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Rep. Ron Kind Joins Organic Caucus in Introducing Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Organic Standards, Cut Through Federal Bureaucracy

April 30, 2021
Press Release

Washington, DC — Today, Rep. Ron Kind (WI-03) joined Reps. Peter DeFazio (OR-04)Rodney Davis (IL-13)Chellie Pingree (ME-01)Dan Newhouse (WA-04), and Jimmy Panetta (CA-20) in introducing the Continuous Improvement and Accountability in Organic Standards Act (CIAO), bipartisan legislation to improve the federal process for the oversight of organic food standards.  

The bill will establish a new framework for advancing organic standards and improve oversight and enforcement of new rules and guidance while clearing regulatory red tape that has hampered innovation within the industry.  

"As co-chair of the bipartisan House Organic Caucus, I'm committed to supporting the future of organic agriculture and working to meet the needs of organic farmers across Wisconsin and the nation," said Rep. Ron Kind. "This legislation will take necessary steps to ensure our organic farmers can continue to succeed and innovate for generations to come."  

“This legislation is not about any one standard but about ensuring the process for updating the organic regulations are more accountable and transparent. Let’s be honest, over the last decade the National Organic Program has been paralyzed with an inability to upgrade high profile standard topics the organic community wants resolved. We need a better process and that’s what this bill does. A thanks to Representative Kind for co-sponsoring and working to continuously improve organic," said Adam Warthesen, Director of Government & Industry Affairs for Organic Valley

“Consumers trust that when they buy food marketed as organic, it meets a high standard approved by the USDA,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio. “But federal bureaucracy for the past twenty years has gotten in the way of improvements supported by the organic sector, inhibiting innovation in the industry.  I’m proud to introduce legislation that will help improve transparency and accountability at the USDA as it considers regulations strongly supported by the industry. It’s time for USDA to cut the red tape, expeditiously act, and allow improvements that both the industry and consumers demand.”  

“Each year, more and more consumers are choosing products with the USDA Organic label, yet producers are held back from fully meeting the demand for organic products due in part to slow rule-making at the USDA,” said Rep. Rodney Davis. “Our bipartisan legislation will clear the backlog of rule recommendations from the National Organic Standards Board and speed up and improve rule-making in the future. As a Co-Chair of the House Organic Caucus, I’m proud to support legislation like this that cuts red tape and ensures federal regulators aren’t inhibiting a growing industry like organic.”  

“For far too long, organic producers have been waiting for the Department of Agriculture to move forward with numerous consensus recommendations to improve organic standards and protect the integrity of the organic label. As an organic farmer and Co-Chair of the House Organic Caucus, I am proud to support this bill to hold the USDA accountable so we can continue to move the National Organic Program forward,” said Rep. Chellie Pingree.  

“Central Washington organic growers should not be kept in regulatory limbo,” said Rep. Dan Newhouse. “I'm sponsoring the Continuous Improvement and Accountability In Organic Standards Act so that USDA is required to clear the backlog of recommendations to improve our organic standards. As a Co-Chair of the House Organic Caucus, I represent the highest number of USDA-certified organic farmers, ranchers, processors, and distributors in Washington state and the fourth highest in the country. It's imperative that we provide our organic growers certainty and help spark further innovation and improvement within the organic industry.”  

“Unfortunately, it’s been way too long since the USDA updated its standards that America’s certified organic producers are required to follow for growing and selling their crops,” said Rep. Jimmy Panetta.  “Our legislation would mandate the USDA to modernize and maintain its federal organic standards so that farmers can keep up with the 21st century marketplace.  As the representative of nearly 500 certified organic operations on the central coast of California, I’m proud to co-lead this legislation to help our local organic agriculture industry innovate and thrive.”  

Organic is a voluntary regulatory program for farmers and businesses who choose to meet strict federal standards in order to market their products under the USDA organic seal. In fact, the very purpose of the Organic Foods Production Act is to “establish national standards” and “assure consumers that organically produced products meet a consistent standard,” overseen by the USDA National Organic Program.  

However, the USDA’s inaction has stifled innovation. In the past 20 years, industry has advanced, by consensus, 20 recommendations to USDA to improve organic standards, yet USDA has not completed rulemaking on a single one. The CIAO will help industry advance organic standards and allow the USDA Organic Program to meet the growing consumer and environmental demands on our food system.