Join The Cornucopia Institute as we keep you informed via web updates and live tweets from the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting online.
We will be sharing the play by play of the meeting on April 26, 27, and 28 below and with our Twitter followers at #NOSB or by simply following our stream. Skip to the coverage of Day Two or Day Three.
For background on issues up for discussion at the meeting, see:
- The NOSB’s Proposals & Discussion Document for Spring 2022
- Cornucopia’s formal written comments
- Cornucopia’s notes on the oral comments for the Spring 2022 NOSB meeting
Tuesday, April 26, 2022: Spring NOSB Meeting, Day 1
Call to Order, Agenda Overview, NOP Introductions
Jennifer Tucker, National Organic Program (NOP) Deputy Administrator makes some introductory remarks and introduces the NOP staff.
Jennifer Tucker: Welcome, I am the Deputy Administrator of the NOP. Welcome to all NOSB members and audience. After the two public comment webinars last week I am glad to be with you. I want to acknowledge new board members; they started their work on the board this spring, I’d like to give them a round of applause. This continues our public meeting. Meeting access is posted on NOSB meeting page.
Thank you to Michelle Arsenault for 10 years of service to the board.
Erin Heely has led Standards Division. We are grateful to have her in that role.
Jared Clark supporting board; advancing rules quickly, answering questions, nice guy.
Andrea Holmes is one of 3 materials specialists in NOP. They help present work effectively and always in the background working things out. Also been leading a special project to overhaul our petitioned substances database.
Devon Patell is our acting standards Assistant Director. Thank you!
Nate Powell-Palm will now introduce NOSB members.
Nate Powell-Palm, NOSB Chair, makes introductions and proceeds with the NOSB roll-call.
Current Board Members (NOSB member bios):
Environmental Protection and Resource Conservation Seats:
- Rick Greenwood
- Wood Turner
- Liz Graznak
- Jerry D’Amore
- Kim Huseman
- Mindee Jeffery
- Nate Powell-Palm
- Amy Bruch
- Logan Petrey
- Javier Zamora
Public Interest/Consumer Interest:
- Brian Caldwell
- Carolyn Dimitri
- Allison Johnson
USDA Accredited Certifying Agent:
- Kyla Smith
- Dr. Dilip Nandwani
Kyla Smith, Secretary, gives the report.
Nate Powell-Palm, NOSB Chair, gives a report and statement about the NOSB and the state of organics.
Nate Powell-Palm: Grateful for the chair’s report opportunity. Previous chair, Steve Ela, always gave an insightful report. Where do we need to go to harness the incredible movement we are part of?
State of the NOSB and my vision: background on my experience with organics. When I was 12, I got a loan from the Montana government to buy 3 bred cows to start small cow-calf operation. And that’s I think an example of government working really well. So, I was able to get this loan that allowed me to buy three bred cows and start my small cow/calf operation, really quickly I learned that three bred cows was not going to make a career, I got hooked up into the world of organic through a couple of ladies, about an hour from me, who made organic chicken feed, and they introduced me to this world that folks just do things differently, they take care of each other differently and they take care of the land differently.
I had the chance to see a lot of operations in action as an organic inspector. For 10 years I saw this promise of organic lived out in in factories and on farms across America. What does organic food mean for everybody? And I think when I look at how lucky I’ve been to be able to start a first-generation operation that provides a living for myself. That’s something that I’ve tried to figure out what is it that makes it possible for me to pass this on. Do not only the next generation but the next five years, how do we keep this going in a way that folks like myself can realize these opportunities first generation farmers, historically disadvantaged farmers, how do we make it so that organics is this vehicle to creating a world of agriculture that we also believe in.
When I first got the call from Jenny saying that I had been appointed to the board one thing that immediately popped into my mind was, oh, maybe this isn’t such a good idea to Sir, it’s a big deal it’s a big job but it’s also pretty contentious, you know, I’ve heard nothing but the stories of board members being like, oh, man, I don’t know why I did this, this is a lot of work and this is not a lot of love for from the community. When it comes to making these hard decisions.
And so I went into my service with that in the back of my mind how do we ultimately realize the potential of this Board and I think I realized it over the course of these three years so far.
Through incredible collaboration, and I don’t know if I’ve just lucked out and my fellow board members are folks who look around every day and say, how do we really take the opportunity we’ve been given as members and as leaders of the organic community and make some change. And so again I think all of you, my fellow board members, for the incredible hard work that you put in making this this beast happen when we look at the potential of organics and the potential of this collaboration.
I also look around to our place in fighting climate change, when we consider the potential that organic has to be the climate smart solution. We’re really looking at 26,000 certified operations and many thousand more who are potentially transitioning to organic as folks who have in their own power in the soil beneath their feet in the practices they use on the farm, the potential to really scale up a real meaningful fight against climate change, and I think one thing, when I look around and and I realize I’m on the younger side of board chairs.
But when I look around, I do think we have very little time. We don’t have time to be ever fighting amongst ourselves we don’t have time to be doing anything but looking really straight ahead figuring out where is the collaboration and where is the opportunity to pull together towards this shared vision the shared hopeful future reality.
And I think we’re doing that on NOSB right now which is why every time I call into one of our subcommittee calls I’m really excited. I think in the past year we’ve had a lot of new members come on and each one of those members has I think exceeded, everyone’s expectations for how much better we can get with every single new member and what we can realize as a team. And I think that will see over the next few days that we are crushing it.
There is a lot of hard work hard decisions being made and folks are bringing their very best writing their very best debate to this discussion.
When looking back at the fall meeting, I think an example of our deep and really healthy collaboration was the vote on ammonia extracts that we were able to have a tough debate and really hear all sides and have folks, walk away feeling like we were heard, and this is nothing but an opportunity to grow.
We were able to have something that I thought was, you know, possibly a point of Fisher for the community, ultimately get worked out, get voted upon realized fairly good unanimity and and leave each other still texting each other high fives, that this is still something we all want to be a part of this is still something that is meaningful to all of us. So I think when we talk about what we perceive as existential crises in organic, I think we all want to remember that this is still so worth protecting, 09:40:38 no matter how hard the debates, no matter what we deem our wins or losses. The movement, the creation of the organic standards is something we can all agree upon is worth fighting for and worth defending, and ultimately worth all of our time and our expertise. So as we move in today, we’re going to have a lot of discussions about how we improve organics, and we’re going to have some really great debates about where we think it should go.
