You were able to attend Natural Products Expo West and the Organic Trade Association’s Organic Week. What stood out?
We’re beyond relieved that the Origin of Organic Livestock rule is out, people at both events were talking about the rise of regenerative agriculture and its scions. The ‘regenerative’ topic becomes a conversation about sustainability very quickly, and conventional agriculture is embracing ‘regen’ faster than organic is spreading the message that organic IS regenerative.
Why is this important?
The emphasis on climate concerns is giving an audience for ‘regenerative,’ and the organic sector isn’t well prepared for that opportunity. I think some of the appeal of ‘regenerative agriculture’ is that it’s a new, climate-friendly term that’s easy for an average consumer to feel good about. Typically, fresh ideas rule the day when a society is wanting to emerge from a difficult time. I do, however, have concerns that the general public will skip over organic products because they do not understand that organic farming is regenerative and does build healthy soil when done right. Organic agriculture has a powerful story to tell, but so far, we’ve failed to tell it successfully.
How can business people address this issue?
The Organic Trade Association’s dive into consumers’ trust of the organic label and competing single-issue labels are just a start. We need to step up conversation about the regenerative aspects of organic agriculture, both within the industry and with our end users. We can also advocate for more consistent focus on soil quality during the organic certification process and formal soil health requirements in the National Organic Program, much the same way we’ve advocated for improved rules about origin of livestock for organic dairies.
John Foster, Senior Associate, brings deep and broad experience in the organic sector and especially relishes working with clients’ innovative ideas and long-term strategic initiatives that benefit their business and the planet.
Organic Regulatory Updates
New rules for adding or transitioning dairy livestock on organic farms will go into effect June 6, 2022, and certified organic operations must comply with all provisions of this final rule by April 5, 2023. The much-anticipated rule, published in the Federal Register on April 5, clarifies how and when nonorganic dairy animals can be transitioned into organic production and helps level the playing field. In general, the rule:
- Allows a dairy livestock operation transitioning to organic, or starting a new organic farm, to transition non-organic animals one time.
- Prohibits organic dairies from sourcing any transitioned animals. Once certification is complete, an operation may only add animals that have been organically managed from the last third of gestation, although small businesses may request variances in certain specific situations.
Two final rules update the NOP’s National List
Effective March 30, 2022, a final rule addressing recommendations from previous National Organic Standards Board meetings removes:
- Vitamin B1 from organic crop production by March 15, 2023.
- Procaine from organic livestock production by March 15, 2023.
- 14 nonorganic ingredients (Alginic acid; Colors—black currant juice color, blueberry juice color, carrot juice color, cherry juice color, grape juice color, paprika color, pumpkin juice color, turmeric extract color; Kelp; Konjac flour; Sweet potato starch; Turkish bay leaves; and Whey protein concentrate) from organic handling by March 15, 2024.
- Sucrose octanoate esters for use in organic crops, and livestock production.
- Oxytocin for use in organic livestock production.
- Fatty alcohols as sucker control in organic tobacco
- Potassium hypochlorite to treat irrigation water used in organic crop production.
NOP asks for more input on organic farms and climate-smart agriculture
In response to the National Organic Standards Board’s letter to the Secretary of Agriculture concerning the administration’s climate-smart agriculture initiatives, the National Organic Program sent a to the NOSB to address questions about how organic agriculture exemplifies climate-smart agriculture. The request poses multiple questions in three topic areas—demonstrating the Organic Farming is Climate-Smart Agriculture; reinforcing the link between organic farmers and climate-smart agriculture; and connecting organic farmers to climate-smart programs—and asks NOSB to facilitate discussion on climate-smart agriculture. The memo also lists federal and other incentive and technical assistance programs open to organic operations.
Memo provides guidance during avian flu outbreaks
The National Organic Program highlighted a about temporary confinement of poultry when avian flu has been detected in the area. Temporary confinement may be appropriate under certain conditions, and part of preventative livestock health care practices. See 7 CFR 205.239(b) of the USDA organic regulations for more.
Get up to speed on compliance and enforcement
The Organic Integrity Learning Center’s free Advanced Compliance and Enforcement Topics course is now available and is especially designed to assist accredited certifiers with new resources, tips, and best practices to verify compliance with and enforce USDA organic regulations.
Newly approved Federal budget includes increases for NOP
President Biden signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022 March 15, increasing funding for the National Organic Program by $2 million, to a total of $20.3 million. Two other programs for organic operations also saw increases of $500,000 each, with the Organic Transition Research Program up to $7.5 million and the Organic Production and Market Data Initiative up to $1 million. The bill also directed USDA to restore certification cost-share reimbursement to 75 percent.
