Track the Fireworks at the USDA Organics Meeting in TX #NOSBApril 29th, 2014
12:47 p.m., May 2
Join the Cornucopia Institute as we live tweet from the National Organic Standards Board meeting in San Antonio, Texas. We will be sharing the play by play with our Twitter followers under #NOSB or simply follow our stream. If you’re not already following us on Twitter please do so here.
Read more about what’s at stake at this important meeting here.
You can also stay updated throughout the meeting right here:
Friday, May 2
12:47 p.m.: That’s all folks – spring NOSB meeting closed. Thanks for caring about the organic farming/food movement! Photo of full board:
11:41 a.m.: Colehour Bondera, self-described small farmer/minority member = letter to McEvoy asking for a return to former sunset rules / intent of OFPA
11:29 a.m.: #NOSB – the boiler additive referral back to committee for intention to get schooled on them by experts next fall.
11:28 a.m.: John Foster (Handler – WhiteWave/Earthbound) remains Vice-chair and Mac Stone (certifier) moves to Sec. (photo L to R: McEvoy, Stone, Foster)
11:24 a.m.: New NOSB Chair Dr. Jean Richardson, VT (public interest rep) – nominated by Joe Dickson
11:19 a.m.: Ammonium hydroxide (boiler additive) and glycerin referred back to committee for more study.
11:09 a.m.: All aquaculture materials going back to committee; NOSB asks for release of draft standards b4 further board action and new TRs
All aquaculture materials proposed for farm-raising fish, shellfish, crustaceans, and algae were referred back to the Livestock Subcommittee — great news for the health of our oceans, waterways, and fishing communities. Another interesting twist was the addition of a motion to require the NOP to publish draft aquaculture standards and updated Technical Reviews before the Livestock Subcommittee would consider any aquaculture material listings in the future. This motion passed as well.
10:55 a.m.: #NOSB members taking a stand against the new sunset policy by sending the methionine petition back to subcommittee though they would have supported it.
The methionine vote was long and complicated. Many felt that if they approved the language change that it would remain on the National List forever (because of the new USDA sunset rules) and would not stimulate a move towards the alternatives to synthetic methionine. However, the USDA NOP staff told the board members that they could not add an expiration date to the proposal because that constituted a “substantive change” and would have to be published in the Federal Register.
NOP Director McEvoy said that the Livestock Subcommittee could submit a petition for a methionine expiration date, but that would have to go through the regular petition process that everybody else has to go through.
Therefore a motion was made by Thicke and seconded by crop producer Maravell. This motion passed 8 to 7. The methionine discussion will thus go back to committee and will probably show back up on the fall 2014 NOSB meeting in Louisville. In the meantime, the old rules for methionine apply, which is a hard cap of 2 pounds per ton of feed for broilers and layers, 3 pounds for turkeys and other fowl. Some say this is not good for poultry welfare, but poultry producers will have to wait (due to the rigid USDA) until at least the fall for any changes to be made.
10:48 a.m.: NOSB votes to send Methionine changes back to Livestock subcommittee (no changes in use at this time). Some would have liked to pull in 5-years
10:42 a.m.: USDA blocking NOSB from making changes to proposals during meeting (in this case adding expiration date – Methionine).
9:28 a.m.: Magnesium oxide approved for use and placement on the National List 13-2, Taylor and Feldman as no votes:
J. Feldman – Motion to add MgO2 until May 1, 2019 [5 years after the date it is first allowed]
Z. Sonnabend – I resent the position that the board will not do a 5-year review of each material, despite the change in the sunset process. We do not need to add an annotation to everything.
C. Bondera – In some cases a re-evaluation is appropriate.
J. Feldman – We are underlying the integrity of the organic label. We have the most informed audience. With the old sunset, we can walk out of here knowing we had an honest and open debate.
