Co. is putting in 40 organic acres in California Archer Daniels Midland, Mid-American Dairymen and Farmland Industries, Inc. all support my amendment. This is a pro-States rights amendment. Twenty-two States now have organic certification programs in place, and many more State legislatures are considering them. These programs are to place, they are working, and the gentleman from Texas’s amendment threatens to wipe the slate clean and let the Department of Agriculture set the standard for them. My amendment will establish nationwide marketing uniformity, so farmers who meet the national standard won’t be excluded from other States, but allows the States to run their own programs. This is a pro-States rights amendment.
There is nothing new or untried in my amendment. Mr. Stenholm argues that we don’t know enough to set any standards right now. That is not correct. The amendment is based on those existing State programs, some of which have been working well for a decade, and would allow them to keep doing a great job. When these programs were systematically compared, they agreed on 95 percent of the definition of organic. My amendment locks in place the 95-percent agreement between the various State and private certification programs, and sets up a process under the USDA to resolve the remaining 5 percent. It is a lean, low cost amendment that makes full use of the resources and programs already in place. There is nothing new or untried in my amendment.
Mr. STENHOLM. Mr. Chairman. I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Missouri [Mr. Emerson].
(Mr. EMERSON asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. EMERSON. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time.
Mr. Chairman, I rise to support of the amendment offered by my colleague, the gentleman from Texas [Mr. Stenholm], establishing the Organic Food Standards Development Act. I joined with several of my colleagues from the Committee on Agriculture to propose this. It is the sound and reasonable approach to an organic food standards program. I am the ranking member on the subcommittee with jurisdiction over this issue and we held a hearing just last month. There was one common theme during the hearing and that was that witnesses could not define organic. I asked several and received no clear answer. I believe consumers know what organic is—or what it should be and that is a food produced with no chemicals. Consumers pay a premium price for an organic product—they should get what they are paying for.
I agree that there should be national standards for organic food. I do not know what those standards are. Before we set the Federal Government on a course of setting standards designed in the Congress, we should have some documentation of what standards consumers expect, what practices are agreed to by the entire organic community and what form the national standards should take.
The Organic Food Standards Development Act requires the Secretary of Agriculture to hold public hearings, conduct a study, and establish a program to adopt standards to govern the production and processing of food that is labeled as organic. The Secretary is required to establish a national definition of organic; determine what consumers expect from organic food; and determine which organic farming and processing methods are currently used.
I know there is considerable interest, from people desiring to have a nationwide certification program and those concerned about its impact on traditional farming and the vast numbers of producers who combine traditional farming with other techniques, such as integrated pest management, crop rotation systems, preventative soil erosion techniques, and other such practices. This is not a situation into which producers can be placed into one of two camps—farming is a complex and evolving practice. Changes are made regularly, new information becomes available, and alternatives are tested.
I would like to note that when discussions of organic farming come up, the implication is that the food produced is somehow better than food produced by other farming methods. I do not believe it to be the case. Consumers in the United States are the best fed in the world, at a cost, about 10 percent of disposable income, far less than residents of other countries. We have a safe, reliable, and affordable food supply—with ample choices for all consumers. One of those choices should be organic food. That is why I urge you to support the Organic Food Standards Development Act— let’s make sure that we provide consumers what they desire—not what some believe they should desire.
Some will say why wait? Why do a study on organic standards? My response is tell me what you want the standards to be and whether they are consistent with what consumers believe them to be. I do not believe that can be done at this time.
I urge my colleagues to support the Organic Food Standards Development Act and the amendment offered by Mr. Stenholm. Let’s make sure that comsumers desiring organic food get what they are paying for. Now, let us consider these questions:
WHAT IS ORGANIC?
What is the definition of organic? To producers? To consumers? The DeFazio amendment says that it is food produced with organic materials and with organic methods. But what are these materials and methods? Can the sponsors explain and provide the Members with a definition of organic? Are chemicals used? If so are they natural or synthetic chemicals? Do consumers buying organic food know that chemicals are used on the food?
The standards in the DeFazio amendment were incorporated without the benefit of full disclosure or public hearings, with no consultation with consumers or the federal agencies responsible for the Nation’s food supply and distribution system. That’s like letting an automobile manufacturing company set clear air standards—and then requiring EPA to enforce them.
The DeFazio amendment allows a national list of approved and prohibited chemicals that can be applied—and yet still meet the standards for organic. There are exceptions for prohibited chemicals that are “necessary because of the unavailability of natural products.” All this means that the definition of organic is muddled and inconsistent with the general perception of a food product produced without chemicals.
