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Posts tagged: National Organic Program

Organic 101: Role of the National Organic Standards Board

This is the sixth installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is made up of dedicated public volunteers appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture. It advises the National Organic Program (NOP), a part of the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), on what substances should be allowed or prohibited in organic agriculture and recommends standards, policies, or guidance to help shape the organic regulations and the organic certification process.  Read more »

Strawberry Fields Forever

Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan tours Driscoll’s Cassin Ranch in Watsonville, Calif on May 18.

Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan tours Driscoll’s Cassin Ranch in Watsonville, Calif on May 18.

Last Friday I visited Watsonville, California.  As people know, I like to get outside the Beltway and visit with people to see how USDA programs are working.  My first stop was Driscoll’s Cassin Ranch, the site of the company’s plant breeding program.  We had a roundtable discussion about the many water management challenges faced in the Pajaro Valley watershed.  The Pajaro Valley aquifer, like too many others, is over-drafted and saltwater is intruding into the groundwater.  But action is being taken.  The Pajaro Valley Community Water Dialogue, a multi-stakeholder forum, is engaged in a series of managed aquifer recharge projects.  Not only does Driscoll’s participate in the Dialogue, but on its own, the company is also creating a new water monitoring process that is sure to improve irrigation efficiency amongst its growers.  Following our roundtable, I joined Carmela Beck (to my left) and others on a tour of the Bokariza recharge project.  Carmela is a member of the USDA National Organic Standards Board and is the manager of Driscoll’s national organic program. Read more »

Military Veterans: the Next Generation of Organic Farmers

: A veteran and participant of the Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training program handles living basil at an organic hydroponic farm, which grows plants in water as opposed to soil. The program, started by decorated Marine sergeant Colin Archipley, passes on agricultural knowledge to veterans to not only provide healing through farming but also to support them in starting their own agricultural enterprises.

: A veteran and participant of the Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training program handles living basil at an organic hydroponic farm, which grows plants in water as opposed to soil. The program, started by decorated Marine sergeant Colin Archipley, passes on agricultural knowledge to veterans to not only provide healing through farming but also to support them in starting their own agricultural enterprises.

Compost tea (a mixture of recycled organic matter soaked in water), hydroponic living basil, and organic certification are terms that, at first glance, may not have much of a connection to military veterans. Colin Archipley, a decorated Marine sergeant, and his wife Karen however saw the combination as a win-win when they founded the Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training (VSAT) program outside San Diego, California. Read more »

Grillin’ and Chillin’ for National Barbecue Month

AMS Poultry Program employees Mark Perigen (left) and Gerald Brockman (right) prepare filet mignon on a tailgate-style grill.  They prefer a charcoal grill because of the smoky taste it offers.  Photo courtesy Mark Perigen

AMS Poultry Program employees Mark Perigen (left) and Gerald Brockman (right) prepare filet mignon on a tailgate-style grill. They prefer a charcoal grill because of the smoky taste it offers. Photo courtesy Mark Perigen

April showers have passed and barbecues are in full bloom.  Perfect weather and longer days make the month of May the perfect time to celebrate National Barbecue Month.  Whether you think barbecuing requires gas or charcoal, or that ribs should only be parboiled, or if you insist that asparagus must be sautéed with olive oil, it is time to fire up the BBQ.

Quality matters when it comes to barbecue.  The graders at the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) certify that meats and other products are of a desired quality.  Our grades account for factors such as tenderness, juiciness, and flavor. These are major selling points for any good barbecued foods. When shopping for meats, you can easily identify the USDA grade on most packages. Read more »

Organic 101: The Lifecycle of Organic Food Production

This is the fifth installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.

Through defined farming practices, organic principles promote ecological balance, foster the cycling of resources, and conserve biodiversity. To understand what that means when it comes to the label on your food, those principles require some more explanation.

Let’s take a closer look at a snapshot of sustainable food production, using the lifecycle of organic cheddar to get a fuller picture. Read more »

Organic 101: Complaints and How They’re Handled

This is the fourth installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.

When the National Organic Program (NOP) declared in late 2009 that it was the beginning of the “age of enforcement,” it renewed its mission to protect the integrity of the USDA organic seal and the products labeled organic.

Enforcement efforts are a critical part of that mission, and investigating violations of the organic standards alleged by complaints is an integral component of the NOP’s work. Read more »