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February 2021 News & Policy Updates for the Organic Industry

“Bad seed is a robbery of the worst kind: for your pocket-book not only suffers by it, but your preparations are lost and a season passes away unimproved.”  ~George Washington

President’s Message

We’re seeing some good news this month as we look forward to the coming spring. The organic sector is demonstrating resilience and growth, especially for produce and dairy. In Washington, the Biden Administration’s climate change mitigation plans may well benefit of organic agriculture and will likely encourage better soil health.

The next National Organic Standards Board meeting is coming up April 28-30, and the agenda is lighter than last fall’s meeting. Nevertheless, the Board and its five newest members—Amy Bruch, Logan Petrey, Carolyn Dimitri, and Kyla Smith—will tackle a few tough issues. We’re tracking what’s on the agenda and will have a summary in March in time for submitting comments. Although the spring NOSB meeting will be virtual again, the October meeting has been slated for the week of October 18 in Sacramento, California. An optimistic sign, perhaps, of an end to pandemic travel restrictions.

Another popular spring event—Natural Products Expo West—will be virtual in May, but plans continue for an expanded Natural Products Expo East in Philadelphia. Maybe with increasing levels of COVID-19 vaccination and waning cases of illness, we’ll be able to see you in person there.

Meanwhile, despite multiple snow and ice storms this winter, with more on the way this week, we’re getting ready to start leeks and peppers and tomatoes on the farm. Bring on the spring!

Bill Wolf
Wolf & Associates

Regulatory Updates


Operations certified to USDA requirements grew in 2020
Based on the organic operations certified to USDA requirements and listed in the USDA National Organic Program Organic INTEGRITY Database, the number grew to 45,578 in 2020. More than 62 percent (28,454) of the certified operations are in the United States. California hosts the most, with more than 5,000. Other top states with over 750 certified operations include Wisconsin, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington, Iowa, Ohio, Minnesota, Indiana, Oregon, Michigan, Texas and Vermont.
Agriculture Outlook Forum to feature session on organic
The Agricultural Outlook Forum, the largest annual meeting and premiere event of the US Department of Agriculture, will feature a session titled ‘Organic Outlook: Overview of Current Trends and Recent Developments’ Friday February 19 at 10 a.m. EST.  Other topics in the two-day forum include commodity outlooks, food safety, US trade priorities, and more. The Forum will be held virtually February 18-19, and registration is free.
NOP honors certifiers for great data and communication
Ten organic certifiers were named for the National Organic Program’s Data Quality Award for exceeding requirements for data added to the Organic Integrity Database. The Organic INTEGRITY Database allows users to quickly confirm the organic certification status and other details of a farm or business and helps certifiers support the organic community in fraud prevention. Beyond the basic required information, the honorees supplied additional detail on their certified operations and submitted updates on a rolling basis throughout the year. Congratulations to:

  • CCOF Certification Services, LLC (CCOF) – Santa Cruz, CA
  • Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) – Broomfield, CO
  • Global Organic Alliance (GOA) – Bellefontaine, OH
  • IMOcert Latinoamerica LTDA (IMOcert) – Cochabamba, Bolivia
  • Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) – Des Moines, IA
  • Marin Organic Certified Agriculture (MOCA) – Novato, CA
  • NOFA-NY Certified Organic (NOFANY) – Binghamton, NY
  • Primus Auditing Operations (PAO) – Santa Maria, CA
  • Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) – Salt Lake City, UT
  • Yolo County Department of Agriculture (YDA) – Woodland, CA

In addition, four certifiers were honored with the National Organic Program Director’s Award for excellent communication including regular, candid discussions with NOP accreditation managers and auditors:

  • Agricultural Services Certified Organic (ASCO) – Salinas, CA
  • Certification of Environmental Standards GmbH (CERES) – Happurg, Germany
  • CCOF Certification Services (CCOF) – Santa Cruz, CA

Midwest Organic Services Association (MOSA) – Viroqua, WI


Canada completes rules update
Canada has updated their organic requirements. Operations already certified to Canada’s standards have until December 2021 to comply with the new regulations; new operations must use them now. Key changes include assessments of how farm management encourages healthy ecosystems; clarification on when to exclude water as an ingredient in organic calculations; additional cleaners that can be used without removal; additional review of cleaner and sanitizer labels and data sheets and more.


EU postpones organic rules changes due to COVID
Changes to the European Union’s organic regulations, as outlined in EU 2018/848, have been postponed by one year to January 1, 2022, due in part to the resources required for the COVID-19 pandemic. Related dates for derogations, reports or empowerments granted to the Commission to end or extend derogations will also be postponed for one year. Control bodies have until June 30, 2021 to make new requests for equivalency recognition. Meanwhile, equivalency recognition agreements with third countries will now expire December 31, 2026, while recognition of control bodies in third countries will expire on December 31, 2024.
France to ban plastic packaging for produce
New rules designed to foster a circular economy and eliminate single use plastics will put a ban on plastic packaging for retail sales of most fresh fruit and vegetables sold in quantities of less than 1.5 kilograms beginning January 1, 2022. In addition, stickers on produce must be compostable in home composting and made of bio-based materials. More.

