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December 2021 News & Policy Updates for the Organic Industry

“Growth is a spiral process, doubling back on itself, reassessing and regrouping.”  ~Julia Margaret Cameron

President’s Message

With supply and capacity constraints, shifting market demand, and ongoing pandemic uncertainty, the last two years have certainly tested the organic community. For the most part, we have risen to the challenges. Our Senior Associate John Foster recently attended the Organic Grower Summit, a two-day conference and tradeshow sponsored by the Organic Produce Network and Western Growers. Even as all agriculture sectors face daunting challenges, he noted that the organic produce sector has kept its vibrant and dynamic nature. Old friends and new debated, deliberated, disagreed, and shared ideas. John experienced more optimism, colleagueship, and willingness to collaborate than he’s seen in over a decade of attending the Summit, leaving him feeling hopeful and inspired. That’s what can happen when people dedicate themselves to organic growth with integrity. We have much to be grateful for during this holiday season. With thanks and appreciation for all that you and yours do to help improve our society, our planet, and our lives.

Bill Wolf
President 
Wolf & Associates

Regulatory Updates

UNITED STATES

Pandemic relief includes additional funding for organic certification
As part of USDA’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative, a new program will make $20 million available to cover organic certification and education expenses. Certified operations and transitional operations may apply for the Organic and Transitional Education and Certification Program (OTECP) to cover eligible expenses paid during the 2020, 2021 and 2022 fiscal years.

The program is in addition to USDA’s Organic Certification Cost Share Program (OCCSP), which covers up to 50 percent of certification costs. OTECP covers 25% of a certified operation’s eligible certification expenses, up to $250 per certification category (crop, livestock, wild crop, handling and State Organic Program fee) for each year. This includes application fees, inspection fees, USDA organic certification costs, state organic program fees and more.

Crop and livestock operations transitioning to organic production may be eligible for 75% of a transitional operation’s eligible expenses, up to $750, for each year. This includes fees for pre-certification inspections and development of an organic system plan.

For both certified operations and transitional operations, OTECP covers 75% of the registration fees, up to $200, per year, for educational events that include content related to organic production and handling. Additionally, both certified and transitional operations may be eligible for 75% up to $100 of the expense of soil testing required under the National Organic Program (NOP) to document micronutrient deficiency.

Apply for 2020 and 2021 OTECP funds by Jan. 7, 2022 through the local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office. Details.

Risk Management Agency’s changes favor sustainable methods
Under new provisions from USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) to encourage use of cover crops, producers can hay, graze, or chop cover crops for silage, haylage, or baleage at any time and still receive 100% of the prevented planting payment. Previously, cover crops could only be hayed, grazed or chopped after Nov. 1. RMA is also increasing flexibility related to the prevented planting “1 in 4” requirement, as well as aligning crop insurance definitions with USDA’s National Organic Program.

Updates to the Whole-Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP), include increasing farm operation growth limits for organic producers to the higher of $500,000 or 35% over the five-year average allowable income and allowing a producer to report acreage as certified organic, or as acreage in transition to organic, when the producer has requested an organic certification by the acreage reporting date. In addition, RMA offers a new Micro Farm policy through WFRP that specifically targets coverage for small, diversified farmers, including organic growers. More.

New course in International Trade Arrangements
The National Organic Program Organic Integrity Learning Center now offers a course in International Organic Trade Arrangements. Learn about organic equivalence arrangements and trade requirements in this free course. The Learning Center also offers a 15-minute refresher on organic trade called Organic Trade and Equivalence Arrangements in course NOP-997.

California’s environment chief lauds shifting to organic ag
According to Agri-Pulse.com, California Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Jared Blumenfeld would like to see 75 percent of farms in California switch to organic methods by 2050. The idea was floated as one example of a goal recommendation that could come from a new sustainable pest management work group in the state. More.

WORLDWIDE

Reminder: New import regulations in Mexico in effect January 1
USDA is working to clarify requirements for importing organic products to Mexico under their new rules. Beginning January 1, 2022, a control document/transaction certificate issued by a National Agro-Alimentary Health, Safety and Quality Service (SENASICA) approved certifier and a Mexican Organic Products Law (LPO) organic certificate must accompany organic imports to Mexico. Notes from the Organic Trade Association’s Mexico Task force and a recent USDA GAIN report indicate that:

  • Raw materials or processed products with a long shelf life that are imported legally into Mexico before January 1, 2022 can continue to be sold, but sellers must have adequate documentation to demonstrate that lots on sale were imported before January deadline.
  • Beginning January 1, 2022, SENASICA will implement a new protocol for organic imports at the port of entry. If organic imports are reviewed and found to be noncompliant, SENASICA will not stop the product. Instead, it will mark the transaction certificate to indicate noncompliant product and will notify the importer that the product cannot be sold as organic in Mexico.

