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Added January 22, 2013
In a move that has drawn praise from producers, consumers and environmentalist alike, the U.S. Department of Agriculture appointed environmentalist and farmer Francis Thicke, Ph.D. to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) on January 15, 2013, adding the valuable perspective of a working farmer, scientist and activist to this 15-member advisory Board. Francis and Susan Thicke own and operate Radiance Dairy, a grass-based organic farm in southeast Iowa that follows ecological principles in the management of farmland & livestock, the utilization of renewable energy systems for their home and farm, and the production and marketing of their value added dairy products. The Thickes have been farming organically since 1975, got certified in 1992, and moved to a new farm in 1996 changing it from a crop farm (corn and soybeans) to a grass based enterprise. The Thickes restored the hilly fields toproductive pasture, and planted the tillable land to perennial grasses and legumes.
Prior to establishing his current organic dairy farm, Francis earned a Ph.D. in soil fertility and has served as a National Program Leader for Soil Science for the USDA Extension Service in Washington, D.C.; he authored a book, titled ‘A New Vision for Iowa Food and Agriculture’; ran for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture in 2010; on the board for the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF); he has been active in many environmental organizations including the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission, the Leopold Group Sierra Club in Southeast Iowa, the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission, and Food Democracy Now and was keynote speaker at the 2011 NODPA Field Days, and at the 2011 Acres USA Conference and Trade Show. He was named the 2012 Farmer of the Year by the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, and is a current member of the Cornucopia Institute’s Policy Advisory Panel.
Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan noted that “Dr. Thicke brings a wealth of knowledge of the environmental attributes and is a valuable addition to the NOSB as it carries out its duties.”
When asked in an interview with the Lisa McCrory, NODPA News editor, what he thought the organic dairy industry needs to address in order to better serve organic livestock producers, Francis said, “I think we need a concerted research effort focused on organic livestock health. There are lots of practices and products used by organic livestock producers for which we have little or no verification of efficacy. I would like to see researchers team up with organic farmers to verify what works best. I also think that organic livestock producers need to continue sharing their new innovations with each other and with researchers, because most innovations in organic farming come from the farm level.”