“I have a deadline. I’m glad. I think that will help me get it done.” ~Michael Chabon
In this season of contemplating life’s blessings, I am remembering my friend Roger Blobaum, who passed away in October.
Roger was a gentle pioneer bridge-builder and peace-maker. I will miss his quiet and thoughtful presence. Some of you may recall the amazing organic policy conferences he organized in Washington, DC under the auspices of the Center for Science in the Public Interest many years ago. It helped build consensus and momentum that led to the creation of the successful National Organic Program.
He also helped initiate the national organic history archive managed by the Wisconsin Historical Society and housed in Madison. At Roger’s request, my 50 years of organic notes and records will be joining his and others at the University of Wisconsin library.
Roger’s contributions to the health and safety of people and the planet during his lifetime and for generations forward will not be forgotten.
May we all live our lives so that those who know us count it as a blessing.
Wolf & Associates
SOE Countdown Continues
As of November 29, we’re 110 days until March 19, 2024, when everyone working with organic products in the United States, no matter where those products originated, must be following the Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) rules. If you need help getting it done, give us a shout.
Software Lets You Examine Your Supply Chain
Wolf & Associates is always on the lookout for systems and tools to enhance the community’s efforts to grow organic with integrity. As part of that effort, we’re working with Organic Services GmbH to promote the Check Integrity/Check Organic software platform.
Adopting this software tool is timely, given that both the United States and European Union are implementing stricter organic regulations to prevent fraud and assure supply chains can be trusted. Check Organic provides state of the art, cloud-based fraud detection and ingredient traceability and can help US organic brands comply with the Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) regulatory changes that come into full force in March of 2024.
Check Organic maps and links certification and transaction data of organic products along the supply chain. Based on the certified organic acreage, expected yield and real-time transaction data, the system calculates a mass balance and checks the plausibility of produced vs. sold organic quantities. While a product travels along the supply chain, Check Organic displays each operators’ certification status and the products’ integrity status via an intuitive traffic light system; revealing food fraud even before the ingredient can reach your production floor or a product is sold on the market.
By providing certification and transaction data to Check Organic, you join in the fight against organic food fraud, enable the detection of irregularities, reduce your risk profiles and save time and money for integrity-related, additional checks and testing.
If you’d like to know more about this, or other ways to improve your fraud prevention systems, please contact us.
Farm Bill Extension Keeps Programs in Place
On November 15, Congress extended the 2018 Farm Bill provisions for another year. Crucial programs for the organic sector that will remain in place for now include the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative, Organic Production and Market Data Initiative, the Organic Integrity Database, and the National Organic Certification Cost-Share program.
New Comparison Shows How Organic Practices are Climate Smart
A new microlearning course in the Organic Integrity Learning Center outlines the intersections between organic practices and climate-smart agriculture. Many of the practices are eligible for financial support through Natural Resources Conservation Service programs. Building soil health, protecting water quality, and maintaining biodiversity are parts of the organic standards that help mitigate climate change.
The Canadian Organic Standards are up for review in 2025. The Organic Federation of Canada (OFC) collected over 250 proposals for changes to the regulations. OFC Working Groups will analyze the proposals by February 2024, with an opportunity for public comment expected in March 2025.
European Union Changes Organic Pet Food Labeling Requirements
New legislation (EU Regulation 2023/2419) published in the Official Journal of the European Union October 18 aligns the labeling of organic pet food with organic food for human consumption, as outlined in Regulation (EU) 2018/848. Among other changes, the EU organic production logo will be mandatory for prepacked organic pet food. Pet food producers have 6 months to include the logo on their products.
Soil Association Starts “Organic For All” Campaign In order to better fulfill the potential of the organic sector to address climate and health issues, the Soil Association has initiated a drive to make organic products affordable, available and accessible to all in the United Kingdom. They intend to collaborate with people across the organic sector to make sure organic farms and products are valued, supported, and available at home and in public settings.
Denmark’s Action Plan Boosts Plant-Based Foods Denmark initiated an action plan to encourage wider adoption of plant-based foods. The new plan, part of its 2021 “Agreement on the green transformation of Danish agriculture,” will work across the food system from farm to fork. Along with funding for research and development, the plan emphasizes training for chefs and more focus on plant-based diets in schools and the education system. The plan takes a broad look at plant-based foods, including foods derived from fruits and vegetables, meat substitutes and edible fungi, algae and microorganisms. A portion of the funds will be used to develop diverse organic crops and how they could be used to create nutritious plant-based foods. The market for plant-based food is expected to grow 4-11% annually in Denmark, and one goal of the plan is to increase Denmark’s exports of plant-based foods. The market worldwide is expected to reach $35.9 billion by 2033.
Wales Prioritizes Sustainable Food Training Food and beverage businesses in Wales can receive training on sustainability along with a self-assessment tool and support for attaining B-Corp business certification. Wales’ Sustainability Cluster also offers businesses in the food and beverage sector to business networks and access additional resources for improving sustainability and more.
European Commission Will Allow Glyphosate for 10 More Years
After failing to reach a majority of votes to either reauthorize the use of the glyphosate or to reject it, the European Commission will continue to allow it for another decade with new restrictions. Using glyphosate as a pre-harvest desiccant will be prohibited and new measures to protect non-target organisms will be required. Member States have the opportunity to add further restrictions as part of their individual pesticide approvals processes. More.
European Union Rejects Bill to Reduce Pesticide Use The European Parliament rejected the Sustainable Use of Plant Protection Products Regulation, a crucial component of the European Union’s Green Deal. The proposal would have cut the use of chemical pesticides in half by 2030 and was seen as an important move toward more sustainable agriculture. The vote was close, with 299 members of parliament voting against the proposal, 209 for the regulations and 121 abstaining. More.
