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August 2021 News & Policy Updates for the Organic Industry

“Hope will never be silent.”  ~Harvey Milk

President’s Message

To provide the superior service our clients deserve, Wolf & Associates draws upon our deep roots in the organic community to customize a team of experts with an unparalleled depth of knowledge. These team members—including Katherine DiMatteo, Fred Ehlert, Katrina Heinze, and Kelly Monaghan—share the Wolf & Associates vision of growing organic together. We appreciate their insights and expertise in addressing the challenges today’s businesses and organizations face.  You can learn more about these associates on our updated website. And stay tuned for info on more organic specialists who are on our team to help you.

We’ll continue encouraging the National Organic Standards Board to focus on what’s important—encouraging organic production— even as this month’s National List renewals continue allowing non-organic wakame and kombu seaweeds in organic products despite the availability of organic wakame and kombu. As such, public comments remain an important tool, and we encourage you to keep participating.

I want to highlight some good news. A new report by Chuck Benbrook, and his research partners Susan Kegley, and Brian Baker brings science to bear on what our intuition has been telling us for years—converting more US cropland to organic agriculture will lead to substantial public health gains. Based on their comparisons of pesticide use in organic farms and nearby non-organic farms growing the same crops, the percent cropland that could improve public health through switching to organic is surprisingly small. Converting just 1.2 percent of US cropland could dramatically reduce pesticide dietary exposure and risk. That’s more than enough reason for me to keep working to encourage organic agriculture here and around the world.

I hope you’ll join me in that endeavor.

Bill Wolf
Wolf & Associates

Regulatory Updates


National list changes
Following review, public input and discussion by the National Organic Standards Board, the National Organic Program has updated the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. Effective July 26, 2021, the following substances are now allowed for use in organic agriculture:

  • Oxalic acid as a pesticide for use in apiculture.
  • Nonorganic pullulan for use in dietary supplements with “made with organic” claims (capsules and tablets).
  • Collagen gel as a casing for organic products like sausages.

See the final rule.
National List renewals published in Federal Register
Following the National Organic Standards Board reviews of substances on the National List, the USDA has published a Federal Register notice listing the results of the 2021 and 2022 Sunset Reviews. Every material on the list is reviewed at least every five years to determine if it is still compatible with organic agriculture. The new sunset dates for the substances in this notice are either September 12, 2026, or March 15, 2027. Pacific kombu and wakame seaweed are among the items with continued listing in § 205.606 Non-organically produced agricultural products allowed as ingredients in or on processed products labeled as “organic.”

Quarterly enforcement report now available
In the 12 months from July 2020 to June 2021, the National Organic Program closed 449 cases in enforcing US organic requirements. The most common outcome of cases was voluntary compliance (47%), followed by a finding of no violation (22%). Three percent of cases resulted in settlement, civil penalty or appeal. As of June 30, 2021, the National Organic Program has 455 cases in progress, with 63% based on allegations, complaints or observation of uncertified operations making organic claims. More.

New organic learning center courses
The National Organic Program’s Organic Integrity Leaning Center has a new course on “Conducting Yield Analysis” plus a new series of quick, 15-minute ’microlearning’ classes on a range of topics of interest to organic stakeholders on the job. Topics include understanding the public comment process, reviewing the ins and outs of adverse actions, learning critical inspection skills and more. Classes are free and available online.


OMRI updated its Canada Standards Manual
The majority of revisions to the Organic Materials Review Institute’s OMRI Canada Standards Manual are the result updates to the Canada Organic regulations from December 2020. Download a PDF of the revised OMRI Canada Standards Manual from the OMRI Lists page.

