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January 2021 News & Policy Updates for the Organic Industry

“When all the world appears to be in a tumult, and nature itself is feeling the assault of climate change, the seasons retain their essential rhythm. Yes, fall gives us a premonition of winter, but then, winter, will be forced to relent, once again, to the new beginnings of soft greens, longer light, and the sweet air of spring.”  ~Alan Watts

President’s Message

Welcome to 2021. Wow. Except for the loss of another organic pioneer, Amigo Bob Cantisano, a comrade and friend for 40 years, 2020 actually ended with some positive signs and events. 
NOP should be praised for its thoughtful response to some of the potentially damaging and inappropriate recommendations voted forward at the Fall NOSB meeting. By prioritizing the work that is really important to protecting the health, growth, and integrity of the organic community, the NOP has its act together to align organic principles and standards.  
I was honored to participate in an amazing meeting with the Biden transition team last month and am so excited to have heard their agreement that organic and sustainable farming increases carbon fixation and will be part of their plans to help mitigate climate change Biden’s nominations of Tom Vilsack as Secretary of Agriculture and Dr. Bronaugh as his Deputy are encouraging, although I was rooting for Dr. Kathleen Merrigan to lead the USDA.
In January I’m still self-isolating and working from my farm office, but the possibility of socializing and travel is on the horizon. Today my local clinic called to confirm that my wife and I want to be on the list for receiving the vaccine soon.
I miss Katherine as a business partner, but appreciate her continuing involvement as senior advisor and associate for W&A. Her good works help create this newsletter, and seeds she nurtured continue to flourish as the Sustainable Food Trade Association becomes part of the Organic Trade Association.  
Finally, for me, the most dramatic change — I just sold my other company, Thorvin Kelp, which Ellen Coleman and I started 38 years ago. What does this mean for Wolf & Associates?  I’ll continue to help Thorvin grow and reach its potential, working to integrate the new resources available from the new owners. I’m proud that my nephew will be running Thorvin, which is co-located in our offices in New Castle, so I can focus on expanding the services that you all deserve and expect from us as The Organic Specialists.
Looking forward to a progressive 2021 and a thoughtful Spring NOSB meeting.
Welcome to a New Year and a new decade!!

Bill Wolf
Wolf & Associates

Regulatory Updates


NOP offers next steps for NOSB recommendations
In a memo, the National Organic Program outlined next steps for recommendations made at the National Organic Standards Board meeting held online October 28-30, 2020. In addition to a summary of sunset review results in the memo, here are highlights:

Marine Macroalgae in Crop Fertility Inputs:
The NOSB recommended amending the listing for Aquatic Plant Extracts to stipulate prohibited harvest areas, prohibited harvest methods, and prohibited harvest practices in the interest of maintaining or improving native coastal ecosystems. Furthermore, they proposed adding a listing reiterating that marine macroalgae is prohibited for use in crop production unless harvested according to the aforementioned standards. The National Organic Program (NOP) responded that the NOSB recommendation will not be taken up at this time and NOP will focus on other rulemaking priorities, as public comments indicated the NOSB’s proposed listings would be controversial.

Wild, Native Fish for Liquid Fish Products:
NOSB recommended amending the listing for Liquid Fish Products to limit the source of those products to fish waste, bycatch or invasive species as well as adding definitions of ‘fish waste’ and ‘bycatch.’ The National Organic Program is reviewing those recommendations for rulemaking.

‘EPA List 4’ Resolution:
NOP plans to move forward with an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) to discuss the policy options for resolving the outdated EPA List 4 listing, as a priority for the Spring 2021 Regulatory Agenda. Meanwhile, NOP will relist EPA List 4 in order to provide consistency and certainty for the organic industry.

Petitioned substances:
NOP plans to move forward with a proposed rule to add low-acyl gellan gum to the National List, per NOSB recommendation.
US and UK organic trade arrangement keeps markets open
An updated organic equivalence arrangement between the United States and the United Kingdom began January 1. The biggest change to current import/export practices under the arrangement is that USDA organic products exported to England, Scotland and Wales must be accompanied by a new paper Great Britain import certificate developed by the UK. Provided they meet the terms of the arrangement, organic products certified to either the USDA or UK organic standards may be labeled and sold as organic in both countries. UK organic standards remain the same as the EU organic standards for now. This equivalence is limited to organic products that have been either raised within the US or UK, or products for which the final processing or packaging occurs within the U.S. or UK, and covers Crops, Wild Crops, Livestock, and Processed Products. Shipments to Northern Ireland will continue to use the European Union’s TRACES certificate system. Neither agricultural products derived from animals treated with antibiotics nor aquatic animals (e.g., fish, shellfish) may be exported as organic products from the UK to the US under this arrangement.
USDA ends organic recognition agreement with India
In order to better protect organic integrity, USDA is ending its recognition agreement that has allowed certifiers accredited by India’s Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) to provide USDA organic certification in India. US operations that are working with suppliers in India are advised to discuss these changes with their suppliers, and to check the Organic Integrity Database for suppliers that have been certified by USDA-accredited certifiers. Transition plan highlights:

