Follow the NOSB Meeting, Fall 2019

Join The Cornucopia Institute as we keep you informed via live tweet and web updates from the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting in Pittsburgh, PA October 23-25th.

We will be sharing the play by play both below and with our Twitter followers, at #NOSB or by simply following our stream.

For background on issues up for discussion at the meeting, see:

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

8:55 AM ET: Opening Remarks 

Dr. Jennifer Tucker, Deputy Administrator of the NOP, welcomes all to the fall 2019 NOSB meeting.

A-dae is unable to attend and there is one vacancy on the board. A decisive vote will require nine votes.

Harriet Behar, chair of the NOSB, welcomes everyone and thanks the board for their work.

Each board member introduced themselves.

[A list of the current NOSB members can be found here.]

Behar listed the problems stakeholders have noted over the past several years:

[For more information on the issue of hydroponics in organics, check out Cornucopia’s report: Troubling Waters: How the USDA and Hydroponic Agribusiness Diluted Organics by Sanctioning Soil-less Growing. Cornucopia also has further information on the benefits of native ecosystems.]

Behar continued, stating that:

Organic agriculture provides a solution to the many environmental crises. Organic agriculture can feed the world and is key to our future. We must keep improving the implementation and meaning of organic and prevent interests seeking only profits from watering down the process.

Dr. Tucker, Deputy Administrator of the NOP then gives an overview of the agenda:

  • Additional resources going to new rules, expanded partnerships and new people
  • Overarching 4 goals: (1) strong organic control systems (2) farm to market traceability (3) robust enforcement’s (4) support standards
  • Key areas in 2020: strengthening organic enforcement, Origin of Livestock Rule, and Enforcement
  • Import certification: customs will be building import certificate into its system
  • International Arrangements: continue to build relationships
  • Deepened federal partnerships
  • Going to be launching noncompliance library and certifier portal
  • Robust Enforcement:  Broadened tool kit over last year.  focusing on imports, livestock compliance, and grain and oilseed handling.

9:02 AM ET: Dr. Tucker’s report (cont.)

Dr. Tucker continues to give her report.

In the realm of imports, farm level yield analysis have been a valuable tool in taking enforcement action.  For example, the Turkey office of Control Union was suspended.  We used farm level yield analysis, OSPs, certificates, in and out balances, and trade data, to support robust enforcement. The NOP has continued country commodity studies and ship surveillance.  The NOP is focusing on the ground and that’s where greatest enforcement trade-off has been.

Overall, unannounced visits have increased. Follow up investigations have led to certifier and operation adverse actions.

There is a new training on dairy compliance to improve certifier and inspector consistency.

Origin of Livestock comment period has been reopened.

High profile criminal and appeals cases as deterrents and suspension and settlements ensure sound systems. More than 275 operations have lost certification in Black Sea region.

Appeals count shot up (due to certifiers taking more adverse actions against wrongdoers). The NOP completed 412 investigations and resolved more than 250 inquiries.

[Followers can review NOP’s enforcement activity to date here.]

9:15 AM ET: Dr. Tucker’s report (cont., discussion on new rule regarding Organic Enforcement)

Strengthening Organic Enforcement: New Rule

The NOP worked on a proposed rule that has been shaped by the Farm Bill and experience, and stakeholder feedback.

This new rule will  fundamentally change compliance and oversight.

What’s in this new “Strengthening Organic Enforcement” rule?

  1. Fewer exemptions: increase handler certifications,
  2. Electronic certificates for all imports,
  3. Strengthen accreditation and certification oversight.

The NOP is working with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to build the import certificate.

Strengthening Organic Enforcement

  1. Robust Inspections: unannounced inspections, inspector training, trace-back and mass balance audits, grower groups;
  2. Confirming organic status: looking at non-metal labeling, standardized organic certificates, data reports, certifier information sharing;
  3. Overseeing certifiers: 90 day notification: new offices, equivalency requirement

Publication of proposed rule: LATE 2019

There will be early pilot testing in 2020 for methods to fold organic into existing oversight processes.

Dr. Tucker notes that she believes we’ll have a much better sense of what is coming into the country once we have the data.

The NOP is growing and evolving.

AIA has been split into International Activities and Trade Systems.

They have gotten several new staff members and continue to hire.

Recruiting for multiple specialists: National List manager, auditors, accreditation managers, and compliance & enforcement specialists.

Discussion on conflicts of interest follows:

Conflicts of interest and the NOP

9:32 AM ET: Dr. Tucker’s report (cont.)

National List updates:

The slides and presentation materials for The National Organic Program Update can now be found online.

Questions for Dr. Tucker from the NOSB members:

Emily Oakley: This is a question about containers and inputs. I know that there is confusion as to whether the memo applies to every operation regardless of where or how growing. Is that memo intended for every producer? Are there any exceptions to 3 year transition?

Tucker: An operation needs to contact certifier if has questions. Regulations are clear about regulatory requirements. We monitor certifiers to make sure their decision making is correct. Confusion and disagreement are different. The greatest inconsistency is some certifiers decide not to certify some types of operations.

Emily: Does the memo include greenhouses, in-door facilities, or other conceivable places where might grow food? If I were a greenhouse, could I get certified organic, take out my crop, transition to organic, spray for a couple of weeks, transition back to organic a month later and do the same thing every year.

Tucker: Regulations apply to everybody. Prohibited substances are not allowed in organics and an operation needs to ask their certifier. The NOP will issue policy statements to get everyone in alignment, but in general operations should talk to certifiers.

Ashley Swaffar: Why is there a proposed rule instead of final rule on Origin of Livestock?

Tucker: This was the proposed rule from 2015 and public comment [has been] reopened for that rule. There is no new proposed rule. The reason for reopening the proposed rule is that organic has grown a lot since 2015. There are different structures within the dairy market. By reopening that comment period simply provides one more opportunity for voice to be heard before moving to final rule.

Ashley: How long to publication of a final rule?

Tucker: Rapidly. As soon as comment period closes, we plan to move ahead.

9:52 AM ET: Dr. Tucker’s report (cont. questions from NOSB)

Dave Mortensen: [Speaks to the ongoing issues] Regarding gene editing point about how USDA encourages continued robust dialogue about the role of new technologies and innovations in organic agriculture.

After working as a researcher, Dave notes there is a diversity in thought in organic. It is characteristic of our culture in agriculture. I think we should embrace this diversity instead of embracing the notion that all ideas are equal.

I have seen genetic engineering unfold over years. I have fought widespread adoption of these crops while USDA promised a very limited release of these technologies. These practices have exerted pressure on the organic community: seed integrity and increase in pesticide use.

It’s clear from the many comments received that consumers and farmers do not want genetic manipulation. We do not need a robust dialogue on this issue: we’ve already had a robust dialogue. I have observed the slippery slope over the last 30 years. [For example:] A small amount of hydroponics in organic is alright; then all hydro is allowed. This is one more example of potentially compromising our standards.

[For more information on the current discourse on allowing gene editing into organics, and what started the current firestorm, read Cornucopia’s press release on USDA Under Secretary Greg Ibach’s  comments before the House Agriculture Subcommittee.] 

In the Netherlands, they don’t want GMOs even in conventional agriculture. To suggest we need more dialogue on GMOs and not be willing to discuss hydroponics any further, undermines Dave’s confidence in the process.

How is it we are going to continue talking about gene editing but the conversation on hydroponics is closed? Why should you put that on the NOSB?

[The audience claps enthusiastically at Dave’s comments.]

Tucker: The dialogue has been initiated by the board. Gene editing (aka excluded methods/GMO) is prohibited under the organic standards. There are no agenda items [regarding GE technologies being allowed in organic].

Harriet Behar: There is some concern that our robust dialogue and recommendations may be ignored by the NOP.

Tucker: The NOP has implemented 92% of the recommendations of the NOSB.

Scott Rice: Question regarding the Enforcement Rule. A 60 day comment period at end of year gives some people stress; it’s not enough time. Wondering if it does come out at that time if the USDA would allow longer time for comment.

Tucker: 60 days for public comment is standard. We want to move this rule along. If need more time, public can ask for it by submitting that request as a public comment.

Tom Chapman: Looking at organic hemp and CBD, based on a lot of questions he has received.

Tucker: There is an interim rule coming soon, based on the Farm Bill. The best advice for organic farms and businesses is to stay aware of the broader hemp efforts in their own states.

The policy memo based on the statement of principles stands in order to provide some guidance for hemp growers while we await further input. Keep an eye out for the rule.

Tom Chapman: Can you clarify who is going to be covered as a handler in the new enforcement rule [discussed earlier by Dr. Tucker]?

Tucker: business may not be affected if only a retailer or only provides storage, or only transports. the NOP will invite comments on these issues.

Tom: How about bulk shipments of grain—is there delineation given packaging?

Tucker: While reading the rule, write down all scenarios, and ask whether they would be covered or not (to see if rule addresses those scenarios).

Steve Ela: Stresses importance of commenting on these rules.

Rick Greenwood: Storage is a tricky area with imports. Has seen product sprayed in storage and cautions about rodenticides and so on.

Tucker: Please share this feedback on the final rule.

Harriet Behar: There is concern in the community and people are leaving certification. Happy that the work is happening now, but producers really like concrete rules to follow. We are a young program, and loopholes in the OFPA have been identified. We need continuous improvement in the program.

11:10 AM ET: Expert panel on marine materials


  • Mr. Chris Grigsby (Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association)
  • Dr. Nichole Price (Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences)
  • Dr. Allison Schmidt (Dalhousie University)
  • Dr. Raul Ugarte (Acadian Seaplants)

Dr. Ugarte: Presented on rockweed, which is the species harvested by his company. He has 24 years of continuous research on rockweed growth, regeneration and mortality.

In Canada, the business is managed under the Oceans Act of 1997. The act states that you cannot harvest more than will grow back in the next season. There are marine protected ares (MPAs). Companies must offer a harvest plan for the NS Dept of Fisheries annually. The stock assessment program (SAP) determines the baseline for biomass and growth. It includes on the ground assessment.

Each year, 42% of the biomass is new growth. During the winter, that amount of biomass is detached by storms and ice. The average length harvested is 88 – 90 cm over 20 years. They harvest less than the annual growth. There have been studies done on fish, bird, and invertebrate populations and none show harm to these species.

Grigsby: Confusion surrounds the use of seaweed in organic. It was first listed under wild crops and questions mounted over the use of kelp in livestock feed. Certifiers are seeking training for certification of kelp as a wild crop.

MOFGA has six operations certified to the wild crop standard for kelp. The Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA) had already certified kelp and offered information they had developed regarding buffers.

[Note: MOFGA Certification Services LLC was formed by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association in 2002 in order to provide USDA-accredited organic certification services. OCIA is a member-owned, non-profit organization, which provides research, education and certification services to organic growers, processors and handlers around the world.]

MOFGA uses GIS mapping and on-site visits to monitor edible harvest sites.

Without NOP regulations and definitions, MOFGA turned to the guidelines of the Maine Seaweed Council.

They allow rockweed harvest of 17% per year or 50% over three years.

Specific recommendations and feedback from MOFGA on these issues includes:

MOFGA supports stricter measurements but not through certification. They support the development of an annotation for 205.601. They would like the NOP to develop aquatic crop standards. They believe this requirement would push harvesters into pristine areas.

MOFGA wonders who would conduct biomass assessments and ecosystem assessment. They recommend a task force of independent marine scientists should develop standards or guidance.

Price and Schmidt: Macroalgae includes large green, red, and brown seaweeds. They are a foundation species and ecosystem engineers.

Tropical and temperate ecosystems are distinct. In tropical systems, seaweeds compete with coral reefs. In temperate systems, seaweeds are the main structure forming species.

They typically attach to hard surfaces, although some are free-floating.  Some species require more plant left behind to continue to grow.

Macroalgal growth  has increased enormously in recent years. The Sargassum Belt is made up of free-floating seaweed and presents a possible opportunity for new uses.

The attached seaweeds are essential habitat and provide nitrogen and phosphorus exchange. The death of these seaweeds adds CO2 to the system and may exacerbate ocean acidification.  Each species is different in terms of ecosystem functions.

Aquaculture production of seaweed is increasing rapidly. Wild harvest currently accounts for only 4% of all seaweed harvest.

Once you harvest, the length is shorter and the circumference smaller. Fewer large, old, and voluminous fronds. Rockweed is thus bushier after harvest and this changes the marine life that can live within it. Additionally, the change to the canopy affect the plant’s ability to remain intact during storms.

Harvesting effects:

There needs to be a balanced view of what outcomes we seek in ecosystem services.

In a giant kelp harvest experiment, growth rate was lower in harvesting sites and the site was negatively affected by increased sea surface temperature. Juvenile density decreased with higher intensity of harvest. No affect on fish noted.

In another case study, kelp density doubled 1 year post-harvest.  This study monitored for 4 years. Canopy height was 70% shorter after two years, returned to normal height after 4 years. Juveniles were able to grow due to harvest. This means the number of juveniles left was only 30% of the original, leaving fewer plants for the next harvest. [See slide below for more details on this study.]

Recommendations from these panelists: They suggest ecosystem based management of maintaining some closed areas, seasonal closures, fallow periods, and spatial management. Some companies do self-regulate and follows these practices voluntarily. Buyers must be aware of which companies they are buying from.

11:45 AM ET: Expert panel on marine materials (cont. with questions from the NOSB)

Dave Mortensen: The case studies were often species-specific in these presentations. In terrestrial species, the communities are diverse. Is that so for seaweed?

Ugarte: There are other species living there. The question is where we allow this harvest.

