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June 2020 News & Policy Updates for the Organic Industry

“Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible.”
Maya Angelou


Being there to see and hear Martin Luther King, Jr. give his “I Have A Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington in 1963 was a bellwether moment for me—and a life-changing privilege.  Unfortunately, it has taken much longer than we ever expected—and with too much needless suffering—to arrive at this time in America when a true paradigm shift appears to be moving us at last to “liberty and justice for all.”

As part of our work as The Organic Specialists, we must see, acknowledge and stand against racism and inequality in our food systems. Organic agriculture and the organic community is a bright light today, leading in making progress on climate change and human and planetary health. But that’s not enough. Organic can stand for and must now be a model for equality and social justice as well. Organic agriculture has the potential to help heal our divides and provide real solutions, including answers to the devastating history of land ownership inequities.

This vision is especially timely as we at Wolf & Associates are in the midst of refreshing of our purpose and calling. Our mission remains the same and we have re-affirmed our core values of INTEGRITY, COMPETENCE, VISION, and PROGRESS, highlighting them on our newly updated website.

We encourage everyone involved with organic products to pursue new paradigms that create the change and progress everyone deserves.  Let us know how we can help with your efforts to foster these good works.

Meanwhile, despite, or even because of the pandemic, organic sales are increasing dramatically. Judy Gillan,  organic pioneer, would have appreciated both this growth and the current outcries for social justice. We mourn Judy’s passing and memorialize her tenacity and perseverance in advocating for farmers and for change.

Bill Wolf

We deliver the strategic expertise to help organic, socially- and environmentally-responsible products and projects reach their full potential — and flourish.



US and Taiwan sign organic equivalency agreement

Effective May 30, a new equivalence arrangement between the United States and Taiwan will facilitate trade of organic products between the two countries. Covering crops, wild crops, livestock, and processed products, the arrangement is limited to organic products that have been either raised within the United States or on Taiwan, or products for which final processing or packaging occurs within the United States or in Taiwan. This includes products processed or packaged in the U.S. or in Taiwan that contain organic ingredients from third countries that have been certified to the USDA or Taiwan organic standards. For retail products, labels or stickers must state the name of the U.S. or Taiwan certifying agent and may use the USDA Organic seal. Exported organic products must meet the labeling requirements in the destination country. Use of Taiwan’s organic mark is restricted for use only by Taiwan businesses and may not be applied to USDA organic products.

The following products may not be exported from Taiwan to the United States as certified organic:

  • Agricultural products derived from animals treated with antibiotics.
  • Aquatic animals (e.g. fish, shellfish)

Meanwhile, US agricultural products derived from animals treated with antibiotics or systemic use of painkillers or analgesics, including the use of Lidocaine or Procaine may not sold, labeled, or represented as organic in Taiwan.

Comment on proposed changes to National List

A proposed rule would change the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances based on April 2019 recommendations from the National Organic Standards Board. The proposal would add:

  • Oxalic acid dihydrate as a pesticide for organic apiculture.
  • Pullulan as an ingredient for products labeled, “Made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s)).”
  • Collagen gel casing as a nonorganic ingredient allowed when an organic form is not commercially available.

Comment on Docket Number AMS-NOP-19-0053 NOP-19-02 by August 7, 2020.

FDA guidance offers labeling flexibility for manufacturers

To help minimize the impact of supply chain and product availability disruptions associated with the current COVID-19 pandemic, the US Food and Drug Administration has issued new guidance to provide labeling flexibility for manufacturers and vending machine operators.

The temporary guidance will allow manufacturers to make minor changes in product ingredients without label changes provided those changes take into account safety (including allergens and food sensitivities), quantity of less than 2 percent, prominence of the ingredient, characterizing ingredients, voluntary label claims, and nutrition/function. In addition, FDA will not object if vending machine operators do not meet vending machine labeling requirements at this time. More.