Agrochemicals Linked to Increase in Childhood Cancers in Brazil
Research published in the journal of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, PNAS, found that agricultural pesticide exposure associated with soy farming is linked to a rise in child cancer deaths in Brazil. Community exposure to agrochemicals, including glyphosate, is correlated to an increase in childhood cancer and disease mortality. Following the increase of soybean production, there were 123 additional deaths from acute lymphoblastic leukemia in children under 10 from 2008 to 2019.
Organic Industry News & Notices
Kentucky Farmers to Test Global Farm Metric
The Organic Association of Kentucky will be working with the Global Farm Metric to trial its farm sustainability assessment tool with 500 farmers over the next five years. Developed by OAK in collaboration with the Sustainable Food Trust, the Global Farm Metric is designed to encourage more sustainable farming practices. Comprised of categories, sub-categories and indicators, the metric can take into account differences in context, such as which organisms in the soil denote good soil health. The project’s originators are preparing to test the practical application of the metric in about a dozen locations around the world.
Will It Compost? Labeling Principals Designed to Clarify Compostability
The US Composting Council (USCC) and Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) have developed guiding principles for labeling compostable products. They are using the principals to develop a model labeling bill for compostables. Among the principles:
- Label compostable products with distinguishing elements (such as a color or stripe) and certification logos
- Do not allow non-compostable items to use the same distinguishing elements
- Regulations should prohibit misleading terms like “biodegradable” “degradable” and “decompostable” from being used on products and packaging.
- Limit compostability claims to products that touch, contain or carry food, scraps or other organic materials that can be collected for composting and are accepted by composters.
Restrict soil biodegradation claims to products for agriculture.
China Approves Production of GMO Corn and Soy
After years of trials and public controversy, China has approved the use of 37 genetically modified corn varieties and 14 GM soy varieties for commercial production after November 15, 2023. Food security concerns in an era of global uncertainty sparked the change in policy, as the move is expected to improve self-sufficiency and reduce China’s food trade deficit.
Inside the Beltway
USDA to Boost Specialty Crops Sector
As part of an effort to make the United States specialty crop sector more competitive, the USDA is asking for comment on how to better meet the sector’s needs. USDA’s Specialty Crops Competitiveness Initiative also complied a directory of resources for specialty crop producers and launched a specialty crops web page. Comments on docket number AMS-SC-23-0073 are due March 8, 2024
Changes to Poultry Contract Requirements
As part of an effort to modernize the century-old Packers and Stockyards Act, the Transparency in Poultry Growing Contracts and Tournaments Final Rule will require live poultry dealers to disclose critical information to poultry growers with whom they enter into contracts. These measures, which will likely take effect in February 2024, will be a deterrent against anticompetitive practices in a highly consolidated industry.
Lenders to Step Up Outreach to Young, Beginning and Small Farms
Thanks to updated rules approved by the Farm Credit Administration Board, lenders in the Farm Credit System must have strategic plans for working with young, beginning and small farmers. Plans must include effective outreach to attract those farmers and ranchers. Young farmers are those under age 35; beginners have less than 10 years farming; and small farms have $250,000 or less in gross income.
Government Agencies Have New Priorities for Assessing Regulations
New guidance for government agencies in evaluating potential regulations prioritizes how they will impact the future. Seen as important for combating climate change, the new guidance will also allow agencies to look at the effects outside the U.S. borders and to better consider the impacts of regulations on diverse communities. More.
The Survey Says…
Organic Label Influences Purchase
More than other age groups, millennials and Gen Z consumers are more likely to seek out products with the “USDA Organic” label. In a survey for the Non-GMO Project, 88% of consumers were aware of or somewhat familiar with organic attributes, and 31% said organic was important when buying food. Furthermore, 72% were aware of the USDA Organic seal, up from 63% in 2019. For 47% of consumers, the organic label makes them more likely to purchase a product. More.
Wait Times After Raw Manure Use Reduce Food Safety Risks
In one of the first longitudinal studies to look at Listeria monocytogenes in soil on organic farms, researchers found that the waiting period between applying untreated manure and harvesting crops, as required in the National Organic Program, reduced food safety risks. Organic farmers must wait 90 days after applying untreated manure before harvesting crops that are not directly in contact with soil, and 120 days for crops that contact the soil. Fewer than 5% of the soil samples in the study, and none of the fresh produce or irrigation water samples, were positive for Listeria monocytogenes. The study also looked at other management and environmental conditions that could change levels of pathogens, including weather conditions, and the season when manure was applied.
Honoring Roger Blobaum
Roger Blobaum, a pioneer in the organic community, passed away in October after a long illness. Significantly, Roger led a coalition of national organizations that helped shape the 1990 Organic Foods Production Act and that advocated for its enactment. Roger served on boards of more than 30 regional, national and international organic and sustainable agriculture organizations, including Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES). We extend our condolences to those who knew and loved him.
Find a New Job
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is hiring a Program Associate. Apply by November 30.
Help Guide OMRI
The Organic Materials Review Institute seeks stakeholder applicants for its board of directors, and currently has an opening for a Public Interest representative. Board members provide mission-based leadership and overall governance of the organization.
Connect With Farmers at EcoFarm
Registration for the EcoFarm Conference January 17-20 in Pacific Grove California is open. Save $100 by registering before December 15, which is also the deadline to sign up for a booth in the event’s Expo tent.