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May 2021 News & Policy Updates for the Organic Industry

“When you follow your dreams, you encourage other people to follow theirs.”  ~Nafessa Williams

President’s Message

To begin, I’d like to give a shout out to Kelly Monaghan, of Ash Street Organics. She’s been honored with the Organic Champion of the Year Organic Leadership Award from the Canada Organic Trade Association. I can attest the honor is well deserved since Kelly has been part of our team here at Wolf & Associates for many years. There have been numerous occasions over the last several years when we have met challenging regulatory policy issues, and Kelly was able to cut directly to the problem and its corresponding solution. She has a knack for clarity and creativity, always the consummate professional. Well done, Kelly!
Speaking of Wolf & Associates, we’re increasing our capacity to serve you by expanding our team of associates. With organic sales continuing to grow during the pandemic, we’re experiencing a corresponding increase in demand to help in all our service areas — from certification and regulatory help to materials reviews to strategic advice.    
We’re also pleased to see more research coming out that shows the true worth of organic, such as the soil health study from Pasa Sustainable Agriculture. Building healthy soil is a foundation of organic farming, and knowing more about what works helps everyone.
That’s all for now, as I need to turn my cover crops to plant my tomatoes.

Bill Wolf
Wolf & Associates

Regulatory Updates


Comment on additions to the Origin of Livestock proposed rule
The proposed rules for the Origin of Livestock, first released for public comment in 2015, now have new specific provisions, and comments are reopened. Specifically, USDA asks whether or not the final rule should prohibit organic dairy operations from acquiring transitioned dairy animals to expand herds or replace animals to produce organic milk. In addition, USDA seeks comment on whether the final rule should use the term “operation” to describe the regulated entity, rather than the term “producer”. Three other topics for comment include the implementation timeframe, the accuracy of the cost and benefit estimates in the Regulatory Impact Analysis, and if the rule should include any additional exceptions to the one-time transition requirement.

Use the Federal Register to comment on Docket Number AMS-NOP-11-0009 by July 12, 2021.
Proposed legislation would require timely response from USDA on NOSB recommendations
On April 30, a bipartisan group of Congressional Representatives introduced the Continuous Improvement and Accountability in Organic Standards Act (CIAO), which would require the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to advance and implement recommendations from the organic industry in a timely manner and to ensure the continuous improvement of organic standards. The bill requires USDA to:

  • Create an Organic Improvement Action Plan for handling the backlog of industry NOSB recommendations that have not been implemented.
  • Issue a final rule implementing new NOSB recommendations within two years
  • Report annually to Congress on whether accredited third-party certifiers have implemented new rules and guidance, and identify any inconsistencies found.

The National Organic Standards Board supported the move, as did many organizations including American Sustainable Business Council, Environmental Working Group, National Farmers Union, National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association, Organic Trade Association, Organic Farmers Association, and the Accredited Certifiers Association. More
NOP offers resources in Spanish
A new resource for Spanish-speaking members of the organic community is now available online. The website includes Spanish translations of the Organic Foods Production Act, organic regulations, the National Organic Program Handbook, and more.
Livestock practices lawsuit sees new deadline for joint report
US District Court for the District of Columbia extended the deadline for a joint status report in the Organic Trade Association’s case against the USDA over the agency’s withdrawal of the  Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) rule. The two sides jointly requested the extension until May 21 to allow for continued discussions on the litigation. More.
Updated NOP reports tally enforcement cases and results
In its most recent quarterly report, the NOP has 417 enforcement cases in progress as of March 31, 2021. The majority of those cases (63%) involve allegations of uncertified operations making organic claims. The second largest category (17%) is allegations of fraud. From April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021, NOP has closed 449 cases. The most common outcome, representing 47 percent of closed cases, is voluntary compliance, followed by 22 percent of cases which result in finding no violation. In addition, its Annual Organic Oversight and Enforcement Report revealed that most complaints in 2020 were resolved either through voluntary compliance, or a finding of no violation. In 2020, there were 676 operations in 45 countries that lost certification through suspension or revocation. The report also outlines livestock compliance results, certifier training and oversight, interagency cooperation efforts, organic imports, and more.
NOP issues call for Human Capital Capacity Building Projects
To address the shortage of well qualified organic inspectors and reviewers, improve oversight capacity, and continue to ensure integrity in the organic market, the National Organic Program will fund up to six one-year capacity building projects to expand the pool of organic inspectors, reviews and other professionals. Projects should begin in late summer or early fall 2021. Successful applicants will work collaboratively with NOP to implement their project proposals. Projects must be done via cooperative agreements through non-profit organizations. Applications are due July 2.
Organic farmer nominated as USDA Under Secretary
Jenny Lester Moffitt, Undersecretary at the California Department of Food and Agriculture has been nominated as USDA Under Secretary for  Marketing and Regulatory Programs. Earlier in her career, she spent 10 years managing her family’s organic walnut farm and processing operation. The Senate must confirm her nomination.
Apply for the National Organic Standards Board
USDA seeks nominations for four open seats on the 15-member National Organic Standards Board. The NOSB considers public comments and makes recommendations on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances; and other topics related to organic agriculture. Members serve five-year terms and represent specific sectors of the organic community. Open seats are for representatives from: organic farming operations, environment and resource conservation, public interest or consumer interest organization, and toxicology, ecology, or biochemistry. Nominations are due June 1. Details.


