Written December 29, 2002.   Posted December 28, 2003

  Agricultural Paternalism and the 

National Organic Program of USDA


This was written a year before the single sick cow in Oregon was found to have
BSE, well after it had gone on to its final reward as hamburger.

The National Organic Program (NOP) of the United States Department of
Agriculture (USDA) is a true revolution in the relationship between
agriculture and consumers.  Up until now the USDA and Agribusiness have
seemed to be in collusion to keep consumers ignorant of where their food
came from and how it was produced. A consumer not wishing to purchase
non-BST milk had no reliable way of finding out which dairies to
patronize.  Consumers who preferred to avoid genetically altered corn,
or animals fed upon it, were considered to be downright un-American.
Didn?t Monsanto say it was safe? Didn?t ADM, supermarket to the world
and producer of cholesterol free corn oil, say it was not harmful?
Didn?t the Europeans make a big deal of it, just to shaft the
hard-working American Husbandman, so beloved of H. L. Mencken?

American agriculture in recent years had withheld information from
consumers and replaced it with slogans.  The same forces which had
convinced Americans that all fat was bad, but that solid vegetable
shortening was good had managed to replace ?whole? with ?light?, tender
steaks with tough, and to perpetrate such oxymorons as fat-free sour
cream and fat-free half and half.  Solid vegetable shortening has now
been shown to be an artery clogger much worse than lard. There is a big
difference between Choice steaks and Select steaks, no matter that the
dictionary says they mean the same thing.  And cream can never be fat
free.  So what, exactly, is fat-free half and half?  A blend of two
impossibilities. This is not use of language, it is Orwellian Newspeak!

On top of this the storied American livestock and dairy farms, where the
pigs and cows had names, was inexorably given over to assembly line
husbandry, where a pig could be raised in isolation akin to purgatory,
laying hen confinement was calibrated in cubic inches, and fryers were
boosted into market weight with hormones while being kept alive with
sub-therapeutic doses of antibiotics.  The list of horrors of assembly
line, factory-style animal husbandry are not for the faint of heart and
the weak of stomach. They are the direct descendents of Bergen-Belsen
and Dachau, except that the motive is not hate, but greed, masquerading
as marketing smarts.  Consumers support these outrages every time they
demand cheapness over quality.  Read /Dominion: the power of man, the
suffering of animals, the call to mercy/* *byMatthew Scully
<http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/search-handle-url/index=books&field-author=Scully%2C%20Matthew/002-7621433-9383212>,available
at Amazon and fine bookstores everywhere.

The National Organic Program of the USDA somehow made it out of
committee and past agribusiness to the American consumer, and it is a
true revolution in consumer empowerment.  It means that, for the first
time, there are alternatives to factory-produced food. It means that
consumers can choose to purchase ethically produced meat as an
alternative to buying cheap meat from abused and tortured dumb animals.
There are alternatives to buying the final few eggs forced from aging
hens by calibrated starvation.  There are alternatives to buying milk
from cows that are given hormones to produce prodigious quantities of
milk over a brutishly shortened lifespan.  These alternatives are
identified by the organic label defined by the National Organic Program.

The National Organic Program gives consumers willing to pay a premium
the right to refuse the bio-engineered crops that Europeans have been
refusing all along. It gives consumers the information they need to
avoid produce produced with chemicals and sewage sludge, to eschew meat
raised with the help of antibiotics, and to say no to dairy production
augmented by bovine growth hormone.  The aims of the program are simple
and comprehensive:

*What is organic food?*

Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable
resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance
environmental quality for future generations.  Organic meat, poultry,
eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics
or growth hormones.  Organic food is produced without using most
conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or
sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation.  Before a product
can be labeled Aorganic, a Government-approved certifier inspects the
farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all
the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards.  Companies that
handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket
or restaurant must be certified, too.

*http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/Consumers/brochure.html*

For non-vegans, one of the most valuable provisions is the following:

*Livestock Production*

Animals in an organic livestock operation must be maintained under
conditions which provide for exercise, freedom of movement, and
reduction of stress appropriate to the species. Additionally, all
physical alterations performed on animals in an organic livestock
operation must be conducted to promote the animals' welfare and in a
manner that minimizes stress and pain.