Three organic champions retiring from Congress
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture during the development of the 1990 farm bill and champion of the Organic Foods Production Act; Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), co-author of the OFPA with Leahy; and Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI), who founded the House Organic Caucus, have all announced that they will not be seeking re-election in 2022. More.
National Organic Standards Board meetings open to all
Listen via Zoom to the oral comment periods April 19 and 21, and to the National Organic Standards Board meeting April 26-28.
Organic wine a bright point for wine sales
Wine sales are flat or falling overall, but organic wine is showing strong growth in some key markets reports BeverageDaily.com. About 29 percent of consumers in Western Europe regularly buy organic wine, up from 17 percent in 2015. Furthermore, organic wine appeals to younger people, with 46 percent of those under 35 having consumed it compared to 38 percent of those over 55. Interest in organic wine is spurred by the perception that it is more environmentally friendly, healthier, and higher quality.
COTA calls for an organic program to unite government efforts
The Canada Organic Trade Association’s latest free report “State of Organics: Federal-Provincial-Territorial Performance Report 2021” offers a comprehensive overview of the current state of organic by region covering crop insurance, staffing, funding, market support, and more. Among other suggestions, the 63-page report recommends establishing a Canada Organic Program to unite government agencies and departments to support organic regulations enforcement, standards development, interpretation, market development, data and research, public education and extension services. There is also a call for improved data collection and establishing a National Organic Transition Program.
Comment on standards for organic insect production
IFOAM—Organics International seeks comments on its Standard for Organic Terrestrial Invertebrates Production by April 30. All stakeholders are invited to comment; IFOAM membership is not required.
Organic textile certification increases again
The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) now covers 12,338 certified facilities in 79 countries, a new record and up 19 percent from the previous year. Turkey had the biggest increase in certifications, up 61 percent to 1,799, followed by Italy (+53% to 894), Germany (+19% to 817), Portugal (+35% to 608), and France (+22% to 122). In the United States, California has the most GOTS certified companies at 32, up 33 percent. GOTS was founded 20 years ago.
Glyphosate contamination common in France
A study published recently in Environmental Science and Pollution Research examines glyphosate contamination in the population of France. Over 99 percent of urine samples from 6848 participants contained glyphosate. Lower glyphosate levels were associated with intake of organic food and filtered water. Higher levels were found in men and children; higher occupational exposures were present in farmers. Glyphosate was found in 53 percent of food samples, including 87.5 percent of breakfast cereals.
On March 7, the USDA announced that two genome-edited beef cattle and their offspring are low risk for marketing food and other products. The cattle were engineered to produce a short-hair coat using the CRISPR gene editing technique, and the trait can be passed to offspring. The short-hair coat is thought to make cattle better able to withstand heat. FDA does not expect farms or facilities, other than those owned or operated by the developer, that produce or breed the engineered cattle to register with the agency.
Inside the Beltway
EPA charges advisory committee to look at ag and climate change
The Environmental Protection Agency Administrator charged its Farm, Ranch, and Rural Communities Committee to consider how the EPA can best support the agriculture sector’s climate mitigation and adaptation goals. Topics may include manure management systems, strategies to reduce food waste, responses to changing pest pressure from climate change, water quality, management and reuse, and more.
EPA decision upholds ban on chlorpyrifos on food
The Environmental Protection Agency denied objections to its final rule revoking the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on foods. Previously, chlorpyrifos was used for a large variety of agricultural uses, including soybeans, fruit and nut trees, broccoli, cauliflower, and other row crops. It has been associated with potential neurodevelopmental effects in children. EPA will proceed with registration review for the remaining non-food uses, which may propose additional measures to reduce human health and ecological risks.
USDA set to increase meat processing capacity
The USDA is investing $1B to expand meat and poultry processing capacity.
Through the Meat and Poultry Processing Expansion Program (MPPEP), $150 million in grants of up to $25 million is available to help eligible processors expand their capacity. Sole proprietor businesses and other entities that engage or want to engage in meat and poultry processing can apply for funds to build, modernize or expand processing facilities; develop, install or modernize equipment; ensure packaging and labeling compliance; pay for voluntary grading service; offset costs of becoming an inspected facility; training and occupational safety; and more. Applications are due by May 11.
USDA to encourage domestic fertilizer production
USDA will make available $250 million through a new grant program this summer to support independent, innovative and sustainable American fertilizer production for American farmers. Additionally, to address growing competition concerns in the agricultural supply chain, USDA will launch a public inquiry seeking information regarding seeds and agricultural inputs, fertilizer, and retail markets. The United States is a major importer and dependent on foreign fertilizer and is the second or third top importer for each of the three major components of fertilizer. The program is designed to increase competition in a concentrated market and foster domestic production and jobs.
