Schumer calls for organic food regulation
PENN YAN—On Monday, Sept. 20, U. S. Senator Charles (D-NY) Schumer came to Yates County to speak to people involved in the local organic farm industry and public officials. Standing inside Lakeview Organic Grain in Penn Yan, Schumer spoke about his plan to control the phony organic goods that are being imported into the United States.
Schumer said these falsely labeled products demonstrate a threat to American farmers and consumers if the United States Department of Agriculture does not step up oversight of imported organic foods. These bogus products, many from China, could have a very negative impact on local farmers and related businesses. If the practice continues and the public loses confidence that the products they are paying a higher price for are organic, local organic producers could suffer.
One of the issues Schumer spoke about is the need for the United States Department of Agriculture to enhance its oversight of organic products coming from foreign countries to ensure they are organic. Schumer said any import from China has a 33 percent advantage because they manipulate their currency, adding, “China does not play by the rules.”
He wrote to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, expressing his concern about imports of products labeled organic from China. The senator asked Vilsack to take appropriate action to ensure foreign imports, especially from China, meet the same high standards as domestically produced organic products.
Yates County has more organic farms than any other area of New York State and these farms have a positive effect on the local economy. The process of being certified organic is both lengthy and costly, taking farmers about three years to convert to organic production. In this country, strict practices must be followed in ordered for products to be certified organic. Lakeview Organic Grain, which was opened by Klass and Mary Howell Martens in 2001, is one of the few organic grain mills in the state. Klass said New York has some of the biggest organic grain farms in the country.
The mill is now shipping about 200 tons of feed each week.
Schumer also invited questions and comments about other topics and audience members responded with questions about gas drilling, fiber optics and the need for USDA inspected slaughterhouse here. Speaking about gas drilling, Schumer said nothing can happen until the state comes out with its findings. He said, “The potential of gas drilling with appropriate environmental controls could be good. We cannot allow it without the appropriate controls. We also must protect our little farms.” Schumer said other energy sources should be explored, adding, “I would even explore nuclear as long as it’s safe.” Mary Howell Martens said, “We need to use fossil fuels to build the infrastructure.