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December 2020 News & Policy Updates for the Organic Industry

“But I’ll tell you what hermits realize. If you go off into a far, far forest and get very quiet, you’ll come to understand that you’re connected with everything.”  ~Alan Watts

President’s Message

We will soon be putting 2020 in the rear-view mirror and looking to a new year. I am optimistic that we will be putting both the pandemic and the dangerous extreme social and political rhetoric and action behind us and ushering in a new era of progressive headway in sustainable and organic systems.
2020 has been especially dramatic – disruptive for most of the organic industry, yet highlighting our resiliency.
The Good –

  • Successful supply-chain strengths and unprecedented growth in sales in almost all retail categories;   

The Bad  — 

  • Continuing withdrawal of progressive regulations that had taken years establish;
  • In a year with change in 11 of 15 National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) seats, no face-to-face meetings of the board;
  • Loss of nearly the entire food service sector, which had offered huge organic sales growth potential;

The Ugly –

  • Society’s nearly total abandonment of any political efforts to work collaboratively for consensus on important issues infiltrates the NOSB decision making process;

The Sad – Loss of pioneers and loved ones without being able to gather for memorials.

  • I mourn the loss of a colleague and old friend, Jack Lazor, who truly broke new ground with organic dairy practices and on-farm value-add processing;
  • We all lost the amazing guiding light Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Lewis, a strong organic advocate who I had the honor of meeting on my last trip to DC before the pandemic. 

2021 is looking brighter for all of us. We will likely have a more supportive USDA and an administration interested in the role of organic farming in addressing climate change and rural and social justice. 
If all goes well, we will be able to return to some hugging and direct social contact that is so important to human emotional and physical health.

We hope that you enjoy a joyous and healthy holiday season and a successful new year. I look forward to seeing you both virtually and in person in 2021.

Bill Wolf
Wolf & Associates

Regulatory Updates


California issues stop use notice on Agro Gold WS fertilizer
As of December 4, California operations must IMMEDIATELY discontinue the use of Agro Gold WS fertilizer on land registered as organic. Sale and use of this product thus poses a public health risk because the product was found to contain herbicides not disclosed on its label, specifically Diquat and Glyphosate, which are both prohibited for use in organic agriculture. Registered organic operations in possession of AGRO GOLD WS must hold the product and contact the Fertilizing Materials Inspection Program at Growers may need to update their Organic System Plans (OSP) to reflect the discontinued use of this product. More.
Stop EPA overreach on regulating natural fertilizers
Comment on draft guidance by December 30
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published revised draft guidance entitled “Guidance for Plant Regulator Label Claims, Including Plant Biostimulants”. EPA is considering some plant biostimulants as plant regulators, which must be registered as pesticides according to Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act  (FIFRA) requirements. As written, the EPA guidance would cause barriers to sale of organic fertilizers that contain seaweed and humic acid. As a result, organic producers are likely to lose valuable tools for their farms, as the costs of complying with the guidance will drive environmentally sound and useful products off the market. Support organic farms by telling the EPA to change the draft guidance to honor the long history of use of these naturally-derived products and protect the options for organic farmers.
Comments close December 30, 2020. Comment today on docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2018-0258. Contact us for more information, including sample talking points for your comment.
NOP seeks accreditation managers
The National Organic Program is hiring Remote Accreditation Managers to join its Accreditation Division and serve as primary contact for several USDA-accredited certifiers. Selected candidates will:

  • Conduct quality system and regulatory compliance assessments of certifiers;
  • Provide technical expertise to certifiers;
  • Participate in complex investigations of alleged program violations;
  • Present training to certifiers, inspectors, auditors and others; and
  • Conduct a variety of activities to ensure effective certifier control systems.

Applications accepted until December 14, or until 75 applications have been submitted.  Apply for Announcement Number DE-10981098-20-NO via
Court grants OTA request for new briefing schedule in animal welfare rules lawsuit
The Organic Trade Association requested a reset in the briefing schedule in its lawsuit on the government’s withdrawal of Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) final regulations. The lawsuit against the USDA over its failure to implement final organic animal welfare rules is reaching its final stages, and putting the final briefings after the inauguration would give the incoming administration an opportunity to avoid defending the outgoing administration’s arguments. Under the new schedule, the timeline for further legal filings now runs from Feb 19, 2021, through May 4, 2021, which is the deadline for a final filing by USDA. More.
President-elect Biden taps Vilsack for Secretary of Agriculture
Tom Vilsack, former Iowa governor who served as Secretary of Agriculture for eight years under President Obama, is President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for secretary of agriculture. According to the Associated Press, Biden sought someone experienced who would be ready to run the department from day one. Kathleen Merrigan, former Deputy Secretary of Agriculture during the Obama administration who was instrumental in writing the 1990 Organic Foods Production Act while a professional staff member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, was reported to be on Biden’s short list for the position.