Will consumers get what they are paying for under the DeFazio amendment? Organic foods cost between 30 percent and 50 percent more than food produced through traditional methods. The DeFazio amendment does not reconcile what the sponsors believe organic is and what consumers believe organic is. We need to know this answer before we commit Federal dollars to a system than may only serve to mislead consumers.
Consumers deserve a choice—with organic food being one of the choices. Consumers also deserve to be told what they are buying. No clear understanding of organic food is available to the public. The perception is that organic food is produced free from chemicals. That is not always the case and the DeFazio amendment does nothing to inform consumers about the uses of chemicals on food called organic.
EXEMPTIONS UNDER THE DEFAZIO AMENDMENT
Exemptions from the DeFazio program are provided for small producers— allowing some foods called organic to be sold outside of the standards set up by the DeFazio amendment. Again, the consumer will not have confidence in the choices of food offered for sale.
Processed food containing only 50 percent of organic ingredients can still be called organic according to the DeFazio amendment.
Imported foods are exempt from the program included in the DeFazio amendment. It is virtually impossible for the USDA to assess foreign organic programs with any confidence.
WHAT PRODUCTS ARE INCLUDED IN THE DEFAZIO AMENDMENT? .
The DeFazio amendment applies to all foods—including processed foods, fruits, vegetables, livestock, and poultry—and all food fed to livestock.
The American Veterinary Medical Association has expressed concern that organic production may contribute to raising of animals in a less healthy manner. Professionally accepted preventive health procedures are prohibited under the DeFazio amendment. There is a strong deterrent to treat sick animals. The result can be a failure to maintain a healthy animal population—even beyond the organic animal production area. Contamination can be spread to the traditional operations.
WHO PAYS FOR MANDATORY NATIONAL ORGANIC STANDARDS PROGRAM?
The USDA estimates that the cost of an organic certification program will be $19 million for certification, National Standards Board and accreditation programs—to be collected in user fees. And $43 million for USDA activities—a total of more than $60 million. The U.S. taxpayer will be paying up to $43 million for a program affecting 2 percent of the food production.
WHO SELLS ORGANIC FOOD?
Organic farmers often quote the March 1989 Harris poll that suggests that 84 percent of Americans want organic fruits and vegetables and that about 52 percent of those polled would pay up to 10 percent more to get organic food. However, many nationwide food stores have realized what consumers say they want and what they actually buy are not always the same. Kroger Co. reported unsuccessful attempts in organic sales. “People like the idea until they see what it looks like”. Safety stores tried selling organic but stopped because shoppers did not go for it. Gaint stores has taken organic off of the shelves because it did not sell.
There is a market for organic foods—it is now a $1 billion industry. Twenty two States have standards for organic foods—all of which are standards that differ from those in the De-Fazio amendment. Without uniform national standards that all segments of the industry and the consumers can agree with and understand, the organic industry will suffer.
Mr. DeFAZIO. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Michigan [Mr. Upton]. |
Mr. UPTON. Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of the DeFazio organic standards amendment.
My southwestern Michigan district is deeply involved in agriculture. According to Department of Agriculture statistics, my district ranks 44th of 435 congressional districts in terms of harvested acres of corn. It yields a broad spectrum of agricultural products—including dairy, pork, and many varieties of fruits and vegetables.
This diversity extends to a considerable degree to organic crops. From the number of organic farmers who have contacted me in favor of the DeFazio amendment, my district appears to be the Michigan hotbed of organic farm
ing. In fact, my good friend Carl Onodtke, a State Representative in my district, is the sponsor of the bill to establish organic standards in Michigan.
It is clear that now is the time to enact national standards for organic food. The $1.2 billion organic food industry is the fastest growing component of agriculture. The consumers of organic food deserve to know that their food has been certified to meet minimum standards. Consumers need to be able to trust labels that describe food as organic.
The DeFazio amendment represents a consensus of the organic industry and consumers regarding what the standards should be. The standards contained in this proposal build on Department of Agriculture definitions issued in 1980 and refined in practice throughout the decade. There is no need for the Department of Agriculture to waste time by repeating this consensus building process. For the very minute percentage of issues that do not have consensus, the DeFazio amendment allows the Department of Agriculture to develop additional standards.