But at the end of the day, I am really grateful to you all my fellow board members for taking such an exceptional professional approach to this work and make it so that we all feel safe, we all feel heard, and especially we feel like we’re doing the best work we can to make meaningful change.
With that, I would like to hand it back to Dr Tucker.
USDA/AMS/National Organic Program Update
USDA/AMS/National Organic Program Update (Led by Jennifer Tucker, AMS/NOP)
Jennifer Tucker: I’m glad you brought up climate and climate-smart agriculture; we are going to hear folks from USDA talking about climate-smart agriculture.
Sean Babington will be joining us, hopefully, in just a second here.
Sean Babington is the senior climate advisor for a USDA and is in very very high demand across the department so we’re giving him a couple of minutes to log in. Let me give the formal introduction then: Sean Babington, it is great to have you here. Sean is the USDA senior climate advisor.
Sean works to help farmers and ranchers address the challenges they face as a result of climate change. He works across multiple mission areas and within USDA, hence making me very busy guy to find solutions that help operations adapt become more resilient and mitigate problems and Sean previously handled committee business pertaining to forestry pesticides and climate change for the US Senate Committee on agriculture, nutrition and forestry also served as a senior policy advisor for Energy and Natural….. He also served as a senior policy advisor for Energy and Natural Resources and is an adjunct lecturer for Georgetown University’s Environmental Studies program so uh john Sean we’re so grateful to have you here today. Welcome to the NOSB meeting.
USDA Update on Climate-Smart Agriculture
Guests: Sean Babington, USDA, Senior Climate Advisor, and Adam Chambers, NRCS, Scientific Lead for Environmental Markets.
Sean Babington: Thanks Jennifer, it’s really great to be here and appreciate the, the kind introduction and, and the invitation to spend a few minutes with you all.
So, I was thinking, I’m just going to give sort of a handful of minutes on sort of how from, from my perch i see the department, you know, USDA wide sort of approaching climate smart agriculture.
And, you know, with a little bit more attention paid to how organic subsystems fit into that and you know maybe talk a little bit about some of our work going forward, that we’re carrying forward across missionary is obviously many folks are familiar
Obviously, many folks are familiar with our partnerships for climate smart commodities program which I’ll talk a little bit about but also want to talk about some of our other work.
And then just sort of, you know, I’ll close and know there might be a little bit of a statement or some feedback that those folks want to share with me but more than anything just thank you and appreciate your collaboration.
I see just scrolling through really quickly some old friends here I spent a dozen plus years on the hill. Most recently, as Jennifer mentioned working for Chairwoman stabbing now, and it’s great to be back in touch with folks and have this opportunity.
So, I think, you know, I’ll start out sort of macro level, you know, broadly speaking, you all know this, agriculture, forestry rural America are actually uniquely affected by a warming climate and climate change and the impacts that we’re seeing, but also uniquely positioned to really be a meaningful part of the solution here to help on the mitigation side. and with the right policies and incentives us in the secretary’s office, cross USD I think we feel that climate smart agriculture, forestry sort of rural Clean Energy Solutions that the department can help promote can really create new both new revenue opportunities for producers but also just strengthen rural communities that that we’re really thinking about all the time at the department here, the, you know, one, one thing that the Secretary i think is particularly eloquent on is, you know, it’s not just a, an opportunity to think about additional revenue opportunities but it’s also an opportunity to think about, sort of flipping the traditional energy and sort of climate discussion on its head a little bit. Right now we see, you know, a lot of the resources and the energy and the excitement and the investment on the coasts and in urban centers and historically we’ve seen natural resources whether they be fossil fuels or fiber or whatever taken off the land, taken from rural areas, shipped to urban areas that see that value add happen outside of those rural communities that the that were derived from and I think that I’ve heard the Secretary talk about this many times that this this notion of how do we drive.
Climate smart production climate smart commodities and the value add, we can drive there can help with some of that reinvestment in rural communities that we all care about so much so.
So, the department, you know the Biden Harris USDA Under Secretary Vilsack leadership has really embarked upon and across the department effort on climate.
We are thinking, not just about traditional conservation programs and traditional farmer facing programs but really everything that we do.
We’re looking at policies that are voluntary flexible, led by producers.
As you all know if the policies were promoting don’t work for producers, they’re not going to work for the climate, right, we need to meet folks where they’re at and think about this from it from grassroots bottom up, rather than a top-down approach, and all along the way and everything we’re doing on climate we’re thinking about science scientific and rigorous monitoring greenhouse gas accounting.
Those are some of our North Stars right, we need to make sure that we’re checking our math, and that we’re thinking about this in a very in a very science base way.
And while we’re doing that, we want to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to benefit here. We’re not just talking about large row crops in the Midwest right we’re talking about small and medium sized farmers organic production systems conventional, large and small specialty crops.
And really the diversity, not just of crops and regions that USDA service but the diversity of producers underserved and folks that have historically USGS and done a terribly good job of serving are really meaningful part of how we think about climate.
So, we’re really excited about all this. I’ve mentioned that we’re not just thinking about, you know, our traditional conservation programs or just working through and NRCS, we’re thinking about our research agencies are thinking about international opportunities.
Some folks may know that the Secretary launched the agricultural innovation mission for climate. Last year, we had many partners across the globe who are really thinking about how to readable that investment and agricultural research and innovation that can drive a lot of these practices that we want to see on the ground. We joined something called the Global methane pledge, which is a really important part of all this climate work folks think about carbon.
As the only thing we’re thinking about here but when we talk about as we think about methane and Microsoft side and. And there’s a really important body of work going on there.
As many of you know the USDA is home to the Forest Service, we’ve got a robust body of work happening over with our friends at Forest Service. Some of you may have seen that the President Biden signed an executive order last Friday on Earth Day for pertaining to strengthening our forests, including looking at how we preserve our, our some of our most carbon rich forests or old growth and mature stands across our national forest system but also just across the country so there’s a big body of work going there.
And then we do get to our traditional conservation programs administered by NRCS and FSA and thinking about how we can really orient and point those towards climate smart outcomes in a way that is, again, based on existing relationships and existing body of work.
