“The most valuable possession you can own is an open heart. The most powerful weapon you can be is an instrument of peace.” ~Carlos Santana
The Holiday season is different this year, with virtual instead of in-person celebrations, and that’s just one change we’ve had to face this year. Although 2020 has brought more uncertainty and turmoil than any year in recent history, we have much to be thankful for. The resilience of the organic food supply and its verification systems were tested and strengthened. We have learned new ways to communicate and stay connected. Furthermore, I believe that we’ll see continuous improvement in organic regulations, from livestock standards to fraud prevention.
This season I’m striving to reach out to friends, family and neighbors, including those with whom I don’t always agree. Now is the time to reopen communication channels that will strengthen our political and social resolve to work together as a society, going forward. I hope we can make the organic community an example of that needed progress. Virtual meetings will continue to be the norm for the first half of 2021, but I look forward to seeing many of you in person next year.
On a personal note I am thankful for so much. Our harvests are stored, garlic beds are ready to plant, and winter cover crops at the office and the farm are looking good. While we enjoy the season’s bounty, the Austrian Field Peas and the rye and hairy vetch mix are each happily capturing free atmospheric nitrogen for next year’s crops.
May you and yours stay safe and healthy and have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Wolf & Associates
NOP to rewrite proposed origin of livestock rule
Deputy Administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service National Organic Program Dr. Jennifer Tucker announced that the NOP plans to rewrite and publish another proposed rule on the origin of livestock. She said legal review prompted the decision, and issues to be resolved include who is being regulated (producers or operations), movement of transitioned cows, and how the regulation relates to the Organic Foods Production Act. Congress mandated the creation of the final rule as part of the FY20 appropriations bill.
Meanwhile, a coalition of organic dairies, organic business trade groups, and certification organizations urged the Secretary of Agriculture, via a letter sent October 30, to move ahead with the proposed rule without another rewrite and public comment period. The group cited the section of the appropriations act from nearly a year ago, which directed the Secretary to issue a final rule within 180 days. In addition, they stressed that the proposed rule has broad general support from industry and the public.
US Senate released FY 2021 appropriation bills
In the Appropriations Bill for Fiscal 2021, the United States Senate included $18 million for the National Organic Program, up $2 million from the previous year and the same as in the House appropriations bill. Other funding for organic includes $6 million for the Organic Transitions Research Program—level funded from last year, but $1 million less than the House bill; and $500,000 supplemental funding for the Organic Data Initiative to expand price reporting and data collection. The House bill did not include this data initiative funding.
The Senate’s report also expresses disappointment that the USDA has not completed rulemaking on the origin of livestock and directs USDA to finalize the rulemaking as soon as possible. In addition, the Senate stated its concern that the Department provided inaccurate estimates on the available unused funding for the National Organic Certification Cost- Share Program during the development of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, which is leading to a funding gap for farmers. The Committee asked for a report on how USDA will resolve inconsistencies in supplying Congress with estimates on funding available for the OCCSP and other Farm Bill programs. Read the Senate’s report or the bill.
National Organic Standards Board discusses sanitizers
The National Organic Standards Board met November 12 via Zoom for a panel discussion of sanitizer materials. Three panelists, Bob Durst, from the Linus Pauling Institute; Dr. Joseph Morelli, corporate scientist for Ecolab; and Dr. Angela Anandappa, executive director of Alliance for Advanced Sanitation, made brief presentations then the bulk of the two hour session was devoted to questions from the board members. Panelists discussed the difference between cleaning and sanitizing, and emphasized that proper cleaning is important. It was clarified that just about any substance could be used for cleaning under the NOP Rule because cleaners are rinsed away so that no residues are left behind. Sanitizers, on the other hand, are not rinsed away, as rinsing or removal could reintroduce pathogens.
