Sustainable Farming Advocate Fired by USDA National Organic Program


Sustainable Advocate Mark Keating Out in the Cold

by Kimberly Hartke, Publicist, Weston A. Price Foundation

Mark Keating is highly thought of by the sustainable agriculture community, so much so, that he gave the closing address to over 1200 farmers and consumers assembled at the international Wise Traditions Conference, sponsored by the Weston A. Price Foundation this past November. After experiencing the high of hearty approbation, Mark returned home to a strong rebuke by the USDA National Organic Program and an end to his position as an advisor to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). It seems his efforts to encourage true organic practices in agriculture have met with disapproval, again.

This is not the first time Mark has been unceremoniously dismissed from public service. The last time, he was given the heave because he dared to advocate that organic standards should specify pasture for chickens. This time, he ran afoul of the bureaucracy by speaking up on animal welfare standards for livestock. His politically incorrect views being sanctioned during an administration that promises open and frank scientific dialog is troubling to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

The watchdog group has taken up Mark’s cause and issued a letter to the agency responsible to try and reverse his firing. They also issued a press release calling the Federal government out on the chilling effect of its attempt to silence a minority viewpoint.

His absence from the NOSB deliberations also will freeze out the interests of a growing sector of local, direct trading farms. Mark’s concern that organic standards contribute to the health of the soil and the animals is a valid issue that needs to be part of the discussions of America’s food policy. The emerging small, traditional mixed use farms are based on these ideals and to leave them out of policy decisions is a big oversight. Plus it contravenes the will of the citizens who are electing to support such farms with their food buying dollars.

The only way for the burgeoning local foods producers to have a voice is for the bureaucracy to make sure alternative voices are represented, and unfettered brainstorming in the decision making process.

What You Can Do

PEER is asking for concerned citizens to call and ask for Mark Keating to be reinstated in his position. Here is their press release,  USDA FIRES EMPLOYEE FOR EXPRESSING PERSONAL OPINION which contains links to the relevant documents.

See also the Action Alert on the Weston A. Price Foundation website: Help Urgently Needed, Call USDA Today

Call Mr. Miles McEvoy, Deputy Administrator of the USDA National Organic Program at (202) 720-3252.

Kimberly Hartke blogs about the local foods movement at Hartke is Online! She is the publicist for nutrition education non-profit, the Weston A. Price Foundation.

This post is part of the Fight Back Friday blog carnival. See more food activist stories on Food Renegade blog.


  1. This is crazy!

  2. Kelly Mahaffy says:

    I met Mark while touring the USDA office with a group of fellow Organic Valley young farmers, and he was a breath of fresh air in that group of Federal Employees. We had a great discussion about the WAPF and healthy fats! I was truly shocked to find someone like that in a government position, but relieved to know that we had an ally on the inside! This is very unfortunate, we really need more people like him in influential offices!!

  3. This is disgusting. We have exactly one adviser for that board who supports real food and they fire him?

    They should purge the National Organic Standards Board of the industry hacks and appoint people like Mark.

  4. Kathleen O'Donnell says:

    I just called Mr. McEvoy. He is out on leave, will be in tomorrow, Wednesday from 9 to 12 eastern time.

  5. Robert burns says:

    I think for those of us who still feel good people,and honesty can keep Government on a straight path need to ask ourselves if there is any Justice, or possibility of dialogue, in the wake of over 1,000 Monsanto related farmer suicides in India,and Monsanto’s purchase of BLACKWATER…we had better get ready for the Real storm….and it aint about “dialogue” it is on it’s way in force, and i hope folks are preparing for it.

  6. Why is this just now news? The dismissal letter said he was fired over a month ago. Am I missing something?

  7. Kimberly Hartke says:

    Hi Ben,

    I drafted this story last month, but was asked to hold it until after the holidays. A trade newspaper published the story last month, but it was not available to the public.

  8. We definitely need more like minded people like this man here who are willing to put their professional jobs on the line to bravely stand up for our natural rights as human beings to real food. Thanks for posting this Kimberly!

  9. So you’re saying this guy was fired, but nobody knew about it until the last week or two? If so, why’d it take so long to find out? I imagine that this guy’s friends, families, and colleagues knew about it. Now I’m curious. It just seems odd to get everyone to call up the USDA right now to complain about a firing that happened in November! The guy might even have another job by now.

  10. Kimberly Hartke says:

    Ben, Mark Keating, the subject of the article is still working to get his job back. He was the one who suggested I wait to write about the case after the holidays.

    By the way, a press release did go out on December 13th from PEER.

    Here is an article just done yesterday:

  11. Here is another article about Mark Keating’s case on Jeff Deasy’s blog.

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