  • By July 12, 2021, to continue to export to the United States, current organic operations in India will need to have applied for certification with a USDA-accredited organic certifier.
  • By mid-March 2021, USDA certifiers will be able to list these organic operation applicants in India in the Organic Integrity Database, to help U.S. buyers verify that a farm or business in India has applied for NOP certification.
  • After July 12, 2022, USDA organic certification by a USDA-accredited certifier will be required to import organic products from India to the United States.
  • APEDA-accredited certifiers may apply to NOP for direct accreditation to the USDA organic program at any time.
  • Organic certifiers and operations in India are responsible for ensuring compliance to any additional Government of India export requirements, including TraceNet reporting and documentation.

NOP releases enforcement actions summary
The National Organic Program has published data for enforcement activities for January 1 through December 31, 2020, as well as investigations and inquiries by fiscal year. From January to December 2020, 448 cases were closed. Of those, 47 percent resulted in voluntary compliance with organic regulations, 22 percent were not in violation of regulations, 14 percent faced administrative actions, 10 percent were referred for investigation, three percent resulted in settlement, civil penalty, or appeal, three percent were fraudulent certificates, and one percent was referred for criminal investigation. Of the 390 cases in progress, 63 percent concern uncertified operations making organic claims.
NOP’s Organic Integrity Learning Center adds classes
Two new free courses are now on the Organic Integrity Learning Center:

  • Sampling and Testing: designed for certifiers and inspectors, provides key insights for those overseeing and implementing sampling and testing work as part of an overall organic control system.

Organic Integrity and Energy Infrastructure: Useful for farmers, certifiers and inspectors, the course addresses how to identify and mitigate potential risks associated with energy infrastructure on organic farms.


EU amends lists of allowed substances
Regulation EU 2019/2164 posted in December 2019 amends the list of allowed substances in organic production.  Additions were made to fertilizers, plant protection products, animal feed, and processing substances and aids. Included in the changes are requirements that tara gum powder, lecithin, glycerol, carnauba wax and locust bean, gellan, arabic, and guar gums must be organic. A three-year transition period is given for operators to meet this requirement.
Regulation EU 2020/427 finalizes the previously posted draft amendment. The rules require that seedlings for sprouted seeds must be organic, allow bee colonies to be fed with organic pollen, and impose a general quantitative restriction on feed of plant origin for carnivorous aquaculture animals.


Organic products will be first in Thailand’s new traceability program
Thailand’s Ministry of Commerce intends to digitize the country’s food and agriculture sector, starting with a traceability system that will debut with organic products. Dubbed TraceThai, organic rice has already been part of a pilot program for the system, which uses QR codes and blockchain technology to protect data and prevent data falsification. For the first three years, participants will not incur additional fees to take part in the program.


Mexico plans changes to organic import procedures
Organic agricultural imports entering Mexico must be certified by the Secretariat of Agriculture and Rural Development to Mexico’s organic standards under the Organic Products Law (LPO) starting on June 26, 2021. On December 21, 2020, Mexico notified the measure to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Trading partners and stakeholders may comment on the measure through February 18, 2021. More.