Germany steps up the shift to sustainable agriculture
Germany’s new coalition government intends to accelerate a shift to sustainable agriculture and food systems, with 30 percent organic agriculture by 2030.  The government intends to provide financial support to help farmers transition to organic agriculture.  Other actions could include introducing a compulsory animal welfare label starting 2022, taking glyphosate off the market by 2024, reducing herbicide use, and fostering plant-based and other alternatives to meat production. In addition, the coalition will optimize the Nutri-Score nutrition labels and intends to reduce food waste and encourage healthier diets by restricting advertising to children under 14 for products with high sugar, fat and salt content. More.

Organic certification in India faces challenges
Organic recertification efforts in India face some challenges, especially for clients of five certification organizations that were recently blacklisted by the European Union for failing to meet regulatory standards. The Indian Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) issued a year-long suspension of OneCert International, and stopped CU Inspections India Pvt Ltd, ECOCERT India Pvt Ltd, Indian Organic Certification Agency, Aditi Organic Certifications Pvt Ltd from registering new processors or organic product exporters. The US National Organic Program requires that organic operations in India wishing to sell in the United States recertify through a NOP-recognized program by July 12, 2022. More.

News & Notices

FDA proposes new water regs as part of Food Safety Modernization Act
As part of the Produce Safety Rule that implements the Food Safety Modernization Act, the Food and Drug Administration is proposing updated rules for water used to grow produce.

Key provisions in the proposed rule include:

  • A requirement for farms to manage their agricultural water quality based on the results of a comprehensive systems assessment
  • An annual assessment of farms’ pre-harvest agricultural water to identify conditions likely to introduce hazards into produce or food contact surfaces.
  • A requirement that farms implement expedited mitigation measures for hazards related to activities associated with adjacent and nearby lands, such as the presence of livestock, to protect water used on produce.
  • The removal of certain testing requirements for pre-harvest agricultural water and replacing them with the agricultural water assessments identified above.

The agency will hold two virtual public meetings on the proposed rule, to be announced in a Federal Register notice.

In addition, the agency is also developing an online tool to assist growers in understanding agricultural water assessments. Because agricultural water compliance dates for covered produce other than sprouts are set to begin in January 2022, the agency intends to exercise enforcement discretion while pursuing another proposed rule to extend the compliance dates for all of the agricultural water requirements.  Comment on the proposed rule, Docket No. FDA-2021-N-0471, by April 5, 2022.
More.

Create the future of organic—and win
The Organic Trade Association is calling on stakeholders to help evaluate what has worked and what hasn’t since the federal organic program began. The effort is designed to help chart the future of organic. To participate, download and complete the Future of Organic workbook by December 31. Those who complete the workbook will have a chance to win a ticket to attend Organic Week in Washington, DC, January 31-February 2, 2022.

Mainers have a right to grow their food, says state constitution
Voters in Maine approved the nation’s first state constitutional amendment that explicitly grants individuals the right to “grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being.” The amendment resulted from efforts of the state’s food sovereignty movement, which includes small farmers, raw milk users, libertarians and anti-corporate activists who want local communities to have a stronger voice in the future of the food supply, reports the Portland Press Herald.

Learn about carbon markets and public policy
The Congressional Research Service issued a new report on “Agriculture and Forestry Offsets in Carbon Markets: Background and Selected Issues.” The report gives an overview of how carbon markets and offsets work, some of the challenges and concerns about these programs, a comparison of several carbon market programs operating in the United States, and information on public policy activities.

Business community makes progress on climate issues
The Climate Collaborative’s new “2021 Tracking Progress Report” shows a big leap forward in the number of companies participating, up to 728 from 463. Of those answering the survey, 63 percent of companies involved in Climate Collaborative are actively progress on their climate commitments, and the remaining 37 percent are either in the planning stages or not yet determined how to implement the commitments. In addition, 25 percent of respondents have a net-zero commitment. Packaging, food waste, energy efficiency, and regenerative agriculture are significant areas of focus for Collaborative participants.

Global Organic Textile Standards appoints label claims cop
In a newly created position, Travis Wells will serve as the Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) Protection Officer North America. He will be identifying and advising companies that are making unsubstantiated claims regarding GOTS signage. A GOTS claim on finished products guarantees the consumer that every single step in the textile processing supply chain was certified. As soon as one stage in the supply chain is not certified, a company may not label or mention GOTS on their final product.