Richard Wallick Papers, 2007-2012


Richard (Rick) Wallick was born in 1951. A computer engineer who purchases organic foods for health reasons, Wallick became concerned about the validity of organic claims for some food products. The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI), a non-profit organization tasked with approving materials permitted for use in organic production, reviews materials which the National Organic Program releases as the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. Wallick cited a newspaper article published in The Sacramento Bee on December 28, 2008 that contended that a synthetic, prohibited nitrogen product was being used in a liquid fertilizer sold as allowable for organic production. In 2009, he filed consumer complaints with the State of Oregon Department of Justice, Civil Enforcement Division, concerning California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF), a certifier; New Seasons Market, a retail market; and California Liquid Fertilizer, a fertilizer company. He also filed Freedom of Information Act requests for similar violations of the National Organic Program production standards. Wallick contended that consumers were paying a premium for organic products that may not have actually been produced in accordance with organic standards, and that Oregon organic farmers who abide by NOP standards would be working at a disadvantage if California farmers were allowed to label products “organic” that were not in fact produced according to organic standards.

The August 20, 2009 AMS initial response to Wallick's FOIA request of August 2, 2009 claimed that no responsive documents were available. Wallick appealed this decision on September 9, 2009, and again received a response in December 2009 that there were no responsive records. On December 14, 2009, the agency's final response stated that it had not found any responsive records, noting that the plaintiff could pursue his case through judicial means. Consequently, on June 29, 2010, Wallick's attorney, Daniel J. Stotter, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon for violation of the Freedom of Information Act (Richard Wallick v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, CV 10-754-AC). The agency issued a series of thirty-nine rolling releases of responsive documents between August 2010 and September 2011, enabling the parties in the case to reach a settlement in the spring of 2012; the case was dismissed on June 7, 2012.

Citing the USDA guidance on synthetic pesticide residues in compost used for organic crop production in the spring of 2015 as another example of weakening organic standards, Wallick notes that he may file further FOIA requests. He notes lawsuits filed by the Center for Food Safety, the Center for Environmental Health, and Beyond Pesticides in response to the USDA's guidance as evidence of consumer desire for adherence to transparent rulemaking processes, opportunity for public comment and participation, and compliance with the standards established by the Organic Foods Production Act.