Steve Ela: Concerned about seaweed being harvested from around the world and our lack of knowledge about all harvest methods. How do we address international equivalencies?

Schmidt: Could use MSC’s international standards for seaweed.

Harriet Behar: You note harvesters have a handshake agreement about who harvests what area. How can we monitor to ensure the fallow areas remain follow in order to be sustained over time?

Ugarte: The companies tell the harvesters where to go. Independent harvesters complicate matters. If we wish to continue to harvest, we must work together.

Behar: How do we account for different species and locations?

Grigsby: We require guidance in addition to the annotation. You have defined the crux of the issue.

Additionally, not all of the coastline is monitored by companies. Winter storms and ice scouring further make it difficult to know who is doing what.

Schmidt: Biomass is a good measure for understanding the populations of dependent species. Additionally, you only need to make regulations for the seaweed species being harvested.

Emily Oakley: [To Ugarte] Is it fair to use the example of ice scouring to compare to human activities? Isn’t there a cumulative effect from human and natural activities?

Ugarte: The key to harvest is monitoring the level of maturation. You must work to ensure you are not over-harvesting.

Oakley: Is biomass sufficient to measure recovery in terms of dependent species?

Ugarte: We have shown that we haven’t changed the density over years.

Price: We would recommend an intermittent sampling of architecture. Some of the new technologies hold promise for getting the needed data.

Ugarte: We are introducing radar and drones to do just that.

Schmidt: The biomass should be monitored as well as the architecture to ensure biodiversity.

Emily Oakley: Who would monitor and enforce an annotation? Without that, it forces organic certification.

Grigsby: That is a challenge MOFGA has recognized as well. Enforcement is an issue. The companies MOFGA deals with operate under voluntary management practices. International concerns remain, however.

Emily Oakley: There is environmental impact from seaweed harvesting. Could we produce meaningful guidance on specific species?

Price: Current task force work is useful, but more species-specific work is needed. We currently do not understand the total ramifications of seaweed harvests.

Schmidt: A task force would be a good idea, on a species by species basis.

Steve Ela: We have seen negative consequences from aquaculture in general. Given that the bulk of the harvest is in aquaculture, what is the effect of aquaculture?

Price: That is a large question, but current work suggests use of aquaculture may be more positive than negative.

Ugarte: We would like to see what other harvesters say on this.

Ela: Should we focus more on aquaculture than wild harvest?

Price: The price point required to keep aquaculture practices solvent is higher than what people would pay for fertilizer. Aquaculture is used for human consumption.

Schmidt: The fact that aquaculture is increasing does not reduce the amount of wild harvest that will likely always occur.

Harriet Behar: Is the algal bloom due to climate change and can harvest of this bloom bring balance to the ecosystem?

Price: There is potential for that. The removal of the carbon bound from the seawater doesn’t reduce total carbon on earth, but it does remove carbon from that water at that time.

Schmidt: No one is doing this yet, but there is opportunity.

Ugarte: Because it composts quickly, it is challenging to use the mass of plants removed in this way.

Emily Oakley: Both Price and Schmidt’s recommendation slides will be posted online soon. We did not get to them due to time constraints and those final slides are critical to their comments.

12 PM ET: Break for lunch (until 1:30 PM ET)

1:50 PM ET: Start of public comments to the NOSB

[The NOSB has held two public comment sessions during  webinars preceding this week’s in-person public comment. You can read a summary of those webinar comments by Cornucopia on our website.]

Jackie DeMinter—Midwest Organic Services Association (MOSA)

Thanks to the NOP for the dairy training recently released. It addresses the important question: Can allowed temporary confinement reduce the days required on pasture? The training makes it clear that it cannot. Certifiers are directed to issue a noncompliance when temporary confinement for good reasons leads to days on pasture below 120 days.

We support the listing of paper pots. Certifiers can determine which paper pots are allowed.

Questions from the NOSB:

Steve Ela: On paper pots, we are concerned about inconsistency among certifiers. When is there too much synthetic fiber in a paper pot. Where is that line?

JD: We think that most paper pots, aside from 100% synthetic pots, are mostly paper. It’s confusing because cellulose itself is synthetic. 

Ela: There is also the concern about microplastics in the environment. Any synthetic materials that don’t biodegrade are of concern.

JD: MOSA worked with an unsanctioned ACA working group to determine best practice standards for hydroponic production. 

Asa Bradman: Did you submit it to the NOP?

JD: I believe we would share it gladly.

Aimee Simpson—PCC Community Markets

PCC is deeply opposed to genetic editing in organic. Any dilution of the label is unacceptable.

The line has become muddled on climate change and regenerative farming. Organic program has allowed hydroponic production, making “organic” not the clear leader in regenerative agriculture.

Questions from the NOSB:

Emily Oakley: Are you asking for guidance on seaweed?

AS: There is no difference on what is being allowed in inputs between crops and what is eaten by consumers. If we are going to certify seaweed for human consumption, it should also be certified for crops.

Dan Seitz: I am often asked how to determine that any particular product is GMO-free. How important is this issue to PCC consumers?

AS: PCC gets at least 5 questions monthly on this issue. It is very important to PCC members. We need a very clear standard to point to.

2:08 PM ET: Public comments to the NOSB (cont.)

James Yoder—Clover Meadows Farm

Dairy farmer from Ohio. Support the proposed rule on Origin of Livestock. Asking for a rule ASAP to prevent cycling of conventional animals.

Also seeking guidance for certifiers when pipelines cross organic land or there is oil and gas drilling is proposed.

Recommends increasing the 30% dry matter intake (DMI) to at least 50%. It would strengthen the label. 30% DMI is very easy to attain.

Questions from the NOSB:

Dave Mortensen: How has such [oil and gas] development affected your operation?

JY:  Ground compaction is a huge issue. The soil is rock hard on the easement two years later. There was a huge washout into the creek, losing tons of topsoil as well.

Dan Seitz: Have you calculated a dollar amount in loss and has it endangered your organic certification?

JY: OEFFA helped create an agreement to mitigate the power of the company. I kept my certification, but it was deeply troublesome. It cost $10,000 to $20,000 to mitigate this issue.

Sue Baird: Do they [the oil and as company] own the easement or do you? Do you farm [the easement] still?

JY: They don’t own it, they have a right of way. I am not farming that land.

Ashley Swaffar: Do you feel that without that mitigation document from OEFFA, you would have been further contaminated?

JY: Absolutely.

Asa Bradman: What kind of forum for information/education would help farmers facing unwanted energy infrastructure development on farms?

JY: The mitigation document from OEFFA was very helpful. Lawyers are useful here as well.

[For more on the organic pasture rule and DMI percentages, check out Cornucopia’s pasture rule article and dairy crisis materials. Cornucopia’s Organic Dairy Scorecard can help conscientious consumers advocate for the most authentic dairy brands.]

Christie Badger—National Organic Coalition (NOC)

Make public the results of all peer review processes.

Annotation should call for iodine without NPEs in teat dips.

Oppose use of fenbendazole in poultry as proposed. Residues will be present in eggs without a withholding period.

[NOTE: Fenbendazole has been petitioned for use in poultry; this parasiticide is already allowed for limited uses in mammalian livestock.]

Questions from the NOSB:

Ashley Swaffar: Is there enough iodine without NPEs available in the market?

CB: All stakeholders indicated there are. Will send more information.

Harriet Behar: The livestock subcommittee did request a TR on fenbendazole in layer hens.

2:25 PM ET: Public comments to the NOSB (cont.)

Dave Chapman—Long Wind Farm; Real Organic Project, Organic Farmers Association

Ibach’s comments on genetic engineering resulted in his statement that he is looking for new NOSB members. That is ominous—please use your time well.

The question on prohibited pesticides in hydroponics and shipping and transportation stands. I am still unclear after this morning’s “clarification” from the NOP.

Concerned that Tucker’s comments this morning suggested certifiers not certifying hydroponic will be brought into line [and be forced to certify hydroponic operations].

Excited about the growth of Real Organic food.

Questions from the NOSB:

Emily Oakley: Asked the NOP again for clarification on whether greenhouses are required to go through the three-year transition period?

Dr. Tucker: I will comment again after public comments.

Dave Mortensen: You have continued to ask for more voices on these issues for three meetings.

DC: I have become certain that it is more harmful to the organic brand not speaking out than speaking out.

Seitz: What are the practices you are most concerned about in hydroponics without guidance in place?

DC: Use of glyphosate before putting pots down. My goal is not to reform the hydro standards but to remove them. Chapman believes hydro should have its own label. It’s like asking what would be better CAFO production in organic [when CAFO production should never be organic].

Harriet Behar: How many farms does Real Organic Project certify?

DC: Real Organic certifies 200 farms, and will have 400 certified by spring. They have brought two farms back into certification that had been discouraged by the organic issues.

Megan DeBates—Organic Trade Association (OTA)

Any final rule on Origin of Livestock should be immediately implemented.

With respect to the Enforcement rulemaking [spoken about earlier today]: a 60-day comment period over the holidays is not sufficient. This is the largest rule since the organic label was implemented and we believe at least 90 days will be needed. It is important to get this right.

Organic is unique as a voluntary program, and it should be treated as such.

[The 2015 proposed Origin of Livestock rule was recently re-opened for public comment. Cornucopia urges the interested public and especially dairy farmers to comment if they did not comment in 2015 (or update your comment if you have new information to share with regulators). Deadline for comments is December, 2 2019, at 11:59 PM ET.]

George Seaver—Ocean Organics. Corp.

Rockweed [the seaweed] can be dehydrated into meal or made into a liquid extract.

Only a small fraction of the ME coastline is good to harvest rockweed from. Many harvesters have returned to the same beds for decades. Those harvesters have noted no changes.

Claims there is no proof, contrary to some members of public, of [environmental or otherwise] fallout from this harvest. No discernible changes that could be attributed to rockweed harvest.

Questions from the NOSB:

Sue Baird: How do you quantify no changes to the environment?

GS: It is impossible to prove the absence of a problem. One company has been harvesting for 40 years in the same areas. There is a database needing data that could compare areas never harvested to areas that are harvested.

It is all being regulated and managed as it stands.

Emily Oakley: You appear supportive of current rockweed harvesting methods. Is organic certification useful to codify those good practices?

GS: It’s the same seaweed in the same bay. (Inferring certification would be arbitrary in the ocean.)

2:45 PM ET: Public comments to the NOSB (cont.)

Terry Shistar—Beyond Pesticides

Voiced concerns about the loss of power of the NOSB within the “get big or get out” USDA.

Remove celery powder from organic meat products.

Use of synthetic methionine is not needed and the “need” is a result of producer choices.

Questions from the NOSB:

Ashley Swaffar: You indicate that the EU doesn’t use methionine but they only use 95% organic ingredients

TS: If poultry practices were similar to those in Europe with 23.5 sq feet outside and smaller breeds, slower growth—then we could talk about whether there is a need for synthetic methionine.

Swaffar: So we still need it?

TS: That’s not what I’m saying.

Swaffar: What do we do in winter and where it snows?

TS: If there are conditions where it is necessary, then you can annotate to restrict to those times and places.

[Cornucopia’s take: Cornucopia agrees with Beyond Pesticide’s stance on the use of synthetic methionine in organic production. It is being used as a production tool rather than a necessary synthetic by industrial-organic operations. Check out Cornucopia’s written comments for more on the methionine issue.]

2:58 PM ET: Public comments to the NOSB (cont.)

Kiki Hubbard—Organic Seed Alliance

Genetic integrity [of seed stock] continues to be an issue.

Based on survey of seed companies, the majority of companies have serious concerns about the subcommittee’s 2018 proposal. Testing is expensive. Their business has been harmed by genetic contamination and they have no recourse.

Most seed companies also agreed that they would share data under a non-disclosure agreement.

Organic seed producers were absent from discussion around the 2018 proposal. We need to determine a path forward with them. The seed companies have indicated that they would like to talk to the NOSB.

Questions from the NOSB:

Harriet Behar: seed companies and farmers have been harmed by GE contamination. Has there been discussion in the seed world about what recourse might look like?

KH: Not recently. Data collection should include the entire value chain.

Jaydee Hanson—Center for Food Safety

Excluded methods: some people that want to do gene edited crops say it’s just like mutagenesis. We disagree. Direct mutagenesis should be excluded. Supports future robust conversation on other kinds of mutagenesis.

Embryo Transfer: requires cow that is source of eggs to receive high levels of eggs. Cows should not be stimulated with additional hormonesviolates expectations of consumers. Support embryo transfers without additional hormones.

Questions from the NOSB:

Steve Ela: confused when to say okay mutagenesis, including radiation.

JH: We need more conversation about that. If up to me personally, we’d go back and look at mutagenesis that comes from irradiating organisms. Was not carefully looked at [the time].

Nicole Dehne—Vermont Organic Farmers LLC

Not finding their operations using vaccines that include excluded methods. Supports use when alternatives are not available.

Also suggests documentation requirements re: commercial availability for vaccines.

Gene editing is a form of genetic engineering that is prohibited.

Phil LaRocca—LaRocca Vineyards, CCOF

Hopes get origin of livestock rule through.

Integrity: got to have integrity in organic industry.  People are willing to pay for organic if it’s organic.

Enforcement: need it for livestock and poultry rules.

3:16 PM ET: Public comments to the NOSB (cont.)

Peter Neil—CCOF

Talking about marine materials. CCOF suggests NOSB should prohibit at-risk species in organic production.

If there is organic certification of marine materials extensive guidance would be required.

Questions from the NOSB:

Emily Oakley: You mentioned a 10 year phase in? Would you explore shorter?

