USDA Seeking Replacement for National Organic Standards Board
Cornucopia, WI: One of the newest members of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) has resigned from the 15-member advisory body to the USDA. Paula Daniels left the board eight months into her five-year term after participating in just one board meeting. Daniels, from Los Angeles, occupied one of three NOSB seats reserved for environmentalists and/or resource conservationists.
Daniels, an attorney, cited changing work commitments for her decision to leave the board.
“NOSB members take on a considerable workload commitment over the course of their five-year terms,” said Will Fantle, the Codirector of the Wisconsin-based organic watchdog The Cornucopia Institute. “Perhaps Daniels, who had never been to an NOSB meeting prior to her appointment, was a little surprised at the size of the task.”
In addition to needing a replacement for Daniels, USDA is currently in the process of selecting five new board members to replace the individuals whose terms expire at the end of 2015.
On numerous occasions Cornucopia has formally asked USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to make the NOSB appointment process transparent, and share with the organic food and agriculture community the names of individuals applying for the board. Although this had occurred during a prior presidential administration, Vilsack has never made the applicants’ names public prior to announcing new board members.
“We contend that knowledgeable stakeholders would welcome the opportunity to provide the Secretary with input to help him select the best and brightest individuals with a history of involvement with organics for this important board,” Fantle explained.
To fill the new vacancy on the NOSB, for an environmental/resource conservation representative, the USDA just published details on the appointment process in the Federal Register. Interested individuals can find the application information at https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/09/30/2015-24800/national-organic-standards-board-nosb-call-for-nominations. Applications must be received within 30 days.
The NOSB, created by Congress with passage of the landmark 1990 Organic Foods Production Act, acts as an advisor to the USDA Secretary on organic policy and has statutory authority to determine what synthetic materials may be allowed for restricted use in organic food and agriculture.
The USDA’s oversight of the rapidly growing $39 billion organic sector has lately come under fire. Cornucopia and 13 other organic stakeholders are suing the agency for unilateral changes imposed by regulators that weaken the powers and authority of the NOSB. In a separate case, the agency is being sued for its determination that synthetic pesticide contaminants may be allowed in organic compost.
Recently, Cornucopia called upon Vilsack to remove current leadership at the National Organic Program due to substandard enforcement of the organic regulations and alleged unethical activities and behavior.