Changes in USDA policy could hit organic coffee hard

Hold onto your latte: News is seeping out about a change at the U.S. Department of Agriculture that could affect the cost and availability of organic products from developing countries, including bananas, spices, sugar, and coffee. Normally, a farm must undergo an annual inspection to get certified. But for years, co-ops and large growers’ groups in the global south have been allowed to largely police themselves, with USDA inspectors visiting 20 percent of each group per year. Now, motivated by a Mexican group that let some violations slide, the agency says every farm needs an annual inspection, an expensive process that may make some small farmers quit the organic biz. “We’re literally talking about hundreds of thousands of farmers who will be affected,” says Michael Sligh of Rural Advancement Foundation International USA. Fellow organic advocates are steamed, saying the USDA could have reviewed the system instead of deep-sixing it. And our barista was all like, “Omigod, that totally sucks.”