Mexico extends deadline for Organic Products Law
US organic operations have additional time to meet Mexico’s requirement for certification to its Organic Products Law. Mexico’s agriculture secretariat extended the deadline through December 31, 2021. Beginning January 1, 2022, US operators must use a certifying body accredited by Mexico’s National Service for Animal and Plant Health, Food Safety and Quality (SENASICA) in order to sell organic products in Mexico. For more details on Mexico’s organic products law, see the USDA GAIN report
Sales of organic products in New Zealand are up 23 percent
New Zealand’s domestic market for organic food rose 23 percent from 2017 to 2020 to reach NZ$302.5 million, according to the Organic Sector Market Report 2020/21 published by Organics Aotearoa New Zealand. Eighty-one percent of consumers there report buying organic products at least every two weeks. Although the amount of certified organic acreage is down 3.4 percent compared to 2017, the number of certified organic operations is up 12 percent since then, and there has been a 54 percent increase in operations under conversion to organic. The report also asked organic growers to identify constraints on their growth The top three constraints on growth that organic operations identified included: Excessive mark-up by wholesalers and retailers; competition from organic products without robust or any certification; and adoption of the NZ organic standard in its current form.

News & Notices

Comment on food system supply chains
As a result of President Biden’s Executive Order 14017, America’s Supply Chains, the USDA is seeking comments to help them assess the critical factors and strategies needed to support resilient, diverse, and secure supply chains. Identifying bottlenecks and food system vulnerabilities may provide insights into the market, effects on local and regional producers and processors, and equitable access to food and economic opportunity across diverse communities. Comment in the Federal Register on docket number AMS-TM-21-0034 by June 21.

Organic Trade Association to provide information for United Nation’s Food Systems Summit
To contribute to the United Nation’s (UN) first Food Systems Summit, the Organic Trade Association’s Sustainable Food Trade Action Council hosted a dialogue on ways organic meets increasing demands from consumers, addresses environmental pressures and achieves the UN’s sustainable development goals. Topics included: feeding the world, human health and wellbeing, climate action, socially responsible economic growth, international trade and innovation. 

Soil heath study provides insight into improvements
Pasa Sustainable Agriculture released new research on soil health, based on collaboration with more than 100 vegetable, pastured livestock and row crop farmers. Begun in 2016, the Soil Health Benchmarks 2021 Report found that farms that use tillage for controlling weeds and preparing fields are capable of achieving optimal soil health, despite the view that no-till methods are necessary for the healthiest soil. Pastured livestock farms, however showed superior soil health. In addition, better aligning fertilizer inputs with soil test results can save money, improve yields, and boost water quality. Climate change also cropped up in the results, with historic rainfall in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions reducing the aggregate stability on row crop and vegetable farms.

Congratulations to COTA’s leadership award honorees
Canada Organic Trade Association honored six businesses and individuals with its fifth annual Organic Leadership Awards. Each of these leaders showed excellence in advancing the organic industry and supporting organic education in Canada.

Organic Champion of the Year – Ash Street Organics (Kelly Monaghan)
Leadership in Organic Science – Dr. Martine Dorais
Organic Retailer of the Year – Organic Grocer
Organic Supplier of the Year – Horizon Distributors
Organic Innovator of the Year – Manitoba Harvest
Organic Farmer of the Year – Pfenning’s Organic Vegetables

Natural Products Expo West offers climate programing and Organic Day sessions
On Monday May 24, climate issues will be part of the keynote and Katherine DiMatteo will participate in a panel session organized by the Climate Collaborative during the Natural Products Expo West virtual event. Tuesday May 25 is Organic Day, and features a keynote from the Organic Trade Association CEO Laura Batcha on Surveying the Organic Landscape, a panel discussion on the Impact of Pesticides on Communities of Color, and an Organic Learning Salon. Register online.

GMO News

APHIS to prepare environmental impact statement for GMO corn variety and consider its deregulation
The US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is inviting public comment on a Notice of Intent to prepare an environmental impact statement on a petition from Bayer CropScience U.S. The petition seeks deregulation of a genetically modified maize variety designated as MON 87429. Intended for hybrid seed production, MON 87429 was genetically engineered for resistance to the herbicides dicamba, glufosinate, quizalofop, 2,4-D, and tissue-specific glyphosate tolerance. Comment on document number APHIS-2020-0021 in the Federal Register by May 28. In addition, Bayer/Monsanto has petition this seed for deregulation and comments are due July 7. More.