Two wrongs don’t make a right: state and private organic certification in New Zealand dairy
The global agrifood system is governed by a wide array of organic labels, certifications, and standards. Many of these labels are private, third-party certifications rather than strictly governmental standards; even many national organic standards such as the United States Department of Agriculture National Organic Program (USDA NOP) are actually a hybridization of state-led and private regulatory schemes. Both state-led and private agricultural regulations raise concerns over their relevance to local environments, consistent and transparent application, and extent of democratic stakeholder involvement. This study compares two organic regulations—the USDA NOP and Demeter International—in New Zealand’s dairy industry on these key issues of relevance, consistency, transparency, and democracy. I find that the hybrid state/private regulation of the USDA NOP has replicated weaknesses of both state and private regulatory models: the monolithic and hegemonic nature of state regulation has combined with the lack of consistency, transparency, and democracy of private regulation. By comparison, Demeter International certification uses an international equivalency program to increase democratic stakeholder involvement from farmers and relevance to local environments, but has not fully addressed concerns of consistency and transparency associated with private regulations. By focusing on both the structural aspects of neoliberal regulations and farmers’ and processors’ lived experience of these disparate regulations, this research expands existing theories of neoliberalization to address the diversity of regulation.
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