PN: Sure, if the science backs it up.

Emily: Have you reached out to producers for how to move forward.

PN: Yes, we do outreach

Mark Kastel—Organic Eye

Law clearly states all organic livestock must have access to the outdoors.  If only 1-3% can fit in outdoor space, the rest are illegally confined.

No new rules were needed to forbid hydroponics.

Violations are destroying market.  Contact Organic Eye.

[Conventional] celery powder has no business being in organics.  It’s carcinogenic.

Questions from the NOSB:

Tom Chapman: Why have you chosen to comment on celery powder in meat and not yeast in alcohol? Both final products have been identified as carcinogenic.

MK: Celery powder contains nitrates. This is not a reasonable comparison. You are trying to change the subject…

Tom Harding—Lehigh Valley Organic Growers, Inc.

Petitioner for fatty alcohols [for use in organic tobacco sucker control].

Fatty alcohols have been reclassified as a biochemical by EPA. It’s really important to family farmers that we put this substance on the National List.

Have done a number of field trials, and nothing compares to fatty alcohols in all ranges. There are no detrimental chemical actions. Safe for workers and plants. And it works!

Suckers must be removed to make tobacco economically viable.

3:39 PM ET: Public comments to the NOSB (cont.)

Faylene Whitaker—Whitaker Farms

Diversified farmer, grows tobacco. Organic tobacco is safer than conventional due to pesticide use in the former.

Our 100 acres of tobacco on our farm have enabled us to grow organic vegetables and other organic crops.

We need fatty alcohols to stay in organic production.

Stanley Hughes—Pine Knot Farms

Organic tobacco grower in NC. Asking to list fatty alcohols.

4:10 PM ET: Public comments to the NOSB (cont.)

Jen Berkebile—Pennsylvania Certified Organic (PCO)

PCO certifies over 1500 operations.

Regarding synthetic content of paper pots. Any limit on synthetic fibers could unintentionally prohibit cellulose.

Would like to see all certifiers on the same page regarding vaccines produced using excluded methods. Also wants to encourage the use of vaccines.

Since vaccines are not labeled with GE information. Could APHIS help with this labeling and identification issue?

Questions from the NOSB:

Steve Ela: If we annotate paper pots like paper, it doesn’t limit the amount of plastics included. If we don’t annotate with some limitation, we leave the door open for all-synthetic pots.

JB: It’s up to the board to determine at what level it is safe.

Ela: Adhesives [in paper pots] have also not been addressed. Should we leave it untouched?

JB: The ACA materials working group proposed that there should be limits on adhesives but suggested no upper limit.

Ashley Swaffar: Would you be comfortable with the ACA developing best practices or a list of vaccines available for use?

JB: It would not address vaccines available outside the US for operations outside the country.

Kyla Smith—Pennsylvania Certified Organic (PCO)

Kyla Smith is the PCO Interim ED.

Comment on vaccines: hoping that define roles and responsibilities for commercial availability assessment.

Questions from the NOSB:

Rick Greenwood: Does your organization keep a database of vaccines with GMO ingredients?

KS:  Don’t review for GMO right now.

4:30 PM ET: Public comments to the NOSB (cont.)

Chris Pierce—President of Heritage Poultry Management Services, Inc.

Provides services to more than 50 poultry farmers.

All are following many of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) practices. Free range poultry have more worms and Heritage wants the NOSB to approve fenbendazole.

Questions from the NOSB:

Harriet Behar: Do any of your producers use rotated pastures to prevent reinfection?

CP: Most of our farms have 2 – 5 feet per bird and use fixed barns. They don’t have more space than that available. Our largest farm is 20,000 hens.

Behar: How many times during the life of a flock do you think you will use fenbendazole?

CP: It’s not every year and not every flock. With the rain and water levels rising, the need is stronger. Perhaps once in a flock as needed.

Seitz: Do you know how long fenbendazole persists in eggs after the flock is dosed?

CP: I don’t know. I believe there are manufacturers here to say that.

Ashley Swaffar: In the vaccine proposal, is there anything missing that would help you implement?

CP: Only concerns for the certifier. Will need to prove to the certifier that this is a necessary vaccine

Swaffar: We wrote in the proposal that the vaccine would need to be the same form, quality and quantity.

Behar: We could include in the proposal that a veterinarian could approve the use of necessary vaccines.

[NOTE: The USDA announced the decision to withdraw the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) final rule published on January 19, 2017 in March, 2018. The rule would have increased federal regulation of livestock and especially for poultry.

The OLPP would have required a set amount of outdoor space for poultry and improves some management practices for all livestock under the organic label. Most importantly, the OLPP would have closed a loophole allowing some factory farms to use small screened-in porches as “outdoor access” for laying hens. These industrial “organic” farms confine as many as 200,000 birds in a single building.

Despite over 40,000 comments in favor of implementing the OLPP, the USDA thought current growth in the organic egg market is evidence of consumer confidence in the label. However, this rapid growth also indicates that industrial-organic egg producers, the same producers using the screened-in porches, are taking up an increasing percentage of sales by undercutting the costs of family farmers. Most consumers who buy organic eggs are unaware of the deception.] 

Johanna Mirenda—Organic Trade Association (OTA)

Marine materials: need science based impact data. We need info about environmental impacts currently being regulated.

Vaccines: the proposal is effective to tighter restrictions. It codifies a preference for non-GMO versions.

Questions from the NOSB:

Steve Ela: Any thoughts on paper pots?

JM: In general annotations are a great way to characterize intent, but can’t comment specifically. At this point, doesn’t think opposition to add criteria regarding bio-degradation.

Steve: Thinks a lot paper products that don’t biodegrade aren’t removed. Concerned about what certifiers do. How often are paper pots removed versus left in fields?

Dave Mortensen: On marine materials the board is in agreement. Science based data should guide decisions. We often make decision in absence of complete data set.

Emily Oakley: There is some impact data in TR. We receive suggestions for peer reviewed articles. We have to take some degree of assumption that when remove something from wild native ecosystem then there is an impact. Don’t want to start with principal that there is no impact.

JM: We need to consider global scale.

Roland McReynolds—Ececutive Dir. of Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA)

Regarding fatty alcohols, 169 of the 220 organic tobacco farms support the addition of fatty alcohols. Organic tobacco has converted thousands of acres into organic production in the Carolinas and Virginia. These farmers grow an average of 39 acres of organic tobacco.

CFSA urges the NOSB to add fatty alcohols to the National List for sucker control in tobacco.

Loren Fisher—North Carolina State University

The use of fatty alcohols is essential for tobacco farmers.

4:50 PM ET: Public comments to the NOSB (cont.)

Kelly Pepper—Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative

Asking to renew the listing for hydrogen chloride. There is currently still no commercially available alternative. Because of the relatively small number of acres in organic cotton, there is little financial incentive to find alternatives.

Only 1 ounce of hydrogen chloride [is used] per acre; if these acres revert to conventional, there will be 100 pounds of pesticides applied to that acre instead.

Abby Youngblood—Executive Dir. of National Organic Coalition (NOC)

Gene editing should remain prohibited. The organic community is united on this issue.

Supports induced mutagenesis as an excluded method.

Questions from the NOSB:

Asa Bradman: Regarding your comments on celery powder, do you believe these products should not exist at all?

AY: I will want to discuss this further with our members. We are seeking the use of organic celery for this purpose.

Alice Runde—National Organic Coalition (NOC)

Dairy enforcement continues to fall short.

NOC supports the requirement for electronic supply chain traceability.

Encourages NOSB to help remove barriers to underrepresented populations in organic farming.

Questions from the NOSB:

Jesse Buie: Thanks for this. It is a multi-faceted issue that doesn’t have a simple answer. Looking forward to next steps.

Tom Chapman: Interested in how NOSB can help with this process.

Emily Oakley: Hopes Secretary will appoint diverse members to the board.

[For more information on the issues surrounding import fraud, check out the new paper by John Bobbe and Anne Ross, J.D. LL.M.: Potential, Failures, and Pitfalls of the National Organic Program in Getting Control of Organic Grain Fraud.]

5:19 PM ET: Public comments to the NOSB (cont.)

Anne Ross—The Cornucopia Institute

Read the testimony of Anne Ross, JD LLM, Cornucopia’s Director of International Policy.

David Gould—FoodChain ID

Here to talk about integrity of seed and other genetic resources.

Non GMO is key organic differentiator. The NOP guidance on seeds said it was important if non-organic varieties are used then it needed to be documented.

We need to be able to test for them.We need enough transparency so that it can be tested and compared to the referenced genome.

We need to get ahead of the issue.

Cindy Phillips—Hemp Analytics

Here to ask Board’s help. Law enforcement can’t tell difference between hemp and marijuana. We have chemical bar code on plant, some would pass organic certification. We need help developing further research and using block-chain technology.

The biggest barrier is getting government feedback to develop primers and rules of the model so we can simulate real world conditions. Here to ask for logistical help. so that we can scale this technology to fit organic.

5:35 PM ET: Public comments to the NOSB (cont.)

Kate Mendenhall—Organic Farmers Association (OFA)

Concerned that the number of comments coming in might delay implementation of origin of livestock [proposed rule]. Asking for immediate implementation.

The organic community does not want gene editing.

OFA opposes the certification of hydroponic production. Concerned about consequences to organic integrity since allowing hydroponic production without guidance. Does the three-year transition apply to greenhouses? The clarification was ambiguous in this respect.

Gwendolyn Wyard—Organic Trade Association

Advocates for food label transparency and literacy.

Dairy cultures:  recommend a separate recommendation.

Seed integrity:  Testing is a critical tool used to determine compliance with a process-based standard.

5:55 PM ET: Closing comments from Dr. Tucker, Deputy Admin. of the NOP

Dr. Jennifer Tucker closes the first day of NOSB commentary with some closing remarks.

Acknowledges the comments on strengthening organic enforcement. That 60 days may not be long enough for the new Enforcement rulemaking. The NOP will consider these comments before posting the proposed rule.

Regarding imports, Tucker clarified that she was focusing on US fraud. NOP does look at ships when they come in and notes that every inspection has led back to certified farms. They can now access ACE reports and have a strong  relationship with Customs and Border Patrol.

The Board asked for a work agenda item on energy infrastructure. The NOP will not make an agenda item, as there are too many other critical items on the agenda. It would also stretch the limits of USDA oversight to include this issue.

The slides and presentation materials for The National Organic Program Update can now be found online.

END DAY ONE, NOSB meeting will resume 8:30 ET tomorrow.


Thursday, October 24, 2019

8:30 AM ET: Opening Remarks, public comments

Board chairperson, Harriet Behar, calls the meeting to order.

Today’s agenda includes public comments that will be followed by the Handling Subcommittee’s discussion and vote.

Public comments continue.

Bill Wolf—Wolf, DiMatteo + Associates; Thorvin, Inc.

Bill Wolf is a consultant. Notes his seaweed company only uses certified marine algae and does not support adding individual annotations. equiring input sources be certified is not in best interest of organic community.

[Bill Wolf has earthworms with him in a bucket, demonstrating.]

Wolf has seen a positive impact on crops from using seaweeds using only a few ounces per acre. In addition, he notes that marine materials are renewable. Asks that a strategic approach is used when studying marine materials.

States that organic farming segment of usage of marine materials is quite small.

Questions from the NOSB:

Emily Oakley: we have responsibility to do due diligence for something so essential.

BW: Seaweed is probably least impactful when compared to mining minerals.

Emily: What’s considered most impactful would vary in this room.

Colleen O’Brien—Oregon Tilth Certified Organic (OTCO)

In wake of 2018 farm bill OTCO has seen market increase in hemp applications. Our work with these operations brings unique challenges with regard to planting stock.

How should certifiers evaluate hemp stock has been subject of discussion. There are inconsistent approaches among certifiers for allowing non-organic planting stock.

Commenter requests additional recommendations for certifiers on how to value non-organic planting stock.

Questions from the NOSB:

Harriet Behar: Why isn’t hemp an annual seedling?

CO: These are started from a plant tissue and so can’t be classified as a seedling. Certifiers need guidance on at what point do we need to look at inputs on planting stock.

Harriet: might be worth it for NOP and NOSB to form task force to look at this. This might be something to put on agenda once have more clarity. Right now in limbo land.

9:06 AM ET: Public comments (cont.)

Beth Rota—Quality Certification Services (QCS)

QCS certifies over 1200 operations.

Our poultry operations want to talk about vaccines. Commercial availability is a complex approach but there is no registration process to determine which vaccines are produced without excluded methods. Producers rely on certifiers to make determination, but the burden shouldn’t be left to certifiers alone. QCS is in favor of publicly available list of non-GMO vaccines.

Questions from the NOSB:

Emily Oakley, Steve Ela, and Harriet Behar have questions regarding paper pots.

BR: It’s clear producers can can have certain paper materials. But get the National List updated and then come back to these technical issues.

Sue Baird: Vaccines are a huge issue. Without vaccines we will lose small amount of livestock production we have. Vaccines are only preventive measures so we’ve really struggled with this; the best solution we could think of was commercial availability. There are some lists that have been brought to our attention. Are you asking us to wait [on any action]?

BR: There are a lot of technical details to be worked out. Collectively as community can we come up with resources, make them available? 

Sue: Should there be a wait period?

BR: That would be helpful.

Harriet Behar: Only 2 or 3 vaccines not available in non-GMO forms. How is that so difficult to track? The NOSB felt urgency with this issue because there was an inconsistency in interpretation and that just allowing GMO vaccines carte blanche when there is a non-GMO equivalent. We need to bring this issue to operators.