Brexit-related organic trade issues between EU and UK get a temporary fix
The United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union has led to some challenges for trade in organic products. As a temporary solution, the UK will continue to recognize the European Union for trade in organic products until the end of 2021. Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) has recognized United Kingdom control bodies for the purpose of exporting organic products to the EU until December 31, 2021. Food and feed certified as organic in England, Scotland and Wales (Great Britain) will continue to be accepted as organic in the EU until December 31, 2021; Great Britain will require a new import certificate beginning Jan 1, 2021.  More.

News & Notices

Comment on OMRI Canada Standards Manual
The Organic Materials Review Institute is revising its Canada Standards Manual, which covers the review of products intended for use in Canadian certified organic production or processing, and invites comments from stakeholders. The revisions will include changes based on updates to Canada’s organic standards and permitted substances list. Submit a comment form by January 8, 2021 to provide specific suggestions for change.
Updated OMRI Mexico Standards Manual now available
Organic Materials Review Institute has revised its OMRI Mexico Standards Manual for reviewing products intended for use in Mexico certified organic production or processing. These revisions align OMRI’s standards with Mexico’s June 8, 2020 update to its Guidelines for the Organic Operation of the Agricultural and Livestock Activities. These revisions will implement on December 8, 2020. OMRI will be conducting Limited Re-Reviews of listed products in the revised categories, and affected suppliers will be notified within 60 days of implementation. More information about the Limited Re-Review process is provided in §2.10.1 of the OMRI Policy Manual.
Researchers to test efficacy of mustard seed meal extract as weed control
Thanks in part to a grant from Organic Farming Research Foundation and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, researchers at the University of Idaho will test the efficacy of mustard seed meal extract (MSME) for inhibiting weed seed germination (pre-emergent) and killing aboveground weed growth (post-emergent) while also determining the influence of the extract on the soil microbiome. Using mustard seed meal on-farm has been challenging due to the high quantities needed to be effective as a biopesticide, but an extract of white mustard seed meal developed at the university offers to potential for reduced application rates that will avoid excess nitrogen in the soil. Additional objectives of the research include evaluating the influence of MSME on the nutritional quality of potatoes and assessing the efficacy of MSME on common annual broadleaf and grass weed species under greenhouse conditions. Results of all research funded by the Organic Farming Research Foundation are available online.
Five Midwest farm conferences combine for new virtual event
Organizers of the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) Organic Farming Conference, the Midwest Organic Pork Conference, the Organic Vegetable Production Conference, the GrassWorks Grazing Conference, and the Organic Grain Resource and Information Network (OGRAIN) Winter Conference will combine their efforts to produce Growing Stronger: Collaborative Conference on Organic and Sustainable Farming. Taking place entirely online, the event will run February 22-27, 2021, and attendees will have access to recorded sessions for 90 days after the event. Early bird registration before December 31, 2020 is $100, a savings of $25, and scholarships are available. More.
Pioneering dairyman Jack Lazor passed away at age 69
Jack Lazor, who co-founded Butterworks Farm in Westfield, Vermont with his wife Anne, died in his home on November 28. The couple was inducted into the Vermont Agricultural Hall of Fame with a lifetime achievement award in 2019 for organic yogurt production, land stewardship and organic agriculture advocacy. Well known for sharing his expertise with other farmers, Lazor taught organic agriculture at the University of Vermont and wrote the comprehensive book The Organic Grain Grower: Small-Scale, Holistic Grain Production for the Home and Market Producer. He was renowned for his breakthrough on-farm yogurt products, pioneering farm practices, and most of all, his kindness and generous spirit. Donations in his memory will support an Abenaki Nation food sovereignty project.
Wolf & Associates joins climate action initiative
As part of the Climate Collaborative’s  ‘We Are Still In’ campaign to combat climate change, Wolf & Associates has called on the incoming administration and other federal policymakers to take action to address the climate crisis. Among the steps that would drive economic growth and expand US leadership are rejoining the Paris Agreement on climate change; commit to net zero emissions by 2050 or sooner; and undertaking actions to achieve a 100 percent clean power sector. Over 1400 cities, states, businesses, tribal nations, educational institutions, and cultural organizations have joined the campaign. More.

GMO News

EPA evaluation shows glyphosate can adversely affect endangered species
A draft of an Environmental Protection Service biological evaluation of glyphosate, one of the most widely used herbicides in the United States, shows that it is likely to adversely affect a significant percent of endangered species and critical habitats. Biological evaluations are the beginning of EPA’s Endangered Species Act consultation review process for pesticides, and results could lead to a change in the terms of the pesticide registration to limit its use. The draft report is available online, and EPA is accepting comments on it (Docket number EPA-HQ-OPP-2020-0585) at until January 26, 2021.