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USDA promises to increase focus on organics

Article from The Packer

By Ashley Bentley

Many organic producers heard Kathleen Merrigan, deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, echo a promise she made when she took the position — to integrate organics into programs across the department.


Merrigan focused on the subject in recorded statements played at the annual Organic Summit in Stevenson, Wash., June 4.

“This is the first time that’s really been articulated in this direct way,” said Ted Quaday, communications director for the Santa Cruz, Calif.-based Organic Farming Research Foundation.

In her speech, Merrigan said that organics should be integrated across all agencies, and should not be exclusive to the National Organic Program.

“ … each and every agency at USDA should have some engagement with the organic sector,” Merrigan said. “Organic can no longer be stove-piped at USDA.”

In her speech, Merrigan reminded the audience of the June 17 deadline for the Organic Production Survey, a first-ever for the USDA.

Merrigan also commented on another issue on the minds of organic producers who export to Canada: the likelihood of an equivalency agreement for the two countries’ organic standards. Canada is implementing a new organic standard mid-June, and unless an agreement is made, exporters’ products would have to meet both U.S. and Canadian standards. Merrigan said she was confident an agreement would be made soon.

Merrigan said an era of stronger enforcement for National Organic Program standards is ahead.

There were high hopes for Merrigan from the organic industry after her nomination by President Barack Obama in February. She was involved in the establishing the National Organic Program as the head of the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service from 1999-2001.

A video recording of the speech will be available June 9 at and



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