Happy New Year!
The darkest days of winter have passed, and we’re looking forward to spring and new beginnings, even if the year has had a bumpy beginning for the organic community.
With the new National Organic Standards Board members set to start their terms January 24 when retiring members’ terms end, we had hoped to be able to congratulate them and welcome them to the Board. The USDA’s appointments, however, have not yet been released. The last time we had a big gap in appointments was when the USDA refused to establish the Board or appoint any members in 2000 and 2001, claiming that no funding had been allocated to implement the Organic Foods Production Act. USDA’s delayed announcement this time will make it challenging for the new members to participate in subcommittee meetings and prepare for April’s NOSB meeting. When the new appointees are announced, we’ll be sure to spread the word.
Meanwhile, it’s deja vu all over again, with pandemic surges resulting in postponed or reformatted events. For example, the EcoFarm Conference and the Organic Trade Association’s Policy Conference have postponed until March, with EcoFarm moving to a virtual-only event. The BioFach trade show in Germany has delayed until July. If it’s one thing we’ve learned from the pandemic, it’s how to make the most of technologies that can bring us together wherever we are.
Wherever you are, stay safe and be in touch. Wolf & Associates would love to hear from you and how you are getting along in the New Year. If you’ve got rocky patches, we’d love to help smooth them out.
Wolf & Associates
Deadline for pandemic support extended to February 4
Agricultural producers who are certified organic, or transitioning to organic, can apply to the Organic and Transitional Education and Certification Program (OTECP) for 2020 and 2021 expenses by February 4, 2022. 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). 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. OTECP also covers 75% of the registration fees, up to $200, per year, for educational events that include content related to organic production and handling. Details.
Risk-based oversight explained in free course
Learn about the theory and practical application of risk-based oversight in the latest Organic Integrity Learning Center course. Participants will use hands-on exercises to evaluate several organic integrity risk scenarios. Courses are free and available online.
New Jersey to stop organic certification service
The New Jersey Department of Agriculture (NJDA) will shift from organic certification and inspection to organic education, marketing and development to grow the state’s organic sector. Effective May 30, 2022, the department will surrender its National Organic Program accreditation. Operations certified by the NJDA must contact them by March 11 to arrange for new certification or to surrender certification. Contact the NJDA Organic Program at email@example.com.
NOP enforcement actions for 2021 With the latest quarterly enforcement action update from the National Organic Program, 2021 calendar year actions are available. In 2021, USDA closed 324 organic enforcement cases, with 59 percent resulting in voluntary compliance, 19 percent showing no violation, and 10 percent referred for investigation. As of December 31, there were 442 cases in progress, with 53 percent as uncertified operations making organic claims, 20 percent fraud, 11 percent labeling error, seven percent due to pesticide residue, seven percent due to prohibited practice, and 2 percent due to use of a prohibited substance.
NOP peer review to generate comments on risk mitigation table
In an annual peer review of the National Organic Program (NOP), the ANSI National Accreditation Board review panel identified one opportunity for improvement to its risk analysis matrix developed to document potential threats to the impartiality of the NOP’s operations and activities. The report also listed several strengths of the program, including a team work approach, the Organic Integrity Learning Center, stronger control systems, and robust enforcement. In response, NOP requests that the National Organic Standards Board review and facilitate public comment on the NOP Risk Mitigation Table.
Climate-smart agriculture programs to encourage cover crops
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has expanded the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Conservation Incentive Contracts option nationwide, offers a new and streamlined EQIP Cover Crop Initiative, and has made it easier for producers to re-enroll in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). In addition, NRCS will partner with Farmers For Soil Health, an initiative of the United Soybean Board, National Corn Growers Association and National Pork Board, to foster soil health practices – especially use of cover crops – on corn and soybean farms. The initiative has a goal of doubling the number of corn and soybean acres using cover crops to 30 million acres by 2030. To complement the new partnership, NRCS is investing $38 million through the new targeted Cover Crop Initiative in 11 states: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and South Dakota. NRCS accepts applications for conservation programs – including EQIP and CSP – year-round, however producers and landowners should apply by state-specific, signup dates to be considered for each year’s funding. To apply, producers should contact their local USDA Service Center. More.
Europe’s organic regulations changed January 1
Changes to the European Union’s organic regulations went into effect January 1. Among the key changes, the scope expanded to include agriculture related products, such as beeswax and leather; nanoparticles are prohibited; use of flavors has become more stringent; organic plants must grow in native soil; a seed database and rules for organically bred materials will foster more organic seed availability; control shifts to a more risk-based approach and farmers, traders and importers must prove they take precautions against non-permitted substances. Imported products must meet the regulations; equivalency arrangements will need to become trade agreements by January 1, 2027.