And then what I alluded to earlier the partnerships for climate smart commodities program as many folks know and there’s been a fair amount of interest in this certainly a ton of interest and even a lot written about it but the secretary in February, went to Lincoln University Missouri and Jefferson City Missouri and 1890s HPC you and announced this $1 billion partnership for climate smart commodities program, we are right now accepting applications for this program.
The first deadline is coming up at the end of next week May 6.
And we’re really looking to provide targeted grant funding to meet the national and global demand for climate smart commodities and expanding the market for these commodities.
We think that there is an important role for us to play in developing this new market. And while we’re thinking about applications for this we’re really looking at folks to show their math, I mentioned this a little earlier but monitoring their verification reporting is going to be a very important part of this.
And it’s a very flexible program right we’ve got a wide range of public and private entities foreign groups states, nonprofits, businesses tribal governments, a higher education institutions right our land grant universities all eligible to apply and really want to emphasize this. See, organic producers being an important part of both this program and our broader climate work and hope that you all see yourselves in this broader work.
There are so many great lessons and tools, you know, and so many people on this call and across the broader community. Just such leaders and sustainable agriculture and cultivating those tools and that expertise that can really, really benefit us in this broader climate discussion that we’re having right now. So, you know, a few specifics and I know you all know this, I just want to say it out loud.
Some of the things that organic does best that organic, you know, it’s part of the program right improving water quality and minimizing erosion crop rotations and cover cropping.
The promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity, a whole host of things that you all are such experts in on improving soil health, which in turn stores more carbon.
Those are all critical, critical knowledge bases and sets of practices for us as we think about the department’s work on climate and how to scale up some of this climate smart, agriculture work across the country.
We at the Department feel that organic producers are really critical part of this discussion and really have such expertise, we’re really frankly going to need.
As we move forward on this. So, we’re really looking forward to continuing to work with you all.
Our colleagues certainly at the National Organic program but the board and others in this space, learning from you all and, and moving forward together on this really important climate discussion.
Jennifer Tucker: Sean Thank you so much, we would like to give the board chair just an opportunity to say a couple of words back. The NOSB is really engaged in in the climate agriculture climate smart agriculture discussion so Nate you want to take the mic for a couple minutes here.
Nate Powell-Palm: It’s a meaningful connection for us to all have this conversation in one spot. When we saw the announcement for the $1 billion for climate smart commodities I was happy.
The goal of the program is to ultimately identify those practices that are climate smart, but then help foster a marketplace so that producers can ultimately realize a private market solution to making sure that they can get a premium for climate smart commodities, as we roll through some of the more specifics that we’re looking at a practices like nitrogen usage, like you mentioned reducing Knox and soil carbon sequestration.
There’s been sort of an underselling of organics as far as what we can bring to the table. Having already created this marketplace that rewards farmers for these practices so when we look at Knox I know that there’s a lot of precision agriculture, trying to figure out how do we reduce it and use it right organics doesn’t use it at all. And so when we think about how quickly we can make these strides looking to organic as a leader on nutrient management, because we are only using those inputs that are available on farm or select inputs off farm in looking at tillage, oftentimes soil or organic it’s kind of a bum rap for tillage, but when we look at the entire rotation.
Oftentimes, organic is tilling less than conventional because we usually have a perennial phase in the rotation, where we’re able to realize, several years without any steel in the ground, nor management, we have inspectors on the ground, monitoring for manure voluntarily from producers, opting to be certified organic. Hoping to engage on is how do we have USDA recognize organic as a climate smart, practice that seal being married right away to claim that companies who are looking to invest in SG and companies trying to figure out where do I put my climate smart, supply chain efforts, my investment dollars.
I think we’re at sort of a shaky spot right now because a lot of practices that are inherent to organic are being elevated celebrated a cover crops notch reduction.
But all of that is already existing in organics and we already have a marketplace. So, we need to put some numbers behind organics I realized that, that’s definitely the goal of engaging in the $1 billion for climate smart solutions.
But on a broader base I was wondering if you had any input on how we could better message that we’ve got 5% of the food market already signed up, ready to go in this marketplace that has all the infrastructure built, we have consumer confidence, we have a regulatory system, we have deep public investment.
And it seems like it’s a right fit for what this climate smart commodities program is looking to do so is there a way we can see organic as a fire to which we need to just add gas to try to get bigger and bigger.
And I realized with climate change, we do not have any time for us versus them this is not organic versus conventional, it’s just hoping that we might be able to say, here’s one example of everything being done right.
And if you all want to copy that’s great if we want to add, you know, the confidence that USDA acknowledging organic has a climate. So our solution would really help companies invest and grow this market that we know has pretty solid legs.
Sean Babington: Yes, thanks Nate and I really want just appreciate the, the perspective and sort of the candor but also the constructive approach that you just took and all that I think it isn’t us versus them right it’s too important of an issue and it’s too urgent to say it’s not organic or conventional it’s not big mess Midwestern row crops versus specialty crops in California, it’s got to be all of us and we got to move forward together on this stuff.
I do think to your point about you know how can we kind of, you know, elevate the discussion surrounding the good stewards that organic has been for a long time and what they bring to this climate discussion. This type of dialogue this kind of meeting I know there was an exchange between the, the program, National Organic Program and the Standards Board month before last about kind of, you know, some of those synergies that we can just talk more about because there is such a great story to tell here. And I think that, you know, you have my commitment certainly to continue to engage with you all to tell that story.
The specific question about sort of how do we match up seals and certifications and stuff that one’s a little bit for New Year right and we need to get into that and figure that out and we’ve got process verified and all sorts of other things.
But we’re committed to having it and this is just such a group of leaders, you know really in this kind of sustainable agriculture that, you know, was started before we were thinking necessarily about climate but there’s dovetails so well with this exact discussion. So, I think, you know, I would love to just keep the dialogue going, and look forward to hopefully seeing a lot of participation and in the Partnerships Program, as I mentioned, the first big deadline is next week.
But, you know, when we think about that program, we are hoping to learn so much about what’s out there who can show their math who’s got the, you know, the MMR v measurement monitoring reporting verification behind their proposals, and then allow us to learn an awful lot about that as we take our next steps.
As the department, working with Congress on the 2023 Farm Bill. So be the first one since 2014 that I’m not on the hill for and I look forward to, not being there for those really late nights but.