News & Notices

Biden’s early days include action on climate issues
President Biden has moved forward with several executive orders designed to address climate change, including rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement. That agreement seeks to limit temperature rise by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Other key provisions of the President’s approach to climate include:

  • Taking a Whole-of-Government Approach to the Climate Crisis, with a new National Climate Task Force
  • Making climate considerations a key element of US foreign policy and national security
  • Leading by example through government purchases, energy use, and improved climate forecasting.
  • Environmentally sustainable infrastructure development
  • Resource conservation and climate-smart agriculture, which includes a broad range of activities including regenerative agriculture practices and biotechnology, with carbon reduction and sequestration as a core component.
  • Establishing an Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities to reduce toxins and other environmental harms
  • Addressing environmental injustice issues

Organic sector makes gains worldwide
The latest survey on organic agriculture worldwide from the Research Institute on Organic Agriculture (FiBL), shows organic farmland is up 1.1 million hectares through 2019.  Meanwhile, the global market for organic food reached €106 billion in 2019. The United States is the leading market (€44.7 billion), followed by Germany (€12.0 billion) and France (€11.3 billion). Denmark, with 12.1 percent of its total food market as organic, leads the way in market share. Danish and Swiss consumers spent the most on organic food per capita, at €344 and €338, respectively.
Organic produce report shows 2020 retail sales up 14 percent
In its first “State of Organic Produce” report, the Organic Produce Network reveals the leading organic fresh produce items and how they fared compared to their non-organic counterparts. US retail sales of organic fresh produce topped $8.5 billion in 2020, up 14.2 percent from the prior year; non-organic produce sales were up 10.7 in the same time. Organic produce sales represent 12 percent of the market. Based on dollar value, packaged salads led the way, with bananas as the top-volume item. The report also includes information on regional differences in sales of select fruits and vegetables.
Organic cotton makes the world better, says new report
A new report from The Organic Center and Iowa State University highlights recent research that shows the environmental benefits of organic cotton production. The report and the research it cites shows the importance of avoiding synthetic chemicals, the role of organic cotton in climate change mitigation, and how organic cotton benefits water and biodiversity. Many benefits extend along the supply chain from building soil health on the farm to using non-toxic methods of textile processing.
Natural Products Expo West to go virtual; Expo East expands
In light of ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Natural Products Expo West will be a multi-day virtual event May 24-27, 2021, with booths, a sampling program, networking, curated retailer/buyer programs, and conference programming on product innovations and trends. Meanwhile, organizers are continuing to plan for an expanded in-person event for Natural Products Expo East, September 22-25 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Nominate a farm innovator to win cash prizes
As part of its World Congress, IFOAM-Organics International and IFOAM’s Technology Innovation Platform will honor organic ingenuity through the Organic Farming Innovation Awards, an initiative of the South Korean Rural Development Administration. A committee will select one Grand Prize and one Science Prize winner based on the criteria of innovativeness, relevance, and impact potential. Each winner will receive a monetary award (Grand Prize: $10,000 USD and Science Prize: $5,000 USD), and be invited to the 20th edition of the Organic World Congress (OWC 2021) held September 6-10 in Rennes, France. Applications are due April 1, 2021.
IFOAM North America seeks board members
Nominate yourself or a colleague to IFOAM’s North America Board, the regional body of IFOAM members in Canada, the United States, and the English-speaking Caribbean. Five seats are available. Send the following information to

  • Name and contact information of candidate
  • Brief profile (100 words, maximum)
  • Candidate’s statement describing how the candidate would contribute to the board and the organization’s mission (200 words, maximum)
  • Photo

Get a global perspective on the organic sector
The online version of BioFach (Feb 17-19) will include several educational sessions from IFOAM – Organics International and IFOAM Organics Europe. Sessions will be recorded and available to show attendees for six months.
Regenerative Earth Summit sessions to focus on finance issues
The Regenerative Earth Summit, organized by Regenerative Rising, offers an opportunity to learn more about using regenerative principles in business as well as a chance to create solutions to bottlenecks that restrict broader adoption. The third session of a four-part series, February 24-25, will focus on Finance, Technology & Policy. Participants will examine investing in a regenerative world, finance barriers, innovations in technology, and policies that can create the missing infrastructure and incentives to advance adaption of both regenerative agriculture and a regenerative-focused economy.

GMO News

Peru’s GMO moratorium extended to 2035
First established in 2011, Peru’s moratorium on entry and production of genetically modified organisms within its borders was extended for 15 years, to December 21, 2035. Farmers, citizens and dozens of organizations campaigned for continued limits to genetically modified organisms.