Leahy lauds decision on organic food standards

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(Host) Senator Patrick Leahy says a decision by the Bush administration to drop its plan to weaken standards for a national organic certification program is good news for Vermont’s organic farming industry.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Leahy and a number of consumer groups strongly opposed the administration’s plan to establish a national organic standards program because the new guidelines would have allowed farmers to market their products with a national organic certification label even though the farmers had used some pesticides and antibiotics. Leahy says these guidelines, if formally adopted, would have undermined consumer confidence in the organic food industry and he’s very pleased that the administration has withdrawn them:

(Leahy) “I think this strengthens the organic market. It’s funny, we’ve spent 20 years getting to this place [that] a lot of people have fought, that they’ve acted like organic farming was some kind of crunchy granola thing. Well it’s a multi billion dollars business but it only works if people really can believe in the standards that organic food is different it takes a lot more time to raise it takes a lot more work a lot more exacting standards the people pay the premium for organic food.”

(Kinzel) Leahy says the adoption of a strong national organic certification program will help Vermont farmers market their products around the country:

(Leahy) “I think especially for Vermont we’re developing a growing market of organically grown foods and produce, milk. This can have long term implications for Vermont agriculture, good implications for Vermont agriculture. I think the thing that helps a lot with organically raised foods in Vermont is our export market. We have this sense – and well earned sense – that if it comes from Vermont it’s going to follow very pure standards. You add to that that it’s organic – people pay a premium for that.”

(Kinzel) Leahy, who was a key sponsor of the 1990 Organic Foods Protection Act, argued that the administration’s proposed guidelines undermined the spirit of that law. He says Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman should be commended for listening to consumer and organic farm groups on this issue.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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