Chip English, an attorney for the National Organic Coalition in Washington, D.C., closely questioned many testifying proponents, often challenging their assertions that such a marketing agreement is needed at all since Arizona’s and California’s leafy greens agreements already cover more than 75% of U.S. production volume.
English said since the issue hasn’t been addressed in courts, the coalition considers it “an open question” because this agreement will add another layer of unnecessary regulation to small organic growers who cannot afford the cost of compliance and will be shut out of the market place.
Rayne Pegg, the newly appointed administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, said it may be a year or more before the agency makes a decision. After the panel concludes the hearings, it will publish its draft decision, accept more public comment, and then forward its recommendation to the Secretary of Agriculture.
“We are very interested in what we’ll hear every day of the hearings,” Pegg said.