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October 2021 News & Policy Updates for the Organic Industry

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”  ~William James

President’s Message

With the National Organic Standards Board meeting coming right up, we’d like to share some of our key concerns and suggested action steps for the Board.
 
First, the National List is a toolbox for helping organic production, not a soapbox for individual opinions or misleading information. Let’s encourage more people to go organic, and offer a practical toolbox appropriately limited according to the criteria the community has established. Follow the criteria, and keep increasing or improving the tools available for organic agriculture and production.
 
Second, as a voluntary citizen board, the NOSB deals with a lot of complex information on a broad array of topics. Expert support for the board would help assure accuracy of the information they receive and publish in proposals; could summarize public comments accurately and without bias; and could prepare regulatory language that is enforceable. That support should be available to them.
 
Finally, we’d like to change the regulations to apply commercial availability to the National List, §205.605 Nonagricultural (nonorganic) substances allowed as ingredients in or on processed products labeled as “organic” or “made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s)).” This simple change would encourage innovation and creation of new organic products. It would eliminate years of debate about listings, such as the five years spent arguing about the status of organic yeast, and incentivize the development of organic-compliant processes for new organic products. Let’s be pro-active instead of reactive.
 
A few milestones to note: Laura Batcha, the Organic Trade Association’s CEO will be leaving the organization in April 2022. Congratulations to her on her work there—we’ve enjoyed working with her, and look forward to seeing her contributions to the community going forward. We’re also thrilled to see Marni Karlin appointed at USDA and Jenny Lester Moffitt joining USDA as Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs. We will all benefit from such high-level organic expertise in this key government agency.

Bill Wolf
President 
Wolf & Associates

Regulatory Updates

Fall meetings will be October 13-14 and 19-21 online
The National Organic Standards Board Fall 2021 meeting will be held live online via Zoom from noon to 5 p.m. Eastern time October 19-21. The meetings are free and open to the public, and registration is not required. Public comments from those who registered in advance will be October 13-14 from noon to 6 p.m. Eastern time and you may listen to these comment sessions live via Zoom. The board meeting starting October 19 will include votes on many National List materials that are up for sunset review, as the agenda shows.
 
Comment on proposed materials delisting by October 25
Based on recommendations following the National Organic Standards Board’s sunset reviews, USDA’s National Organic Program proposed removing the following materials from the National List. The recommendations come as part of regular sunset reviews of materials at least every five years. NOSB’s current procedure is to discuss materials for sunset review at the spring meetings, and vote at the fall meetings whether or not to continue materials listings. (We’ve noted the NOSB meeting date when the NOSB recommended removing these materials.)

Synthetic substances currently allowed in organic crop and livestock production (7 CFR 205.601 and 205.603):

  • Sucrose Octanoate Esters (crop production) (NOSB vote: Oct. 2018)
  • Vitamin B1 (crop production) (NOSB vote: Nov. 2017)
  • Oxytocin (livestock production) (NOSB vote: Nov. 2017)
  • Procaine (livestock production) (NOSB vote: Nov. 2017)
  • Sucrose Octanoate Esters (livestock production) (NOSB vote: Oct. 2018)

 
NONORGANIC ingredients currently allowed in organic handling (§§205.605 and 205.606) (removing these items would mean that only the organic form would be allowed):

  • Alginic acid (NOSB vote: Oct. 2019)
  • Colors (black currant juice color, blueberry juice color, carrot juice color, cherry juice color, grape juice color, paprika color, pumpkin juice color, turmeric extract color) (NOSB vote: Oct. 2020)
  • Kelp (NOSB vote: Oct. 2020)
  • Konjac flour (NOSB vote: Nov. 2017)
  • Sweet potato starch (NOSB vote: Oct. 2020)
  • Turkish bay leaves (NOSB vote: Oct. 2015 and 2020)
  • Whey protein concentrate (NOSB vote: Oct. 2015 and 2020)

 
USDA seeks comment on oxytocin and colors in particular. Comment on what, if any, suitable alternatives to oxytocin exist. For colors, comment on whether or not there are enough organic colors in a suitable form and quality available. Be specific about which colors are undersupplied in an appropriate organic form, if they should be relisted (to allow nonorganic forms) or if the final rule should provide an implementation period to develop suitable commercially available colors.
 
USDA draws from organic community to add key personnel

  • In August, the Senate approved the appointment of Jenny Lester Moffitt as USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs. She most recently served as Undersecretary at the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Earlier in her career, she spent 10 years managing her family’s organic walnut farm and processing operation.
  • Marni Karlin has joined USDA as Senior Advisor for Organic and Emerging Markets. Karlin brings two decades of experience in policy and the organic and emerging agricultural markets space – including consulting with stakeholders across the organic sector from producers to certifiers, service as Vice President of Government Affairs and General Counsel of the Organic Trade Association, and serving as the founding Executive Director of the Controlled Environment Agriculture Food Safety Coalition.

Congratulations to both!
 