For the 23 States that already have organic standards, the DeFazio amendment will set national minimum criteria. For the States, like Michigan, that are working toward setting organic standards, immediate Federal guidance will greatly assist the process. For these reasons, I urge your support of the DeFazio amendment.
We do not need another study. Let us get to the meat and potatoes. Support the DeFazio amendment.
Mr. STENHOLM. Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from Georgia [Mr. Hatcher].
Mr. HATCHER. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the Stenholm amendment and in opposition to the DeFazio substitute. The Stenholm amendment will authorize the creation of an organic food standard program by regulation through public hearings and study conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture.
The Agriculture Subcommittee on Domestic Marketing. Consumer Relations, and Nutrition, of which I am chairman, held a public hearing on this issue during June of this year. After hearing the testimony presented at that hearing, I have come to the conclusion that the industry supports standards for organically produced commodities, although it is uncertain about what those standards should be. Organic certification should be a precise process, and the regulations developed must be clear and concise.
In the DeFazio substitute, there is no uniform definition for the term organic. This imprecision will result in confusion for producers, consumers,and those operating in the regulatory agencies.
The Stenholm amendment will allow the industry to continue to work on development of those guidelines. For that reason, I urge adoption of the Stenholm amendment.
Mr DEFAZIO. Mr. Chariman, I yield a minute to the gentleman from California [Mr. Brown].
Mr. Chairman, you actually have three approaches to the organic certiication situation. You have the approach of the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Stenholm], which is go slow, take another 2 or 3 years; you have a second approach, which says go very fast and make the standard so tough that nobody can qualify; then you have the approach of the gentleman from Oregon [Mr. DeFazio], which basically modeled after the language already in the Senate bill, and copies the programs in the State of California and many other States 23 in total which have been doing this for a number of years.
Mr. Chairman, the Association of the State Departments of Agriculture has adopted a policy position in support of this approach. The States are ready for it and consumer groups are ready for it. There is a huge market, over $1 billion, as has been indicated. The approach of the gentleman from Oregon [Mr. DeFazio] would allow us in this farm bill to move ahead in conference with the Senate to develop a reasonable program which would be good for this country and be good for the farmers of this country.
Mr. STENHOLM. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Illinois [Mr. Madigan].
(Mr. MADIGAN asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. MADIGAN. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the Stenholm amendment. If the Federal Government is going to have a certification program, it must be properly instituted. The Stenholm amendment, which allows for sufficient examination of the question and then mandates that a that a program be put in place is the proper way to achieve the goal we all want. The Stenholm amendment allows input from all interested parties-farmers, food processors, and consumers—before the program is established. The DeFazio amendment, in contrast, sets in law almost all the details of an organic food program. The implications for all Federal food inspection and certification programs are troubling –
The DeFazio amendment contains standards that allow food to be grown with the use of synthetic chemicals and toxic natural chemicals and still be called organic.
Is this what the consuming public wants? I believe we had better findo ut before we approve such practices.
The process in the Stenhom amendment will give us those answers before the program is implemented.
Mr. DEFAZIO. Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the gentlewoman from Maryland [Mrs. Morella].
Mrs. MORELLA. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the DeFazio/Brown amendment to provide a national organic standards program as part of our new farm policy. This amendment responds to well-documented interests by the farm and food industry to establishing national standards and growing consumer demand for organic food. Nothing new or untried is being proposed. This amendment merely will protect consumers and remove obstacles to developing national markets for organic production.
In Montgomery County, MD, there is widespread interest and support for organic products. The Bethesda Co-op, in my district, opened its doors 15 years ago. and has been responding to the increasing demand for organic foods. Ms. Bini (Bee-Nee) Reilly, who runs the co-op, says, “there has always been a demand for organic and there are always lines in the aisles and, sometimes, out the door.” She says that consumers are always asking: “What is organic?” Attesting to the need for a definition for organic and the establishment of national standards, labeling, requirements, and other ground rules.
The Maryland Organic Food and Farming Association believes that this amendment would benefit farmers, food distributors, and consumers. This past spring, the State of Maryland enacted legislation mandating the establishment of standards for organic food production. More than 20 other States have similar laws, and private certification programs are operating in virtually every State.
While the rapid growth in sales of organic products represents a new market for farmers, the equally rapid growth of State and private certification programs has created confusion among consumers and obstacles to interstate commerce. Consumers want to be assured that the organic food products they are buying meet some minimum standard. Major retailers and wholesalers want to be able to market organic products with full confidence.
