Richard Wallick Papers, 2007-2012

Scope and Content Note

The Wallick papers document, from a consumer's vantage point, the accountability of the USDA to its stakeholders in overseeing the organic certification system and its regulation, specifically the use of allowable and prohibited substances, and corrective action taken to maintain organic certification.

The papers are arranged by FOIA request, with the agency responses arranged chronologically thereunder. Researchers should note that the dates listed in the contents list for the USDA/AMS responses to FOIA requests are for the dates of the responses (i.e., when the records were released), not the dates of the responsive documents themselves (variously dated from 2007-2010).

FOIA Request No. 76-09, dated June 9, 2009, requested “documents relating to California Certified Organic Farmers, California Liquid Fertilizer, and State of California, and the decision to continue allowing use of the USDA organic label regardless of the use of a banned substance,” from January 2004 to the date of the request. The resulting twenty pages of documents consisted of emails and written correspondence. Wallick appealed the results of his request on September 15, 2009 (Appeal No. 12-09); some of the documents that were released in the series of rolling releases for FOIA No. 89-09 were also responsive to FOIA No. 76-09.

FOIA Request No. 89-09, dated August 1, 2009, sought “access to and copies of any and all documents, notes, e-mail, and other forms of correspondence with retailers, distributors, and others involved with the distribution of USDA Organic produce regarding the certification and/or de-certification of produce which [was] produced using ingredients not on the National List.” The lawsuit Wallick filed (Wallick v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Case No. CV-10-754 AC (U.S. District Court, District of Oregon in Box 1, Folder 8) is also included under this heading:

Plaintiff Richard Wallick (hereinafter “Plaintiff”) brings this action to redress violation of the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552 et.seq., by Defendant United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) in failing to provide Plaintiff with any responsive records for his August 2, 2009 FOIA request to the agency, seeking records on USDA regulation of organic food crops grown using substances not on the National Organic Program's list of allowed substances for organic food crops.

Responsive documents include Notices of Noncompliance and Proposed suspensions or Revocations issued by various certifying agencies to growers and handlers engaged in the production of organic food products who were not in compliance with organic regulations, correspondence about various aspects of the National Organic Program, and memoranda from the NOP concerning allowable substances in organic production.

In these notices, accredited certifying agencies sometimes asked for supporting documentation of necessary product records or reminded growers of what was needed for the next round of certification. These documents also include responses from growers who responded to the Notices of Non-compliances, performed corrective actions, and received (or continued to receive) organic certification. Many of the documents contained confidential or private information that was redacted by the USDA/AMS before it was released; in other instances, redacted information contained non-responsive information to Wallick's requests.

Other responsive documents (around 2336 pages) were withheld due to Exemption 7(A), 5 U.S.C. 522(b)(7)(A): information related to law enforcement purposes that could potentially interfere with enforcement proceedings; and Exemption 5 (143 pages): interagency or intra-agency correspondence regarding legal advice which would not be available to those not in litigation with that agency. Other documents relating to agency internal policy deliberations were also withheld.

FOIA Request No. 2-10, dated September 29, 2009, requested copies of documents and correspondence related to his previous FOIA requests, including the decision process for responding to his requests, from January 1, 2009 to the date of the request.

The series of thirty-nine rolling releases issued in response to Wallick's FOIA Request No. 89-09 was also responsive to Wallick's FOIA Request No. 96-10, dated June 29, 2010, which sought records from January 1, 2007 to the date of the request, concerning 1) instances of USDA or State Organic Programs and the “use of substances not authorized for use on organic food crops by the National Organic Program's National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances, and the continued organic certification of food crops upon which the unlisted ingredient has been used.” 2) communications with the NOSB regarding use of substances not on the National List, certification of crops grown with ingredients not on the National List, or continued certification of land on which any unlisted substance was used, and 3) correspondence with State Organic Programs or the national Association of State Organic Programs, regarding “use of ingredients not authorized for organic crops by the National Organic Program's National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances, and/or the continued certification of crops grown with ingredient(s) not on the National List, or continued certification of lands on which an unlisted ingredient has been used.”

FOIA 2013-AMS-00105-F, Wallick's request to the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) of September 5, 2012, sought access to documents between the USDA and other organizations concerning the decision to allow certifying agencies to continue organic certification of land and crops despite the use of unapproved substances for organic production (specifically synthetic fertilizers).

FOIA 2013-SEC-00130-F, a related request, sought access to the same information from the Office of the Secretary of the USDA.

Also included are two other groups of records: a set of corrected notations and additions to redacted records released in July 2011 and an extensive set (approximately 1900 pages) of previously redacted records with additional information released in February 2012. The latter set of pages includes the original Bates numbering.