USDA to fund human capital projects
U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Marketing and Regulatory announced $1.73 million of funding for nine projects to improve the oversight capacity of the organic industry. Designed to support and expand the pool of qualified inspectors, reviewers, and other professionals who oversee organic production across the human capital pipeline, the projects include:

  • Nourishing the Future Organic Inspector: A Mentorship Pilot and Southern States Recruitment and Training Program. Project lead: California Certified Organic Farmers Foundation
  • Deploying a Systems Framework for Classroom and Field-based Organic Agriculture Education. Project lead: Tuskegee University.
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Resources for Organic Professionals. Project Lead: Organic Farmers Association
  • Providing High School and Postsecondary Students with Employment Opportunities in the Organic Industry: A Career Educational Technical Model for Organic Technicians/Inspectors. Project lead: Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers
  • Bridging the Gaps: Enhancing Organic Programs in Postsecondary Education to Expand and Diversify the Certification Workforce Pipeline. Project lead: Oregon Tilth
  • Developing Cooperative Support for Organic Professionals. Project lead: Northwest Cooperative Development Center
  • Building a Sustainable and Inclusive Apprenticeship Program for Organic Inspectors and Other Organic Professionals. Project lead: International Organic Inspectors Association
  • Improving Professional Outcomes for Organic Inspectors through Training in Organic Agronomy. Project leads: Organic Agronomy Training Service and the Organic Trade Association.

Verifying the Promise of Certified Organic in the Northeast: Expanding Collaboration, Cooperation and Capacity-Building in the Northeast to Train, Inspect and Certify to the NOP. Project lead: Northeast Organic Farming Association.

News & Notices

OTA’s CEO will depart in the spring
Laura Batcha, the Organic Trade Association’s current CEO/Executive Director, will be leaving her position in April 2022. We thank her for a job well done, and look forward to seeing what she does next to benefit the organic community. Organic Trade Association will retain an executive search firm to find the next leader of the association.

Pandemic Response and Safety (PRS) Grant program now open
USDA is accepting applications for grants in its Pandemic Response and Safety (PRS) program. Small businesses in certain agriculture and aquaculture commodity areas can apply for grants of $1500-20,000 to cover COVID-related expenses such as personal protective equipment, retrofitting facilities for safety, shifting to online sales, transportation, worker housing, and more. Applications are due November 22.

Iowa State researchers breed new lines of organic corn
Thanks to a $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, researchers at Iowa State University are applying genetic tools to the development of organic sweet corn and corn varieties for specialty uses, such as for popcorn and tortillas. Most seeds bred for corn production are suited to conventional agricultural systems, not organic. Building on previous work to identify genes controlling traits valued by organic producers, such as pest tolerance and kernel quality, the researchers will use an organic-compatible version of doubled haploid technology, which allows for the development of usable inbred lines much faster than conventional breeding. Organic farmers who have agreed to evaluate the hybrids will supply feedback on which varieties appear most promising.

United Nations Food Summit reveals different approaches from EU, US
Although the United States and the European Union are both working on more climate friendly food systems, the two have taken different paths, as the United National Food Systems Summit made plain. The United States is investing $4 billion to strengthen foods systems through support for food production and improved processing, distribution, and market opportunities and unveiled an International Coalition on Sustainable Productivity Growth for Food Security and Resource Conservation that emphasizes increasing productivity and efficiency in the food system. US Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack touted technologies, such as gene editing, biotechnology and precision farming as important tools for climate-smart agriculture.

Meanwhile, the European Union’s Farm to Fork plan emphasizes pesticide reduction and shifting to organic farming. More.

New insurance for famers selling locally
Beginning with the 2022 crop year, USDA’s Risk Management Agency will offer Micro Farm insurance policies for small farms that sell locally. The policies simplify record keeping and cover post-production costs like washing and value-added products. The Micro Farm policy is available to producers who have a farm operation that earns an average allowable revenue of $100,000 or less, or for carryover insureds, an average allowable revenue of $125,000 or less. The policy builds on other RMA efforts to better serve specialty and organic crop growers.

California legalizes CBD foods
On October 6, California’s governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 45, legalizing retail sales of non-intoxicating cannabinoids, including CBD, sold as dietary supplements and as ingredients in food and beverages. Among the details, hemp products must contain less than 0.3 percent THC, and California’s Department of Public Health may impose age requirements and regulate serving size. Food and beverages must be prepackaged and shelf stable. The US Food and Drug Administration, meanwhile, says CBD is not a legal dietary ingredient because it was investigated as a drug. More.

Talk about the future of organic at workshop series
The Organic Trade Association and Arizona State University’s Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems will host a series of workshops to guide the future of organic. The four workshops will feature breakout groups with frank discussion to examine the changing needs of the organic sector, explore ways to improve, and discuss how to build upon successes. Space is limited in the workshops; register early to participate in the series, which begins October 27 with a session for certifiers only.

IFOAM members choose World Board
At the recent General Assembly, IFOAM/Organics International’s members elected a World Board to serve from 2021-2024. In addition, Tunisia will host the next Organic World Congress in 2024. Congratulations to:

  • President: Karen Mapusua, Fiji
  • Vice President: Choitresh (Bablu) Ganguly, India
  • Vice President: Julia Lernoud, Argentina
  • Sarah Compson, United Kingdom
  • Fortunate Nyakanda, Zimbabwe
  • Paul Holmbeck, Denmark
  • Shamika Mone, India
  • Miyoshi Satoko, Japan
  • Marco Schlüter, Germany
  • Jennifer Taylor, USA

Interested in selling internationally?
Check out the resources on the Organic Trade Association’s Global Organic Trade Guide. You’ll find market information, news from around the world, a list of international trade shows, and more.