Meet an NOSB Member – Dr. Franklin Quarcoo
Dr. Franklin Quarcoo, a new appointee to one of the Environmental Protection and Resource Conservation seats on the National Organic Standards Board, took a few moments recently to tell us his thoughts in advance of the spring meeting April 25-27.
When we see you on the dais at an NOSB meeting, what do you want us to know about you?
Being a scientist informs how I view things that impact the environment and natural resources. I use a data-driven approach in such evaluations without losing sight of factors beyond the data. I listen very carefully and consider opposing views in my decision-making process.
What are your top concerns for the organic community at this time?
One of my top concerns is the inadequate level of private industry participation in the provision of resources for research, outreach and education activities pertaining to organic agriculture. Given the unavailability of “quick fixes” in organic relative to conventional agriculture, it is critically important that organic producers have access to relevant research-based information and other resources long before they are needed; organic producers do not have the luxury of time in the same way as conventional producers do. Research activities are critical and should not be allowed to end/pause at the end of grant cycles. More resources are needed to provide relevant research-based information and an enabling environment to encourage more people to enter (and most importantly) remain in this sustainable production industry. Sustainability goals are better achieved with high levels of participation. It is therefore contradictory and unsustainable to maintain conditions that limit participation in the organic industry. More private industry resources are needed to facilitate the training, entry, and support for various professionals needed in the organic industry.
If you could change one thing about the organic community/industry, what would it be?
One thing I would change is the unavailability of a comprehensive range of technical support for organic producers in some parts of the country. Some areas do not have an adequate number of well-trained technical support professionals who are readily available to assist new organic enterprises in the development of realistic enterprise budgets, cost-effective decision-making and other important elements needed for success in the organic industry. Beyond government programs, more private enterprise participation is needed to address these issues. This participation may be in the form of direct financial support or the provision of services or opportunities such as internships/experiential learning programs.
Dr. Franklin Quarcoo is a Research-Extension Assistant Professor of Entomology at Tuskegee University. His research and extension activities focus on pest management in organic vegetable production systems. His research interests also include insect behavioral toxicology with particular emphasis on the behavioral response of insects to insecticides. He also led Tuskegee University’s Human Capital Development Project in partnership with the National Organic Program.
NOSB Meeting Reminder
The National Organic Standards Board will hear oral comments via Zoom April 18, 20, and their spring meeting will be online and in person April 25-27 from Atlanta, Georgia. The meetings are open to the public and advance registration is not required to attend.
Wolf & Associates submitted written comments, and will attend all sessions.
Canada and Mexico Sign Trade Agreement
Canada and Mexico have signed an equivalence agreement for trade in organic products. Now in effect, the arrangement applies to agricultural and processed products of plant origin grown or produced within either country, livestock and livestock products produced in Canada, and organic products whose final processing or packaging occurs within either country. For example, this could include products like fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables, as well as meat, poultry, dairy or egg products certified as organic in Canada.
Get Reimbursed For Going Organic in Canada
Financial support is available for farmers in Canada who are switching to organic agriculture, thanks to a program from the Canada Organic Trade Association.
Their Organic Transition Program reimburses producers for their paid certification costs up to $1,000 maximum. Farmers in their first, second or third year of pre-certification and certified organic farmers who are increasing their organic acreage are eligible to apply. Applications are accepted until all funds are allocated or by June 30, 2023. More information.
New Funding For Sustainable Agriculture Now Available
Canadian agricultural producers will have access to a new set of federal and provincial programs under the new $3.5 billion CAD, five-year Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership (SCAP).
SCAP is a new 5-year agreement between the federal, provincial and territorial governments to strengthen the competitiveness, innovation, and resiliency of the agriculture, agri‐based products sector. The agreement includes $1 billion
in federal programs and activities and $2.5 billion in cost-shared programs and activities funded by federal, provincial and territorial
governments. To best support producers with on-farm adoption of beneficial practices while reflecting local conditions and regional needs, the program will be designed and delivered by provinces and territories.
Proposed Food Security Scheme Favors Organic Products
In a move designed to provide healthy food for everyone, regardless of income, proposals in France and Belgium would provide a monthly stipend to every person. The funds could then be used for foods that meet certain criteria, such as organic certification, fair trade, or short supply chains. The program would be funded by contributions from each person based on income, with those earning more contributing more. Limited trials of the programs are underway in both countries. More.