This amendment will protect consumers and enhance interstate and international trade. It is the product of a consensus among consumers, organic growers, processors and retailers. I urge my colleagues to vote for the DeFazio/Brown amendment.
Mr. DeFAZIO. Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the gentlewoman from Washington [Mrs. Unsoeld].
(Mrs. UNSOELD asked and was given permission to revise and extend her remarks.)
Mrs. UNSOELD. Mr. Chairman, as a member from the first State in the Nation to develop an organic certification program, I rise in support of the DePazio amendment.
The concern over our environment and the safety of our food supply has created a boom in the organic foods industry. In my home State of Washington, organic farmers grew 15 million dollars worth of organic products-many of which were exported to Japan and Europe. With the multiplier effect, the organic industry contributed nearly $40 million to our State’s economy. Nationwide this industry was estimated by the Wall Street Journal to have contributed $1.25 billion to the economy in 1989 and to be growing at 40 percent per year. I know in my state, organic production is increasing dramatically. In 1988, only 65 farmers requested certification as organic producers. This year that number is expected to be 300.
Washington State is a leader in the organic food industry. The Washington State Department of Agriculture’s Organic Certification Program has been touted as one of the most farsighted and effective programs in the country. Many features of our successful program are contained in the proposed Federal standards.
Washington citizens are not alone in pushing for organically grown food. A Good Housekeeping survey reported that consumer’s top concern, even above “high prices,”- is “avoiding harmful additives, preservatives and chemicals,” In fact, 63 percent of the consumers are willing to pay 10 to 15 percent more for food certified as free from agricultural chemicals.
We need to protect our ground water, soils, and citizens. We need organic certification to do that and we need it now. We don’t need more studies. The Washington State program works now and so will a Federal program.
– I urge Members to support the DeFazio amendment.
Mr, STENHOLM. Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from Kansas [Mr. Roberts]
Mr. ROBERTS. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the substitute amendment. We can go down the organic freeway in California and the State of Washington if we want and exceed the speed limit, or we can really adhere to what we heard in the subcommittee and do a step-by-step process.
Mr. Chairman, this is not a study. This is not a study. The amendment of the gentleman says that the Secretary of Agriculture will establish an organic program. There are two flaws in the substitute of the gentleman. No. 1, the amendment exempts small farms from the organic certification standards. That means that 35 percent of the Nation’s farms that could benefit the most from really producing organically will be exempt.
Second, the amendment allows the use of synthetic chemicals. This flies in the face of what organic is all about.
Mr. Chairman, the amendment does not meet the basic standard. The amendment permits the use of synthetic substances that are deemed necessary in handling a crop, and the people who are allowed to determine which manmade chemicals can be used serve on the National Organic Standards Board. That is a conflict of interest that will be trouble.
Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the substitute amendment offered by the gentleman from Oregon. I believe the gentleman’s amendment has serious flaws, exemptions, and loopholes. Let me highlight the two most serious:
The amendment exempts small farms from the organic certification standards. This means that 35 percent of the Nation’s farms that could benefit the most from producing organic commodities would not have to be certified, would not have to have an organic production plan, would never be subject to onsite inspections, and not have to pay any user fees.
The amendment allows the use of synthetic chemicals. This flies in the face of what organic is all about. Let me give you the definition from the American Heritage Dictionary:
organic, 3.a Using or grown with fertilizers and mulches consisting only of animal or vegetable matter, with no use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides, b. free from chemical injections or additives.
This amendment does not meet this basic standard. The amendment permits the use of synthetic substances that are deemed “necessary to the production or handling of the crop because of the unavailability of wholly natural substitute products;” and, the people who are allowed to determine which man-made chemicals can be used serve on the National Organic Standards Board; six persons that either grow, process, or sell organic foods—the very same people who stand to profit from the use of manmade chemicals.
The CHAIRMAN. The Chair would advise the gentleman from Texas [Mr. Stenholm] has 2 minutes remaining, and the gentleman from Oregon [Mr. DeFazioI has 2 minutes remaining. The gentleman from Texas [Mr. Stenholm] has the right to close the debate.
Mr. STENHOLM. Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from California [Mr. Condit]
(Mr. CONDIT asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. CONDIT. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of Mr. Stenholm’s amendment which would require USDA to establish a national standard for organically produced food.