News & Notices

Comment period on EPA evaluation of glyphosate extended 45 days
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 has extended the comments period on Docket number EPA-HQ-OPP-2020-0585 at until March 12, 2021.
Dr. Jewell Hairston Bronaugh nominated as deputy agriculture secretary
Virginia’s agriculture commissioner Dr. Jewell Hairston Bronaugh has been selected by the incoming Biden administration to serve as second-in-command deputy secretary at the United States Department of Agriculture. If her nomination is approved by the Senate, she would be the first Black woman to hold the post. In a statement, she said she was grateful for the opportunity to promote US agriculture, help end hunger, and preserve natural resources.
USDA publishes final rule for US hemp production
Completing a process that began with a directive in the 2018 Farm Bill to establish a regulatory framework for hemp production in the United States, USDA published a final rule that will be effective on March 22, 2021. Building on the interim final rule published October 31, 2019, the final rule incorporates modifications based on public comments and lessons learned during the 2020 growing season. Among the changes from the interim final rule are a change in what counts as a negligent violation of acceptable THC levels, expansion of producers’ disposal and remediation options for non-compliant plants, allowing testing at labs not registered with the Drug Enforcement Agency, a longer window to collect pre-harvest samples, and changes to the sampling methods. More.
Organic Trade Association receives funding for promoting US products globally
The USDA’s Market Access Program awarded $816,723 to the Organic Trade Association for 2021 to promote US organic agricultural products in global markets. OTA has been an official cooperator in the program for 20 years, and this year plans to participate in several trade shows, including Biofach eSpecial, Gulfoods and Anuga. Other promotion projects this year include activities in Japan and Korea, a virtual trade mission dedicated to food ingredients, virtual (Australia and New Zealand) and in-person (Europe, United Kingdom, and Taiwan) trade missions as travel opens up, a produce buyers’ mission, and attending the IFOAM-Organics International World Congress. More.
Organic Trade Association and Sustainable Food Trade Association merge
Founded in 2008, the Sustainable Food Trade Association ceased operation December 31, 2020, after its members voted to consolidate with the Organic Trade Association. Former Sustainability Technical Services Manager for SFTA Lisa Braun will work with the Organic Trade Association’s newly formed Sustainable Food Trade Action Council on sustainability and climate issues.  More.
Thorvin Inc. set to expand organic supplies as a part of Acadian Seaplants Limited
The leading brand organic seaweed supplier Thorvin Inc. was acquired this month by global market leader in marine plant products, Acadian Seaplants Limited. Thorvin will continue to operate as an independent company within the Acadian Seaplants family of companies, from its New Castle, Virginia headquarters. Eli Chandler, after 21 years as Thorvin’s Operations Manager, will now lead the company as General Manager. Thorvin’s co-founder, Bill Wolf, will continue to provide strategic support through his Wolf & Associates consultancy.
COVID relief deal offers help for agriculture and boosts environmental initiatives
The $900 billion Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021, part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, includes $13 billion in assistance to farmers and food processors, including improvements to the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) that will incorporate organic prices. Row crops, dairy and livestock and specialty crops all have additional support, and funds are allocated for farmers processors and distributors to purchase personal protective equipment for their workers.
In addition, the relief deal included $35 billion in provisions that address climate change by extending tax credits for wind and solar projects, investment in research and development for renewable energy and energy storage projects, and mandatory reduction of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).
Free course for beginning organic farmers is now online
Organic Farming Research Foundation’s beginning organic farmer training program is now available online. Although originally created with California specialty crop farmers in mind, the free course offers fundamental information useful to organic farmers across the US. A joint effort between OFRF, the University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (UC SAREP), and California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, the self-paced program combines descriptive essays, video lectures from university faculty, and virtual field trips to demonstrate organic principles and practices.
EcoFarm announces award recipients
Congratulations to recipients of the EcoFarm Sustie and Justie awards, to be presented during the annual EcoFarm Conference. The Steward of Sustainable Agriculture Award (Sustie) honors those who have been actively and critically involved in ecologically sustainable agriculture and have demonstrated their long term, significant contributions to the well being of agriculture and the planet. Recipients for 2021 are Ben Burkett, Rowen White, and Diane Dempster. The Advocates for Social Justice in Sustainable Agriculture Award (Justie) honors those who have been active advocates for social justice as a critical aspect of ecologically sustainable agriculture and food systems. Acta Non Verba and First Nations Development Institute will be honored this year.
Organics International reopens board nominations
IFOAM-Organics International, which postponed its General Assembly to September 2021, has reopened its nominations for members of the world board. Board members guide the implementation of the Organizational Strategy and Organic 3.0, support fundraising activities, and represent IFOAM – Organics International at international events. Applications are due April 15, 2021. More.
Visionary leader passes on
Amigo Bob Cantisano, a visionary who helped found many of California’s early organic farming ventures, including the state’s first natural foods distribution company, organic farm supply company, and organic crop consulting agency, died December 26 after battling cancer for several years. He was instrumental in creating the EcoFarm Conference, and California Certified Organic Farmers, and his work influenced farmers across the state and around the world to choose organic methods. His joyful presence will be sorely missed.

GMO News

Mexico to phase out glyphosate and GE corn
A decree published December 31, 2020 in Mexico’s Official Register calls for phasing out the use of glyphosate and genetically modified corn for human consumption in Mexico. The decree states that use of the herbicide glyphosate will be phased out over the next four years and replaced by a “sustainable and culturally appropriate” alternative. During the transition period, glyphosate will not be used in any government-sponsored program. The decree includes an article that calls for a revocation of existing and future cultivation permits for GE corn. It also requires a revocation of existing permits for GE corn and a halt to all new authorizations for GE corn for human consumption. The use of GE corn in human consumption would be phased out no later than January 31, 2024. More.