EU Green Deal proposals would increase organic agriculture

The European Union has introduced two proposals for agriculture as part of the EU Green Deal. The Farm to Fork Strategy and the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 will serve as roadmaps to legislative initiatives and policy making through 2024 once they are approved by member nations. These two strategies focus on agriculture, food production and distribution. Part of the proposals would increase EU’s organic farming, currently 8 percent of agriculture, to 25 percent of agriculture by 2030. In addition, EU has proposed cutting pesticide use by 50 percent and fertilizers by 20 percent in the next ten years. These proposals will go through the EU legislative process, which may take several years, before they become law. More.


Japan to enforce certification for imported livestock-based organic products

The current equivalency agreement between the United States and Japan does not cover livestock products, and Japan plans to enforce requirements for certification of those product to JAS standards if an equivalency agreement is not in place. The United States Department of Agriculture is working with Japan to ensure market access for US organic livestock products when new enforcement regulations go into effect in Japan on July 16, 2020. As part of that process, Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture Food and Fisheries has called for public comment to revise the existing U.S.-Japan organic equivalence arrangement to cover livestock products. The deadline for comments is June 29, 2020. All comments must be written in Japanese and submitted via Japan’s e-Gov site, mail or fax (+81-3-6744- 0569). More.

Thailand bans paraquat and chlorpyrifos

Proposed new regulations from Thailand, effective June 1, 2020, would ban any foods sold in the country if they have any residues of the pesticides paraquat or chlorpyrifos. Products most affected would be those containing wheat, soybean oil, fruits and vegetables, and the US could potentially lose $1 billion in exports annually. Although these pesticides are banned in organic production, residues of these pesticides in the environment may contaminate organic products, rendering them unsuitable for the Thai market. More.


New regulations relax oversight of agricultural biotech

Effective May 18, 2020, the SECURE (Sustainable, Ecological, Consistent, Uniform, Responsible, Efficient) Rule is the first update of the Plant Protection Act biotechnology regulations since 1987. Instead of regulating any plant developed via a genetic engineering process that includes a plant pest, the new regulations allow plant developers to self-determine if a plant is outside the scope of part 340 of the Plant Protection Act. In addition, the new regulation replaces the petition process and reviews based on the method by which a plant is genetically modified with a regulatory status review based on the characteristics of the plant itself. The regulatory status review process first considers if there is a plausible pathway for increased risk of plant pests, and if so, an Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) evaluation of the significance of the risk. More.

Comment on GMO soybean deregulation petition

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is taking comment on a petition from BASF Corporation to deregulate a GMO soybean variety engineered to resist soybean cyst nematode and for herbicide tolerance. APHIS is interested in receiving comments regarding potential environmental and interrelated economic impacts to assist in our assessment of the petition as it relates to the National Environmental Policy Act. Comments on Docket No. APHIS-2020-0023 are due July 27, 2020. 

Federal Court stops dicamba use

The US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that farmers can no longer spray the pesticide dicamba, and farmers must cease using it immediately. Dicamba is used on about 60 million acres of crops, especially genetically modified soybeans and cotton. The June 3 ruling was the result of a lawsuit brought by the National Family Farm Coalition, Center for Food Safety, Center for Biological Diversity and Pesticide Action Network alleging that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency unlawfully approved the herbicide. The court vacated the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) registration of dicamba herbicide, ruling that the agency violated the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, the federal law regulating pesticides. The court ruled that the EPA substantially understated and ignored the risks dicamba poses to other farms and the natural world.


OTA’s Organic Industry Survey shows solid growth in 2019

Produce remained the top selling organic category in 2019 according to the Organic Trade Association’s (OTA) most recent Organic Industry Survey, making up almost a third of all organic sales and capturing 15 percent of the overall produce market.

Overall, the U.S. organic food and non-food markets totaling a record $55.1 billion in sales, up a solid 5 percent from 2018. Organic food represented $50.1 billion in sales, up 4.6 percent and organic non-food sales were just over $5 billion, up 9.2 percent.

Among the fast-growing categories, the organic spices and condiments category had some growth standouts. Organic ketchup sales grew 16 percent while sales of sauces with international flair—curry, chipotle, sriracha, and Korean BBQ, to name a few—grew a whopping 23 percent, and organic spice sales were up 15 percent. Meanwhile, the organic meat, poultry and fish category showed almost 10 percent growth, to reach $1.4 billion in sales, although it remains the smallest organic food category. Poultry sales, at $865 million represent more than half the sales in the category.

