I've written extensively about a USDA decision last year that could shut down markets for organic coffee, cocoa and bananas from the developing world. Now, it appears that this spate of publicity and activism on the issue has caused the USDA to listen.
Last Thursday, representatives from the National Organic Coalition, Equal Exchange, Rural Advancement Foundation International USA, and the National Cooperative Grocers Association met with the USDA to discuss the issue. They also presented a petition with more than 300 organizations and 3,600 individual signatures objecting to the policy. (A copy of the letter and signatories is posted in a pdf here).
In an email, the National Organic Coalition said "the USDA is promising a statement of clarification very soon. We are uncertain as to what that statement will look like, and we remain concerned." In a separate statement Equal Exchange said:
The USDA assured us that they had heard from us, and you, “loud and clear” and that in “two or three days” they would issue a statement that they thought would make us “happy.” They would not share any more details other than to offer a little more explanation of how they perceived the issue. Given the stakes, complexities and interests involved, we cannot assume that the USDA statement will completely solve the problem. (Also, given the nature of any federal agency, it could actually be weeks, not days, before they release their statement.)
Chews Wise will report on this important ruling as soon as we get word. Updates are also available at Equal Exchange's web page.
- Samuel Fromartz