Remarks At Organic Trade Association’s Organic Week Conference

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is recognized as the ‘father’ of the national organic standards and labeling program, as author and chief sponsor of the federal law that created the system in 1990.  This charter and its rules and the organic label, which are followed by farmers and trusted by consumers, have led to what is now the multi-billion-dollar organic foods industry.  It is another of the ‘born in Vermont’ ideas that Leahy has taken to Capitol Hill to then expand to the rest of the nation.

The Organic Trade Association is meeting today in Washington.  Below is the text and video of Leahy’s recorded remarks for the conference --

YouTube video LINK:      https://youtu.be/ot6NAwVCUAk

Video Recorded Remarks Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)
For The Organic Trade Association’s Organic Week Conference
Washington, D.C.
Tuesday, March 29, 2022

It was over 30 years ago that we made history with the enactment of the Organic Foods Production Act.  That law, established within the 1990 Farm Bill when I was Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, spurred what has become a multi-billion dollar industry.  Based on strong roots and vibrant advocacy in my home state of Vermont, it is the cornerstone of the organic movement.  It is also one of the legislative achievements of which I am most proud. The establishment of a voluntary USDA label with clear standards and full transparency was very much a ‘born in Vermont’ idea.

Vermont’s organic farmers, pioneers in the field and the marketplace, saw the potential for this approach to level the playing field, give consumers a trusted label, and create opportunities for future generations to steward our working landscape. There was one problem: in 1989, most members of the Senate Agriculture Committee had no idea what organic farming was or what it looked like.

No one could make a better case than the Vermonters who were putting in the work on their farms every day, and so I brought the Senate Agriculture Committee to Vermont.  Hearing firsthand from organic farmers in Vermont set the Committee – and then the Congress – on the path to pass the “Organic Farm Bill.”  The rest, as they say, is history.

While we remember, celebrate, and commemorate those early victories, we cannot lose sight of the future of organic.  The organic consumer market has, unfortunately but predictably, attracted those who prefer to erode the standards rather than meet them.  Those who would bend the rules to fit their industrial-scale approach to agriculture in pursuit of short-term profits.  For years, we have fought against organic import fraud, and loopholes in the origin of livestock, and animal welfare standards, and for adequate enforcement of the pasture rule. We cannot let up.  American consumers have come to trust the organic label, and the organic industry is producing the products these consumers want for their families.

I am proud of the work we have done to establish, develop and grow the organics industry.  I remain a partner in the fight to protect the label, and strengthen the standards.  But it is each of you who are the on the front lines, talking daily to the farmers and producers who are meeting the demands of the market.  Thank you for your vigilance and commitment to the industry, and the farmers who make it possible.  I am so pleased to be able to share these words with you this week, and hope your annual conference is a successful exchange of ideas for the future.

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