Texas has Bragging Rights to the First Organic Label in the United States
Who would have thunk it.
Texas! First in the nation!
Wait a minute!!. What??
Yes…dear readers. Texas has bragging rights! Yet you won’t hear the current Agriculture Commissioner ever mention it, nor will you hear it from any of the Ag. Commissioners who slunk into office after Hightower.
This Texas First has been “disappeared” from history.
Standard organic agriculture histories credit California or Oregon or Rodale or even Whole Foods. But never Texas.
Those organic champions should be celebrated…BUT none of them were able to create an actual enforceable standard. Texas was the first state to certify and label produce as Organic, the first state to develop state-wide standards, and the first state to provide competent regulation to verify that the produce was truly organic. Texas farmers, by having a verifiable label, gained an advantage in selling organic produce to people who wanted a pesticide-free eating experience.
In 1989, the Alar scandal hit the news. Apple farmers had been spraying their apples with Alar, a carcinogenic growth regulator. People desperately wanted a guarantee that their fruits weren’t going to cause cancer their children. Honestly, it seemed reasonable enough request.
The number of consumers actively looking for organic produce in the late 1980s and 1990s multiplied a hundredfold. And Texas provided that guarantee of Organic and pesticide free. Consumers looked to Texas and the Texas Organic Label for their safe fruits and vegetables.
Once the Texas economic advantage was recognized, other states created their own organic standards, and, naturally, every state had slightly different standards from every other state. Consumers were understandably confused. The organic industry finally requested that the Federal Government create national organic standards so there would be no consumer confusion.
Senator Leahy of Vermont had advocated for nearly a decade for such a law and now the opportunity was handed to him on a golden platter, handed to him by Hightower and the Texas Department of Agriculture. And, voila, the National Organic Program was passed in 1990, leading, after a ridiculously lengthy review by a foot-dragging USDA, to a national Organic label to 2002..
It took the USDA over a decade to deliver regulations that the Hightower Texas Department of Agriculture managed to pull off in a measly year and a half
The obvious conclusion is that Texas was the prime instigator in establishing national standards for the organic agricultural industry.
But you won’t find that in the history books.
But you will find it here, at PHIT, as we uncover forgotten history that really needs to be remembered.
Stay tuned for next blog when we talk about the early days of organics.