Ensuring Organic Integrity

Organic farmers are innovators by nature, and their practices often serve as models for others. With U.S. sales of organic reaching over $60 billion in 2020, organic farm practices are having a rippling effect throughout agriculture. 

In principle, organic farms have more diverse farmscapes and are helping to address biodiversity loss. In reality, some do and some don't. However, they are required to conserve biodiversity as part of the National Organic Program (NOP) regulations, and the NOP’s Natural Resources and Biodiversity Conservation Guidance that WFA initially wrote is helping with that.

Biodiversity on Organic Farms

The organic label means more than just pesticide-free; it means food and farms that carry this label are actively working to create healthier ecosystems, and it means organic food and farming embody more‚ÄĒsupporting the functionality and beauty that biodiversity provides on the farm and to our plate.

For most, the USDA organic label conjures up images of pastoral beauty, co-existence of wildlife and livestock, and fields of diverse crops. For some organic farmers, this too is the expectation they set for themselves when they certify their land and crops. However, not all of the organic community is on the same page.

To ensure uniform compliance, we are engaging with, and providing resources for, organic farmers so that they are successfully implementing practices that protect and increase biodiversity, and organic inspectors and certifiers so that they are verifying uniform compliance. 

When the National Organic Program (NOP) regulations were first published back in 2002, their biodiversity conservation regulations were ignored. Since 2005, we’ve worked to change that, and have had many successes along the way. 

Click here to see our milestones

Inspiring Organic Farmers

What tools are we making available to help organic farmers adopt practices that protect biodiversity?

Organic farmers can conserve biodiversity and benefit from it along the way. The key is diversifying the farm itself, and we have resources to help farmers with that.

Farmers can implement a progression of activities that increasingly support biodiversity and the benefits it provides to the farm. Each farmer has a unique set of circumstances and will begin at different places in the continuum, depending on their need and capacity for supporting nature.

Whether the need is for building better soil health and clean water, ensuring more complete pollination and effective pest control, or enhancing habitat for wildlife, the farm can start with small steps or take big strides to integrate biodiversity.

Protecting Native Ecosystems

What are we doing to ensure the National Organic Label protects Native Ecosystems?

We are pushing for the National Organic Program (NOP) to implement a new rule proposed by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) that would protect Native Ecosystems. With WFA in the lead, we and our partners successfully encouraged the NOSB to recommend this new rule to protect Native Ecosystems from the organic plow.

 

We and the NOSB sought to change the current perverse regulation that incentivizes the immediate destruction of Native Ecosystems and conversion to organic production as a cheaper and faster option than transitioning existing conventional farmland over a three-year period.

The NOP needs to implement the proposed Native Ecosystem rule that will protect the integrity of the seal, and help reverse the biodiversity crisis and reduce global warming.

Organic consumers are shocked when they learn the extra funds they spend on organic products could be supporting the destruction of Native Ecosystems. And they are confused because they know organic farms should be conserving biodiversity. Currently, organic farms need only do the latter after certification.

Native ecosystems can store more carbon than converted farmland ever could. Farms next to natural areas have a greater diversity of native bees, beneficial insects and birds and increased pollination and pest control services.

WFA created two supporting documents for the new proposed rule ‚Äď a Draft Native Ecosystem Guidance¬†for the NOP to consider adopting at the same time they implement the new rule, and a Native Ecosystem Toolkit¬†for organic certifiers and farmers to use when determining the presence of a native ecosystem. We also created a set of short videos to show how to use many of the tools in the Toolkit.