NOFA’s role in the Evolution of Organic
NOFA has played a key role in the evolution of the organic movement and industry on practical, as well as philosophical and political levels from the beginning. We were among the earliest to establish an organic certification program in 1979, following models developed by Oregon Tilth (OTCO) and California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). In 1984 our program served as the basis for the development of the first pilot program of the Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA), today a large international USDA accredited certifying body. NOFA also participated in the founding of the Organic Foods Production Association of North America (OFPANA), now known as the Organic Trade Association. In 1989 we helped organize the first gathering of US organic organizations, forming the Organic Farmers Associations Council (OFAC).
As the founding coordinator of our certification program, I have served as a NOFA representative to each of these organizations, in each case basing my proposals on information developed in consultation with NOFA members and advisors. There were controversies and disagreements aplenty, including the perennial tension between the “purists” who wanted the strictest possible standards and the “pragmatists” who wanted flexibility for those facing practical obstacles and still learning how to overcome them. As co-author of the first attempt to codify guidelines for organic standards across North America on behalf of OFPANA, the balancing act and consultation with NOFA leadership continued. In 1989 the debate over fundamental organic principles came to a vote of OFPANA’s membership in deciding to base future standards on the origin of materials (i.e. synthetic versus natural) rather than “agronomic responsibility” (how a given practice affects soil life, water, and other ecological qualities).
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