Greenfield, Mass. -- Katherine DiMatteo, executive director of the Organic Trade Association here, the organic industry's largest trade organization, says the USDA's revised organics standards finally create a level playing field between the producer and the consumer.
"I think more people will be encouraged to join the organic community now," she said. "Though there will be those who are discouraged by the strict new rules."
DiMatteo said that all farmers and handlers will foot the bill to become certified, though the certifying bodies themselves -- state agencies and private organizations -- can get accredited at no charge. Accreditation lasts for five years. As for retailers, those that do not prepare organic foods on-site, or in any way alter an organic product upon its arrival, will not require certification, according to DiMatteo.
Enforcement of the new standards will fall upon both state government and third-party groups, both of which are authorized to issue non-compliance notices to businesses. State issues can be taken up with that state's appellate courts, but private organizations issuing non-compliance notices must report directly to the USDA, as does the party in question, said DiMatteo.
DiMatteo also likes the new standards' implementation of $5 million worth of various research programs to be funded by the USDA, such as an organic agriculture study to be done at the University of California-Davis.
"To compliment the incredible growth rate of the industry, the USDA needs to implement more educational and research programs," said DiMatteo. "Right now, it's a $6 billion retail industry, with a 20 to 24% yearly growth rate."