(NaturalNews) A group that promotes "economic justice" for farming on a family scale is asking for confidential assistance from the public "to identify all current candidates for appointment to the National Organic Standards Board," which advises the U.S. Department of Agriculture on organic food standards.
"Congress set up specific stakeholder representation on the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to assure that corporations and their lobbyists do not dominate organic governance," wrote the Institute's co-director Will Fantle on the group's website. "However, the seats the law designates for independent farmers, scientists, retailers, etc. have frequently been given instead to corporate executives and consultants. (This abuse has occurred during both the Bush and Obama administrations.)"
Fantle said that during one past nomination cycle the secretary of the Department of Agriculture "made the names of all nominees public." He praised that as "an excellent move," because it provided organic stakeholders the opportunity to make comments, in favor and against, on those who were being nominated to represent the organic community, which he says is, of course, the right thing to do.
Not this time around, however.
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"If the USDA Secretary was truly interested in appointing the best and brightest to serve on the NOSB, you would think he or she would welcome input from the most knowledgeable individuals in our industry," he wrote. "We need your help (confidentially) to identify all current candidates for appointment to the National Organic Standards Board."
Fantle says his organization is "once again" calling on Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to publicize the selection process because it is vitally important. However, "since he has not replied" to the request, which Fantle said was sent in early June, the institute has "filed a request, under the Freedom of Information Act, requesting the identities and background of all nominees."
Fantle acknowledged that while there likely are several qualified candidates to serve on the NOSB, "it was a stick in the eye to many working organic farmers," some of whom put themselves up for consideration to be nominated to the board, "when two full-time corporate employees (of Driscoll's and Organic Valley) were appointed" instead by Vilsack to "serve in a seat that Congress designated for someone who 'owns or operates an organic farm.'"
In a bid to ensure that doesn't happen again, the institute will publish all the names of any nominees it is able to identify. And this is where the public's help is needed, he said, though they "already have a number of names on [their] list."
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"Our theory is that if the organic community knows of qualified candidates whose names have been placed in nomination, it will be politically difficult for Secretary Vilsack to pass over truly exemplary candidates and instead appoint a corporate-friendly, less qualified nominee," Fantle wrote.
He asks that anyone with knowledge of board nominees contact the Institute by phone (608-625-2000) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). "We will hold the source in strict confidence and will confirm the candidacy with the individual directly," he wrote.
Organic food consumption is steadily increasing in the U.S. and is currently at record amounts, recent reports have said. Part of the Institute's actions are directed toward preventing corporate takeover of the organic industry, which the group says will lead to lower-quality products and ingredients, some purchased from foreign suppliers like China.
The Wisconsin-based institute's website says it "will engage in educational activities supporting the ecological principles and economic wisdom underlying sustainable and organic agriculture. Through research and investigations on agricultural issues, The Cornucopia Institute will provide needed information to consumers, family farmers, and the media."