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OPN Connect Newsletter 191 · November 5, 2020

USDA’s Jenny Tucker on the Current State and Future of Organic Agriculture


Dr. Jenny Tucker, deputy administrator of the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s National Organic Program (NOP), will be the keynote speaker at the sixth annual Organic & Non-GMO Forum, to be held virtually next week.

OPN had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Tucker about her upcoming address and the state of organic agriculture in the US.  

Stemilt January 2021

Dr. Jenny Tucker, Deputy Administrator, USDA NOP

In her eight years as the deputy administrator of the NOP, Dr. Tucker has focused on strengthening organic rule enforcement and building relationships with various USDA agencies to protect the integrity of the organic brand.   

“The publishing of the Strengthening Organic Enforcement Proposed Rule was a significant milestone and represented input from a full range of organic community members, including organic farmers and businesses, advocacy groups, and the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB),” Tucker said. “The final rule will foundationally change the game to protect organic businesses that are playing by the rules. Increased funding means we now have more staff and in-house expertise needed to investigate complaints and actively expand surveillance of higher risk activities.”

“We are also proud of the relationships we have built with the USDA Customs and Border Protection, USDA Office of the Inspector General, and other USDA agencies to expand our enforcement reach. Many hands are acting to protect the organic market!”

Chelan Fresh January 2021

Dr. Jenny Tucker, Deputy Administrator, USDA NOP

As part of her upcoming keynote presentation, Dr. Tucker will address the enforcement regulations.   

“Once finalized, the Strengthening Organic Enforcement rule will increase the program’s authority to oversee and enforce the organic standards. The revised regulations are expected to reduce the number of uncertified businesses in the organic supply chain; standardize organic certificates; require the use of import certificates for imported organic products; increase the minimum number of unannounced inspections; increase inspector qualifications; strengthen fraud prevention procedures; and increase data reporting requirements,” she said.

Valent January 2021

“The final rule will foundationally change the game to protect organic businesses that are playing by the rules. Increased funding means we now have more staff and in-house expertise needed to investigate complaints and actively expand surveillance of higher risk activities.” -Dr. Jenny Tucker

Dr. Tucker believes the biggest challenge the industry faces is balancing the need for consistency in enforcement with the reality of diverse site-specific conditions around the globe.

“Soil-based farms and greenhouse operations in New England are going to be different from those in California. They are in different environments with different conditions and pressures. They can both be good for the environment, and they are both governed by the same rules under the Organic Foods Production Act,” she said. “Ensuring fair, consistent enforcement across diverse organic control systems will remain the largest challenge for the industry.”  

Shenandoah Growers Jan2021

“The revised regulations are expected to reduce the number of uncertified businesses in the organic supply chain; standardize organic certificates; require the use of import certificates for imported organic products; increase the minimum number of unannounced inspections; increase inspector qualifications; strengthen fraud prevention procedures; and increase data reporting requirements.” -Dr. Jenny Tucker

She will also address the results from the National Agricultural Statistics Service’s (NASS) 2019 Organic Survey that was released last week and highlighted the continued growth of the organic market.  

Dr. Jenny Tucker, Deputy Administrator, USDA NOP

Naturesafe January 2021

“As the number of organic farms and businesses grows, we continue to launch new tools and approaches to oversee and surveil the market←we will continue to go where organic grows,” she said. “While the organic sector is still a small part of American agriculture, more farmers and consumers choosing the organic option year after year is a strong indicator that people value the choice. All of us in the organic community will continue to protect that choice!” 

Dr. Tucker believes the National Organic Program and the NOSB both play a vital role in furthering the growth of organics. “Community engagement is a leading reason for the growth we have seen. The National Organic Standards Board is a vital community voice and collaborative partnership, advising the USDA on the organic standards,” she said. “The open and transparent process of the Board’s deliberative process and the public nature of the standards themselves create a welcoming, participatory space for the community. This open environment supports trust in the process and faith in the label.”

Starr Ranch
Global Organics Group January 2021

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