Richardson named to national organic advisory board

FERRISBURGH —Rural development and environmental policy expert Jean Richardson of North Ferrisburgh has been named to the advisory board that helps set national standards for organic agriculture and products.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., on Thursday made the announcement that the University of Vermont emeritus professor will assume the consumer/public interest slot on the 15-member National Organic Standards Board in January. The board has a key role in the national organic standards and labeling program, established in 1990 through Leahy’s Organic Food Production Act. The congressionally mandated panel is responsible for making recommendations about whether substances should be allowed or barred in organic production or handling and helps develop national organic standards.
She is one of five new members appointed to the board for five-year terms that begin in January.
Richardson is professor emerita of natural resources, environmental studies and geography at UVM. She is also a maple syrup producer, an organic inspector and a consultant on rural development, agriculture and environmental issues.
“Jean Richardson will bring to the board a hands-on understanding of organic agriculture and a broad background in rural economies and sustainable development,” said Leahy, who had recommended her to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross nominated Richardson.
Richardson said she has been doing organic farm inspections for the Northeast Organic Farmers Association-Vermont, and was invited to apply for the position.
She said her duties will include work on two committees — she expects she’ll be on the animal welfare and consumer policy committees — as well as weekly conference calls. Twice a year, in May and December, she’ll take part in full board meetings where members recommend national organic policy changes.
Richardson said she hopes to help make sure national organic policy is inclusive.
“The board needs to be more open and transparent and listen more to the consumers and producers,” she said. “I’m hoping to encourage the board to be more open, not to be too much of the Washington insider thing.”
Richardson, who was raised in England, said she is not worried that she will be unduly influence when lobbyists try to wine and dine or strong-arm her.
“I might sound English but I’m a very practical Vermont,” she said.
Leahy said he had faith in Richardson.
“The National Organic Standards Board must be objective, credible, science-based and able to translate its work into achievable policy outcomes,” he said. “Dr. Richardson has strength and relevant experience on each of these fronts, and I am proud that another Vermonter is taking yet another leading role in organic policy.”
The Organic Trade Association last year moved its national headquarters to Brattleboro, in part because of Vermont’s long and early leadership in organics.
Leahy noted that organic agriculture and consumer interest in organic products continues to grow, with sales reaching $26.5 billion in 2009.

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