But I’m a little sad to miss out on what is a really exciting process I think for all of agriculture. So, anyway, I really appreciate the sentiment so I appreciate the opportunity to be with you all.
And, and certainly to have a constructive dialogue going forward.
Thank you, we cannot thank you enough for your time and really appreciate you coming today.
Jennifer Tucker: Thank you, Sean very very very much let’s give another round of applause. Really appreciate your time and being here. Thank you thank you thank you for all that you’re doing it for being with us today.
Sean Babington: So thank you.
Jennifer Tucker: I’m now going to turn it over to our second USDA climate: Adam Chamber So Adam I see you are on with us. Thank you. Adam is with NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service). He is a scientific lead for environmental markets, until we’ve had some great conversation leading into this meeting.
Adam Chambers: Hey, thank you everyone now. I look forward to the day that we’re all in the same room again I just cannot wait.
Thank you, Dr. Tucker, and thank you Mr. Babington for giving the great introduction. I’ll try to take us maybe a step down the quantification bath and Nate I’ll try to touch a little bit on that.
That challenging quantification piece that you touched on with nitrous oxide as well that’s always that can always be quite challenging. I was going to just try to share my screen and go through a quick few slides so that we can all kind of work off of a common denominator if you might.
[Notes presentation slides are working.] I’m Adam Chambers, I’ve worked for NRCS for quite a while. I work on conservation practices so voluntary conservation practices, delivering a greenhouse gas mitigation benefits is kind of late night talk about and carbon sequestration benefits. Now, what I want to do is talk about the [climate], everything that Nate touched on.
Now let’s put the quantification to work and prove that in the numbers, and then can we put the numbers forward that justify our scientific assertions that we make, or the React you know kind of the hunch, I mean I really trust in humanity and our intuition, but I also like to work with numbers and see the quantification. So, as we all know, and I think this was really highlighted with Mr. Babington overview and Dr Tucker as well.
We are the first generation to fully understand this problem of climate change, and we’re the last with the ability to solve it. These aren’t my words, I borrowed them from other climate scientists: we’ve got to be all in it together. We understand how to solve for now we gotta get to work.
We know that working lands in agriculture can deliver. We know that forestry can deliver. We know the industry can deliver; we know that every sector has to be involved; we’re trying to reduce the carbon footprint across the all sectors. At NRCS we have voluntary real quantifiable atmospheric benefits (called climate solutions) but then in parallel, we have to produce the food, the fiber and the fuel that we need for the world.
We’ve got carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions. If we can increase this now, we can reduce the cost of adaptation and resilience in the future. We also know if we don’t make investments now with the challenging gases, they live in the atmosphere for four decades. In the case of methane for centuries for example. Others for almost millennia; that means we have more investment in the future in our resilience adaptation.
Anything we can do to keep the gases out of the atmosphere or work with that carbon cycle and bring them back to the atmosphere.
[Referencing a slide, this data was developed by the] team at Colorado State, Amy Swan, and it was also published in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in 2006. And so then the question is: can we track all of these different gases and look at how did they quantify and then how do they stack up right are their net benefits to the atmosphere or their net losses to the atmosphere?
We know that just about everything in production causes emissions. But we also know that we can work with the nitrogen and carbon cycles to bring things back into the planet. We’ve got three main greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide (which is also laughing gas and is a persistent gas and stays in the atmosphere), and methane (for which does decay over time to become carbon dioxide).
Let’s talk about being part of the climate solution and the numerous intervention opportunities.
Intervention opportunities: some of them are technology driven, some of them are practice and management driven; some things we just cannot change for the time being.
At NRCS we work with systems… I see an atmospheric problem, I see a water quality problem, I see a soil problem.
Soil Health: we try to transition those systems into more a more sustainable more operational systems. We can build carbon stocks, and we can protect our most valuable resource, which is top soil.
For livestock operations: we know that livestock health, soil health, and sustainability, have a bunch of core benefits associated with all these climate benefits.
At NRCS we take systems that may have extremely large amounts of erosion, which we all agree is a bad thing and then we can restore that. We can take land and put it in a different use and deliver photosynthetic activity, improve the whole systematic approach, enhance carbon sequestration reduce emissions, reduce soil loss, improved water quality, the cascade goes on and on. I’m a climate scientist by training. I’ve always just worked in the atmosphere, so I look at the world through the glasses of an atmospheric lens.
[describes a slide borrowed from Bill Hornstein, with the USDA climate priorities on the left and principles to the right that are also important.] As Mr. Babington mentioned, we’ve got climate smart agriculture, we want to leverage existing programs, but we want to build these partnerships and learn more about how we can deliver these greener commodities to the marketplace. We’ve got climate smart forestry quantification methods. Then we have adaptation and resilience, which is what we talked about.
We want our workforce at USDA to make the climate informed. We can only move the quantification tools as far forward as the research is behind it. Underpinning that we’ve got energy efficiency, renewable energy, we have equity and environmental justice, and then we have international cooperation.
We want to be comprehensive over to the right, voluntary and incentive base. That’s what I just talked about from NRCS equitable and accessible. We want it to be cost effective.
We want public engagement, and we want rural economies, as Mr. Babington definitely emphasized.
We want to move that forward. On the left, we’ve got the 600-page document. I always refer to that as the methods report. It goes to the question of: How do we quantify emissions to the atmosphere where, how do we quantify the emissions from a tractor, how do we do all of this? We republish this every five years as the state of science improves. This gives us a handful of quantification tools which we try to build to be inclusive, but also scientifically based which is a very difficult balance to keep going.
At NRCS you may have seen that we have a list of atmospheric beneficial conservation practices. Again, these are in our NRCS conservation practices. Some people may need help adopting some of them.
If we can have a nutrient management plan, we can have a nutrient management plan in a conventional context, but we also need to have a nutrient management plan in an organic operation. As Nate mentioned, there are great opportunities to reduce emissions, but there’s also the potential for nitrogen managed improperly to go to the atmosphere. Balancing for nitrogen for carbon composted manure applications, those all can be great opportunities to reduce emissions. But applied in a system that gets water at the right time and too much of one of those, you can have nitrous oxide emissions so we’ve got this list of practices that really can underpin.