BR: We don’t want this to just be a certifier responsibility. We need to collectively address this.

Scott Rice: Would you be comfortable moving forward with current recommendation to have this groundwork laid?

BR: Yes, as long as NOSB and NOP commit to work together with certifiers.

9:19 AM ET: Public comments (cont.)

Dave Carter—Crystal Springs Consulting, Inc. (representing Merck Animal Health)

Comment on the parasiticide fenbendazole.

From beginning of organic standards, there have been efforts to get animals out of buildings. The challenge is that more we move outside the more we expose them to parasites.

We need to make sure producers have resources to handle emergency situations. Fenbendazole is the most compatible with this system.

Questions from the NOSB:

Dan Seitz: When we introduce new medicine it can sometimes introduce less than optimal practices. For example, maybe we could invest in different facilities or smaller stocks. Maybe  we can solve the problem without these types of medications.

DC: Agrees preventative practice are important, but this is for emergency treatment. If someone is using fenbendazole on every flock then that’s not an emergency treatment. With climate change going to see more of this variability. Animal welfare is an issue. To have this resource is important.

Ashley Swaffar: Were you seeing need from the poultry industry and from all sizes of producers? Why are alternatives not working?

DC: We are hearing message loud and clear that the birds [should be] going outside and want to accommodate that, but the risk factor goes up. Parasites live in the soil and grass which is a method of exposure. We need to be able to treat flocks humanely. I’ve heard this from producers of all scales.

Harriet Behar: Since we don’t have regulations we had hoped.  We’ve had public comments that smaller producers don’t need [fenbendazole]. Can you send us link to study?

DC: Canada, EU, Japan and particularly Canada they talk about 1 use every 12 months. I completely agree we have to put focus on management and preventative practices, but if animals are sick we have to take care of them.

9:43 AM ET: Public comments (cont.)

Blayne Mozisek—Technical Service Veterinarian (Poultry), Merck Animal Health

Comment on the parasiticide fenbendazole.

In small flocks, no one size fits all. We need objective data from field in terms of treatment. Look at fecal egg counts and can give egg/gram number. There is data that we cann use to determine when to treat; can treat when egg/gram reaches certain threshold. If 25% of population had 200 egg/gram that would be time to treat. Targeted treatment allows producer not to sacrifice birds.

There are residues in the egg, but the residues are limited.

Questions from the NOSB:

Dave Mortensen: We are struggling with this. Integrated pest managementonce pest population exceeds threshold, then we treat? Could you help me see how we are being internally consistent in using threshold approach.

BM: As a veterinarian, I’m concerned about health. This is a resource to protect bird welfare. Rotation is an option for some producers. In terms of housing have seen top of line houses and some have significant burdens. There needs to be an establish threshold for when emergency occurs.

Dave: Continuing to think about, in reality, in conventional, most of time pests exceed a threshold so we’re spraying routinely. If foundation problem that gives rise to parasites then [birds] are put on a continuous regimen of treatment.

Steve: you mention residues decreasing, would you have a problem if annotated, would that be fine to put some timeline after use that no residue in product?

BM: We have data on when residue goes to zero. I think after 6 days the residues are non-detectable. There are other tools that producers can use. Good cleaning and disinfection. Regional issues that drive high burdens. For the most part these houses are in fixed locations and can’t move the house.

Emily Oakley: On average, how frequently are houses cleaned out of manure. If birds living in manure, is this a compounding problem?

BM: It varies by producer. There are pros and cons to raising poultry on built of litter. For most part good bacteria. When clean, then it’s a blank slate. Built up litter system has positives [that can] outweigh cleaning out every time. The ammonia produced by built up litter can take care of some viruses.

Ashley Swaffar: Why are we at this stage?

BM: Diatomaceous earth has been the go too. But it has very little, if any effect.

Rick Greenwood: From a food safety standpoint, eggs should be cooked. Does any residue disappear when heated?

BM: Not sure. We will look at it.

Harriet Behar: If we annotated this for only once in a flock use, would that be sufficient and give us animal welfare looking for?

BM: goes to one size fits all. Using once is better than no option, but if only use it once, if not used correctly then could be a problem. This product has been around since 1973. Some resistance seen.

Dave Mortensen: We are struggling with how [allowing fenbendazole] is different than conventional agriculture.

Sue Baird: Have you seen some resistance over time?

BM: In horses.

Sue: Any study about resistance?

BM: This substance has only been available to egg industry recently

[Cornucopia’s take: The gold standard in organic poultry production is mobile housing and frequent rotation, allowing the birds to have access to fresh ground. When these practices are put into place parasites are rarely, if ever, a problem. Essentially, it’s not the outdoor access that poses this risk to bird health, but management practices. The quality of the outdoor access is the chief factor in this respect.

Unfortunately fixed housing with limited (or token) outdoor access—often without any rotation—are the most common system in use by organic poultry producers. These systems mimic conventional poultry management instead of embracing organic ideals.]

Leslie Touzeau—Quality Certification Services (QCS)

Fatty alcohols are central to organic tobacco producers. Tobacco farmers say fatty alcohols are essential and there are no alternatives.

10:00 AM ET: Public comments (cont.)

Tasha Olson—Fiberstar, Inc.

Dried orange pulp should remain on the NOP list.

Questions from the NOSB:

Harriet Behar: Have you worked with your suppliers to see if any interested in becoming organic?

TO: I have asked and would be difficult right now.

Harriet: Is your process patented?

TO: Yes. we do all mechanical processes.

Harriet: Is our listing incorrect? Because now we’re allowing non-organic dried orange pulp. Maybe it shouldn’t be listed as dried orange pulp?

TO: It still is dried orange pulp. But no one else is drying orange pulp.

Harriet: If this is not on list then it would be “made with organic.”

TO: Yes.

Tom Chapman: We keep keep referencing the  5% exception. We want to make sure you understand it and that we don’t put brands on National List.

Ashley Swaffar: If were to delist this product could you make it organic?

TO: No. The problem is getting there and volume alone, we wouldn’t be able to do it.

[NOTE: The “5% exception” referenced in this comment is a narrow exception to how and when products can carry the organic label. The rule is as follows: “‘Organic’—This label can be used with raw agricultural or processed agricultural products. This label means that the product contains at least 95% certified organic ingredients, excluding water and salt. The remaining 5% of the ingredients must be either (1) organically produced or (2) if not commercially available in organic form, non-organic products produced consistent with the National List (Section 205.605 and 205.606). If a product is labeled “Organic” it can also be labeled with the USDA Organic seal. A product can still be labeled organic if it contains pesticide residues at or below five percent of the EPA’s set tolerances so long as the farmer has not directly applied the pesticides and they are present as the result of drift from a neighboring farm.”]

Garth Khal—Independent Organic Services, Inc.

[This commenter echoes comments made by the OTA.]

We have 10 more years to prevent climatic collapse. North America has lost 30% of its bird population. Need to focus on big issues, not just whether organic fits personal definitions of what it should be.

Paper pots: we allow cardboard, we allow paper mulches, we allow paper bandingyes. there are small amounts of synthetic fibers and glues in paper pots, but we need to allow for growers who want to use them. [Paper pots] are integral to some operations. We need to get out of way and let growers grow.

Questions from the NOSB:

Dan Seitz: We agree the size of operation shouldn’t matter if operate within regulation, but there are sizes above which it’s impossible to work within the standards. Just physically getting number of animals on pasture may preclude meeting the standard.

GK: I’ve inspected 100s of dairy farms. Yes, there is a limit to how far get cow to walk. Obviously there are design issues. If we say it’s 30% DMI I guarantee you most are complying. We dictate a bar. Maybe we want to raise it.

Dan: When say bad actors out there, then why larger operations don’t comply.

GK: Some of worst operations are small. Large ones have a brand at stake. Where there is noncompliance its across the board on both ends of spectrum.

10:22 AM ET: Public comments (cont.)

Jay Feldman—Beyond Pesticides

My love affair with organic is as a solution to unimaginable problems. The creation of OFPA was collaborative effort.

Your charge: advancing differentiation in the market. If we appear different in the market, we embrace the difference at point of purchase. [This is] why we don’t use products like celery powder; why we reject gene editing.

We should support change in culture: how we treat earth and how we process food.

Questions from the NOSB:

Dan Seitz: Fish oilone of arguments means it might not technically meet listing criteria.

JF: Idea that we can grown organic industry by compromising standards is a slippery slope. We are only as strong as the weakest link. How do we hold to the standard and assertive alternatives?

Tom Chapman: How do you balance human health? A lot of alternatives in meat products is more salt. Number one cause of death in US is heart disease. How do you balance that? Are we pushing from one end to another?

JF: Organic operates special place in the market. We have to see selves as solving larger environmental issues.

Salt is commonly understood adverse effect. We have a misleading label for celery powder. We are dealing with a consumer population that’s reading these labels.

Tom: That’s a FSIS labeling issue. We don’t advise that branch of USDA.

JF: If you know label is mislabeling this should be factor in whether to list that substance.

Lynn Coody—Organic Produce Wholesalers Coalition

Paper pots: concerned about expanded scope of review. Paper pots have been in use for more than a decade.

[Commenter refers to their written comments.]

Questions from the NOSB:

Steve Ela: On paper pots, so you’d prefer we just deal with paper pots? Things like seed tape and presumably could run into the same issue, do we just let that go?

LC: Things similar to paper pot like planting production aids could be considered in same group of listings.

10:36 AM ET: Public comments (cont.)

Michelle Smolarski—International Food Additives Council (IFAC)

We appreciate that dairy cultures are covered by the listing for microorganism. We recommend that the NOSB vote dairy cultures are covered by the listing of microorganisms.

[Commenter refers to their written comments on substances.]

Questions from the NOSB:

Steve Ela: Inthe  dairy culture write-up, it says they are already covered and just not listed under separate category.

MS: Will there be additional clarification?

Steve: They are already covered.

10:54 AM ET: Public comments (cont.)

Amalie Lipstreu—Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association

Commenter calls for robust rule to strengthen organic enforcement, asks for action on energy infrastructure on organic farms.

Amalie Lipstreu OEFFA Policy Director
Amalie Lipstreu, OEFFA Policy Director, delivers comments to NOSB: “We are disappointed that the will of the NOSB is once again being subverted by the NOP.”

Bjarne Pedersen—Ellepot A/S

Biodegradation is absolute priority. We’ve been developing papers and now have solutions but need your help. We need 3 groups of fibers (natural fibers, regretted cellulose fibers, and synthetics). The first 2 substances are, by nature, biodegradable.

To make sure synthetics are biodegradable need a full program like Austria has.

Questions from the NOSB:

Steve Ela: Would ANSI standards work for you?

BP: I think Austria references them. They include a lot of certification standards. Mentioning standards that relate to each other would be feasible.

Harriet Behar: Have you tried hemp to replace some of synthetic?

BP: We’ve tried a lot of natural fibers. We did our own testing and most fibers, including hemp, are gone with 3-4 weeks and will not hold together a paper pot. Need to have strength enough to move pot after 6-8 weeks. 3-4 weeks is too short. These degrade too fast.

Asa Bradman: You mentioned the Austrian standard. What percentage is synthetics in their standard and do they really biodegrade? Do we really need biological degradation?

P: That standards has different kind of schemes. Schemes for biodegradable test for disintegration and degradation. Percentages are used.

Harriet Behar: Do you know if synthetic polymer in biodegradable mulch being used in pots?

BP: We use industrial compost materials but do not recommend to plant. Main focus should be 90% degradable within 2 years.

11:21 AM ET: Public comments (cont.)

Jefferson Dean—OEFFA Grain Farmer

GMO testing should be required for seeds. They can put it on the seed tag. It’s very simple.

Also, loosening regulations harms USDA label.

David Hiltz—Acadian Seaplants Limited (Marine Plant Company)

We are a global company. We harvest in many placesnot regional. Acadian already has significant part of their harvest certified. We could extend to all ascophyllum seaweed harvest.

We need reasonable approach using science, provided that we are not having an environmental impact. As long as the rule is reasonable, our company wouldn’t have a problem with that.

11:30 AM ET: Public comments (cont.)

Mike Crotser—CROPP Cooperative/Organic Valley/Organic Prairie

Consumers are savvy on organic products and aware of nitrate and nitrite issues. We’ve had a history of being fully transparent.

Meagan Collins—Accredited Certifiers Association, Inc. (ACA)

The ACA allows paper pots as crop production aid. We do not support verifying synthetic polymer content. It’s difficult to measure and could lead to inconsistencies.

It may be difficult for producers to determine equivalent vaccines as well.

Questions from the NOSB:

Ashley Swaffar: Do you think the ACA can be a resource for certifiers about vaccines?

MC: We could come up with a best practice. We are concerned over whether producer would have info to supply the certifier.

David Suchoff—North Carolina State University

Commenter supports fatty alcohols use in tobacco. He is extremely worried about what loss of product would do to organic agriculture overall.  [The loss of fatty alcohols as a tool] will mean loss of a lot of organic land.

In North Carolina, tobacco crop is integral part of organic system.

Dain Craver—Bossig

Keep these materials available in organics:

Hydrogen peroxideused in apple orchards to keep loppers/trimmers clean and avoid spreading disease.

Horticultural oilspray trees in dormant phase. This kills the eggs of mites.

Pheromonesconfuses moths and prevents them from being able to mate. Without it all we have is virus that is holding up [moth reproduction].

Brian Shevrin—Vermont Organic Farmers

[Commenter expresses support for paper pots in organic agriculture.]

Questions from the NOSB:

Steve Ela:  Given annotation you applied, how do we limit what manufacturers can do?

