Organic coalition challenges USDA on organic rule changeA coalition of15 major players in the organic food industry—including producers, farmers, consumer, environmental and certification groups—filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging USDA violated the federal rulemaking process.

The group charges that USDA violated this process when it changed procedures for reviewing potential hazards and need for allowed synthetic and prohibited natural substances used in producing organic food. The coalition asks the court to require USDA to reconsider this decision and bring back the government agency’s customary public hearing and comment process.

In a joint statement, the plaintiffs said:

“We are filing this lawsuit today because we are deeply concerned that the organic decision making process is being undermined by USDA. The complaint challenges the unilateral agency action on the sunset procedure for synthetic materials review, which represents a dramatic departure from the organic community's commitment to an open and fair decision making process, subject to public input. Legally, the agency's decision represents a rule change and therefore must be subject to public comment. But equally important, it is a departure from the public process that we have built as a community. This process has created a unique opportunity within government for a community of stakeholders to come together, hear all points of view, and chart a course for the future of organic. It is a process that continually strengthens organic, supports its rapid growth, and builds the integrity of the USDA certified label in the marketplace.”

The plaintiffs in the case, represented by counsel from Center for Food Safety, include: Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, Equal Exchange, Food and Water Watch, Frey Vineyards, La Montanita Co-op, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, New Natives, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Northeast Organic Farmers Association Massachusetts, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, Organic Consumers Association, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, PCC Natural Markets, and The Cornucopia Institute.

 The full statement can be read here