My next slide is just going to show you so this is all the NRCS conservation practices. We have about 30 practices, and then a handful of enhancements. Another 80 or so that make up our climate smart list. As of today, but we plan to expand that list next year and improve it.
But if you take this matrix writ-large. You will notice that, and you know I focus on cover crops just to draw your attention to it: this is NRCS is quantification work; we quantify the atmospheric benefits over time.
That’s only what we deliver through Farm Bill programs like Mr. Babington mentioned. Then there’s how do we mobilize the larger marketplace and if we can help influence the national curve, we can lift that and we can get more atmospheric benefits through these market driven mechanisms.
At NRCS we also keep track of that national greenhouse gas inventory and the National greenhouse gas inventory quantification methods, we try to keep those consistent.
SNRCS does an annual quantification: we quantify our soil health practices, and that’s inclusive of organic producers. The perennial biomass and agro-forestry is the green. You’ve got livestock operations, that includes grass fed, and confined animal operations, but we put that all together in how many benefits can we bring forward for the ecosystem.
From NRCS Farm Bill programs (what will be delivered in a years time): no credit for planning in our quantification until they generate photosynthetic activity, reduce that methane important methane emissions, or stop that nitrogen dioxide emissions to the atmosphere.
I think the last year we had about 82.3 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent reductions, just from NRCS, and that delivered almost 18 million in offsets. I don’t say: remove the cars, cars still stayed on the road. Instead it “offset” the emissions of 18-million passenger vehicles.
We hope that we could work with the organic groups to deliver on the quantification. I have heard from some folks on the Board. The hardest part of that is we’re trying to get the quantification into the blue book, into the quantification tool. So we need the science and really that’s driven by that scientific research, research agenda, which I think leadership has recognized the opportunity to improve that. And that’s where the climate smart commodities program really comes in and will help us advance science forward, in addition to our great work with NRCS Research Service.
We know that voluntary working on conservation delivers on climate solutions. We definitely are getting more conservation on the ground, but we need to get even more concentration on the ground.
When you invest in a system, and you build soil organic matter, or you plant a fruit tree we know that accrues carbon. A little bit over time; we all know the look of the tree rings as they get bigger so they accrue more carbon.
The other really important thing here and you all know this well: we must keep the conservation on the ground, because carbon often begets carbon in these natural systems. Finally, when mitigation benefits are tracked by NRCS: we try to have consistency in our quantification methods, all the way from the National inventory approach, down to our field level or our farm level quantification tools.
I feel profoundly indebted to future generations, we understand this problem, we do have the ability to solve it.
One of my recent peers asked me, “Knowing what you do about climate change and spending all this time on climate change. How do you sleep at night?” And so I thought about that for a while, and I responded to her with an adjustment to this quote which is, “We are the first generation to fully understand the problem. And we’re actually the first generation with the tools to solve it. So, with that, I think that’s our opportunity is we get to go from being the last with the ability to being the first with the tools to deliver on it.”
[Organics] are well ahead of the game and we have a lot to learn from you, but I’m also a scientist so let’s do the quantification to support our assertions. And then we have a really compelling story to tell. And I guess that ties into Mr. Babington’s opening remarks on the partnership program of how trying to get people to show their math, and definitely help us expand and improve our mathematics as well on the atmospheric benefits. So, with that, I really appreciate the time and the opportunity to speak with you all. And I look forward to continuing discussions.
Jennifer Tucker: Thank you so so much genuinely appreciate your being here your energy, your enthusiasm and all your thoughts today so thank you thank you thank you. Nate, did you want to make any quick follow up on that.
Nate Powell-Palm: I don’t think it’s lost on anyone on this call how grateful we are for the work of NRCS and how I think it’s an example of really smart scientists helping farmers do their best. So really want to thank you for your work and, and everyone in that NRCS.
Jennifer Tucker: Well put again thank you so much.
Adam Chambers: Thank you. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.
Jennifer Tucker: But we were thrilled to have you here, so thank you. We look forward to continuing to work with NRCS. I think we have a lot of joint interests and joint projects to move forward here so look forward to doing that. Adam, you’re welcome to stay on if you would like that. We assume you also have a very busy day. I’m going to give a couple of follow up comments to what we just heard, and then we’ll move into the NOP update.
And so, again, glad we were able to bring the speakers in. I didn’t know what those folks were going to say before they came, so I was hearing it with you. And as I was jotting down the notes, the word that just keeps on coming back in all elements of this climate discussion is “data.” And so, the importance of data to continue to support the science to demonstrate organic’s role and to maximize farmer access on the atmospheric benefits so with that I really appreciate the time and the opportunity to speak with you all. And I look forward to continuing discussions.
And so the importance of data to continue to support the science to demonstrate organics role and to maximize farmer access to climate-smart programs and benefits, so how do we continue to generate data in a usable form to demonstrate and continue to verify validate and confirm the role of organic and all of these different through all the different practices that organic is already doing. And so I think most, a lot of folks know it at this point that as a child of a computer scientist, I do tend to think often in terms of data and data exchange and data harmonization. And so getting more data to support both the practical science of this but also the research side of it. Getting more data is supported by data harmonization that facilitates data exchange. And so, when I listen to talks like that, I think about all the data that is entering into conservation plans to demonstrate friend NRCS through their conservation programs, but I also think about all the practice data that is currently being lost because of a lack of harmonization and data exchange for organic system plants.
You know I looked at the slide that was shown on conservation practices and you know that stuff is all in organic system plants, but it’s sitting in PDF forms are in disparate systems, and then somebody’s got to take and we’ve got an analyst here who calls it swivel chair interfaces. So, I enter in this computer and then I swivel over my chair and I enter it into this other computer, and really thinking strategically about how we can think about data differently, not the public private partnership leads to a huge decentralization of practice-based data that could really help with this climate conversation, and so I really encourage all of us to think about how we can think about data and data harmonization and data flow differently.
When we think about things like organic system plans, and other tools that track and report on these climate practices so some of that’s on the USDA in terms of figuring out how do we make our systems talk to each other. Even though our systems are designed to do different things but how could certifiers also kind of work together for a more harmonized approach to data management with organic system plants and so I encourage all of us to think about how we can kind of collectively and continuously improve in that data in that, in that data. Data space. So, some of the thoughts that came out of listening to our guest speakers today.
