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Durango producer to visit U.S. Capitol in effort to uphold organic farming practices

Dixon says big-name producers are not being held to USDA’s standard of organic
Adobe House Farm owner Linley Dixon said Driscoll’s, a California-based seller of berries, owns about 70% of the organic berry market. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Durango organic farmer Linley Dixon is slated to meet with representatives in the U.S. House and Senate in early March to discuss eco-friendly practices in organic farming.

This year will mark the reauthorization of the Farm Bill, a piece of agricultural legislation with significant effects on food and farming systems that is amended every five years.

Dixon said she will focus on making sure the U.S. Department of Agriculture organic farming regulations are climate-smart.

“We’re just going to Washington to ensure that organic crops are grown in healthy soils and organic livestock is raised on healthy pastures, and to ensure that the law is being upheld,” she said.

Dixon and her family are owners of Adobe House Farm, a 3-acre vegetable farm that sells to local restaurants, the SWFF Local Distribution Cooperative, James Ranch and Durango Farmers Market. She also has a master’s degree in plant and soil science.

Her grievance with the USDA’s National Organic Program is that the agency is certifying Soilless Hydroponic Container Operations as organic and violating the Organic Foods Production Act.

Dixon said no standards have been established for SHCOs.

“The way that we (organic farmers) farm is to recycle through composting local waste,” she said. “And the way a hydroponic farm produces food is to simply fertilize the crop. And those fertilizers have a heavy, heavy climate impact. So, instead of sequestering carbon in the soil, they’re using a lot of fossil fuels to create fertilizers.”

Dixon and members of the Organic Farmers Association are trying to ensure that organic integrity is being upheld.

She contends that by allowing organic certification of soil-based and hydroponic production of the same crops and products, the USDA is violating the second purpose of the Organic Foods Protection Act, because those products do not meet a consistent standard.

The section of the Organic Foods Protection Act pertaining to soil fertility says that an organic plan shall contain provisions designed to foster soil fertility, primarily through the management of the organic content of the soil through proper tillage, crop rotation and manuring.

By allowing the organic certification of Soilless Hydroponic Container Operations, Dixon said the USDA is violating the definition of “organic plan” because such operations do not comply with requirements for an organic plan found in OFPA section 6513(b)(1). Such SCHO operations do not practice crop rotations and other practices required in the act, she said.

Driscoll’s, a California-based seller of berries, which is commonly sold in major grocery stores, is a consistent contributor to the problem, Dixon said.

“They’re a monopoly; they’ve been able to change what is allowed to be certified organic to match their practices,” she said. “So that’s how those two issues are connected. It’s really an industrial way of production.”

She added that Driscoll’s makes up about 70% of the organic berry market. With more and more SCHOs becoming certified as organic producers, she fears it will run many small organic growers out of business.


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