Mr. Organic: Q&A with Miles McEvoy, Deputy Administrator of the National Organic Program

Miles Smiling in a Strawberry Field (2)It’s hard to find anyone who knows more about organic policy than Miles McEvoy. Miles began working in organic agriculture for the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) in 1988. Prior to that, he spent 10 years working on farms, with fisheries and in forests.  He says this background provided him with valuable context on the keys to sustainably producing and harvesting food, while still running a successful business. His perspective is a unique one, in that it combines the idealism of a grassroots farmer and environmentalist with the knowledge of someone who’s spent years working within WSDA and now the USDA.

I recently sat down with Miles for an interview on topics ranging from organic history to new initiatives to challenges for our industry. Below is the first part of the two-part interview. It has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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Where have all the farmers gone?

Organic FarmerIn a recent discussion with Miles McEvoy, Deputy Administrator of the National Organic Program, he cited a concern on the lack of new farming operations entering organic production.

“Though we have seen market success over the last 20 years, the number of new certified operations in the US has remained relatively flat,” Miles told me. “The industry continues to grow, sales are up, but the number of certified operations has not grown.”

A recent Wall Street Journal article pointed out that the Farm Belt is not expanding quickly enough into organics to meet growing consumer demand. Consequently, producers are going abroad for commodities

This leads me to ask, where have all the organic farmers gone? Continue reading

I hear the call of ORPP

Got Organic?ORPP is not the call of some exotic water fowl. It’s an acronym for one of the most exciting ideas I have encountered in my entire career. It stands for Organic Research and Promotions Program, which could be a mechanism for creating much needed funding for organic research, education and promotion of our burgeoning industry. Continue reading

What’s the all the Buzz about?

This image was selected as a picture of the we...

This image was selected as a picture of the week on the Malay Wikipedia for the 46th week, 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have heard a lot of buzz lately from the media, USDA and environmentalists   regarding the state of honeybees.  The decline of the Honeybee population has been well documented since 2006. According to USDA studies, 31% of North America hives have collapsed each winter since 2006. The trend is similar throughout Europe and Asia. Continue reading

Organic Farm Bill update July 16, 2013

Capitol Hill

Last week, the House of Representatives finally passed a Farm Bill by a vote of 216-208. No Democrats supported the bill, and 12 Republicans voted against it. For the first time since 1949 it did not include the nutrition title or food stamps for hungry Americans.  This new version of the Farm Bill included provisions that repeal the 1938 and 1949 permanent law provisions and make the 2013 Title I a permanent law going forward. If this ultimately became law in conference, it would never need to be reauthorized. Congress could consider them again but would never face a deadline requiring their re-authorization.

The question on everyone’s mind, of course, is what happens next?  Continue reading