Organic Policy and Regulations, What is Organic

The National Organic Standards Board needs you!

200px-National_Organic_ProgramThis Spring, all organic stakeholders will have a chance to put their idealism into action. The National Organic Standards Board, or NOSB, will meet April 29 to May 2 in San Antonio, Texas, at the St. Anthony Hotel with the intent of hearing what you have to say on materials and the organic regulations.

The biannual meeting is an opportunity for advocates, consumers and growers to weigh in on proposed NOSB recommendations and discussion items. A list of subcommittees and proposals can be found by accessing this link. As many know, last year’s Fall meeting was canceled as a result of the government shutdown; many items that were to be addressed then will now be discussed at next month’s meeting.

The NOSB plans to look at several petitions to the National List. These include substances used in aquaculture, including chlorine, and the use of streptomycin for the prevention of pear and apple blight. If you are a producer or manufacturer, take a moment to look at the full agenda to determine what is at stake and if it affects your business. If you are a retailer, the NOSB will issue guidance on retailer certification. Board members will also review a seed purity report on the heels of a final discussion document released by the GMO Ad Hoc Subcommittee. The subcommittee’s conclusion was a genetic purity standard is desirable for seed used in organic production systems where there are GMO varieties of that crop. It is too soon to design and implement a working standard because of a lack of data. More work and input will be needed as this urgent standard is developed. Additional topics on the agenda include discussion on Overarching Ideas and Undercurrents in Organics and an overview of the Materials Update/Process.

The deadline to submit written comments for the Spring 2014 meeting is April 8. You can make your comments electronically at this link. If you can attend the meeting, you can sign up for in-person oral comments here. The Organic Trade Association, or OTA, is seeking comments from interested members and plans to post these draft comments on the OTA website on March 27.

For some background, the NOSB is responsible for seeking public comment and helping develop the organic standards.  NOSB members are appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture to advise the Secretary of Agriculture and the National Organic Program on implementation of the organic standards and maintenance of the list of allowed and prohibited substances. The board is made up of four farmers, three environmentalist, three consumers, two food processors as well as one retailer, one scientist and one certifying agent.

The USDA is seeking applications for four NOSB positions to fill upcoming vacancies. If you have the expertise and the time to serve, the vacancies are for the environmentalist, producer, handler and retailer positions. The terms start January 24, 2015 and run for five years. If you are interested or know someone, nominations must be submitted by May 15, 2014. Details can be found here.

The organic seal represents the most transparent food system in the country. As participants of this precious system it is our responsibility to pay attention and participate. When it comes to the future standards of our cherished industry, the opinions can be as passionate as they are varied. That’s good; robust discussion is necessary. The important part is that we all get out there and make our voices heard! Let me know how you are participating this spring.

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