I did want to answer a question that came up in the chat in terms of engagement. We have been engaged with the team that is working on these climate initiatives. They do have agency level meetings that I have attended and we have other staff members attend. We also will have or we have offered proposal evaluators for the climate smart commodities program so we will have organic expertise involved in reviewing the those applications as well, so we are engaged in in the in those conversations within USDA. We have provided a variety of information about the standards, and what they mean and what those practices are. Having an Undersecretary who is an organic producer really helps in that conversation as well, because she understands the language of how to talk about organic across the department. I think that’s a very important asset so I take a deep breath and close this part of the NOP update.
Celebrating 20 Years of Organic Accreditation
Jennifer Tucker: We are celebrating our organic certifiers today. And so, I want to take a few minutes to recognize a big anniversary for the program that happens this week. Congress created the National Organic program as a public private partnership. The system could not work without the certifiers and their teams. This Thursday, in fact, March 20, it has been 20 years since the day that USDA accredited its first class of organic certifiers under the organic foods production act. And so I will move to the next slide that shows their logos. So, this is the first class of certifiers or certifiers who have been around since the very beginning.
And so, after so much work by thousands of people across the organic community 20 years ago the federal standard could officially be used to certify organic farms and businesses. And so this milestone really does help us remember the unique role that certifiers and their staff and inspectors serve in their ongoing work to deliver consistent oversight and continuous improvement.
And so an awful lot has changed since 2002. And I believe we have collectively work together to develop and further implement the organic standards. So, these certifiers have conducted thousands of inspections over two decades, they have built strong organic control systems that are protecting organic integrity around the world, hand in hand with them the NOP has built the first public database of organic operations, the organic integrity database has now been in place for about seven or eight years, so it’s part of that history as is now our Learning Center, and so we continue to build the infrastructure and the systems that ultimately are exercised by organic certifiers and by organic farms around the world.
So today, there are 76 certifiers and their work continues to be vital to the community. They in turn work with organic farmers who are using all these natural materials and who are taking a systems approach to protect natural resources to build soil and water quality and biodiversity and they are vital partners and consistent oversight and engaging in continuous improvement across a myriad of control system activities.
So, we have sent the very first class of certifiers a keepsake. Put it in the camera here so you folks can see that it’s the number 20. And so it’s a 20, and on the front it says celebrating 20 years of USDA Organic certification has this this seal on it. And so, too, we’ve sent them this to mark the milestone in their own offices. Over the next several days, USDA and the department will be posting about this anniversary across our social media channels, and I believe we’re going to be sharing in the chat some of those links so if you would like to help us sort of celebrate this rather momentous anniversary. We hope that you will watch for and share those posts.
I know we have a lot of certifiers on the line with us today. So I’d like to pause and give them all a big round of applause for everything that they have done since the first class is certifiers and every certifier that has followed in their footsteps.
Now we are going to turn to some key program updates, and a review of feedback from the recent regulatory priorities public comment opportunity so we’re going to take this in two segments.
First, I’m going to give you an update of where we are with some key rulemaking, and then we’re going to turn to reflections on the regulatory priorities, notice.
So first, there is a full NOP update that was recorded by many different people across NOP. It is posted in the Organic Integrity Learning Center, it was included in an insider that went out last week. If you go to the Learning Center you click on NOP presentations, there’s presentation in there that is the full NOP update, and so it’s about 40 minutes, gives an update on priorities and recent successes, so I’m not repeating all that here, but I am going to review where we are with some key roles.
So, the first one is organic Origin of Livestock final role. And so, there was a lot of communication about this as well as a recent webinar that final rule was published on April 5, we are now in a one-year implementation period, we will be launching as training for certifiers and operations in the Learning Center.
Later this year as operations gear up for that change the Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards proposed role went to the Office of Management and Budget OMB in December, and we have been working closely with OMB on their review process.
The Strengthening Organic Enforcement final rule is in legal review. Now that for folks who track the clearance process of legal review is an early step and USDA clearance, so it means we finished the rule, NOP has been pencils down on this. It is now with the legal team.
Another important rule is the inerts rule; looking at what we’re going to do about lists three and four on the national list. That is an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking where we will invite public comments that’s also in legal review, so the lawyers have that that advance notice of proposed rulemaking in review.
We also I continue to work on other National List rules on an ongoing basis, we generally have two to three rules or notices related to the national list underway at any given time so I know there’s a lot of emphasis on practice standards, but I do want to pause and really acknowledge the strong and steady work of the National List team that we have really gotten into a very stable, and by rulemaking standards pretty rapid cadence of rulemaking related to National List rulemaking does take time.
The National List process shows how that can work as efficiently as rulemaking possibly can.
This brings me to an important update on the fall, 2021 NOSB recommendation to prohibit ammonia extracts. The USDA has decided that we will proceed with a rulemaking process, to propose adding ammonia extracts as a prohibited natural and crop production on the National List. We decided to move ahead with that rulemaking process independently of the board’s current work on highly soluble nitrogen fertilizers, and without waiting for the NOSB vote on the highly soluble nitrogen fertilizer proposal. That’s our update on that recommendation I know there’s a lot of interest in that across the community.
I’m going to turn to now discussing the recent priority regulatory priorities public comment opportunity after a pause for any questions on what I just talked about in terms of rulemaking priorities.
Amy Bruch: Thank you, Jenny, for those really important updates. I know you mentioned about the strengthening of enforcement still being in legal review. This is an incredible rule important to the community, and I just wanted to ask if there was anything more that we NOSB or the community can do to impress upon the USDA the importance of this rule and advancing it through rulemaking.
Jennifer Tucker: I appreciate that question, you know, I often talk about sort of the rulemaking pipeline.
In terms of things moving through different stages, it’s called clearance to get all the way through that process. There was a tremendous coordinated push from the community on Origin of Livestock (OOL). How united the organic community was around completing Origin of Livestock and how important it was to get that role finalized and out in the world. The consensus and clear communication from the community on that priority was vital.
For folks who believe SOE – and I’m one of you believes – is as important to actually impact more people than origin of livestock. Your voices work. Your consensus connection, collaboration, communication all those good see words are very important and advancing roles.
