USDA Extends Public Comment Period on Crop Coexistence Strategies

March 20, 2015 - A first of its kind stakeholder workshop aimed at reducing conflict between the growers of organic, conventional, genetically-modified and identity-preserved crops, sparked extensive debate in North Carolina last week, prompting the U.S. Department of Agriculture to extend public comment on the event to April 10th.

The USDA held its Stakeholder Workshop on Coexistence at North Carolina State University on March 12-13 in Raleigh, North Carolina. OFRF was an invited organization at the workshop, and our Research Director, Dr. Diana Jerkins, participated in group discussions.

USDA had initially announced that public comment on the workshop and proposed USDA actions workshop participants discussed would be open until March 27. But based on feedback from workshop participants, USDA is extending the public comment period an additional two weeks. USDA has already received more than 4,100 comments about the workshop, and OFRF urges organic growers to add their voices to this vitally important discussion. 

Organic growers have long struggled with pesticide drift from neighboring conventional farms, and genetic contamination of their crops from genetically modified crops on nearby fields. But contamination issues have multiplied as a number of U.S. trading partners refuse to accept shipments of genetically modified agricultural products, and “identity preserved” crops valued for their genetic purity become more economically important.

"USDA recognizes that we need diversity in agriculture and supports the successful coexistence of the different forms of production. Each one contributes to the overall health of farming and rural communities throughout the United States,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, in a statement released today.

"By bringing together diverse stakeholders, USDA can gather thoughtful input and feedback from all points of view and take concrete steps that in turn can help expand market opportunity at home and abroad for all kinds of American agriculture.”

For information on the Stakeholder Workshop on Coexistence, go to http://www.aphis.usda.gov/wps/portal/aphis?1dmy&urile=wcm%3Apath%3A/aphis_content_library/sa_about_aphis/sa_stakeholders/ct_coexistence_meeting.

To comment on the workshop proceedings, go to http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=APHIS-2013-0047.

For more information on Agricultural Coexistence, go to http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentidonly=true&contentid=coexistence.html.

Image of Tom Vilsack courtesy USDA

by Maria Gaura - OFRF