News & Notices

Comment on ways to advance racial justice at USDA
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is requesting input from the public on how it can advance racial justice and equity for underserved communities. USDA seeks to identify barriers that people of color and underserved communities and individuals may face in accessing, enrolling, and participating in USDA programs and services, and engaging with USDA staff. Comment by August 14 on docket number USDA-2021-0006.
FTC codifies penalties for breaking ‘Made in USA’ rules
In a final rule published July 14, The Federal Trade Commission may now seek civil penalties of up to $43,280 for each violation of its ‘Made in the USA’ labeling and advertising rules. Violators have not had to face civil penalties before. According to the rules, labeling any product as ‘Made in the United States’ is deceptive unless the final assembly or processing of the product occurs in the US, all significant processing that goes into the product occurs in the US and all or virtually all ingredients or components of the product are made and sourced in the US.
Congress moves climate change initiatives forward
On June 30, House Agriculture Appropriators advanced a $26.6 billion spending bill including over $347 million directly aimed at addressing climate change and how it affects US farmers and rural communities. Funding covers new USDA initiatives on climate change research and assessment; measurement and monitoring; greenhouse gas emissions mitigation; carbon sequestration; and clean energy technologies. In addition, the bill includes over $30 million for the Rural Energy for America Program, to provide loans and grants to assist farmers, ranchers and small businesses in making energy improvements. More.
Meanwhile, on June 24 the Senate passed by a vote of 92 to 8 the Growing Climate Solutions Act. The Act seeks to ease access to carbon markets, so farmers, ranchers and foresters can get credit for practices that offset carbon emissions.
In addition, bills in both the House and the Senate would offer significant improvements to the Rural Energy for America Program, including integrating greenhouse gas reduction into the program’s mission; expanding program eligibility to include agricultural producer cooperatives and rural electric cooperatives; increasing available cost share for REAP grants; establishing a study on dual use of farmland for both energy production and traditional farming; and increasing funding levels to an average of $250 million per year over 10 years. More.
House Republicans caucus on climate
Spearheaded by Utah Representative John Curtis, the House now has a Conservative Climate Caucus with 65 members. The group believes, among other things, that the climate is changing, reducing emissions is the goal, and private sector innovation and the free market are keys to practical and exportable answers to a global problem. The group includes House Organic Caucus members Representatives Newhouse (R-OR), Valadao (R-CA), Fortenberry (R-NE), and Thompson (R-PA). More.
International consumer research shows sustainability is a ‘must have’
Irish ingredient supplier Kerry surveyed more than 14,000 consumers in 18 countries to understand their expectations of sustainability in the food industry, and found that 49 percent of shoppers now consider sustainability when buying food and beverages. Furthermore, sustainability is a ‘must-have’ for consumers, and not a differentiator. Sustainable packaging and environmental preservation, for example, are now considered standard, and sustainably sourced products, food waste reduction, personal health and nutrition, and label claims such as ‘organic,’ ‘locally sourced,’  and ‘no artificial ingredients’ are all relevant. Although 84 percent of shoppers believe everyone can contribute to sustainability, three in four consumers feel the primary responsibility for change lies with industry. More.
Maine will require manufacturers to pay for packaging waste
Maine is the first state in the nation to require producers of packaged consumers goods sold in the state to pay to maintain and expand municipal recycling programs. The Extended Producer Responsibility bill will require brand owners to pay fees, set by the Department of Environmental Protection, on packaging materials. The fee schedule will include financial incentives for recyclable packaging. There are exemptions for those companies that create less than one ton of waste per year, or makes under $2 million in gross revenue per year. 
You’ll reduce dietary pesticide risks by choosing organic, confirms new study
A new report published in the peer-reviewed journal Agronomy shows organic farming systems reduce risks from pesticide use and the risks stemming from pesticide residues on food. “Organic Farming Lessens Reliance on Pesticides and Promotes Public Health by Lowering Dietary Risks” by the Heartland Health Research Alliance’s Executive Director Chuck Benbrook, and research partners Susan Kegley and Brian Baker provides detailed comparisons of pesticide use on organic farms and nearby non-organic farms growing the same crop. Along with the comparisons, the report provides an assessment of dietary risks of the pesticides used in each farming system. Researchers found that converting the 1.2% of US cropland growing fruits and vegetables to organic production would dramatically reduce pesticide dietary exposures and risk. Of the over 1200 pesticide active ingredients approved for use on farms in the United States, only 91 are allowed for use on organic farms. Many of these are common household products, such as rubbing alcohol, soap, vinegar, and clove oil. More.
Climate Collaborative names new Executive Director
Courtney Pineau will take the helm of the Climate Collaborate as its new Executive Director in September.  Pineau joins the Climate Collaborative from Green America’s Center for Sustainable Solutions where she led their Climate and Agriculture Networks. She will oversee the Collaborative’s work in nine key areas including climate policy, regenerative agriculture, packaging, and food waste, and will also be responsible for working with the climate justice community.

GMO News

Which GMO changes should be regulated? APHIS wants to know
The US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service seeks comment on a proposal regarding whether or not three types of genetic modifications to plants should be regulated.
The three plant modifications for comment are:

  1. the same or distinct loss of function mutations in the paternal and maternal alleles of a single gene resulting from repair of a targeted DNA break in the same location on two homologous chromosomes in the absence of a repair template;
  2. a contiguous deletion or any size generated using an externally provided repair template, on one or two homologous chromosomes; and
  3. a change resulting from repair of two targeted double strand breaks on a chromosome, or at the same location on two homologous chromosomes, when the repair results in a contiguous deletion of any size in the presence or absence of a repair template, or in a contiguous deletion of any size combined with an insertion of DNA in the absence of a repair template,.

Submit comments on “APHIS-2020-0072” by August 18, 2021 at

Philippines becomes first country to allow  ‘golden rice’ production
The Philippines approved commercial production of ‘golden rice’ which is genetically engineered to have the vitamin A precursor beta-carotene. Seeds are expected to be available in limited quantities next year. This is the first genetically modified rice for commercial production in South and Southeast Asia. More.

Analysis of studies on glyphosate’s genotoxicity reveals scientific shortcomings
The bulk of the studies used to support the claim that glyphosate is not carcinogenic do not meet current international guidelines for chemical testing, according to a new analysis of 53 studies companies submitted to regulators. Armen Nersesyan and Siegfried Knasmueller, both from the Institute of Cancer Research, Department of Medicine at the Medical University of Vienna, conducted the analysis on behalf of the consumer advocacy group SumOfUs. More.

Mexico to eliminate glyphosate and GMO corn by 2024
A presidential decree signed December 31, 2020 would eliminate the use of glyphosate and ban GMO corn by January 31, 2024. The government intends to encourage sustainable and culturally appropriate low-toxicity alternatives to glyphosate, including biological or organic products and agricultural practices that are safe for human health, the biocultural diversity of the country and the environment. A recent article in the The Counter examines how that change could foster an improved Mexican agricultural economy, reduce the number of its citizens who seek jobs in the United States, and protect the biodiversity of the world’s largest, most diverse genetic resource for corn.