MgO2 approved 14-4 (Bondera and Taylor voting “no”)
9:15 a.m.: BP’s Feldman proposes new material approved will expire in 5-years (a work-around so there really is a sunset). CCOF’s Sonnabend opposed
9:05 a.m.: NOSB refuses to extend use of streptomycin in apple/pear orchards beyond Oct. 21, 2014. Vote is 8-7, with 10 votes needed to extend
Streptomycin, an antibiotic that has been allowed as a last resort to control fire blight in organic apples and pears, was supposed to Sunset on October 21, 2014. The NOSB Crops Committee submitted a proposal to extend the phase out until October 21, 2017, believing that would give orchardists more time to explore alternatives and more time for on-farm research to continue. Orchardists and NOSB members Harold Austen (Zirkle) and Zea Sonnabend (CCOF) made the motion to extend but it failed to garner the required 2/3 majority to pass. Therefore, Streptomycin will be phased out this year.
9:02 a.m.: NOSB votes to end ALL antibiotic in organics
8:54 a.m.: Streptomycin debate (apples and pears) led by apple industry’s Harold Austin, Zea Sonnabend (CCOF) defends use on pears, BP’s Feldman rebuts
Thursday, May 1
5:32 p.m.: #NOSB mtg adjourns until tomorrow.
5:31 p.m.: #NOSB unanimous votes for research priorities, petition and tech review process, 14-1 for removal of confid biz plan info from petitions
5:28 p.m.: #NOSB mbr Maravell/farmer “once a farmer is compensated for #GMO contamination, they legally no longer have access to irreparable harm”
5:26 p.m.: #NOSB Seed Purity Report: organic farmers should not pay for #GMO contamination. Purity is responsibility of the USDA, not just NOP!
5:10 p.m.: High research priorities of #NOSB: fire blight management in apples and pears & alternatives to synthetic methionine.
5:00 p.m.: #NOSB discusses big list of organic research priorities
4:42 p.m.: NOSB mbr and Earthbound employee John Foster fears less materials petitions will be made if confidential info is not allowed
4:36 p.m.: In the interest of transparancy #NOSB leaning toward not allowing confidential business information in petitions to hide processes.
4:31 p.m.: NOSB turns to confidential biz info in petitions, frequently used to hide info on processes and ingredients.
4:15 p.m.: The handling committee concludes, moving towards getting Non-organic cooking wines off the List due to lack of demand…a no-brainer!
3:40 p.m.: Comments at #NOSB indicate industry is listening to Cornucopia research into carrageenan and are replacing it with gellan gum
3:27 p.m.: Part of confusion over glycerin concerns availability of organic glycerin #NOSB
3:19 p.m.: Synthetic glycerin likely won’t be delisted due to confusion over classification & commercial availability – back to #NOSB subcommittee!
3:09 p.m.: #NOSB discusses a more “sound & sensible” certification process to improve efficiencies btw accreditation partners, certifiers & farmers.
#NOSB – Boiler water additives can come into contact with food or packaging during food processing.
#NOSB will likely recommend to refer boiler additives back to handling subcommittee partly based on Cornucopia’s survey of organic handlers.
2:55 p.m.: NOSB consumer rep Richardson gives tx to Cornucopia for help with gathering data on boiler water additives.
2:30 p.m.: NOSB currently discussing how certifiers verify organic management of weeds, diseases, insects on crops.
2:15 p.m.: After lunch – Cornucopia applauds NOP for asking NOSB to further refine issues related to organic certification of retailers.
12:32 p.m.: Vitamins, Chlorine, Vaccines Oh My! Current #NOSB discussion on organic aquaculture goes back 2 the drawing board.
12:30 p.m.: Hawaii farmer/NOSB member Bondera – are there natural sources for the aquaculture vitamins?
12:23 p.m.: Last material 4 aquaculture – vitamins for plants. How can we evaluate without standards, says Calvin Walker.
12:10 p.m.: CO2 is the major greenhouse gas. Should it be allowed in #organic aquaculture to adjust pH? #NOSB discussing.