BS:  I don’t have background in this. We need continued interaction with paper manufacturers. 

11:45 AM ET: Public comments (cont.)

Emily Musgrave—Driscoll’s, Inc.

Driscoll’s supports continued allowance of: hydrogen peroxide, horticultural oils, ferric phonate, potassium bicarbonate, and magnesium sulfate.

Pat Kerrigan—Organic Consumers Association

Organic dairies are in crisis. Huge factory-dairy farms are exploiting the system. The time has long passed for clear regulations. We need a final rule passed by the end of the year.

Celery powder should be prohibited.  There are known health dangers.

Genetic engineering in all its manifestations is prohibited in organic.

Diane Wilson—Nature’s One

Diane Wilson is a registered dietitian. Enteral nutrition is nourishment administered into the gastrointestinal tract, either orally or through a feeding tube. This is for people unable to eat food. The FDA does not have a standard of identity or regulations.

The TR done in 2015 on vitamins and minerals excludes several key nutrients.

Questions from the NOSB:

Tom Chapman: What are challenges in formulas?

DW: To make sure appropriate levels and variety of nutrients

Rick Greenwood: Is it sold as sterile product?

DW: Powdered products are pasteurized not sterilized.

Margaret Scoles—International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA)

Every time you recommend change to regulations, understand that those changes end up in lap of inspector. Changes could end up as an expense of big things that matter more.

As we started IOIA training, we developed our training based on common best practices. Regulation does not explicitly require in-out balances.

Sitting on ticket time bomb for years: Randy Constant. IOIA training is available for in and out balances.

Inspectors all take about the same amount of time but inspected to do so much more.

12:00 PM ET: Public comments (cont.)

Mike Dill—Organically Grown Company

[The Organically Grown Company is a wholesale distributor of organic produce located in Eugene, OR.]

Mike Dill recognizes outstanding individuals in the field:  Lynn Coody, founder of Oregon Tilth and recipient of the 2019 “Growing the Organic Community Award.

Sandy Mays—Wolf, DiMatteo + Associates

[Producers] should be  required to use organic seaweed when it’s commercially available.

Questions from the NOSB:

Emily Oakley: how would I know if organically available?

SM: They can contact several different companies, and if they don’t have them then they can use a commercially available conventional product.

Jill Smith—Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (WODPA)

Supports the origin of livestock rule. This rule must be enacted immediately. Dairies have lost contracts and many are in an unsustainable position.

We also need uniform enforcement of pasture rules. The credibility of all #organic milk comes into question if the organic pasture requirements are not being met by everyone. We must not jeopardize consumer trust in the organic seal.

Commenter views vaccines as vital part of health plans. She shows support for further clarification on vaccines. Vaccine options must be readily available.

12:15 PM ET: Public comments (cont.)

Harry Rice—Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED)

Out goal is to increase consumption for EHA and DHA. Fish oil should be retained on the National List.

Organic fish oil does not currently exist. Asks that NOSB refer to written comments for annotation suggestions.

The 2015 TR contains some incorrect statements—refers to written comments on that issue. Commenter expects future sunset reviews to not to rely on the [faulty] 2015 TR.

Robin Hadlock Seeley—University of new Hampshire

From Maine, commenter here to describe what’s really going on with seaweed.

Rockweed harvests have spread and Maine has virtually no regulations.

NRPA gives waivers to permit holders. The state can’t regulate under a decision and the situation now is chaos.

Stop arguing about extent of harvesting and impacts. If seaweed harvest held to wild harvest standard, we would need marine rules.

Commenter supports certification route after discussions about enforcement. One of problems we have on the water is simply enforcement.

Ernie Peterson—Cashton Farm Supply

Comment on synthetic methionine. The present program is one that we can nutritionally support. Without [methionine] we have pecking, dead birds, and we are going to have to feed more protein.

Commenter was in Denmark where they tried to extract methionine [from a non-synthetic source]. You can extract from fresh legumes but can’t get all that is needed from this source.

John Hendrickson—Small Farm Works

Paper pots been in use on his farm since 2006.  He has seen no build up, and decomposition is complete well before 2 years.

Issues [with paper pots] are minor compared to plastic mulch.

Questions from the NOSB:

Steve Ela:  Are your paper pots cellulose based?

JH:  They include PvA, which is a polymer subject to biodegradation.   

12:40 PM ET: Public comments (cont.)

Elijah Dean—OEFFA, organic grain producer

Organic grain farmer. Commenter expresses that their livelihood is affected.

NOSB meeting times are in spring and fall. This timing discourages farmers from attending. The wet spring is only reason I’m here. Farmers that have opinions can’t be here because they are busy with harvest.

[Knows that] the 2020 meetings have already been scheduled. Please can the date for first meeting 2021 be set in February?

Questions from the NOSB:

Steve Ela: How about webinars [to allow for easier commenting]?

ED: Being here in person has significantly bigger impact.

Emily Oakley: Would a September and March meeting time be feasible?

ED: The beginning of March would be better.

Tom Chapman: Part of challenge is that need 6 months between meetings because we have to submit materials two months before meeting.

ED: February and August should be considered.

Marisol Oviedo—Northwest Horticultural Council

Commenter supports continued listing of various sanitiziers. The ability to rotate sanitizers as orchard tools are necessary; these are vital tools.

Almost all growers are using magnesium sulfate.

12:45 PM ET: BREAK FOR LUNCH (to return at 2:00 PM ET)

[After lunch #NOSB will move to discussion & votes on organic handling agenda items.]

2:11 PM ET: Public comments (cont. after lunch)

Lee Frankel—Coalition for Sustainable Organics

Suggested that policy is driven by false accusations (referring to hydroponic operations spraying glyphosate prior to certfication; foregoing transition times).

Rebutted comments that container-based production is increasing too quickly.

Noted there is inconsistent application of the June 2019 memo.

Questions from the NOSB:

Emily: The Americert letter noted that they were not employing the 3 year transition period. It was not a hypothetical situation. I don’t note any exceptions in the regulations.

LF: There is no contact with the ground in hydroponic operations.

Emily: Do you know of operations not going through the 3 year transition?

LF: Yes, prior to the memo.

Emily: How about since the memo?

LF: Yes.

Emily: [To Dr. Jennifer Tucker] Will you offer clarifications?

Jennifer Tucker: After public comments.

[NOTE: Recent discussions surrounding “organic” hydroponic operations have had the organic community in an uproar. Serious questions first raised by the Real Organic Project were raised again at the #NOSB meeting this past April, regarding rumors of hydroponic operations spraying glyphosate or other pesticides on the land just prior to erecting a greenhouse and being immediately certified organic. Those rumors were later substantiated: prohibited substances were being applied and some certifiers were not using the 3-year transition for hydroponic (“container”) operations.

The USDA’s memo in question sought to clarify rules that accredited certifying agents (certifiers) must follow when determining the eligibility and compliance of container systems for organic crop certification. However, for many organic stakeholders the results of this memo remain unclear. Cornucopia’s article provides more context on this troubling issue.]

Julia Barton—Ohio Ecological Food & farm Association (OEFFA)

Transparency is one of the foundation values of the organic movement.

In the certification process, a noncompliance issue follows an operation or certifier. We’d like to see the result of NOP peer reviews, in this spirit. The accountability and transparency we request of producers and certifiers must apply to the NOP as well.

The genetic transparency of seed should follow this value too. Seed companies are only willing to share genetic information of the seed after the seeds are purchased. This must be amended.

We’d like transparency about items removed from the NOSB work agenda by the NOP as well.

Questions from the NOSB:

Dave Mortensen: Please elaborate on the peer review issue.

JB: Issues of concern identified in NOP audits should be identified in order to know whether these issues are being remedied.

Peggy Miars—OMRI

OMRI is a materials review organization.  OMRI is not an enforcement agency, but it could review marine materials.

OMRI does not list any vaccines, but they could review vaccines as well. This way the manufacturer only has to share details with one organization.

If OMRI can assist with research beyond what we normally do, they stand ready.

Questions from the NOSB:

Ashley Swaffar: I worry about this. What if the vaccine manufacturers won’t go through this process? That would limit the farmer toolbox. And what about commercial availability?

PM: I think the certifier would have to be responsible for that.

Harriet Behar: If we could start working on vaccines. Everything on the OMRI list is approved, but not everything approved is on the OMRI list.

Peggy Miars from OMRI offers up assistance to help the organic community review marine materials, vaccines, etc.

2:26 PM ET: Public comments (cont.)

Eli Chandler—Thorvin, Inc.

In listening over the past day, this conversation is similar to conservationism vs. preservationism.

I would be hesitant to follow a preservationist philosophy because it would lead to allowing farmland to return to its original biome, disallowing farming.

Questions from the NOSB:

Emily Oakley: Were you the first certified organic sea vegetable operation?

EC: No

Emily Oakley: Why did you choose organic certification before it was needed? Economic benefit?

EC: Agriculture is not our only market. We also work in human use markets. The certification indicated the quality of the material, and sustainability of harvest.

Dave Mortensen: We’re trying to retain ecosystem services of value to marine systems. When we cut things, there is a legacy from that disturbance. Trying to make that sustainable.

Sue Baird: Are you certified to the [?] standard?

EC: The documentation noted in previous comments on Iceland estimate far higher biomass harvest than we are discussing. If the ASCO harvest of 30 years was impacting the economically crucial cod harvest in Iceland, it would have been stopped.

Baird: Do all countries have standards?

EC: The majority of rockweed harvests globally have a governmental body regulating that harvest.

Tina Jensen Augustine—OMRI

OMRI supports the certification of marine materials.

OMRI requests the NOSB clearly defines “paper pot,” including the additives used. Proposed annotation “A” does not provide enough clarity.

Questions from the NOSB:

Steve Ela: How should we proceed with paper pots?

TJ: We need things that are measurable. We could possibly measure biodegradability, but the tests may not be measurable. If we know what they were manufactured with, it would be more measurable. If we determined a level of contents allowed, OMRI could evaluate.

2:44 PM ET: Public comments (cont.)

Chris Grisby—Director, MOFGA Certification Services, LLC

Consumer trust is crucial and is the point of what we do here.

We are concerned about requiring certification of marine materials without further guidance. We support the formation of a working group or task force. Guidance and clarification does not have to be as slow as rulemaking.

The NOP has not offered guidance on hydroponics or origin of livestock, contributing to the problems we see today.

Questions from the NOSB:

Emily Oakley: Also concerned about lacking guidance for certifiers which leads to inconsistencies among certifiers.

Mary Capehart—CROPP/Organic Valley

Organic Valley supports “option one” to allow all vaccines produced through excluded methods.

We questioned the ethics of not vaccinating and noted that organic farmers, as a small group, cannot provide enough pressure to vaccine manufactures to change the industry.

Strongly supports adoption of origin of livestock.

Questions from the NOSB:

Dan Seitz: How do excluded methods make the vaccines safer for animals?

MC: Based on 5 vets I spoke with on effectiveness of vaccines.

Seitz: Where did they get their info?

MC: I don’t know.

Alesia Bock—AgriSystems

In support of relisting all livestock animal sunset materials.

Applauds the $2 million grant for celery powder research and suggests not to remove celery powder from the list.

David Will—Chino Valley Ranchers; Chair Methionine Task Force

[Reports on the work & research to develop a natural alternative to synthetic methionine used in poultry production.]

Wants methionine to stay on list. Comments on EU regulations (showed in slides on screen).

Points 6 and 7 allow 5% exemption on feed.

In the EU, you can allow an 18 week old pullet to be put into organic production.

Looking at black soldier fly as an alternative.

Questions from the NOSB:

Dave Mortensen: You use terms I am not familiar with: “Limited outdoor access,” “outdoor access,” and “massive outdoor access.” Are these industry terms?

DW: No, this is my description. Birds eat what is put in front of them.

Asa Bradman: Do the people you work with support the OLPP?

DW: I’m the chief fundraiser for that for the OTA. Methionine is easy because it impacts all of us. OLPP is a company choice and is a lot more restrictive

Ashley Swaffar: Commenters have discussed slower growing breeds in the EU. Comment please.

DW: They have the same breeds in the US. In the layers, we have the same birds here. Broilers may be different.

3:05 PM ET: Public comments (cont.)

Steve Walker—Midwest Organic Services Association (MOSA)

We are united on not using GE tech. USDA should ensure fairness and transparency and support the principle of care.

Questions from the NOSB:

Dave Mortensen: How can certifiers help get producers information regarding seed purity?

SW: I don’t have a problem with the proposal, it just is complicated. The NOP tells certifiers they can tell farmers they can ask seed suppliers. Why not just put education out there about options rather than issuing such instructions to certifiers?

David Moore—Neudorff

Commenter seeks to keep ferric phosphate on the National List.

You’re not voting on the ETA, only ferric phosphate. Only one public comment objects to ferric phosphate. [This material] meets all three criteria for re-listing.

There is no organic celery without Sluggo!

Questions from the NOSB:

Dave Mortensen: It’s very important for us to look at the marketed product. While we understood we were looking at ferric phosphate, we have to look at the effects to soil health in concert with ETA.

DM: We believe the single paper published is in question. Suggested the information in the TR is untrue and has refuted it for years.

Mortensen: The board has to have efficacy, peer review efficacy, to make a judgment on. Suggested the company could seek peer reviewed publishing of findings to the contrary of the single paper available.

DM: We cite 3 peer-reviewed papers.

Mortensesn: I did not find the efficacy findings as compelling as suggested.

Michael Hansen—Consumer Reports

Urges the NOP to adopt the recommendations of the NOSB from 2016 and 2018.

