MOFFA founding member, Nick Maravell recently attended his last official meeting as a member of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) in Stowe, Vermont, as his five-year term comes to an end. Originally appointed by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Nick was one of four “farmers/growers” on the 15-member board, which serves as a federal-level advisory body to the National Organic Program (NOP). Technically, he remains in his seat until January 2016.
Over the years, Nick has attempted to represent the interests of organic family farmers. But his job has not always been easy, and many in the organic community have been frustrated by the influence of larger corporate organic interests on the body’s decision-making. Two of the four “farmer/growers” are corporate employees.
At the most recent meeting in Vermont, local farmers demonstrated in favor of the NOSB’s recent policy not to allow the organic label on soilless hydroponics. The USDA has not endorsed this policy and does appear to not prohibit labeling hydroponic food as organic at this time.
In addition, the Board reviewed over 100 “sunset” materials that are exceptions to the normal ban on using synthetics in organic food and farming. About 11 materials were successfully removed from the so-called “National List,” while Nick voted unsuccessfully to remove even more of these synthetics. USDA changed the rules for removing synthetics from the National List while Nick served on the Board. The new rules make it more difficult to remove synthetics. Had the original rules stayed in effect, more synthetics would have been removed at the recent board meeting.
Nick has enjoyed his opportunity to serve the organic community, and he looks forward to devoting his time back to the farm and to continuing his public advocacy for organic food and agriculture.
Maryland Organic Food and Farming Members Mike Tabor and Nick Maravell speak out about how new federal regulations could threaten local farms.
“Each week at farm stands in the Maryland area, we try to explain a peculiar situation to our customers. On the one hand, they want to buy our fresh fruit and vegetables. However, I tell them, that in a few years, these will all be illegal to sell!
Because they have some degree of dirt and bacteria on them. The strawberries for instance, have some trace amount of straw and soil on them. As do the tomatoes, beans and cucumbers. We do rinse them before leaving the farm — but we won’t put them through a disinfectant bath nor pack them in antiseptic plastic containers and put “PLU” labels on them. That’s not what consumers want at a farm market — nor is it something we’ll ever be able to do.
Regulations for a new food law — FSMA, the Food Safety Modernization Act — administered by the FDA are currently in the process of being finalized. Although the act originally had protections for family farmers like myself, we see those being ignored or phased out over time.
Common sense and following the data of recent food safety scares lead us to a very strong conclusion: the further the food travels from the farm to the consumer, the more opportunities it has to become a food safety problem. The current cyclospora food poisoning problem in bagged salads is a good example.
This is one reason why 20 million consumers come to farmers markets like ours and want fresh produce from our fields — preferably grown without pesticides, herbicides or GMO seeds. And sadly, protecting consumers from these synthetic perils is not addressed by FSMA.”