Let me first say that the United States has the safest food supply in the world. There is, however, a certain segment of consumers that prefers organically produced food to conventionally produced food, believing it to be pure of chemical contaminants, and therefore safer. These consumers will pay a premium price for foods that are labeled “organic”. They do so with the expectation that no chemical pesticides were used to produce the organic food, and that the food contains no chemical residue.
There are some serious misconceptions, however, as to what constitutes organic food. Because there are varying standards throughout the Nation, lax enforcement in many States which have standards, or because some States have no standards at all, organic food is oftentimes not chemical free. Chemicals are often applied or chemical drift or chemical contamination from soil which had previously been used to grow conventional commodities can occur.
Consumers have the right to expect that products labeled as “organically produced” are not produced with or handled with chemicals. For this reason, I introduced legislation, H.R. 5045 “The Organic Foods National Standards Act”, which establishes a national standard for organically produced foods. Additionally, my bill defines “organically produced” to mean food produced without chemicals and which does not contain traces of chemical pesticides. My bill would also establish a USDA certification process for organic foods.
As a result of a hearing conducted by the Agriculture Committee where my bill, Mr. DeFazio’s bill, and Senator Leahy’s bill were discussed, it became clear that a significant difference of opinion exists among producers, processors, retailers, and government officials with respect to what production practices should be considered as “organic” practices. This being the case, Mr. Stenholm introduced a proposal which would have required USDA to study this issue further.
I say “would have” required a study, because this proposal no longer simply requires USDA to conduct a study. I am pleased to say that Mr. Stenholm has incorporated many of my suggestions to his proposal, the most significant being that this amendment actually requires USDA to establish a national standard for organically produced foods. This approach will allow a thorough review and comment to occur by all interested parties, thereby insuring that a workable program is developed. This represents a commitment to consumers, the organic industry, and to environmentalists.
I urge your support of the Stenholm amendment to the farm bill.
Mr. DePAZIO. Mr. Chairman, I yield 30 seconds to the gentleman from Texas [Mr. Bryant].
(Mr. BRYANT asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. BRYANT. Mr. Chairman, I simply want to make clear that there is more than one Texas point of view on this matter.
Speaking on behalf of our Texas Agriculture Commissioner, Jim Hightower, I support the DeFazio/Brown program, as does he. It is already up and running in Texas. We right now have more than 8,500 acres in organic production on certification with another 7,000 acres worth of applications pending.
I think that there is a good definition of organic in the bill. It is a good bill and I commend the gentleman from Oregon [Mr. DeFazio] and the gentleman from California [Mr. Brown] for bringing it to us, and I urge Members to vote for the DeFazio/Brown amendment.
Mr. DeFAZIO. Mr. Chairman, I yield 30 seconds to the gentleman from North Carolina [Mr. Rose].
Mr. ROSE. Mr. Chairman, I think the key here is 23 States, 23 States have this program that is embodied in the DeFazio amendment up and running right now. I have heard all of the arguments, and I think my chairman, the gentleman from California [Mr. Brown], summed it up about as well as it could be, and I support the DeFazio/Brown amendment and urge my colleagues to support it likewise.
The handwriting is on the wall. The Federal Government, the USDA should get in line with this policy, and let us make it nationwide.
Mr. DeFAZIO. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself my final 1 minute.
Mr. Chairman, in response to the earlier gentleman’s comments, the synthetics that would be used would be very limited. They have to be reviewed by the board, the Secretary of Agriculture, and they are currently in use. They are inert substances that are used as carriers and common biologicals and other substances.
Second, the small farm exemption. I did not want to put on the small farmers of America the burden of having to pay for the certification since this is a self-supporting program. So what we have is that they will use the organic label if they conform and are consistent with the standards set by the Federal Government. They will not be subject to certification inspection. However, if there are any questions raised, they could be inspected and decertified, if necessary.
Mr. Chairman, it is time we recognize the growth of this industry, $1-2 billion in sales last year, growing 40 percent a year. This is the appropriate time to apply a consistent national standard, while this industry is still in its infancy and growing, and I would ask my colleagues to support this amendment.
The CHAIRMAN. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Texas [Mr. Stenholm] for 1 minute to close debate.
Mr. STENHOLM. Mr. Chairman, to make sure there is no confusion I ask my colleagues to vote against the De
Fazio amendment. It is true, it is a go-slow proposition, and I think rightfully so.
The subcommittee of the House Agriculture Committee held hearings on it, and we report to you there is no consensus. I do not think I have to remind my colleagues there are 50 States in these United States, not 23, and in order to put together legislation as the gentleman from Oregon’s amendment does, we need to go slow.