Fish oil claims are not supported by research. Says studies show that the use of fish oil does not meet the suggested health claims, compared to eating the whole fish.

Questions from the NOSB:

Dave Mortensen: Can you say more about how APHIS is tracking vaccines derived from excluded methods?

MH: They put out a listing of all vaccines, including codes that indicate whether they use excluded methods. Rather than burdening the certifier, you could do this easily. This would be a good first step to determine what is on the market.

3:30 PM ET: Public comments (cont.)

David Furman—Brighthouse Organics

Views comments against hydro as being purely economically motivated. The organic consumer is “winning” with lower prices [from hydroponic produce].

When you use the soil improvement argument, it ignores the fact that greenhouse container systems use  less farm land and water than soil-based operations. Less impact on natural habitat.

In order to feed the world with organic we need to embrace greenhouse technologies.

Questions from the NOSB:

Emily Oakley: Do you follow the three year transition period

DF: Yes, but I don’t think [container operations] should. It is not common sense.

Emily Oakley: Disagree. Some chemicals are extremely persistent. There is no exemption in the rules.

DF: Believes this will restrict growth in the industry. Doesn’t think it is needed for systems that don’t operate in ground.

Oakley: We have a law that organic farmers agreed to adhere to. The three year transition period is very clear.

Dan Seitz: Finds it ironic. A conventional grower has worked the soil for three years prior to transition without price premiums, but container grower can begin producing organic without delay.

End of public comments for day 2.

3:40 PM ET: Remarks from Dr. Jennifer Tucker, Deputy Admin. of the NOP

[NOSB member Emily Oakley again asked for clarification on the issues surrounding hydroponics from the NOP at the close of public comment.]

Tucker reiterated her comments from yesterday, saying that prohibited substances are not allowed in organic and the three year transition is closely tied to that. She said that it is up the individual certifiers to oversee operations and the NOP oversees is the certifiers.

[Cornucopia’s take: Cornucopia does not view the NOP’s comments on this issue as an answer to the questions asked by the NOSB and the organic community at large. In this case, Dr. Tucker has failed to explicitly state that all certified organic operations must go through a three-year transition period (as is supposedly to be required by law). Refusing to enforce the three year transition period is not the same as allowing container operations to forgo the requirement outright. However, refusing to enforce this rule with organic hydroponic operations does appear to allow this practice by by default.

Cornucopia will continue to monitor this issue moving forward.]

3:45 PM ET: NOSB Handling Subcommittee votes on sunset review materials (2021)

Citric acid: motion to remove citric acid.

  • Motion fails:  13 no 1 absent

Lactic acid: motion to remove lactic acid.

  • Motion fails:  13 no 1 absent

Calcium chloride: motion to remove calcium chloride.

  • Motion fails: 13 no 1 absent

Dairy Cultures: Some NOSB members want dairy cultures listed separately. Most agree that it be included under the microorganisms listing. After continued discussion, the NOSB votes to remove dairy cultures from the National List of Allowed Materials for use in organic handling.

  • Motion Passes:  13 yes 1 absent

Enzymes: motion to remove enzymes.

  • Motion Fails: 13 no, 1 absent

3:45 PM ET: NOSB Handling Subcommittee discussion and votes (cont.)

L-malic acid: Discussion: wide support for it. Motion to remove from national list.

  • Motion fails:  13 no, 1 absent

Magnesium Sulfate: Motion to remove

  • Motion fails:  13 no, 1 absent

Microorganisms: Motion to remove microorganisms.

Discussion: Steve Ela: this class worries me because it’s ripe for genetic modification. Important to keep in mind.

Tom Chapman: excluded methods applies to Section 605 items, so hopefully the NOSB stays in front of that.

Harriet Behar:  genetically microorganisms do exist

  • Motion fails: 13 no, 1 absent

Perlite: Motion to remove from National List

  • Motion fails: 13 no, 1 absent

Potassium iodide: Motion to remove from the National List

  • Motion fails: 13 no, 1 absent

Yeast: Motion to remove yeast from National List

  • Motion fails: 13 no, 1 absent

Activated charcoal: motion to remove from National List

  • Motion fails: 13 no, 1 absent

Aliginic acid: motion to remove from National List


Steve Ela: Came down to essentially and didn’t see any comments saying it’s important.

Lisa  de Lima: This is out second time voting on it. Same level of silence.

Emily Oakley: We have 2 recent rounds without public comment; demonstrates sound judgment by subcommittee.

Ashley Swaffar: Just because don’t hear from someonewant to caution in using this for justification. I feel comfortable taking this off the List, but caution using this rationale.

Emily: To back up what Ashley is saying: because soup manufacturers haven’t commented, I’m comfortable removing.

Steve: Agree with cautionary principle, but it still has to go to rulemaking.

Tom Chapman: This is 1995 item. It’s hard to tell who originally petitioned.

  • Motion passes: 13 yes, 1 absent

[The NOSB now moves onto the review of Synthetic substances on the National List.]

4:51 PM ET: NOSB Handling Subcommittee discussion and votes (cont.)

 Ascorbic acid: motion to remove from National List

  • Motion fails: 13 no, 1 absent

Calcium citrate: motion to remove from National List

  • Motion fails: 13 no, 1 absent

Ferrous sulfate: motion to remove from National List

  • Motion fails: Vote: 13 no, 1 absent

Hydrogen Peroxide: motion to remove from National List

  • Motion fails: Vote: 13 no, 1 absent

Nutrient vitamins and minerals: motion to remove from National List

  • Motion fails: 13 no, 1 absent

Peracetic acid: motion to remove from National List

  • Motion fails: 13 no, 1 absent

Potassium citrate: motion to remove from National List

  • Motion fails: 13 no, 1 absent

Potassium phosphate: motion to remove from National List

  • Motion fails: 13 no, 1 absent

Sodium acid pyrophosphate: motion to remove from National List


DaveMortensen: Help me understand what this is

Scott Rice: It’s used as alternative to natural [leavening agent], it provides unique character and texture to baked good.

Harriet Behar: It results in denser leavening.

  • Motion fails: 13 no, 1 absent

Sodium citrate: motion to remove from National List

  • Motion fails: 13 no, 1 absent

5:36 PM ET: NOSB Handling Subcommittee discussion and votes (cont.)



Tom Chapman: Because of extraction method we consider [tocopherols] synthetic.

Asa Bradman: We reviewed some of process sheets and it looks non-synthetic to me, but I might not be best judge.  I would vote “no” as we’re listing it.

Motion to remove Tocopherols from National List:

  • Motion Fails: 13 no, 1 absent

6:10 PM ET: NOSB Handling Subcommittee discussion and votes (cont.)

Celery powder

Discussion: Used in meat preservation as a version of nitrates and nitrites in the curing and preserving of meats.
Celery is cleaned, juiced, and dried for use. This product is generally made from conventional celery because organic celery typically does not contain the levels of nitrates and nitrites needed for this use. Although conventional celery producers did not engage in discussion, but there is some speculation that conventional celery growers spike the soil with high levels of nitrates.

OREI grant for $2 million is intended to lead to viable option for organic celery juice and powder.

Celery powder is listed as a possible carcinogen, and several organic stakeholders have called for its de-listing. Other stakeholders want celery powder to be allowed only if the source material is organic.

[NOTE: Among other stakeholders and commenters, OrganicEye opposes the listing of celery powder.] 

Steve Ela: The celery powder itself is not the issue.
Tom Chapman: The system works. We have removed a number of these ingredients over years, once organic versions are available.
Harriet Behar: Manufacturers can also still choose not to use it and freeze their products instead.
Dave Mortensen: Not convinced it’s in the best interest of the organic community to have parallel [to conventional] foodstuffs. Children are more sensitive to these compounds than adults. It’s inconsistent with his logic model.
Emily Oakley: There were a lot of letters from consumers. What do you think, Dan, as the consumer rep?
Dan Seitz: It’s not our role to protect consumers from their own choices.
Ashley Swaffar: There is no alternative right now. Once organic is available, they will have to use it.
Lisa de Lima: If organic processed meats go away, consumers are likely to switch to natural instead rather than stop eating the products.
Chapman: The IARC listing states there is not enough data to determine whether there is more risk to children and the elderly from this ingredient. Making value-added use of little-used parts of animals is important to the growth of organic meat. Additionally, if organic is not available, parents will still buy hot dogs for their children.
Sue Baird: Conflicted because of blue baby syndrome. If celery powder contains enough nitrates to cause health issues, that is troubling, but it should be addressed via labeling. I also love bacon.
Oakley: I don’t think choosing to abstain from a material vote is problematic when you are conflicted.
Asa Bradman: Regarding blue baby syndrome, that would not likely be associated with this material. That is a problem, most often, of water contamination.
Scott Rice: In addition to keeping more organic meat on shelves, it also causes more organic feed to be grown.
Mortensen: Not comforted by lack of data on risk to children. Additionally does not think this is the way to go for organic. Does not believe that we need to have parallel conventional & organic products (aka organic bacon and non-organic bacon).

Motion to remove celery powder from the National List:

  • Motion fails: 11 no; 1 yes (Mortensen); 1 abstention (Oakley)

Fish oil

Discussion: Support for this listing came from dairy manufacturers and others.

A 2019 report suggests that fish oil supplements may not have efficacy for cardiovascular concerns. Other concerns surround heavy metal contamination and over fishing.

Trade association supports an annotation to prevent over fishing.

Emily Oakley: I am going to abstain until the work agenda item comes through.

Dan Seitz: Also plans to abstain due to environmental concerns

Motion to remove fish oil from the National List:

  • Motion fails: 11 no; 2 abstentions (Oakley and Seitz); 1 absent

6:30 PM ET: NOSB Handling Subcommittee discussion and votes (cont.)


Discussion: Gelatin is made from bones and hides. Public comments show concern about this material sourced conventionally, but also indicate that there is not enough organic gelatin commercially available.

Emily Oakley: Note that we had robust discussion around this in the spring, connected to collagen.

Motion to remove gelatin from the National List:

  • Motion fails: 13 no; 1 absent

Orange Pulp, Dried

Discussion: Dried orange pulp is a fiber derived from leftovers from juicing. The process to manufacture is patented. Proposed uses are related to food processing. There were no comments during the comment period. We heard oral comments today from a manufacturer for the first time. Public comments state that this should not be allowed because it is conventional.

Harriet Behar: Doesn’t like the fact that it would be put on the list for one narrow use and a patented process. Also thinks this would be a valuable input stream for organic producers.
Tom Chapman: This is not widely used. The petitioner is a small operator and this will not likely be widely used.
Steve Ela: We need to encourage the use of organic. Leaning toward yes.
Ashley Swaffar: Looked back to fall 2015 comments. This product can be used in many items. There is not enough organic raw materials on any given day within a reasonable distance of the plant in question to run a minimum batch. This is the reason for section 606.
Rick Greenwood: They could move their factory to a place where there are organic oranges; they have made the decision to use conventional.
Scott Rice: Moving a manufacturing facility is no small thing.
Behar: We did not ask how far she had reached out. How robust was her review?

Motion to remove orange pulp, dried from the National List:

  • Motion fails: 5 no; 7 yes; 1 abstain, 1 absent

Seaweed, Pacific kombu; Seaweed, Wakame

Discussion: Little public comment was offered. NOSB chooses to discuss seaweeds simultaneously. There is no indication that these seaweeds are currently in use.

Emily Oakley: What’s preventing both of these seaweeds being certified organic to the wild crop standard?
Steve Ela: I don’t know.
Oakley: I don’t understand why this is still on the list.
Tom Chapman: I know it’s used in the marketplace (named a product).
Oakley: This should be certified to the wild crop standard.
Dave Mortensen: I agree.
Asa Bradman: I’ve been influenced by the discussion of marine materials.
Ashley Swaffar: Cautions that just because you don’t hear from anyone, it doesn’t mean it’s not being used.
Lisa de Lima: It’s in a lot of products and should stay on the list.
Chapman: There may be a reason these two seaweeds are more difficult to produce organically than others.

Motion to remove Seaweed, Pacific kombu from the National List:

  • Motion failed: 3 yes; 9 no; 1 abstention; 1 absent

Dan Seitz: What is wakame used in?
Tom Chapman: Miso.

Motion to remove Seaweed, Wakame from the National List:

  • Motion failed: 3 yes; 9 no; 1 abstention; 1 absent

END DAY TWO, NOSB meeting will resume 8:30 ET tomorrow.


Friday, October 25, 2019

8:30 AM ET: Crops Subcommittee, discussion on petitioned substances

[The final day of the NOSB meeting starts with the Crops Subcommitte discussing and voting on petitioned substances, beginning with the petition for fatty alcohols for sucker control in organic tobacco.]

Petition for fatty alcohols for use in sucker control

Jessie Buie presents the majority of the issue. The petition is for tobacco sucker control.

NOSB’s formal recommendation stated that use of synthetic growth regulatory is not compatible with a system of sustainable agriculture.

Many tobacco farmers say they need the material. Some producers state if material is not approved they may choose not to grown other crops organically. Fatty alcohols from both natural and manufactured sources. Studies do not identify toxicological concerns for human health risk.

Fatty alcohols naturally occur in all plants and animals and rapidly degrade.

Board received numerous comments on essentiality for organic growers. Numerous tobacco growers noted they would not be able to reduce organic tobacco, including crops they use in rotation with tobacco. Other currently available methods are not effective.

Committee is aware of human health concerns of tobacco, but it is a legal crop. We limited review to whether fatty alcohols can be used a crop production aid. They are compatible with system of sustainable agriculture.