Among non-food organic products, sales of clothing, bedding, mattresses and other organic fiber products led the way to reach $2 billion, up 12 percent. Organic dietary supplements sales grew just over 10 percent to a record $1.7 billion.

Early data on 2020 organic sales show effects of COVID-19

OTA has also done some polling in 2020 to assess how COVID-19 is changing demand for organic products. In an online poll of likely organic shoppers in late April and early May, 90 percent of respondents indicated that organic products are more important than ever in their food shopping.  Early days of the pandemic in the United States showed 50 percent increase in organic produce sales, and have been up 20 percent in Spring 2020. More grocery shopping has seen a boost in demand for organic milk, eggs, and packaged and frozen organic foods. Sales of organic food staples, such as dairy, eggs, bread, pasta, rice and grains, flour and yeast, are expected to see increased growth throughout 2020, as long as supply can meet demand. In addition, organic vitamins, supplements and immunity-boosting products are expected to have strong sales.

The impact of environmental sustainability on purchase decisions is up, says new survey

The International Food Information Council Foundation has released results of its annual Food and Health Survey. As well as providing information on changes in food behaviors over the past decade, beliefs about food production and food technologies, the 2020 survey, fielded in April with a representative group of 1011 Americans aged 18-80, shows how the COVID-19 pandemic has altered food habits. Although more than 8 in 10 American have change their food habits as a result of the pandemic, women, those under age 35, and parents are among some of the most likely to have made changes. Common changes include snacking more, thinking about food more, and eating more than usual.

The pandemic isn’t the only issue, however. There has been an uptick in the impact of environmental sustainability on purchase decisions, although the overall perceived importance this factor has remained stable. The share of consumers who say environmental sustainability has a real impact on their purchases is up from 27% in 2019 to 34%. Furthermore, more than 6 in 10 find it hard to know whether their food choices are environmentally sustainable and, of those who agree with this sustainability confusion, 7 in 10 say it would influence their decisions more if it were easier to know. Meanwhile, familiarity with regenerative agriculture is up, especially among younger consumers. Download the report.

Most shoppers trust the organic label

Over half (55 percent) of consumers trust the USDA Organic seal, says Organic and Beyond 2020 research report from the Hartman Group. They found the seal confers legitimacy and demonstrates that the producers were held to strict standards. In addition, 58 percent of shoppers are aware that there are government standards regulating the use of the seal. In addition, 82 percent of shoppers say they use organic products at least occasionally, as availability of products, especially less costly private label products, expands. Furthermore, shoppers see organic as a symbol of quality. However, the organic label doesn’t embody all the criteria consumers care about. In particular, consumers are want more on animal welfare, social welfare/worker’s rights and soil health. Within the research, 78 percent of consumer think there should be more stringent animal welfare requirements for organic certification. Concerning social welfare/worker’s rights, 76 percent believe the organic label should have more stringent standards. Meanwhile, concern about soil health is a criteria emerging among core organic consumers.

Organic meat production has benefits over non-organic meat production, says new report

A free 14-page report from The Organic Center “The Benefits of Organic Meat” synthesizes scientific literature to present the standards for organic meat production and how following them may benefit humans and the environment. Specifically, the report finds the organic standards for meat production result in:

  • Greater nutritional benefits in organic meat — more good omega-3 fatty acids, less cholesterol, and more antioxidants;
  • A lower risk of exposure to antibiotics, growth hormones and pesticides;
  • Fewer negative effects on the environment and less of a contributor to climate change.

California organic crop sales top $10 billion

In the state’s first annual report dedicated exclusively to statistics on organic production, the California Agricultural Organic Report shows that sales of California organic products totaled more than $10 billion in 2018, up 29 percent from 2017. The report includes county-by-county producer, handler, and processor gross sales and figures for harvested acres for 2018. California had over 5.6 million acres in organic production in 2018 with the majority planted to nut crops. About 40 percent of US organic production comes from California. More.