11:54 a.m.: Texas organic Farmer at NOSB meeting: Cameron Molberg (pictured below) of Coyote Creek (a 5-egg, top-rated farm in Cornucopia’s study), with 19,000 birds in 40 mobile coops, is using no supplemental methionine. He also runs a mill supplying other commercial operations who do request methionine.
The Livestock Subcommittee put forth a proposal to modify the current language on the use of synthetic methionine, an essential amino acid, in organic poultry feed. The current language allows for a hard cap of just 2 pounds of synthetic methionine per ton of feed for laying hens and broiler chickens. Three pounds per ton is the allowance for turkeys, ducks, and other poultry.
The Subcommittee proposal was to make that number an average over the lifetime of the flock rather than a hard cap. That will allow poultry producers to make minor methionine adjustments according to the stage of life of the bird (young/growing birds need more).
After much deliberation and interviewing organic poultry farmers, feed mills, and poultry nutritionists, Cornucopia Institute decided to endorse the proposal. We believe it provides more flexibility for producers and assures animal health. That said, we also encourage much stronger animal welfare provisions in the organic regulations, especially with regards to outdoor access. Poultry that have plentiful access to the outdoors with vegetation, bugs, and worms to consume can satisfy more of their methionine needs naturally. We also encouraged the NOSB to pursue aggressive research into alternative sources of methionine. We await the final methionine vote happening tomorrow, 5/2/2014, to find out what happens.
11:49 a.m.: Now discussing organic algae production inputs as fish food at #NOSB meeting. Again, aquaculture issues will likely be sent back to committee.
11:41 a.m.: Should vaccines be used in org aquaculture 2 cover up disease problems in farmed fish? #NOSB
11:25 a.m.: Overwhelming weight of public comments sent to #NOSB were against synthetic vitamins 4 org aquaculture
11:11 a.m.: Consumer Rep Calvin Walker (pictured below) leads discussion on vitamins/minerals for use in aquaculture.
10:39 a.m.: NOSB Cons Rep Richardson – aquaculture petitions fairly badly written. See Cornucopia analysis here
10:35 a.m.: Petition for chlorine in Org Aquaculture isn’t clear what it will be used for #NOSB
10:33 a.m.: #NOSB mbr Nick Maravell wants us 2 take the time 2 create aquaculture standards B4 voting on materials
10:21 a.m.: Back to aquaculture: Several NOSB mbrs voice support for differentiating between ocean/net pens and on-land pond systems as critical.
9:59 a.m.: Onto GMO vaccines: NOSB Richardson says non-GMO vaccines appear commercially available across the U.S., poultry has slight challenge.
9:53 a.m.: Will extending use of methionine in org poultry prevent alternatives from gaining ground? #NOSB
Jean Richardson, #NOSB consumer rep, wonders if we have bred chickens 2 be 2 fast growing
#Organic poultry producers testify that reducing methionine is an #animalwelfare issue at #NOBS mtg
9:49 a.m.: Methionine discussion – essential amino that poultry need to feather & thrive. Minimal amts of synthetic methionine are allowed in org poultry
9:45 a.m.: #NOSB mbrs Mac Stone, Calvin Walker, Nick Maravell, & Francis Thicke all raise org poultry on pasture
9:03 a.m.: NOSB’s Favre-aquaculture materials vote Fri a.m., likely referral back to committee for future action, public discussion important
8:54 a.m.: NOSB Livestock Chair Favre-committee very concerned by reviewing materials for use before organic aquaculture standards exist.
8:49 a.m. NOP’s McEvoy encourages all to contact him or other NOP staff with concerns about organic program.
8:47 a.m.: NOSB mtg begins: NOP’s McEvoy thanks public for comments, passion. Says USDA heard comments on Sunset changes and taking of power from NOSB
The NOSB is back on the air.
A quick recap on the materials committee from late yesterday in a preview of today’s activity:
Late yesterday afternoon the Crops Subcommittee discussed streptomycin (still plenty of varying views even after the NOSB voted to delist another antibiotics for use on apples/pairs, oxytetracycline. Also reviewed Magnesium Oxide, Vinasse and Laminarin (some seem to have support from the for relisting/some not).
