USDA organics chief steps down

The head of the National Organic Program will be looking for a more relaxing lifestyle and more family time when he leaves the agency at the end of the month.
Carol Ryan Dumas

Capital Press

Published on September 14, 2017 10:00AM

Miles McEvoy, deputy administrator of the National Organic Program, is stepping down at the end of September after eight years at the helm.

Courtesy U.S. Department of Agriculture

Miles McEvoy, deputy administrator of the National Organic Program, is stepping down at the end of September after eight years at the helm.

Miles McEvoy, USDA deputy administrator of the National Organic Program, is stepping down after eight years at the helm to return to his home in Olympia, Wash.

In a Sept. 10 letter to the organic community, McEvoy said he will be leaving the job at the end of September and the program will be in “excellent hands” under the leadership of AMS Acting Administrator Bruce Summers and Acting Deputy Administrator Jenny Tucker.

David Glasgow, USDA Agricultural Marketing Service director of public affairs, said the agency had no further details beyond McEvoy’s personal letter to the organic community.

“It’s been an incredible eight years and I’m honored to have served. I’m taking some time off and then will look for other opportunities to contribute to building the organic sector,” McEvoy said in an email to Capital Press.

In his letter, he said it’s been an incredible honor to serve the organic community and an extremely gratifying experience but he’s been considering leaving for the last few years.

“I’m 60 now, my grandchildren are growing, and I want to spend more time with them. I’m ready to have a less intense work-life and to spend more time biking and birding,” he said.

He added he will miss the people at AMS and NOP, who use their talents every day to “protect organic integrity and support the organic community.”

He also thanked organic producers, processors, handlers, traders and consumers for building “an incredibly diverse, prosperous and life-enriching organic agriculture sector.”

The Organic Trade Association did not have a comment when contacted, but presented McEvoy with an honorary lifetime membership at its award ceremony Wednesday, Maggie McNeil, OTA director of media relations, said.

In his letter, McEvoy said at his request the organic sector supplied him with a long list of priorities in his first few months on the job and most were accomplished.

“We transformed the NOP into a respected and functional program that is highly regarded within USDA and around the world,” he said.

He highlighted advancements in quality management, communication, certification, accreditation, appeals, enforcement, standards, international activities and an organic database.

But his tenure has not been without issue, particularly scrutiny from advocacy groups and the media over the agency’s handling of the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances in organic production and processing.

In his letter, he said the organic community will face challenges and opportunity in the years ahead and he encouraged the sector to embrace diversity in organic farming and processing, support each other in confronting the challenges of water availability and climate change and to not become too reductionist  when reviewing materials to be allowed in organic production and processing.

McEvoy, who took the helm at NOP in October 2009, has been working in the organic industry for 25 years. In 1988, he was the first organic inspector for the Washington State Department of Agriculture. Before that, he spent 10 years working on farms, in wild-capture fisheries and in reforestation. He holds a master’s degree in entomology from Cornell University.


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