Another topic was the difference between resistance (genetic mutation that renders the sanitizers ineffective), versus persistence of antimicrobials because they are simply less susceptible to the sanitizer versus a change to the composition of the microflora. Dr. Morelli emphasized that beyond looking at the chemistry of the materials, it is important to look at the specific application of the materials during their evaluation, as the balance of which evaluation criteria are most important could change. Dr. Anandappa highlighted the need for two or three materials to cover each sanitizing need, so that it would be possible to rotate products if microbes persisted or formed biofilms, which are difficult to completely remove.
One suggestion was developing a hierarchy of materials from those most closely meeting all the environmental and human health goals of organic systems to those less closely aligned with organic criteria, somewhat similar to the way pests are handled in integrated pest management systems. If the need for different sanitizers escalates suddenly, perhaps there could be pre-approvals from certifiers based on such a hierarchy. Part of the evaluation of materials might be more specificity about the need for the material, plus ways that the new material drives continual improvement toward the objectives of organic systems. The board thought creating a flow chart or decision tree that considers the need for rotation and back-up materials might be useful as well.
The board will continue to work on how to better evaluate sanitizers for organic systems, and a recording of the meeting will be posted online.
Organic learning center adds material review course
USDA’s Organic Integrity Learning Center now offers a free course in Input Material Review. Developed with the Organic Materials Review Institute, the course covers fundamental material review principles, organic regulatory requirements, and resources for making informed decisions and uses real-world examples from crops, livestock and handling.
Final rule adds tamarind seed gum to National List
Effective December 7, 2020, non-organic tamarind seed gum will be allowed as an ingredient in organic handling when an organic form is not commercially available according to a final rule published November 5. The National Organic Standards Board recommended adding tamarind seed gum as an allowed nonorganic agricultural ingredient to § 205.606 of the National List during its October 2018 public meeting. Other materials changes recommended at that meeting are not going forward at this time. AMS is not finalizing the proposed amendments for blood meal with sodium citrate or natamycin, based in part on new information that came to light in public comments.
Proposed rule would add to traceability requirements for herbs
The Food and Drug Administration has proposed a rule on “Requirements for Additional Traceability Records for Certain Foods.” The changes are designed to help prevent or mitigate foodborne illness outbreaks through improved traceability. American Herbal Products Association reports that under the proposed rule, the creator or first receiver of listed foods would be required to create a lot-specific “traceability lot code” for the food. This code would then follow the lot through the supply chain until a documented kill step is applied or the lot enters retail sale. Other companies that handle, ship, receive or transform the food throughout the supply chain would also be required to maintain additional records depending upon their operations. Fresh herbs are among the foods listed for the new requirements. Comment on Docket No. FDA-2014-N-0053 by January 21, 2021.
Europe to postpone implementation of organic regulations
The European Commission introduced legislation that would change the implementation date of the new EU organic regulations from January 1, 2021 to January 1 2022. The legislation is expected to be adopted by early 2021. If EU extends the implementation date, the US-EU equivalency arrangement will extend through 2026.
Comment on specifics of new EU regulations
The comment period is open for specific components of the new European Union organic regulations. Stakeholders outside of Europe may comment on EU 754 – Production rules on sprouted seeds and chicory heads, aquaculture feed and treatments (comment deadline 12/21/2020). See instructions for comment here.
The comment period for other sections closed recently:
Canada to update its organic standards
After extensive review and public comment, Canada’s is poised to release an updated version of its standards. The country’s climate for agriculture has driven many of the changes, which seek to make organic agriculture possible under challenging conditions for some products. Among the changes:
- Broilers raised in barns will have daily access to the outdoors at 25 days old when there are not adverse weather conditions;
- For laying hens, there are new requirements for enrichments on verandas, covered unheated play areas equal to 1/3 of the barn’s surface area.
- Tie stalls for dairy cows will be prohibited after 2030
- Farmers will be allowed to use up to 30% non-organic feed for 30 days after a catastrophe such as a flood or fire, if they can’t obtain what they need within 10 days of the catastrophe.
- In the case of regional shortages of forage, such as in drought conditions, non-organic forage can comprise up to 25% of forage for the herd.
- If effective non-genetically engineered vaccines are not available, vaccines produced from genetically modified substrates may be used.