There were three materials due to sunset: Sulfurous Acid, Sodium Carbonate Peroxyhydrate and Aqueous Potassium Silicate. They were discussed by this subcommittee for the first time under the “new and improved” sunset rules. The intention is to bring these back before the whole board at the fall meeting.
It seems that the USDA might have backtracked a bit and are now saying that the full board “could” vote on sunset materials, if they want to. That would be a good move. But there is no doubt that they have let stand the gutting of the sunset procedures by working under the assumption that all materials stay on the List, in perpetuity, unless the NOSB votes them off.
During its entire history, up until this meeting, the opposite was true. A material “sunsetted,” automatically coming off the list, unless the board acted proactively to vote it back on. It used to take a two thirds majority to get a material back on the list. Now it will take a super majority to get it off.
This is likely to be one of the elements of an upcoming lawsuit. And this is what Sen. Leahy and Rep. DeFazio protested in their letter to the USDA Sec. last week.
Wednesday, April 30
5:33 p.m.: The hotel management and the USDA’s Miles McEvoy back down and let OCA’s Alexis Baden-Mayer back into the meeting
4:23 p.m.: (Picture below) Jay Feldman, left, presenting minority position to remove Streptomycin. To the right CCOF’s Zea Sonnabend and Harold Austin, Zirkle Fruit Co.
4:09 p.m.: NOSB member with one of the largest conv/organic apple growers in the US leading the debate on extending the use of Streptomycin
3:32 p.m.: That’s all folks. The public has spoken. Comments have closed. The work of the NOSB starts now through Friday at noon
3:31 p.m.: Cornucopia member Joy Rockwell (pictured below): I make my almond milk w/o added thickeners (like the big boys)
Brad Rockwell, attorney and Cornucopia member (pictured below): why are some materials banned in organics in Can and the EU but legal here? (bios TRs)
Lisa Stokke (pictured below), FDN, speaking out for their members: organic is more than simply a label … organic is a lifeboat … we cannot sink the lifeboat
2:57 p.m.: Cornucopia Codirector Will Fantle: We are likely going to court. This powergrab on Sunset and NOSB authority cannot and will not stand.
12:35 p.m.: The OCA’s Alexis Baden-Mayer shows up at the NOSB meeting. Talking to folks at the public meeting (not protesting) was once again led out by the cops
12:15 p.m.: Alan Lewis (pictured below)/Vitamin Cottage (biz hero) Unlike Hain/OTA stands with consumers and NGOs: Keep sunset as written – forces community to consensus
11:03 a.m.: Rebecca Thistlethwaite (pictured below), Cornucopia livestock expert — we need to get organic birds OUTSIDE (USDA is not enforcing the law)
10:44 a.m.: Amanda Love (pictured below), Cornucopia Board member: Consumers trust the NOSB not undue gov pressure – keep a real sunset rule
10:10 a.m.: Cornucopia Farmer-member Tim Miller: Don’t allow “organic” salmon CAFOs – these fish need to swim hundreds – netting them in –is not organic
10:00 a.m.: Allyson Kelly of Hain Celestial, I don’t consider myself big or corporate/supports new USDA sunset rules (Hain not big??? Multi-billion corp)
9:25 a.m. Another great Cornucopia volunteer-lobbyist, Brian Keegan, on Sunset: CU, FWW, Beyond Pesticides, NOC also say the USDA power grab is wrong
9:05 a.m.: Cornucopia’s Dr. Pam Coleman presenting research supporting removing antibiotics on apple trees. 80,000 OCA members also say “no.”
8:56 a.m.: “During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” – George Orwell
8:51 a.m.: NOSB meeting opens with more public comments. No protests today (yet?)
Tuesday, April 29
5:43 p.m.: Michael Sligh, 1st NOSB chair: Organics + USDA- “this was a shotgun marriage from the beginning … a unique regulatory system.”