Nate Powell-Palm: Any other questions for Jenny? I just want to thank you for those updates Jenny before we move on and. And I think that there’s there there’s growing and nourish I think when we have really great collaboration on the board and the program here’s our requests and takes our work, deeply into consideration so we really appreciate that.
Jennifer Tucker: We’ve got a great standards team here we really have built that team. Over the past couple of years here and they’ve really refined their practices.
A lot of them have grown and have climbed a pretty big learning curve, honestly.
Some joined from outside the organic community and have really dived in full, full hearted, to learn about the rulemaking process so okay let’s turn to the regulatory priorities.
Regulatory Priorities Public Comments (Overview and Next Steps)
Jennifer Tucker: I’m going to give an overview of kind of what we learned through that process. So I’m going to start with some general themes of that federal register notice [for the NOP Listening Session]. There was a summary of current outstanding NOSB recommendations and an invitation for both participation and a public comment session orally, we had a webinar and written comments and so I’m going to give an overhead view of that federal register notice. There was a summary of current outstanding NOP recommendations and an invitation for both participation and a public comment session orally, we had a webinar and written comments and so I’m going to give kind of a top line summary for those who have not sat down and lists and read all 572 written public comments I’m giving you the executive summary so you don’t have to go read all 572 of them which is in addition to the folks who actually, who, who came to the public comment opportunity. Thank you to the 572 organizations and people who chose to participate in this process and have your voice be heard.
Big Picture to take home messages as commenters generally supported all the NOSB recommendations and urged NOP to address them all. By developing standards, primarily through a rulemaking, commenters noted that regularly updated standards will help protect the environment, protect the organic label and share a level playing field and match the evolving consumer and industry needs. So many commenters at all topics should be prioritize and all topics should be completed.
However within that broader context of wanting all activities to move forward. There were three that ended up being the most often discussed in the comments:
The first is hydroponics and containers. The second organic seeds, and the third native ecosystems. And so those big three issues were referenced many times, with some differences and prioritization based on perceived difficulties and rulemaking.
In addition to those many commenters voiced appreciation for NOP current rulemaking and on recent or in progress rules so the ones that we just covered.
The Strengthening the Organic Enforcement (SOE), Origin of Livestock, and the poultry standards (OLPS) and a nurse – many comments supported the finalization and implementation of these rules. Some commenters expressed frustration that NOSB recommendations had not been implemented through rulemaking however many commenters also appreciated the outreach to the industry verse through the federal register notice and encouraged an ongoing process of prioritization and reporting.
So now I’m going to get into the topic specific area, and I’m going to actually start with native ecosystems and so many commenters discuss this topic.
Many ranked [Native Ecosystems recommendation] as a high priority issue and asked NOP to implement rulemaking . Several commenters however, set it as a lower priority issue, citing the complexity of the issue, the lack of statutory authority and the possible need for legislation before and op can break in rulemaking.
So commenters in support of rulemaking stated that current standards incentivize the conversion of data ecosystems because it circumvents the three-year transition period for farmland. And they cited the importance of bio diversity, consistent so let’s see with us but ta policy goals, consumer trust and fairness.
Some commenters also reference international prohibitions or restrictions on the conversion of native ecosystems. And so, this is one where we truly do understand the importance of this issue to the community.
And I’m also realistic about the challenges that many did note in public comments that federal register notice on regulatory priorities had noted that before proceeding with this [specific] recommendation we’d like to see significant support by the organic and industry and noted that congressional action may be needed. And so, based on the comments received those comments, still, still apply.
Let’s move on to hydroponic and container growing this topic is a high priority for many stakeholders, consumers commenters noted that inconsistent certification and enforcement is causing confusion among certifier and producer communities.
The primary concern of commenters was whether hydroponic and container systems and operations can meet up the soil fertility requirements with some commenters suggesting a hydroponically grown or container grown organic label or a separate specialty crop is standard. We do acknowledge the significant interest in this topic, there is a current lawsuit on hydroponics and it is in the appeals phase, the resolution of that case is likely to inform next steps and direction on this topic.
We have stated publicly several times in the past that right now we don’t have sufficient information to move directly to a proposed rule on this topic, and so we know that many in the community, do have an interest in the board, taking this topic back up. So that’s hydroponics and containers.
Next is organic seeds and so this topic was ranked medium high by many commenters with most comments are supporting increasing the use of organic seed.
Some commenters did say that the current regulations are adequate, and that mandating use of organic seed would unnecessarily burden farmers. They asked that the commercial availability exemptions remain in place, commenters stated that research on organic seed has stagnated and cited the importance of continuous improvement benchmarks to help drive innovation and increase the use of organic seeds. So, a couple comments on this one: the NOP is aware of concerned about the low use of organic seed we noted in the Federal Register, that we have not made this recommendation or regulatory priority because we believed that the recommendation is already addressed by USDA regulations for commercial availability, because we did have some concerns about how the provisions were being implemented we did invest in developing training on organic seed sourcing as a practical high impact step and that training is available in the Organic Integrity Learning Center (OILC).
The public comment process as well as the new organic seed survey that the organic seed alliance will be discussing during this meeting this week, have really provided very useful feedback and historical background that will be helpful in reevaluating this priority moving forward.
I shared in another setting that I, if I had placed a bet on what the highest priorities, we’re going to be this wasn’t on my list.
Now I think the public comment process really does work because it was very helpful to read through the public comments on this particular topic.
One of my common questions when people say we need new standards: Do we really need to standards or do we need to be better enforcing the standards that we have? And sometimes the answer is both. I appreciate the feedback on this topic.
The next set of topics of relate to rules where a rulemaking process had begun. We’re under Secretary Vilsack’s first term and so I’m going to now run through those with some feedback from public comment.
Mushrooms: Most comments did support developing mushroom standards and ranked this issue as a medium priority.
Many commenters felt that we should advance all NOSB recommendations, then this is one of those and some comments noted that existing crop standards are not appropriate for mushroom production, such as compost requirements. For pet food comments, there was general support for the thinking that all recommendations should move forward. But [pet food] did rank it as a lower priority.
Aquaculture commenters generally supported the topic ranking it is a slightly lower priority; one certifier did rank it as their second highest priority, and then aquaculture most comments did support developing the standard but generally ranked it as a low or medium priority.