Emily Oakley presents minority opinion. Organic tobacco growers have been growing organic tobacco without fatty alcohols until about 2007. In organic agriculture, we don’t spray in place of labor.

Tom Chapman: Emily you put a lot of your position on labor costs, etc. and how do you reconcile that with your position on fattly alcohols with your position on paper pots?

Emily: I don’t think I’ve ever said paper pots should be supported labor costs. The difference is that paper is that its already on national list and fatty alcohols are not. Paper pots are consistent with current paper listing.

Steve Ela, on the NOSB’s producer seat and Crop Subcommittee chair, notes that this comes down to worker protection for him. From that standpoint, I switch my vote because farm workers do a crazy amount of work. Also recognize tobacco is part of the system and as that rotational crop we are able to expand organic footprint.

Emily: Poisoning doesn’t happen at sucker removal but happens at harvest.Steve: It’s compelling if workers say they are happy don’t have to do this anymore. From humanity standpoint has meaning to me.

Harriet Behar: Tobacco allotments in Wisconsin have gone away. I’ve cut tobacco myself. Understand farmers are saying it’s important crop in rotation. On other hand, friend of mine contracted throat cancer. Did not smoke, but raised tobacco. I’ve seen tobacco go away, but not the farmers. If government hadn’t taken away tobacco allotments, would still be growing tobacco.

Casing is dusty workwhen taking down dry tobacco and stripping leaves, very dusty.

But it is a legal crop. I’m also human. What Emily said is compelling. I remember when tree fruit growers petitioned for synthetic. Since there was a mechanical way that was denied.

I’m struggling with this vote. Going to wait to hear from rest of board.

Lisa de Lima: For me, what Steve says resonates and that its a rotational crop.

Dave Mortensen: Like Harriet, I’m conflicted. I was certain that I’d say “no” and since that time we’ve heard a lot, I’ve been struck by argument as what would I think of keystone crop that undoes economic viability of farm. When I was living in NC I researched in tobacco fields. You come out of field loaded with secondary compounds. I can’t believe you’re only exposed to that stuff at the end of the season. I’m conflicted.

Scott: Hard not to be conflicted. We’ve heard from many people that without this, they wouldn’t be farming.

Emily: I understand this is a keystone crop. We heard from a relatively small subset of tobacco growers and heard from certifier who says their growers don’t need it. We didn’t do due diligence with regard to palm kernel oil. TR did not go into this aspect of it.

Sue Baird: I hate smoking. My children smoke. If they’re going to smoke I rather them smoke organic. Always been an advocate of small family farm. This appears to be a really benign substance and I don’t want to see tools kept from small family farms that help them stay viable. I want to see tools that protect worker well being. So, I’m going to change my vote.

Some NOSB members express their conflict between supporting tobacco use and the farmers’ overwhelming desire to use fatty alcohols for sucker control on organic tobacco crops.

Ashley Swaffar: Supports listing material. There is no alternative except hand suckering. The one thing I know is that some people don’t agree with this crop. If you don’t agree with the crop, I encourage you to abstain. I actually felt like we heard from amazing amount of tobacco growers.

Tom Chapman: Echoes what Ashley said. We’ve heard from at least 10% of tobacco farmers which is a lot. organic competes with conventional substitutes. The amount that we can differentiate that means more acreage under organic management.

Labor and worker safety: I don’t want to be in an industry that puts burden of going organic on back of laborers.

Emily: Didn’t mean small subset of growers, but primarily from one state. Greatly appreciate all the growers we heard from.

Rick Greenwood: Over time realized it’s a legal crop and can’t take into account personal feelings about smoking. For it with a little bit of heartburn.

Dan: Conflicted and see that it’s hard to take materials off national list because of 2/3 requirement. [It’s now] hard to remove from National List. Still trying to make up mind.

Harriet: Worker exposure is in everything from planting through. Agree with Dan too: and taking off material can be difficult.

Jessie: This substance fully meets criteria for listing.

Harriet: We’re in this position is because certifier considered this non-synthetic [and it was used by tobacco farmers]. It’s harder to take away once [farmers are] using it.

Votes on fatty alcohols as follows:

Motion to classify fatty alcohols as synthetic:

  • Motion passes: 13 yes, 1 absent

Motion to add fatty alcohols to National List as synthetic:

  • Motion passes: 8 yes, 3 no (Oakley, Bradman, Behar), 2 abstain (Mortensen, Seitz), 1 absent

Petition to add potassium hypochlorite bleach to National List for use in cleaning irrigation systems

Asa Bradman: This material is another chlorine compound. This concerns me because of known health concerns with chlorides. Already have chlorides on list, but this material does have some use in toolbox.

A number of certifiers have supported listing [potassium hypochlorite bleach].

Steve Ela: it was clear from petition that we were intending irrigation only. Need to clarify the language. Motion to limit for use in water for irrigation purposes only and not for sanitizing and disinfecting.

Motion to add potassium hypochlorite to 205.601(a) for use is water for irrigation purposes only:

  • Vote: 13 yes, 1 absent

Discussion of material, as amended:

Asa: Torn about this material and adding another chlorine compound to the list, but not that different from materials already there and may have less environmental impacts. do we need it? I don’t think we should be looking at a sanitizer as way to add nutrient to plants. Hesitation about it. Bleaches are very powerful chemicals and its a concern.

Ashley Swaffar: Important to give farmers options. FSMA is a real thing and so is resistance.

Motion to classify potassium hypochlorite as synthetic:

  • Vote: 13 yes, 1 absent.

Motion to add potassium hypochlorite to National List:

  • Vote: 13 yes, 1 absent.

8:45 AM ET: Crops Subcommittee, sunset review for crops

Hydrogen Peroxide:

Motion to remove Hydrogen Peroxide from 205.601(a) of the National List:

  • Motion fails: 13 No, 1 absent

Motion to remove Hydrogen Peroxide from 205.601(i):

  • Motion fails: 13 no, 1 absent

Soaps, Ammonium: (For use as a large animal repellent only; no contact with soil or edible portion of crop)

Motion to Remove Soaps, Ammonium from 205.601 of the National List: 

  • Motion fails: 13 no, 1 absent

Horticultural oils: (Narrow range oils as dormant, suffocating, and summer oils)


Ass Bradman: This is derived from petroleum.  I think it would be good to look at alternatives. Need to acknowledge this is used substantially in California.  I’m going to vote for it, but we need to realize it would be good to have a viable alternative.

Motion to remove horticultural oils  from 205.601(e):

  • Motion fails: 13 no, 1 absent

Motion to remove horticultural oils from 205.601(i):

  • Motion fails: 13 no, 1 absent

Pheromones: (for use in insect management to confuse pests and prevent infestations)

Motion to remove pheromones from 205.601(f):

  • Motion fails: 13 no, 1 absent

Ferric phosphate:


Dave: one of biggest concerns is non-target effects.  one paper indicated there were non-targeted effects.  Snails and slugs are a big problem and one farmers are saying its used quite a bit where problem exists.

Dan:  Do farmers use other methods and how necessary is this substance?

[Other board members discuss whether they see it used or use it themselves in their locales.]

Tom Chapman: 205.206 requires culturally and mechanical means be exhausted first [before resorting to this substnace]. This is built into the rule.

Asa Bradman:  I put it in my garden. It works and it’s important.

Motion to remove Ferric phosphate from 205.601(h):

  • Motion fails:  13 no, 1 absent
Pet snail
Ferric phosphate is used in slug and snail control.

Magnesium sulfate: (Used as a plant or soil amendment when there is a documented soil deficiency.)

Motion to remove Magnesium sulfate from 2from 205.601(j):

  • Motion fails:  13 no, 1 absent

Hydrogen chloride:


Asa Bradman: [This substance is] primary use is for delinting cotton seed to make it more easily handled for planting. Just want to point out, it has also been used to control blight and breaks dormancy from cotton seed. It has been listed as delinting, but other uses should be acknowledged.

It’s essential for treating cotton seed. Concerns relate to concerns about chlorine compounds, which have human and environmental health impacts. If handled properly, risk is reduced.

Been some discussion about alternatives.

Harriet Behar: I lead fiber training for IOIA and learned a lot about cotton growing. Process of non-organic cotton growing is extremely chemical intensive. Need to be supporting organic cotton production in US.

Motion to remove hydrogen chloride from 205.601(n):

  • Motion fails: 13 No, 1 absent

Ash for manure burning:

Harriet Behar: This removes carbon from manure. The ash comes from industrial large scale farms.

Motion to remove ash for manure burning from 205.602(a) (a prohibited substance in organic):

  • Motion fails: 13 no, 1 absent

Sodium fluoaluminate (mined):

Discussion: This substance has been prohibited since 1996. It’s a mined substance. Forbidden because of potential toxicity and release of fluoride into the environment.

Motion to remove sodium fluoaluminate (mined) from 205.602(g) of the National List (a prohibited substance in organic):

  • Motion fails: 13 no, 1 absent

10:30 AM ET: Crops Subcommittee, discussion on paper pots

[The NOSB now mogves onto a discussion about paper pots.]

Harriet Behar: Hoping Subcommittee can move forward in the spring. Steve Ela will be taking this forward. We’re leaning toward having an annotation for having paper in contact with soil that decomposes.

Finding a practical percentage and possibly limiting them to particular type of synthetic fiber is something we’re looking at. Looking at tying paper to biodegradability standards. Want fibers to biodegrade.

Challenges will be to try to prohibit paper from genetically engineered trees. Use of PLA polymers produced through genetic engineering technology might be more easily tracked though manufacturers.

Think many of those using the pots and knew how much synthetic in there, they would be happy for how long we’re taking, because looking out for long term effects on environment.

Steve Ela: If limit annotation to essentially what it is for newspaper, that opens it up to almost any synthetic. I’m not comfortable with that.

On adhesives, the subcommittee did not deal with [that issue of adhesives].

Dave Mortensen: we also heard from a number of people that if doing all paper products was going to bog us down that we ask as whether we just stay on paper pots. Hopeful that we can get this done by the spring because growers want to know for next season

Harriet: not going to look at paper ties, etc. that are not in direct contact with soil. If decompose into the soil then similar to paper pots.

Dave: as long as can be done in timely way. if this prolongs for several years, not doing a service to farm community.

Emily Oakley: Adhesives are tricky. If we’re going to do that then need to do for paper too. Don’t want to get wrapped up into labyrinth. Don’t want to create any thing less or more strict that current listing.

Steve: Trying to flesh out what paper pot annotation is. Don’t feel like looking at it as planting aid takes up any more time.

Dr. Jennifer Tucker: Producers want to know status of this material. Remind folks last fall this board was strong in passing unanimous resolution that we allow continued use while it is deliberated so we did send a note on that. Half of certifiers had already approved on good faith. The use of paper pots continues , [we made a] good faith decision to allow given how strong Board encouraged it.

Steve: The program [NOP] giving us time is appreciated.

Harriet: trying to make sure whatever we do that it is a practical annotation.

BREAK, to return at 10:55 AM ET.

11:00 AM ET: Materials Subcommittee, discussion on excluded methods

Recommended to add to the table of excluded methods:

  1. Induced mutagenesis—Developed via use of in vitro nucleic acid techniques.
  2. Embryo transfer, or embryo rescue, in animals. Use of hormones not allowed in recipient animals.

Discussion surrounded use of hormones in the donor animals. Due to the “last third of gestation,” cetifiers widely do not hold this guidance on hormone use to apply to donor animals, despite epigenetic changes that may occur. The subcommittee does not view that this donor animal issue falls under their purview.

Semen and eggs from cloned animals will not be allowed. Cloned cattle semen is currently available.

Dave Mortensen: This excluded methods document appears to be a living document, but some commenters suggested they would like to see this finalized.

Harriet Behar: The original document of definition and terminology is intended to be the foundational for the program. The table of excluded methods is intended as a living document as technology advances.

Mortensen: The request was for a stable document intended to articulate the guiding mileposts beyond making recommendations, to ensure that the underlying meaning is upheld.

Motion to accept the proposal on excluded methods determinations October 2019:

  • Motion passes: 13 Yes, 1 Absent

11:45 AM ET: Discussion on genetic integrity of seed

Discussion on Genetic Integrity Transparency of Seed Grown on Organic Land—Instructions to Certifiers (October, 2019)

Harriet Behar: The point of this document is to give producers the levels of genetic contamination in the plant. This is intended to give more tools to farmers to give them the best chance of meeting their market and contractual needs.

Comments requested training from the NOP on genetic contamination types and testing methods, seeking more guidance.

Does this require farmers check with their seed providers? No. Many farmers believe organic seed is free of genetic contamination, but this is incorrect. Additionally, seed suppliers have to divert highly contaminated seed into conventional markets or destroy it.

Genetic contamination sometimes causes a loss of cultivated traits such as early canopy for weed control.

Due to widespread negative comment from seed companies, the board has opted not to force seed companies to label GE contamination, although they are already performing the testing. Behar had hoped for a more robust proposal, but the subcommittee is offering a proposal that can pass.

Dave Mortensen: To clarify, the language, which is more palatable to a wider audience, is advisory and includes a lot of “should” and “could.” It asks certifiers to tell their farmers they can ask for the genetic integrity testing data.

Ashley Swaffar: Notes non-GMO testing protocols are more rigorous organic and wants organic to get a handle on this problem.

Emily Oakley: The new learning database is a possible avenue for education. Asked program for this.

Behar: I know that enforcement and fraud are at the top of the list for the program, and this issue is encompassed by both. Because the organic world needs tougher enforcement.

Tucker: As the NOP considers future courses, seed is on the list.