- If lysine and methionine supplements that comply with the rules are not commercially available, other sources of lysine and methionine are permitted.
- Organic plants must grow under sunlight; artificial lighting is only allowed for shoots, microgreens, sprouts and transplant starts.
- Beekeepers will be allowed to feed bees with sugar in the winter.
- To encourage transition, farmers will be allowed to grow both organic and non-organic crops that are visually indistinguishable during the last 24 months of transition to organic.
Permitted substances lists:
- Tables 4.2 and 4.3 for crop production have been combined, simplifying finding information about which soil amendments and production aids are acceptable in which situations
- Struvite from livestock urine is a new addition to the list.
- Genetic engineering with CRISPR technology is now specifically prohibited.
See the details of the changes when the updated standards are published online.
News & Notices
Natural cosmetic standards get a facelift
Starting in January 2021, the natural and organic cosmetic labels from the Natural Cosmetics Association Natrue will shift from three categories (‘natural’, ‘organic’, and natural with organic portion’) to two label categories (‘natural’ and ‘organic’). The standards for the organic label remain the same, with a requirement for 95 percent natural plant or animal substances from controlled organic cultivation or wild growth. For the natural category, palm oil and palm kernel oil must come from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil or other certified sustainable supply chains. By the end of 2022, all raw materials must be recognized by Natrue or certified. More.
US organic farms plan to increase production
Nearly a third (29 percent) of organic farms plan to increase production according to the most recent 2019 Organic Survey from the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) survey. In addition, sales of organic products were up 31 percent from 2016, to a total of $9.93 billion. California led the way with 36 percent of US total organic sales, and 3,012 certified farms with 965,257 acres in certified organic production. Washington, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Texas round out the top five states for organic sales.
The top five product categories and commodities for organic sales in 2019 include:
The top sectors and commodities in 2019 were:
- Livestock and poultry products: $2.48 billion, up 12%
- Milk: $1.59 billion, up 14%
- Vegetables: $2.08 billion, up 27%
- Lettuce: $400 million, up 44%
- Fruits, tree nuts, and berries: $2.02 billion, up 44%
- Apples: $475 million, up 45%
- Livestock and Poultry: $1.66 billion, up 44%
- Broiler chickens: $1.12 billion, up 49%
- Field Crops: $1.18 billion, up 55%
- Corn for grain: $278 million, up 70%
Organics International reopens board nominations
IFOAM-Organics International, which postponed its General Assembly to 2021, has reopened its nominations for members of the world board. Applications are due April 15, 2021. More.
OFRF grants support seed development
In response to the ongoing need for cultivars adapted to particular regions and suitable for organic production, the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) has awarded four new grants for crop breeding and organic seed development. The grants will support projects focused on providing best practices for adapting to climate change with vegetable varieties that are locally adapted to low-input organic systems for southern Ontario and the Northeast U.S; evaluation of selection methods and efficacy in on-farm breeding of organic wheat and oat varieties; development of disease-resistant heirloom-quality tomatoes, especially those resistant to late blight; and ways heritage grains impact on soil health, climate adaptivity, weed pressure, and insect pressure. Results from all OFRF-funded projects are available free.
Canadian farmer who fought Monsanto has died
Percy Schmeiser, the Canadian farmer who challenged the technology use fees Monsanto imposed on him for replanting saved seed, died October 13 at age 89. Schmeiser used seed from volunteer canola plants that were genetically engineered as resistant to Roundup, and replanted them along with seeds he saved from his fields. Monsanto, now part of Bayer pharmaceutical group, took samples from his fields without permission and requested he pay for using their ‘technology.’ He refused, and took the matter to court, where the courts ultimately ruled he did not owe the technology fee.
Comment on GMO corn variety deregulation
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is inviting public comment on a petition from Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. seeking deregulation of a corn variety developed using genetic engineering for resistance to corn rootworm and tolerance to glufosinate herbicides. Comment on Docket Number APHIS-2020-0098 at Regulations.gov by January 4, 2021.