*http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/NOP/standards/ProdHandPre.html*

   1. We are caught between PETA and a hard place.  If the problem is
      inhumane animal husbandry, the PETA reaction is total
      vegetarianism, and no leather for shoes, belts, handbags, and
      gloves.  The USDA reaction is ?it?s under control?.  The
      MacDonald?s reaction is ?We?ll get our suppliers to do better if
      PETA won?t picket?.  The new Organic labeling regulations are the
      only extant guarantee we have of humane husbandry and a frozen
      organic/free range chicken costs about $17.00.  The successes of
      Agri-business are based largely on price advantage.  Round-up
      ready grains can be produced cheaper.  BST hormone can produce
      more milk from the same cows.  Starved, crowded, drugged, and
      medicated chickens lay more eggs and take up less room.   The only
      choices are to pay more, and until the organic labeling law came
      into effect, even that choice was denied us.
   2. Somehow a liberal minority in the regulatory agencies pushed
      through an Organic foods labeling law, which is rightly feared by
      Agribusiness, because it provides critical information, albeit at
      a steep price. Every dollar spent on organics is a dollar that
      does not go to genetically altered plants and non-sustainable
      agriculture.  If enough dollars are spent on organic foods,
      including eggs, poultry, and dairy, Agribusiness will be forced to
      make accommodations with those of us who are unwilling to accept
      their paternalistic, father-knows-best, attitude.
   3. The ECU can?t be all wrong.  I have shopped for food in Europe and
      eaten in their every day restaurants.  The food is better.  The
      eggs are a marvel.  The butter is far superior. Even fruit
      preserves are superior because they are not cheapened with corn
      sweeteners and clogged with sugar-demanding pectin. Herring filets
      are several inches long, not just chunks.  Cheese choices are
      vast.  Bread is as it was meant to be; an artisan product, not a
      continuous process baked mush.   At Weinerwald, a sit-down and
      take-out chicken chain with table cloths, table service, and good
      German beer, the chickens served are far superior in taste and
      texture to the factory abused chickens available in the USA.  They
      are at least the equal, if not superior, or our much more
      expensive organic/free range chickens.    Europe suffered the
      depredations of the Mad Cow disease scare that for a time knocked
      beef off the menus.  It came about because husbandry practices in
      the U.K. allowed animal cannibalism.  The US says it can?t happen
      here, but many feeds have animal content, and cases of
      Kreutzfeld-Jacobs disease keep surfacing and then getting swiftly
      swept under the rug.  Only organic-certified meat is truly safe now.

*http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/Consumers/brochure.html*

*What is organic food?*

Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable
resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance
environmental quality for future generations.  Organic meat, poultry,
eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics
or growth hormones.  Organic food is produced without using most
conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or
sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation.  Before a product
can be labeled *organic*, a Government-approved certifier inspects the
farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all
the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards.  Companies that
handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket
or restaurant must be certified, too.

*http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/NOP/standards/ProdHandPre.html*

*Livestock Production*

Any livestock product to be sold, labeled, or represented as organic
must be maintained under continuous organic management from the last
third of gestation or hatching with three exceptions. Poultry or edible
poultry products must be from animals that have been under continuous
organic management beginning no later than the second day of life. Milk
or milk products must be from animals that have been under continuous
organic management beginning no later than 1 year prior to the
production of such products, except for the conversion of an entire,
distinct herd to organic production. For the first 9 months of the year
of conversion, the producer may provide the herd with a minimum of
80-percent feed that is either organic or produced from land included in
the organic system plan and managed in compliance with organic crop
requirements. During the final 3 months of the year of conversion, the
producer must provide the herd feed in compliance with section 205.237.
Once the herd has been converted to organic production, all dairy
animals shall be under organic management from the last third of
gestation. Livestock used as breeder stock may be brought from a
nonorganic operation into an organic operation at any time, provided
that, if such livestock are gestating and the offspring are to be
organically raised from birth, the breeder stock must be brought into
the organic operation prior to the last third of gestation.

Should an animal be brought into an organic operation pursuant to this
section and subsequently moved to a nonorganic operation, neither the
animal nor any products derived from it may be sold, labeled, or
represented as organic. Breeder or dairy stock that has not been under
continuous organic management from* *the last third of gestation may not
be sold, labeled, or represented as organic slaughter stock. The
producer of an organic livestock operation must maintain records
sufficient to preserve the identity of all organically managed livestock
and all edible and nonedible organic livestock products produced on his
or her operation.