Natural Products Expo East cancelled; new online event added

In the wake of COVID-19, New Hope Network has cancelled the 2020 Natural Products Expo East convention and trade show and will resume in Philadelphia in September 2021. A new virtual event “Spark Change” is slated to begin this August, and will link exhibitors with retail buyers, influencers, investors and others via online conferences and digital networking.

Pennsylvania Certified Organic names new Executive Director

Diana Kobus, executive director of the Institute for Environmental Practice since 2008 and formerly a buyer at Whole Foods Market, will start June 15 as the executive director of Pennsylvania Certified Organic (PCO). Since January 2020, Katherine DiMatteo has been serving as PCO’s interim executive director, where she facilitated the search for the organization’s next leader. Congratulations, Diana!

Rodale Institute honors organic pioneers

Established in 2011, Rodale Institute’s Organic Pioneer Awards honors research scientists, farmers, and business leaders who are leading the movement towards an organic planet. For 2020, our own Katherine DiMatteo is a recipient for her leadership of key organizations and work in shaping the US National Organic Standards and the U.N. Codex Guidelines for organically produced foods. Other honorees this year include Tyrone B. Hayes, University of California, for research on endocrine-disrupting pesticides; and the Lundberg Family, for their leadership in organic agriculture. Congratulations to all!

Organic Trade Association’s Organic Leadership Awards honor farmers

Three farmers are the recipients of the Organic Trade Association’s Organic Leadership Awards. Congratulations to:

  • Jim Wedeberg of CROPP Cooperative/Organic Valley— Growing the Organic Community Award for leading other farmers to join the largest U.S. organic cooperative as the first dairy member of the CROPP cooperative.
  • Meg Plucinski of D&M Family Farm— Rising Star Award for operating an exemplary small dairy and livestock farm and bringing concerns of small-scale farms to the forefront through participation in the Organic Trade Association’s Farmer’s Advisory Council.
  • Jeff Huckaby of Grimmway— Organic Farmer of the Year Award for overseeing over 45,000 acres of certified organic vegetable production. His commitment has allowed Grimmway to convert over 95 percent of its owned land to organic.

Biodynamic farming groups merge

The two leading groups on biodynamic agriculture in the United States, Demeter Association and the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association have merged to form the Biodynamic Demeter Association. The decision to unify was driven in part by the recent unification of Demeter International and the International Biodynamic Association to form the Biodynamic Federation-Demeter International. Demeter is the only US certification agency for biodynamic products.

IFOAM-Organics International seeks farmer videos for world-wide campaign

The #IGrowYourFood Campaign from IFOAM—Organics International will become an annual event this September 25 with its launch to show the role organic farmers play in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals. As part of the campaign, IFOAM seeks short videos from organic farmers talking about their work. Learn more.

OTA selects new board members during annual meeting

The Organic Trade Association has announced new board members during a virtual online annual meeting that hosted 450 participants with nary a glitch. Along with over 2 hours of solid information useful to the organic business community, the meeting introduced the 2020 board members. Elected to three year terms are Adam Warthesen of Cropp Cooperative/Organic Valley, Kim Dietz of Firmenich Inc., and Britt Lundgren of Stonyfield. Warthesen is new to the board, and Dietz and Lundgren were reelected. In addition, the board selected Kellee James, of Mercaris Corporation, and reappointed Bob Kaake, of General Mills, to fill two appointed seats. Two members left the board after completing their service:  Mike Menes, True Organic Products, Inc., and Mark Squire, Good Earth Natural Foods. Thanks to those who step up for these roles. We appreciate your efforts!

A pioneer passes on

Judy Gillan, one of the founders of the Organic Foods Production Association of North America, the precursor of the Organic Trade Association, died unexpectedly May 24, 2020 in Springfield, Massachusetts. She was 82. Judy was active in small farm and organic foods development, and established the New England Small Farm Institute (NESFI) in 1978. Under her leadership NESFI received a $1.5m grant from USDA to develop a Northeast-wide beginner farmer training network.


Right at the end of your phone line or via video call. We’re here for you. April 26-28, 2021: Organic Trade Association’s Organic Week, Washington, DC. W&A staff to attend.