Locals react to national organic standards | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Locals react to national organic standards

California’s organic farmers are joining their colleagues from around the nation in lauding the new national standards announced last week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“It’s a big undertaking. I think it’s helpful if they give strict rules,” said Sharon Rusk, market manager for the Sierra Farmer’s Markets, which serves Lake Tahoe and the Carson Valley.

Rusk takes issue with the statewide version. The California Food Act fails to require inspections to farmers who claim to grow organically.

Organic products are intended to be grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.

She’s pleased that perhaps consumers will learn what they’re buying too.

“A lot of people don’t know what organic is. They buy (the product) because it says organic, and they pay the higher price for it,” Rusk said.

Coming out of Albertson’s, South Shore resident Amy Baker thinks organic food is “too expensive,” with “too many kids to feed.”

And besides, the children may snub the food.

“They’ll say, ‘What? No preservatives? There must be something wrong with it,'” Baker quipped about her clan.

For those who specifically shop for health foods in South Lake Tahoe, Grass Roots Natural Food Store owner John McElroy agreed with Rusk that consumers need to be educated about the food group and each state should follow the same guidelines.

“I’ve been hoping for a long time that they would do the standards, so people would know what they’re buying and (that) each state would have the same (ones),” McElroy said, welcoming the new federal mandate.

The standards, which include a provision that organic producers must be certified, conclude years of debate over the issue.

Among other provisions, the first national standards will ban the use of biotechnology or irradiation in organic products.

These guidelines are considered the most stringent in the world.

“We’re optimistic that California’s organic growers will benefit from these new standards,” California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Bill Lyons, Jr. said. “Our growers lead the world in organic production.”

California has nearly 2,500 organic growers, producers, handlers and processors.

“At long last, there will be a uniform playing field for U.S.-certified organic producers and reciprocity between U.S. certification agencies,” said Joe Hall of the California Natural Products.

Under the standards, organic products must carry a seal to assure consumers that the items have all met the same requirements. All growers selling more than $5,000 worth of product a year must be certified.

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