Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-CA) and Congressman Richard Hanna (R-NY) introduced the bipartisan legislation, the Organic Standards Protection Act, in the House on Wednesday. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA), which runs the National Organic Program, said in a recent report that a lack of investigative authorities has hampered its protection of the program.
If enacted, the bill would give the USDA the authority to stop the sale of products fraudulently labeled as organic, improve its investigative process by requiring better recordkeeping, and impose a $10,000 fine on those producers or certifiers that continue to use the USDA organic seal after certification is revoked.
The OTA’s CEO Christine Bushway said in a statement that the organization supports the legislation, as it would help preserve the integrity of the organic seal.
“Consumers drive the growth in organic food and farming and maintaining their trust is critical to the future of this fast-growing job-creating sector of agriculture,” she said. “On behalf of the 6,500 certified organic operations nationwide that OTA represents, we applaud the leadership of Congresswoman Capps to position organic to meet consumer expectations into the future.”
Congresswoman Capps said: “Failing to weed out imposter products puts our organic industries at a competitive disadvantage and could potentially damage the brand of organic products.”
Congressman Hanna said that organic farming is a growing industry in upstate New York, creating jobs and meeting increased consumer demand.
“This bill takes commonsense steps to make sure USDA has the tools necessary to protect the integrity of the organic seal and safeguard this booming industry from unscrupulous producers,” he said.
According to OTA figures, sales of organic certified products grew 9.5% in 2011, hitting $31bn.
The legislation also has the support of the California Certified Organic Farmers and the National Organic Coalition.