5:38 p.m.: Lisa Bunin, CFS – criticizes the lack of progress on animal welfare standards for poultry. 5 big egg producers holding us hostage.
4:56 p.m.: Michael Sligh, 1st NOSB chair: “USDA should not unilaterally set the goals. Not too late to get it right.
4:50 p.m.: Terry Shistar, Beyond Pesticides: Sunset changes are an “overthrow of a democratic process.”
4:33 p.m.: Urvashi Rangan, Consumers Union: NOP change to sunset “is wrong … it will cause serious damage to the organic label.”
4:23p.m.: Cornucopia’s Kastel: Mr. McEvoy, this is a country of laws. The power grab is a betrayal. This is a turning point. We are heading to court.
Watch an excerpt of Mark Kastel’s testimony here:
2:27 p.m.: USDA’s McEvoy announces three new organic rules are in clearance and expected coming out soon: origin of livestock, aquaculture, and pet food
2:00 p.m.: By morning’s end, none of the agenda items had anything to do with the actual work of the NOSB – all time used by USDA for explaining how it is going forward
12:42 p.m.: Debate continues: NOSB mbrs Richardson, Marvell, Thicke, Bondera, and Feldman continue raising questions about how to remove synthetics from the Nat’l List …
Submitted by Cornucopia staff present in San Antonio, 11:23 a.m.: This morning Alexis Baden-Mayer, Political Director of the Organic Consumers Association, led a demonstration including a handful of San Antonio organic activists calling on the USDA to reverse their power grab concerning the responsibility of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to carefully review all synthetics approved for use in organics every five years.
Food Democracy Now cheering from the audience/taking photo
Many organic stakeholders, including The Cornucopia Institute, feel that the USDA has illegally gutted the authority Congress vested in the NOSB.
Baden-Mayer, displaying great personal courage, in terms of her convictions, continued her loud protest until she was arrested and physically removed from the hotel (watch video here).
When the board reconvened, under the chairmanship of USDA Deputy Administrator Miles McEvoy, his authority was immediately challenged by NOSB member Jay Feldman (center, below), Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides, another respected Cornucopia ally.
In a procedural move he called for a vote of the board to restore the authority in its elected chairperson. The Organic Foods Production act of 1990 specifically gives authority to the NOSB to elect its own chairperson.
Before debate could even take place another board member, Zea Sonnabend, a longtime certification official with CCOF (a trade organization acting as the nation’s largest certifier) moved to call the question (truncate any debate).
Mr. Feldman exhibited great parliamentary acumen by referencing mandated procedures in Roberts Rules of Order (governing the meeting) demanding a debate and vote. A rollcall started and then Mr. McEvoy stopped the vote, temporarily adjourning the meeting.
When he reconvened the proceedings, after extensive dialogue with his staff present in San Antonio, and after a series of cell phone calls (presumably with Washington), unilaterally discontinued the vote, took back control of the meeting and proceeded with the published agenda.
Since the debate was at loggerheads Mr. Feldman decided to discontinue any further parliamentary efforts so the important work of the meeting could take place.
10:39 a.m.: NOSB mbr Jean Richardson – NOSB has “no working items on our agenda” – all work must now be preapproved by USDA.
10:05 a.m.: USDA’s McEvoy telling why USDA has taken more authority, from training given NOSB mbrs last Feb. Not all agree https://tinyurl.com/muxcass
9:26 a.m.: The ruling cannot be determined without potentially shutting down rest of mtg. Jay withdraws motion, mtg resumes with USDA chairing.
9:20 a.m.: Jay Feldman, NOSB mbr challenges USDA’s Miles McEvoy chairing of the mtg, raising point of order. Mtg recesses for USDA to figure out what to do.
9:15 a.m.: Alexis Baden-Mayer, Political Director of the OCA, is removed by police from the NOSB meeting.
8:49 a.m.: Don’t change sunset chant OCA protestors at start of NOSB mtg in San Antonio upset by USDA powergrab.