UK’s Organic Market Inches Up Despite Economy
The United Kingdom’s organic market hit £3.1 billion in 2022, up 1.6% from 2021, according to the Soil Association’s Organic Market Report 2023, despite challenging economic conditions hitting people’s pocketbooks. Food service sales grew 152% in 2022 to reach £195.5 million. In the past three years, the UK’s organic food and drink market has grown 25.4%.
New Zealand Passes Legislation to Protect Use of ‘Organic’
After a decade of effort from New Zealand’s organic community, Parliament passed the Organic Products and Production Act on March 30, 2023. The new legislation will not have legal effect until the national standard and regulations are developed and in place. Then, there will be a three-year implementation period before the new system is mandatory. More.
Organic Industry News & Notices
The Organic Trade Association and its members who participate in visits to Congressional offices during Organic Week will be encouraging Congress to fund organic programs. Requests will include:
- National Organic Program (NOP) – fund at authorized level of $26.4 million – 10% more than last year
- Organic Certification Cost-Share Program (OCCSP) – $5 million
- Organic Transition Research Program (ORG) – fund at $10 million
- Organic Data Initiative (ODI)– fund at authorized level of $1 million
- Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) – fund at additional $10 million
Flooded Farms Use GoFundMe to Help Cover Losses
California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) has a list of CCOF-certified operations that have emergency online appeals via GoFundMe to assist with flood damage. Public and private resources for farms in California are also available to assist with recovery.
Learn More About Strengthening Organic Enforcement Regulations
Wolf & Associates, Inc. and Eurofins US Food, Feed, & Supplement Testing will offer a complimentary webinar on the impact of Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) regulations, and how to build risk management systems to meet regulatory and consumer expectations for your products’ organic integrity, and more. Presenters include John Foster, Wolf & Associates COO, and Joelle Mosso, Chief Science Officer, Eurofins Microbiology Laboratories, Inc. The Organic Integrity Management 101 webinar will be Wednesday April 19 at 11:00 am CDT. Part of the Produce Industry Webinar Series, this session includes information useful to the packaged goods sector as well—all are invited. All registrants will receive the webinar recording within three business days after the live event. Registration.
Canadian Produce Marketing Association is encouraging Canada’s fresh produce sector to start using certified industrially compostable price lookup (PLU) stickers. The association released guidance for the sector that includes suggestions for working with label suppliers.
New Coating Offers Hope of a BPA Alternative in Food Packaging
Using pomace left over from processing tomatoes, researchers in Europe have developed a biodegradable inner coating for metal food packaging. Alejandro Heredia, of the Institute of Subtropical and Mediterranean Horticulture, and an international team of researchers have produced a resin from tomato pomace, water and ethanol that holds promise as an alternative to bisphenol A (BPA). The team will be assessing potential applications of the product. More.
Inside the Beltway
About every five years, Congress updates the omnibus, multiyear Farm Bill covering commodity, nutrition, and conservations programs, and more. This year is a Farm Bill year, and there are opportunities to encourage more support for organic agriculture. A listening session, hosted by Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, GT Thompson (PA-15), will be livestreamed from Binghamton, New York, April 14 at 10 am EDT. The House Farm Bill Feedback portal also offers an opportunity to comment.
Plant Biostimulant Bill Garners Bipartisan Support
A bill to clarify the process for approving plant biostimulants, such as nitrogen-fixing microbes, has support from industry groups and legislators from both sides of the aisle. Introduced by Jim Baird, (R-Ind.) and Jimmy Panetta, (D-Calif) in the House, and Alex Padilla, D-Calif., and Mike Braun, R-Ind in the Senate, the Plant Biostimulant Act also has the support of the Biological Products Industry Alliance, which promotes the responsible development of safe and effective biological products including biopesticides, biostimulants, and biofertilizers. Having a standard regulatory definition of the products and a pathway to market could encourage innovation that could reduce pesticide and fertilizer use.
Comment on Proposed Rule to Change “Product of USA” Label Requirements
A proposed rule would allow the voluntary “Product of USA” or “Made in the USA” label claim to be used on meat, poultry and egg products only when they are derived from animals born, raised, slaughtered and processed in the United States. The current rules allow the use of the label if animals are raised outside of the US, but processed in the US. The rulemaking also proposes to allow other voluntary U.S. origin claims we see on meat, poultry and egg products sold in the marketplace, provided there is a description on the package of detailing the preparation and processing steps done in the United States. Comment on Docket No. FSIS-2022-0015 by June 11, 2023.