Except for nonsynthetic substances and synthetic substances included on
the National List that may be used as feed supplements and additives,
the total feed ration for livestock managed in an organic operation must
be composed of agricultural products, including pasture and forage, that
are organically produced. Any portion of the feed ration that is handled
must comply with organic handling requirements. The producer must not
use animal drugs, including hormones, to promote growth in an animal or
provide feed supplements or additives in amounts above those needed for
adequate growth and health maintenance for the species at its specific
stage of life. The producer must not feed animals under organic
management plastic pellets for roughage or formulas containing urea or
manure. The feeding of mammalian and poultry slaughter by-products to
mammals or poultry is prohibited. The producer must not supply animal
feed, feed additives, or feed supplements in violation of the Federal
Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

The producer of an organic livestock operation must establish and
maintain preventive animal health care practices. The producer must
select species and types of livestock with regard to suitability for
site-specific conditions and resistance to prevalent diseases and
parasites. The producer must provide a feed ration including vitamins,
minerals, protein, and/or amino acids, fatty acids, energy sources, and,
for ruminants, fiber. The producer must establish appropriate housing,
pasture conditions, and sanitation practices to minimize the occurrence
and spread of diseases and parasites.*/ Animals in an organic livestock
operation must be maintained under conditions which provide for
exercise, freedom of movement, and reduction of stress appropriate to
the species. /*Additionally, all physical alterations performed on
animals in an organic livestock operation must be conducted to promote
the animals' welfare and in a manner that minimizes stress and pain.

The producer of an organic livestock operation must administer vaccines
and other veterinary biologics as needed to protect the well-being of
animals in his or her care. When preventive practices and veterinary
biologics are inadequate to prevent sickness, the producer may
administer medications included on the National List of synthetic
substances allowed for use in livestock operations. The producer may not
administer synthetic parasiticides to breeder stock during the last
third of gestation* *or* *during lactation if the progeny is to be sold,
labeled, or represented as organically produced. After administering
synthetic parasiticides to dairy stock, the producer must observe a
90-day withdrawal period before selling the milk or milk products
produced from the treated animal as organically produced. Every use of a
synthetic medication or parasiticide must be incorporated into the
livestock operation's organic system plan subject to approval by the
certifying agent.

The producer of an organic livestock operation must not treat an animal
in that operation with antibiotics, any synthetic substance not included
on the National List of synthetic substances allowed for use in
livestock production, or any substance that contains a nonsynthetic
substance included on the National List of nonsynthetic substances
prohibited for use in organic livestock production. The producer must
not administer any animal drug, other than vaccinations, in the absence
of illness. The use of hormones for growth promotion is prohibited in
organic livestock production, as is the use of synthetic parasiticides
on a routine basis. The producer must not administer synthetic
parasiticides to slaughter stock or administer any animal drug in
violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. The producer must
not withhold medical treatment from a sick animal to maintain its
organic status. All appropriate medications and treatments must be used
to restore an animal to health when methods acceptable to organic
production standards fail. Livestock that are treated with prohibited
materials must be clearly identified and shall not be sold, labeled, or
represented as organic.

A livestock producer must document in his or her organic system plan the
preventative measures he or she has in place to deter illness, the
allowed practices he or she will employ if illness occurs, and his or
her protocol for determining when a sick animal must receive a
prohibited animal drug. These standards will not allow an organic system
plan that envisions an acceptable level of chronic illness or proposes
to deal with disease by sending infected animals to slaughter. The
organic system plan must reflect a proactive approach to health
management, drawing upon allowable practices and materials. Animals with
conditions that do not respond to this approach must be treated
appropriately and diverted to nonorganic markets.

The producer of an organic livestock operation must establish and
maintain livestock living conditions for the animals under his or her
care which accommodate the health and natural behavior of the livestock.
The producer must provide access to the outdoors, shade, shelter,
exercise areas, fresh air, and direct sunlight suitable to the species,
its stage of production, the climate, and the environment. This
requirement includes access to pasture for ruminant animals. The
producer must also provide appropriate clean, dry bedding, and, if the
bedding is typically consumed by the species, it must comply with
applicable organic feed requirements. The producer must provide shelter
designed to allow for the natural maintenance, comfort level, and
opportunity to exercise appropriate to the species. The shelter must
also provide the temperature level, ventilation, and air circulation
suitable to the species and reduce the potential for livestock injury.
The producer may provide temporary confinement of an animal because of
inclement weather; the animal's stage of production; conditions under
which the health, safety, or well-being of the animal could be
jeopardized; or risk to soil or water quality. The producer of an
organic livestock operation is required to manage manure in a manner
that does not contribute to contamination of crops, soil, or water by
plant nutrients, heavy metals, or pathogenic organisms and optimizes
nutrient recycling.


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