His amendment lacks the input of all of the interested parties nationwide. The application of any such standards as he suggests today in his amendment should be preceded by a comprehensive study. I would say our amendment is not a study and kill. My amendment is a study and implement organic farming, organic labeling. I want to make that very clear.
His amendment requires excessive surveillance at the national and State levels, and it will erode substantially the authority of the Meat and Poultry Inspection Act, and also appears to have many other very damaging aspects to our current agricultural system.
I ask that Members vote no on the DeFazio amendment.
Mr. DeFAZIO. Mr. Chairman, I yield such time as he may consume to the gentleman from Wisconsin [Mr. Moody].
(Mr. MOODY asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. MOODY. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the amendment.
Mr. Chairman, I rise today in strong support of the DeFazio amendment on national organic farming standards. The organic food market is growing rapidly each year, and we owe it to farmers and consumers to swiftly establish a uniform, national labeling standard for organic foods.
The DeFazio amendment evolved out of House and Senate hearings and was crafted with the input of numerous farm groups, State departments of agriculture, environmental, and consumer groups. Twenty-three States, including my State of Wisconsin, already have organic food standards in place. Now that the organic foods market is growing at an estimated rate of 40 percent a year, it is important to bring together all those different State standards and create a uniform national standard for organic foods.
The establishment of standards for organic farming and food labeling is necessary for several reasons:
The adoption of alternative agriculture and organic farming methods, which include the abandonment of the use of pesticides, is good for the environment.
The establishment of uniform national standards will help create a national market and thus do much to encourage farmers to adopt these more environmentally sound farming practices. Furthermore, a uniform standard for organic food will eliminate disincentives and barriers to an interstate market for organic foods.
Consumers have indicated in polls that they are interested in buying organic foods. However, consumers desiring to purchase organic food have at times been misled by companies seeking to cash on in pro-environment sentiment through falsely claiming that their products are produced with environmentally sound organic practices. The National Organic Standards Program established by the DeFazio amendment would ensure that consumers are getting what they are paying for.
Last, Mr. “Chairman, I would note that the DeFazio amendment is supported by a broad and impressive array of organizations including the National Farmers Union, the Sustainable Agriculture Working Group, the Organic Food Producers Association of America, Public Voice for Food and Health Policy, Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Land O’ Lakes, and Mid-American Dairymen, to name but a few.
We don’t need any more studies. The organic food market is a $1.25 billion industry that is growing each year, with consumer support. If it got any riper it would burst. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting the DeFazio amendment and establishing these much needed national standards for organic foods.
Mr. LAGOMARSINO. Mr. Chairman, I rise today in support of the amendment offered by my colleague Mr. DeFazio and urge Members to vote in favor of this important amendment.
By establishing a system of national minimum standards for producers and handlers of agriculture products that have been produced by organic means, the amendment will provide much needed consumer protection from mislabeling and fraud in the marketplace. The amendment will also encourage environmental stewardship, and will facilitate interstate commerce in fresh and processed organically produced food.
The DeFazio amendment is supported by every sector of the organic foods industry, and is also supported by many environmental and consumer organizations.
The $1.25 billion organic foods industry is the fastest growing sector in agriculture. It is estimated that consumer demand for organically produced foods may expand by 40 percent annually throughout the 1990’s. With this expected growth, the time for national organic standards is now.
According to the Organic Farmers’ Association Council, the biggest barrier to growth of the organic food industry is the lack of national organic standards. The organic fanning industry, environmental organizations, and most importantly, American consumers, demand organic farming standards.
I urge my colleagues to support the DeFazio amendment.
The CHAIRMAN. The question is on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Oregon [Mr. DeFazio] as a substitute for the amendment offered by the gentleman from Texas [Mr Stenholm]
The question was taken; and the Chairman announced that the ayes appeared to have it.
Mr. STENHOLM. Mr. Chairman, I demand a recorded vote.
A recorded vote was ordered.
The vote was taken by electronic device, and there were–ayes 234, noes 187, not voting 11, as follows:
[Roll No. 297] The list of congressman and their votes is not included on this website. It can be found at the Wisconsin Historical Society in the national organic archival collection.)
So the amendment in the nature of a substitute was agreed to.
The result of the vote was announce as above recorded.
The CHAIRMAN. The is on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Texas [Mr. Stenholm] as amended.
The amendment, as amended, was agreed to.