Local food directories website gets a makeover
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, in cooperation with Michigan State University, offers local food directories to help people find farmers markets, CSAs, food hubs, and more. Market managers can create an account to update listings, add photos, and more. The site is set to integrate with Google Maps and Apple Maps so shoppers can find nearby markets and farms.
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition publishes guide to federal programs for farmers
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) offers an updated Growing Opportunity: A Guide to USDA Sustainable Farming Programs. This free, comprehensive, practical guide is for farmers and ranchers who want to better understand which key federal programs offered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The guide includes detailed and concise program summaries, reference links, and key resources related to dozens of USDA programs that are designed to help farmers and ranchers start, maintain, and grow successful operations.
Did You Know?
Shoppers value organic agriculture attributes, but find single-attribute labels appealing
The Organic Trade Association recently commissioned a study from Edelman Data and Intelligence to examine consumer trust and understanding of the National Organic Program. In a survey of 7500 people from the United States, United Arab Emirates, Japan, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom, findings show that many may not understand the certification and inspection process. Although shoppers generally care about many elements of the organic standards, this lack of understanding limits trust in organic and opens the door to other labels with less comprehensive requirements, such as “all natural,” “hormone-free” and non-GMO.
Kale tops the list of ‘must be organic’ produce purchases
The Packer’s Organic Fresh Trends 2022 report reveals fresh fruits and vegetables where shoppers always choose organic. Kale and spinach top the list with 23 and 20 percent of shoppers, respectively, only purchasing the organic versions. Avocados moved up to the third position (from the twelfth position last year), with 16 percent of shoppers buying organic ones exclusively. Organic salad mixes lost ground, with 10 percent of shoppers, down from 12 percent, choosing them exclusively. Kale also topped the list of produce items that shoppers periodically purchase as organic, with 48 percent of buyers choosing organic kale at least some of the time.
Price gap between organic and non-organic food narrows
Based on analysis of 1500 organic products conducted by DataWeave, Axios reports that the price gap between some organic and conventional foods is shrinking. This positive change is especially noticeable with produce and private label products. For example, organic apples were 33 cents per pound more in January 2022, down from 43 cents per pound more the previous year. The shrinking gap is attributed in part due to higher inflation for non-organic products and a more resilient organic supply chain.
Young consumers show concern for the environment
A report from Credit Suisse Research Institute (CSRI) examined young consumers interest and engagement in sustainability. After looking at responses from 10,000 consumers aged 16-40 in ten countries, the report found that engagement around sustainability was higher for those living in emerging economies. The survey results point to a high level of anxiety in relation to sustainability, with 65-90 percent of consumers in all 10 countries concerned or very concerned about the environment. Switching to a more sustainable diet, especially reducing consumption of fast food and meat, and reducing consumption of fast fashion, stood out for young consumers.
Organic Industry News & Notices
In partnership with Kitchen Table Consultants (KTC) and with support from The GIANT Company, Rodale Institute intends to create a portfolio of five comprehensive economic case studies of the agronomic and financial impacts of transitioning to certified organic farm management. Proposed operations cut across a range of categories and include commodity grain, wholesale vegetables, dairy, livestock and orchard operations. Results of the studies will start being presented in fall 2022.
New CEO Tom Chapman to lead Organic Trade Association
Starting April 18, Tom Chapman will serve as the next Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association. Most recently, Chapman served as Senior Director, Supply Chain at Kinder’s Sauce and Seasoning. Before that, he worked with Clif Bar and Quality Assurance International. Chapman has also served as a board member with Mercaris and California Certified Organic Farmers and as National Organic Standards Board Chair from 2015-2020. He succeeds Laura Batcha, who has headed OTA for the past nine years. Welcome, and congratulations!
Leadership changes at The Organic Center
The Organic Center has a new Director of Science Programs, as Dr. Amber Sciligo has been promoted to the position formerly held by Jessica Shade, who has been hired as National Program Leader for the USDA’s Institute of Food and Agriculture. Dr. Sciligo has been instrumental in supporting the Center’s project implementation and has successfully lead TOC’s grant-writing program.
Wolf & Associates client featured in Organic Produce Network article
BioSafe Systems, a biopesticide company owned by Rob Larose, is featured on the Organic Produce Network website. A leader in nontoxic products for crops, water treatment, soil regeneration, food safety, and animal operations, BioSafe Systems has been a Wolf & Associates client for 10 years.
What’s OMRI’s future?
The Organic Materials Review Institute Spring 2022 newsletter takes a look at its history and the path ahead in an article that features many of its founders, including W&A’s Bill Wolf.