Oakley: Although this proposal is more compromise than some would like, we need to move forward now with something we can pass.

Sue Baird: Most seed is contaminated with GE, and we must be careful how we proceed.

Behar: We are asking for transparency here so that farmers can see what the level of GE contamination is in any purchased seed before they buy it. I hope this is a first step and that the NOP will work with the NOSB to provide a targeted task force.

Motion to accept the “Genetic Integrity Transparency of Seed Grown on Organic Land – Instructions to Certifiers” proposal:

  • Motion passes: 13 Yes, 1 Absent

11:55 AM ET: Discussion on research priorities

Dave Mortensen: updates are solicited from subcommittees with several things in mind, trying to identify areas of uncertainty that exists in our process and that research Will help organic farm and market chain continuum. Cognizant of fact that don’t want to grow a list of research objectives that are only added to and never subsetted. 2019 iteration we’ve added areas seeing activity.

Four new research priorities were added in 2019:

  1. Ecosystem service provisioning and biodiversity of organic systems
  2. Managing cover crops for on-farm fertility
  3. Identify barriers and develop protocols for organic nursery stock production.
  4. Assess the genetic integrity of organic crops at risk.

Research re: contaminated leaf and grass clippings was sun-setted because feeling is body of research had developed over years.

Motion to adopt proposal on research priorities:

  • Motion passes: 13 yes, 1 absent

12:25 AM ET: Discussion on marine materials in organic crop production (discussion document)

[The NOSB moves on to discussion on marine materials.]

The proposal requires the development of a task force to look at the variables involved, starting with the most-used seaweeds. Any annotation will need to wait until we have more information. We are looking at a five year phase-in period, ultimately.

Sue Baird: If we are to have consistency, I lean toward certification.

Rick Greenwood: Agrees a slow approach is needed. This is a very fragile ecosystem and we must understand what the ramifications are.

Steve Ela: Inaction is an action, but bad action is not useful either. While Maine appears to have sustainable systems in place, it remains unclear what is happening around the world. Wants to protect international marine areas while honoring what is already being done well.

Harriet Behar: Organic is environmentally sensitive and consideration is required.

Asa Bradman: Cites a recent article on the depletion of kelp beds over two years off the coast of California [attributed to issues associated with climate change]. We are talking about using a wild resource, and that is a tremendous responsibility. We live in a dynamic and changing world.

[NOTE: For more information on the depletion of kelp beds, the article California’s Disappearing Kelp Forests: What Scientists and Divers can do to Reverse this Trend from California’s Dept. of Fish and Wildlife is illustrative. The New York Times has also reported on the issue of kelp bed destruction.]

Scott Rice: Looking at the geographic locations of these sites, it will be difficult to schedule site inspections. Additionally, expertise will be required that we currently do not have. We will need to be specific with regulations and guidance, but we must recognize how little information we have regarding all impacted sites. Regulation must be effective, attainable, and meet our objectives.

Behar: We should efficiently use the existing information on sustainability.

There will be no vote on this issue at this meeting.

12:35 PM ET: Material Subcommittee, discussion on sanitizers

Harriet Behar: trying to understand different use types and OFPA criteria of human and environmental health and essentiality. Look at sanitizers through lens of OFPA in a bigger way. When working with NOP they felt the request was fairly overwhelming and it was too daunting of issue. Being tenacious as we are, we didn’t just say okay so next spring there will be a panel of experts to go through these products.

Calls for suggestion of panelists.

Ashley Swaffar: Very concern in direction it could go; very worried about whittling down list on sanitizers. Just want to say we need alternatives for sanitizers. We need options. Just want to say this before I get off the board.

Emily Oakley: that is not the intention. We’re just looking at review to determine gaps. goal is not to whittle it down to one material.

Tom Chapman: understand your intent. Reality is this is a super complex subject. Variety of threats that come and production environments is just enormous. Each operation is different and needs.

Harriet: there is fear we are trying to whittle them down but in subcommittee we thought about how comprehensive review would be.

Steve Ela: this will give us information.

Material Subcommittee concluded.

Break for lunch, to return to discussion at 2:00 PM ET.

2:00 PM ET: Policy Development Subcommittee

[The Policy Development Subcommittee starts their discussion with the proposal to change the NOSB’d Policy and Procedures (PPM) manual.]

The changes to the PPM included clarifying language for existing board and subcommittee processes, as well as adding an additional point regarding public communication.

Motion to accept the changes to the Policy and Procedures Manual:

  • Motion passes: 13 Yes, 1 Absent

[NOTE: Cornucopia has done significant analysis and commentary on previous iterations of the PPM. This document guides the NOSB’s actions and procedures they must follow while they carry out their duties. One of the previous changes to the PPM changed how sunset voting takes place, making it more difficult to remove materials from the National List.]

2:40 PM ET: Use of excluded method vaccines in organic livestock production proposal


The change to the rule is proposed to provide consistency among certifiers and ensure vaccine form, function, and quantity available:

“…vaccines produced through excluded methods may be used when an equivalent vaccine not produced through excluded methods is not commercially available.”

Federal regulations require that poultry operations over 3,000 birds are vaccinated with a vaccine that is currently available only in GE form. Some certifiers were allowing no GE vaccines and others were allowing all vaccines.

If an outbreak occurs and the only available vaccine is produced through excluded methods, the board believes vaccination is an important tool to prevent loss of flocks/herds and farmers from organic.

Ashley Swaffar: Inappropriate to list by individual vaccine, as we don’t list branded products on the NL. This is a challenge for poultry industry and others. We seek to keep birds outside. Many companies have implemented OLPP guidelines for bird space and beyond. Being outdoors in an increasingly wet environment is contributing to disease outbreaks. Vaccines help to mitigate these problems. If we take away vaccines, we will no longer have a commercial organic poultry industry.

There are not many new vaccines coming to market, so a list in the cover letter is feasible.

Rick Greenwood: In a global economy, we will see novel outbreaks. Vaccines are needed.

Emily Oakley: I am not against vaccines. I struggle with the slippery slope of language not in the rules.

Scott Rice: This may be difficult for certifiers initially, but I feel good about comments that this could move forward.

Harriet Behar: I wish we did not need to use GE vaccines, and I hope we are not pushed into this corner of relying on GE in any other area of organic. I do not believe that being outdoors implies a lot of vaccines are needed while being indoors implies no vaccines are needed.

Motion to change the USDA organic regulations at 205.105 (e):

  • Motion passes: 12 Yes, 1 Abstention, 1 Absent

2:45 PM ET: Sunset 2021 voting


Motion to remove atropine from 205.603(a):

  • 12 no, 2 absent

Hydrogen peroxide:

Motion to remove hydrogen peroxide from 205.603(a):

  • 13 no, 1 absent


Motion to remove iodine from 205.603(a):

  • 13 no, 1 absent

Motion to remove iodine from 205.603(b):

  • 13 no, 1 absent

Magnesium Sulfate:

Motion to remove magnesium sulfate from 205.603(a):

  • 13 no, 1 absent


7 CFR § 205.603
 Fenbendazole (CAS #43210-67-9) – milk or milk products from a treated animal cannot be labeled as provided for in subpart D of this part for: 2 days following treatment of cattle; 36 days following treatment of goats, sheep, and other dairy species.  


Parasiticide that is used to treat intestinal worms.  We’ve heard overwhelming support for re-listing

Dave Moretensen:  How is determined that system plan didn’t prevent infestation?

Scott Rice:  Looking at records to see if things like pasture rotation would have helped.

Dave:  Who’s determining fenbendazole is now answer to the problem?

Harriet Behar:  There will be an inspection. Conversation between inspector and producer and certifier makes determination.

Dave:  How evenly across certifier body the determination would be made? What I’m getting at, you could be loose and free or conservative in use.

Ashley Swaffar: People have to do physical and biological control first. What triggers an emergency to let someone use this?  Just before Dave came on board, we defined what emergency is.  Program has yet to put that out there. There was concern people were over using the term “emergency.”

Harriet: As organic inspector, I have not seen increased use.

Motion to remove Fenbendazole as an allowed parasiticide for emergency treatment of dairy & breeder stock & for fiber bearing animals in organic livestock production:

  • Vote:  13 no, 1 absent


Motion to remove  moxidectin (CAS #113507-06-05):

  • 13 no, 1 absent

3:17 PM ET: Sunset 2021 voting

Peracetic acid:

Motion to remove peracetic acid from 205.603(a) and or 7 CFR 205.600(b): 

  • 13 no, 1 absent


Motion to remove xylazine from 205.603(a):

  • 11 no, 1 abstention, 1 absent

3:45 PM ET: Sunset 2021 voting, methionine



Harriet Behar: This substance was commented on the most in this document. Some comments were a form letter against methionine.

A lot of the comments that wanted to remove it stated that if animals go outside they don’t need methionine. that’s not true. by adding extra synthetic you can have a better balance of amino acids from natural sources.

Outside access does not provide methionine in significant quantities. Improved feather cover, stable growth, and with chickens if they see bare skin they start pecking at it. Challenge is that most of our chicken don’t have access to insects year round.

The black soldier fly beetle larva is promising, but we are not ramped up to produce in quantities needed [for an alternative]. For both bird health and welfare standpoint its important to retain level of methionine for the various types of poultry.

The NOSB would love to see actual research whether birds out on pasture really don’t need methionine. I’ve looked and really tried to search for proof a bird that is out on 100% pasture would get enough methionine without synthetic. I challenge the audience to bring forward some research.

Asa Bradman: There is a lot of work out there trying to find natural sources and a lot of GMO work going on. As far as I can tell the main source is methionine.

Sue Baird: Chickens are dinosaurs by DNA and omnivores and there inherent nature is to eat protein. They need methionine. Not a new subject. It is a health issue for the birds.

Ashley Swaffar: Ultimate reasons need is because we have birds that were never supposed to be vegetarians. Methionine is an essential amino acid. They will never reach growth potential, feathering, etc.

It is not about economics. We want to provide balanced diets to our birds. Cannibalism is a real thing. They pick when low on methionine. We forced the birds to be vegetarians.

Sue: they will eat each other inside out.

Harriet: All organic livestock cannot receive byproducts of other livestock. If you have substandard flock, it means they are unhealthy.

Dave Mortensen: There was comment about distinction among breeds. Are organic farmers using low-methionine requiring breeds?

Ashley: The “breeds” question is broiler statement. On a layer level there are 4 breeds. Same bird in Europe and America on layer level.

Dave: Concerned that by approving things like this we run risk of locking into system that is hard to break out of. don’t see how we really explore alternatives if we approve.

Sue: Methionine task force has worked diligently to find alternative. It’s just that poultry are dinosaurs and same genetics as in Europe. Some breeds grow bigger and some grow slower, some more prone to go outdoors, but we’ve got producers trying to get birds outdoors.

Motion to remove DL-Methionine:

  • 12 no, 1 abstention (Dave M), 1 absent

3:53 PM ET: Sunset 2021 voting (cont.)

Trace minerals:

Motion to remove trace minerals from 205.603:

  • 13 no, 1 absent


Motion to remove vitamins from 205.603(d)(3):

  • 13 no, 1 absent

3:53 PM ET: Fenbendazole, petition discussion document

[Fenbendazole is being petitioned for use in organic poultry.]


Ashley Swaffar: Use would be only for emergencies. Controversy about no withholding time.  As lead on this I didn’t feel like we had justification for withholding.  Questions about efficacy of concentration level in residue. That will be main focus of TR.

Harriet Behar:  Encourages public to comment.

Steve Ela:  I’d prefer to see short withholding time.

Asa Bradman:  I’d like to see more information summarized regarding residue data.

Emily Oakley: Veterinarian [said] there was a 6 day period to no detectable levels

Ashley:   Dirt floors in chicken houses are the worst for worm infestation. Even if doing everything right outside and rotating it’s the inside of the house where the problem is.  On conventional side, they see this in cages.

Diatomaceous earth knocks levels down but does not get rid of worm infestation.  The diet becomes nutritionally inadequate.

Dave:  If going to have TR done that is time to get the data [needed].

Steve: Ashley you said dirt floors are worst, then isn’t it good management not to use dirt floors? If going to use good preventative measures, wouldn’t use it?

Ashley: Poultry houses from the 80s that didn’t have concrete flours. It’s cost prohibitive to put in for some people.

[Cornucopia’s take: The evaluation of methionine in the context of a systems approach in organic poultry production is needed. Based on our own industry research, Cornucopia has concerns that synthetic methionine is being used principally as a production tool, rather than as an essential dietary supplement. This research is backed by the fact that the European Union does not allow synthetic methionine. They don’t need it because they require poultry producers to use breeds more appropriate for organic production, require lower stocking densities, and have strict rules ensuring outdoor access and opportunities for legitimate foraging for their birds.

The blanket allowance of synthetic methionine in organic poultry diets discourages organic producers from offering birds meaningful outdoor access and encourages mimicry of conventional practices. There are serious questions as to whether DL-Methionine still meets the essentiality requirements for organic poultry. Many family-scale organic poultry farms do not supplement with synthetic methionine at all. The differences arise from legitimate outdoor time, which usually means mobile housing, low stocking rates, and rotation.

Cornucopia would like to see a date set to remove synthetic methionine from the National List, to help push the industry to develop viable alternatives.]

4:30 PM ET: NOSB officer elections

Chair: Steve Ela

Vice Chair: Scott Rice

Secretary: Jesse Buie

END OF FINAL DAY of the Fall, 2019 NOSB meeting.

The Spring 2020 NOSB meeting will occur April 29, 2020 through May 1, 2020.
Location: Crystal City, VA



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