Mili Meme

Sustainable Farming Advocate Fired by USDA National Organic Program

by Kimberly Hartke

Mark Keating is highly thought of by the sustainable agriculture community, so much so, that he gave the closing address to over 1200 farmers and consumers assembled at the international Wise Traditions Conference, sponsored by the Weston A. Price Foundation this past November. After experiencing the high of hearty approbation, Mark returned home to a strong rebuke by the USDA National Organic Program and an end to his position as an advisor to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). It seems his efforts to encourage true organic practices in agriculture have met with disapproval, again.

This is not the first time Mark has been unceremoniously dismissed from public service. The last time, he was given the heave because he dared to advocate that organic standards should specify pasture for chickens. This time, he ran afoul of the bureaucracy by speaking up on animal welfare standards for livestock. His politically incorrect views being sanctioned during an administration that promises open and frank scientific dialog is troubling to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

The watchdog group has taken up Mark’s cause and issued a letter to the agency responsible to try and reverse his firing. They also issued a press release calling the Federal government out on the chilling effect of its attempt to silence a minority viewpoint.

His absence from the NOSB deliberations also will freeze out the interests of a growing sector of local, direct trading farms. Mark’s concern that organic standards contribute to the health of the soil and the animals is a valid issue that needs to be part of the discussions of America’s food policy. The emerging small, traditional mixed use farms are based on these ideals and to leave them out of policy decisions is a big oversight. Plus it contravenes the will of the citizens who are electing to support such farms with their food buying dollars.

The only way for the burgeoning local foods producers to have a voice is for the bureaucracy to make sure alternative voices are represented, and unfettered brainstorming in the decision making process.

What You Can Do

PEER is asking for concerned citizens to call and ask for Mark Keating to be reinstated in his position. Here is their press release,  USDA FIRES EMPLOYEE FOR EXPRESSING PERSONAL OPINION which contains links to the relevant documents.

See also the Action Alert on the Weston A. Price Foundation website: Help Urgently Needed, Call USDA Today

Call Mr. Miles McEvoy, Deputy Administrator of the USDA National Organic Program at (202) 720-3252.

Kimberly Hartke blogs about the local foods movement at Hartke is Online! She is the publicist for nutrition education non-profit, the Weston A. Price Foundation.

This post is part of the Fight Back Friday blog carnival. See more food activist stories on Food Renegade blog.