Tell USDA About Cover Crops
USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program wants to hear farmers’ thoughts about cover crops. Survey results help guide research priorities, education efforts and more.
USDA’s Advisory Committee on Minority Farmers Seeks Nominations
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking individuals to serve a two-year term on the Advisory Committee on Minority Farmers. Established in the Food Conservation and Energy Act of 2008, the committee works to ensure that underserved farmers have equal access to USDA programs. Nominations are due no later than April 24.
NRCS to Offer Additional Technical Assistance For Organic Farmers
As part of the multi-agency Organic Transition Initiative (OTI), USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will invest $75 million in financial and technical assistance for organic farming. NRCS will dedicate $70 million to assist producers with the new organic management requirements of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). The program supports conservation practices required for organic certification and may provide foregone income reimbursement for dips in production during the transition period. In addition, producers can use the program to attend workshops or request help from experts or mentors. Participants will apply for funds through through NRCS at their local USDA Service Center. The remaining $5 million will support six organic technical experts through five-year agreements. The organic experts will develop regional networks and support NRCS staff who provide services to USDA customers. These services include hosting hands-on organic training and fielding organic-related staff questions. One organic research position will support this network. NRCS will post a Notice of Funding Opportunity on grants.gov this week, which outlines requirements for proposals from regional organizations and partners. More.
The Survey Says…
Pest Controls for Organic Farms are Less Risky
An in-depth comparison of the 256 active substances for agriculture in the official European Union pesticide database with the 134 active substances permitted in organic farming found significant differences in the level of hazard and health-based guidance for the two sets. Results published in the journal Toxics showed that 55% of the substances used only in conventional agriculture contained health or environmental hazard statements, but only 3% did for substances authorized for organic agriculture. Also, 16% of conventional agriculture’s active substances included warnings about possible harm to unborn children, suspected carcinogenicity, or acute lethal effects, no active substances approved for organic agriculture included those warnings. Furthermore, 93% of conventional active substances, but only 7% of organic active substances had health-based guidance values from European authorities for dietary and non-dietary exposures.
Shoppers Value Products With Natural Labels
Despite inflation and economic pressures to spend less, 78% of consumers worldwide remain willing to pay more for products making natural claims, according to Ingredion’s consumer research. Forty-six percent of the 14000 survey participants in 30 countries would pay 20-30% more for products with natural claims. In addition, more shoppers are reading labels and looking for products without artificial ingredients. More.
The Organic Trade Association’s newest Organic Leadership Award Honorees are:
Organic Groundbreaker: David Oien of Timeless Seeds
Organic Farmer of the Year: April Jones Thatcher of April Joy Farm
Organic Climate Action: Nicole Rakobitsch of CROPP Cooperative/Organic Valley
Social Impact: Seth Goldman of Eat the Change
The trade association will celebrate these exemplary individuals at a reception May 9 in Washington, DC as part of Organic Week. More.
Lundberg Family Farms Adds Regenerative Designation To Organic Basmati Rice
Lundberg Family Farms, a leading grower of organic rice and maker of packaged rice and rice snacks, announced it is the first U.S. grown rice brand to introduce Regenerative Organic Certified® Rice. As part of its sustainability efforts, the company intends to certify all organic rice it grows by 2027.
Congratulations to CCOF on 50 Years
Started as a small group of organic farmers in 1973, California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) has grown over the past 50 years to offer not only organic certification but also complementary certifications like food safety, grassfed, Regenerative Organic Certified®, and OCal cannabis certification in California. Congratulations, and here’s to another 50 years of encouraging more organic farming!
Rodale Institute Selects New CEO
Jeff Tkach, Chief Impact Officer for Rodale Institute since 2017, will become Chief Executive Officer as of April 21. He succeeds Jeff Moyer, who has been the organization’s CEO since 2019. Moyer will continue to support and advise the organization as CEO Emeritus. Congratulations to both as they move into their new roles.
Job Opportunities Abound
IFOAM – Organics International would like to hire a new Executive Director.
National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is seeking an Executive Director.
Organic Trade Association is looking for a Regulatory Director
American Sustainable Business Network (ASBN) has multiple openings:
- VP, Membership Marketing (Full-time, Remote)
- Non-Profit Controller (Full-time, Remote)
- VP, Policy + Government Affairs (Full-time, Based in DC area)
- Fellow, Corporate Responsibility Policy (Part-time, Remote)
- Fellow, Circular Economy Policy (Part-time, Remote)
- Alaska Indigenous Policy Coordinator (Part-time, Remote)