US composite imports to EU need new documents January 15
Beginning January 16, U.S. exporters of composite products will face new documentary requirements for shipments to the European Union. Defined as a foodstuff intended for human consumption that contains both processed products of animal origin and products of plant origin, composite products are in one of three categories: Non-shelf stable products; shelf stable products with meat ingredients; shelf stable products without meat ingredients. Depending on the product, new documents will be issued by either Food Safety and Inspection Service or Agricultural Marketing Service. Look for a GAIN report on the changes soon.
Comment on proposed label changes in the European Union
The European Union intends to revise its the Food Information to Consumers Regulation. The changes will impact front-of-pack nutrition labeling, nutrient profiling criteria to restrict claims, origin labeling, date marking, and alcoholic beverages labeling. US stakeholders who would like to comment can do so here before March 7, 2022.
Pollution from livestock to lead to farm buyouts in Netherlands
In an effort to curb pollution from an excess of animal manure, the new coalition government in the Netherlands plans to buy out livestock farmers. With the highest density of livestock in Europe, the Netherlands also is Europe’s largest meat exporter. The government plan for buyouts and transitioning farms to less intensive methods is expected to result in a one-third reduction in the number of pigs, cows and chickens in the country.
The Netherlands is not the only country facing a crisis over livestock emissions. Denmark, Belgium and Germany may have to consider similar action, and the United Kingdom will likely miss its ammonia emissions reduction targets and face legal challenges from environmental health activists as a result.
France now bans most plastic packaging on fresh produce
Starting January 1, France no longer allows plastic packaging on most vegetables and fruits. Chopped or processed produce and larger packs will be exempt. The government expects that the ban could prevent the use of as many as a billion single-use plastics annually. Additional changes later in 2022 will see the introduction of water fountains in public spaces to reduce plastic bottles; a ban on free plastic toys with fast food; and publications mailed without plastic wrap. In 2021, France banned plastic straws, cups and cutlery as well as polystyrene take-out containers.
UK intends to restore wildlife habitat through new programs
New land management programs in the United Kingdom are designed to help restore up to 300,000 hectares of wildlife habitat by 2042 and bring up to 60 percent of England’s agricultural land under sustainable management by 2030. The Local Nature Recovery program will pay farmers for actions such as creating wildlife habitat, planting trees, or restoring peat bogs and wetlands. The Landscape Recovery program supports larger projects such as new nature reserves, restoring floodplains, or creating woodland or wetlands. Both programs work in conjunction with the upcoming Sustainable Farming Incentive.
News & Notices
The Northeast Organic Family Farm Partnership, founded by Stonyfield Farm founder Gary Hirshberg, asks consumers to pledge to buy 25 percent of their dairy purchases from 35 different brands that have made a commitment to purchase milk from northeast organic family farms. The initiative aims to ensure family organic dairy farms remain in business. The Partnership invites any outlets that sell dairy products to become licensed as partners. Licensed partners who have signed affidavits to increase their organic purchases will be entitled to display the Partnership logo.
Hirshberg started the initiative in part as a response to news that the Horizon brand and the Maple Hill Creamery would terminate contracts to a total 135 farms in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and eastern New York. Although there have been complaints to B Lab questioning Danone North America’s (owners of the Horizon brand) status as a Certified B Corporation, B Lab upheld the certification on the grounds that Danone was transparent in its communication to stakeholders about the changes.
What happened to Conservation Stewardship Program funding?
A new paper from the Center for Rural Affairs tracks funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program, which supports farmers and ranchers interested in increasing conservation on their land. In the last two farm bills, funding for the CSP has been significantly reduced; CSP funding has been gradually cut in half since the program’s inception in 2008, and in 2020, only 25% of CSP applications were funded. Read more in “Mapping the Money: An Analysis of Spending Under the Conservation Stewardship Program.”
Tap into supply chain infrastructure loans
USDA’s Food Supply Chain Guaranteed Loan Program will support new investments in infrastructure for food aggregating, processing, manufacturing, storing, transporting, wholesaling, or distributing startups or expansions. Contact your lender to begin the application process for a guaranteed loan of up to $40 million.
Every reply counts in National Ag Survey
If you farm, look for the National Agricultural Classification Survey (NACS) in the mail this month, and complete it before January 24. The survey results are used to determine funding for agricultural programs and what type of programs to offer. Making sure organic operations are included is critical for federal support for organic agriculture.
Get to know the Organic Materials Review Institute Learn more about the origins and objectives of the Organic Materials Review Institute and the beginnings of the National List through a video discussion featuring the organization’s founders, including Bill Wolf, Brian Baker, Lynn Coody, Kim Dietz, and Zea Sonnabend.