Asking the NOSB to consider impacts of oil and gas fracking
The following is an open letter to the National Organic Standards Board regarding energy system infrastructure on organic farms. The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association led this effort with PCC’s support in gathering signatures.
October 1, 2018
The undersigned organizations ask the NOSB and NOP add the topic of energy system infrastructure on organic farms to the NOSB Work Agenda. Please then work together to develop instruction to certifiers so we, collectively, can minimize the decertification of organic farms. Such instruction will support NOSB and NOP priorities of maintaining organic integrity and consistency among certifiers. Organic farms are unique. They use a well-defined and thoroughly vetted process to grow food and the land upon which farmers produce organic food warrants special protection. Accredited certifiers verify that no prohibited substances are used in this process and are required, as a regulatory body acting on behalf of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program (NOP), to verify that USDA organic standards are applied consistently. Unfortunately, prohibited substances and practices that degrade the productivity of organic farms are often unwittingly used during the construction and maintenance of energy infrastructure.
As governmental and private entities work to maximize domestic energy production and distribution, the likelihood of negative and unintended impacts puts organic farms in increasing jeopardy. An analysis completed by the Center for Food Safety, Food and Water Watch, and the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) identified that the NOSB has the authority to act on this matter as detailed in the Organic Foods Production Act.
Thankfully, there are tools that have been deployed successfully to protect the integrity of certified organic operations. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission required the use of Organic Agriculture Impact Mitigation Plans (OAIMP) during the construction of the ET Rover and Nexus pipelines, which traverse multiple states. That language required pipeline companies to “…file with the Secretary, for review and written approval… an impact avoidance, minimization, or mitigation plan for the organic farm….” Further, the company “…should include documentation that the plan was developed in consultation with the landowner… develop site specific mitigation measures…mitigate and compensate for potential impacts on these lands.” Proactive use of the OAIMP has conferred special protection on farms, but only when the tools were available to farmers and certifiers in advance of easement agreements and project commencement.
The converse is also true. In many cases, farmers that do not have access to information and tools for protection suffer decertification and must re-transition land. For example, farmers that have signed easements have had to remove land from organic production due to the use of prohibited substances such as Black Magic and Foam Breakers during pipeline construction. Just as we ask producers to utilize buffer strips to protect organic crops from pesticide or genetic drift, the NOP can share the content of the OAIMP with certifiers in the form of an instruction document to ensure that farmers can be proactive and prevent decertification of organic land.
Energy infrastructure development can impact organic farmers by:
- The use of prohibited substances or practices that are not compatible with a system of organic agriculture and can result in decertification;
- Impacting livestock, soil, and water supplies and organic land during and after infrastructure construction;
- Using limited water supplies for energy extraction and subjecting farmers to use waste water for irrigation; and
- Loss of trust in organic integrity as exemplified by reports of farmers irrigating with produced water
Farmers are turning to their certifiers and agricultural educators for guidance on how to deal with these situations. Please consider utilizing the OIAMP as a foundation from which to develop certifier instruction to increase certifier consistency. Help us to protect organic farmers and the integrity of organic food. At a time where demand outpaces supply, we must protect the integrity and existence of organic farmers.
Center for Food Safety
Food & Water Watch
International Organic Inspectors Association
Land Stewardship Project
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Midwest Organic Services Association
National Family Farm Coalition
National Organic Coalition
Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance
Northeast Organic Farming Association
Northeast Organic Farming Association Certification
Northeast Organic Farming Association Interstate Council
Northeast Organic Farming Association – Massachusetts (NOFA-Mass)
Northeast Organic Farming Association – Vermont (NOFA-VT)
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
Ohio Environmental Council
Organic Consumers Association
Organic Farmers Association
PCC Community Markets
Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI-USA)
Straus Family Creamery
The Cornucopia Institute
The FracTracker Alliance
Vermont Organic Farmers, LLC
Zero Waste Washington
Wild Farm Alliance