We, the members of the Northeast Organic Farming Association Interstate Council (NOFA-IC), are writing to you knowing that you share our dedication to organic farming and to the principles of ecology, health, care, and fairness on which it is based. The NOFA-IC has been coordinating the seven state chapters of NOFA since the 1980’s when NOFA expanded from its beginnings in Vermont and New Hampshire in 1971 to encompass seven state chapters with over 5000 members, most of them organic farmers and homesteaders. We are all part of a movement that is concerned for the carrying capacity of our shared and beloved world. We are confronted with these hard moments today because of the attractiveness to the public of what we have to offer: if money can be made, some will try to make it by lowering our high standards. How we respond, that is the means to our ends, is every bit as important as what we say-process and content are inextricably linked. We are grateful to have many partners in these commitments and we believe it is critical to the ultimate success of any labeling initiatives that they be grounded in authentic community processes including diverse stakeholders.
At this critical moment when trust in the organic label in the US is at stake, we think it is important to reaffirm that the National Organic Program, despite its flaws and shortcomings, has allowed many organic farms to stay in business and new ones to be created. Many farmers have adopted the National Organic Program and invested in good faith efforts to comply with its standards. We want to be sure that whatever we do does not harm those efforts. The NOFA Interstate Council supports the use of add-ons to the USDA Organic label — labels such as “100% grass-fed,” “food justice certified,” “soil grown,” “certified humane,” “non-gmo,” etc. — for those individuals who believe in and practice such farming methods and seek market recognition for these practices. But we do not support organizations promoting those add-on labels doing so in ways which disparage the USDA Organic label itself.
Organic agriculture is a living process and we are committed to continually improve both our own practices and the National Organic Program. Continual innovation is essential. In these lively debates, it is vital that we not lose sight of what we are discussing-that is, how our farming and food production practices can become as ecologically sound as possible. Indeed, we celebrate a teeming proliferation of responses to the current crisis regarding the organic label. Living systems are highly diverse and complex-so too can be our responses to the current predicament in which we find ourselves. Our public discourse and democratic institutions must be able to embrace a myriad of perspectives, all taking rooted, place-based, context-dependent stands on what is in the interest of all of us and of life itself.
For these reasons we welcome add-ons to the USDA organic label and urge those engaged in creating such add-ons to move forward with a collaborative, rather than competitive, approach. We want to be sure that whatever we endorse contributes to moving us towards our vision of interconnected healthy and diverse communities living in ecological balance deeply rooted in a sense of place, grounded in organic care of the land.
Signed by the members of the NOFA Interstate Council: Enid Wonnacott, Jack Mastrianni, Andrianna Natsoulas, Bill Duesing, Elizabeth Henderson, Steve Gilman, Julie Rawson, Jack Kittredge, Sarah Laeng-Gilliatt, Maddie Kempner, Al Johnson, Laura Davis, Jeff Cordulack, Louis Battalen, Jan Martin-Trounson, John Martin, Liana Hoodes, Cali Alexander, Adrian Hyde, Jason Valcourt, David Pontius, Mark Hengen