ChewsWise Blog

ChewsWise Blog

BIG Organic Java Victory

Organic Coffee is safe, for now.

In a victory for organic farmers in the developing world, the USDA's National Organic Program has backed down and said that for now there will be no immediate change in the way these farmers are certified.

The NOP had previously announced that it was changing certification procedures for these farms. The change would have increased costs sharply and choked off the supply of organic coffee, cocoa and other crops grown by farming co-ops in the Third World, an issue I wrote about on

In a statement issued Wednesday, the NOP said it would work closely with the National Organic Standards Board -  the citizens advisory panel on organic regulations - before making any changes. This comes after a petition campaign which generated thousands of signatures, even in the absence of any major media coverage.

For those who think organic regulations have been compromised by big business, this shows - as other actions have in the past - that transparency and advocacy work.

The NOP statement can be read in full here.

- Samuel Fromartz

USDA to Rule on Organic Coffee Limits

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