Commenters did note the need for consistency and the unfair advantage for that foreign aquaculture producers currently have versus domestic producers, and there were some specific comments about, including algae and spirulina production in those standards.
So those are practice standards that had been initiated under previous Vilsack administration.
Now I’m going to turn to a set of comments on other topics, and I’m going generally an order of the number of comments, particularly individualized comments that came at a genetic engineering and excluded methods.
Most commenters rank [genetic engineering and excluded methods] as a medium high priority except for one certifier who noted that certifiers already enforce this consistently. Some comments plan to that a better definition of excluded methods would increase consumer confidence.
Others claimed that prohibiting technology may cause may increase confusion and stifle innovation.
For handbook updates I commenters [rated] it a medium high priority and asked the NOP to regularly update the handbook, especially after rulemaking. Others pushed for more educational resources and other said that learning center courses should not substitute for written standards, there were a mix of comments on the handbook and this came out in the verbal comments as well about how the questions about how well they could be enforced compared to the actual standards.
Emergency synthetic parasiticides: there were only a few comments on this topic, they ranked it as medium high priority, except for the accredited certifiers association which did not believe standards development was needed on this topic. Several commenters asked that NOP to better define emergency.
Not a lot of comments on vaccines, but the ones who did comment focused on that term “commercial availability” with process products commenters generally ranked it as a medium low priority, noting that rulemaking is not as high priority because ACA is already issued best practices on this subject which has been supporting certifiers livestock vaccines using excluded methods.
Many rank vaccine issues as a lower priority, citing verification challenges, a lack of market impetus to develop organic appropriate vaccines, the unavailability of alternative and animal welfare impact.
And then finally personal care products: There were a few comments on this, but not many and only one ranked it as a high priority. Most commenters noted the jurisdictional complexity of that particular topic.
There were other comments that came in through this process on, for example challenges of climate change for organic farmers, communicating organic is climate smart agriculture comments related to the structural and procedural changes to the NOP and NOSB.
Organic research and research funding, increased budget capacity for standards development and we have stepped up in standards.
And then there were some comments on high nitrogen fertilizers; I did want to comment on the staffing of standards we do have a quite a robust team are there couple of public documents who that reference that NOP only has like three or four people working on staying on rules. I’m not quite sure where that number came from. We have a lot of folks who are working on rulemaking activities.
Finally, some of the comments addressed some items that were actually not listed in our federal register notice but did receive some comments some link to that structure on procedures changes category and named those comments as priority.
I wanted to use two of those as kind of case studies that illustrate what I call sort of the civics of NOP and how different policy topics play out. Depending on how they get raised and how they get resolved. One of the topics that comes up, sometimes with respect to procedural changes relates to the sunset process. I did want to touch on [the Sunset Process] a little bit because I think the story of the sunset process helps illustrate how these processes can play out.
Many years ago, USDA changed how the NOSB votes on Sunset reviews. Using a federal register notice, [that process was] formally changed how sunsets are considered at that notice was subsequently contested in a lawsuit. The lawsuit charged that it was unlawful for USDA to to do that.
In the end the lawsuit ruling and the lawsuit stated that the federal register notice itself was ultimately a process change, and was not a final action like an actual listing. And so, that lawsuit ended, based on that are processed determination. Ultimately, Congress then changed the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) to require that any change the National List, an addition or a removal required a definitive vote, and so that codified the federal register notice that AMS had published on the sunset process into the act.
This is why we consider the topic [of Sunset] closed, because it was embodied within the Act. Any change to the National List, addition or a removal required a two thirds majority vote.
The second [topic] was there were a lot of comments on natamycin, and urging NOP to implement the board’s recommendation on natamycin. That’s another one where I wanted to walk through the process because it is a bit of a cautionary tale to remind people of how important the rulemaking processes. And so, just to review the history on this based on the NSP had recommended that NASA mice and be listed as a prohibited natural.
Okay, so this recommendation was prohibited as a natural, and so we included that in a proposed rule. So we propose to implement the board’s recommendation so the rule proposed rule proposed to list now to my son as prohibited substance in organic crop production, many comments though during rulemaking were received opposing that proposal; so in the final rule the proposal was not adopted as such. Now natamycin does remain allowed. It is a reminder that there is a public comment process during the NOSB process but there’s also a public comment process during rulemaking. It is important to have your voice heard in both, and so if you participate in the board process also come back and participate in the rulemaking process when things are published in proposed rules, because there’s a full life cycle of rulemaking that has to happen to take an NOSB recommendation and finalize it into a final policy, so I understand that some folks do want to keep an item open when NOSB takes an action that many disagree with or when a final action differs from a board recommendation.
I commit to when we close an item I’ll try to be more specific on why we consider that item closed and it will be from a process perspective, why we consider that item closed and what the drivers and criteria are for that.
I think that transparency is important for being open about the process and being clear on where things stand. So now let’s briefly talk about next steps here.
First again I want to thank everyone who participated in the process that led to the summary that I just gave you want to talk about next steps and tools from here.
Every six months approximately in the late spring and late fall, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) published what is called the unified federal regulatory agenda (find current version at https://www.reginfo.gov/public/). This lists the rulemaking activities that the administration anticipates engaging on in the next year and into the long term. That is the most important codified list for formal vetted decisions about rulemaking priorities. Keep an eye on that for USDA, and AMS to see what USDA has formally committed to as priorities in the rulemaking process so roles that are going to be anticipated for the next year or so are published in one part of the agenda. There’s also another part of the agenda that lists long term action so those are things that there’s no date attached to them yet.
But the department considers them important, and so encourage you to do the exercise of finding the agenda and looking at it for AMS to see what’s on the list, and what the long term actions are and somebody just typed in the link which is wonderful.
1Now at the program level we do maintain the NOSB recommendations library it’s available on the NOP recommendations page. So, after this meeting, I commit to you that I’m going to review that list, again, I’m going to update it based on what we’ve learned through this process. There are a couple that have been marked as closed meaning we’re not working on them I’m going to change those two, I might need to come up with a new category, but I do believe that based on this.
Based on this exercise but also based on this administration’s openness to working on practice standards that that list may may change. So I’m going to update that, including more details.
If we do still consider an item to be closed or in process. Why, so I’ll give a bit more detail on that.
We will also consider other ways to keep the community informed as we make decisions about priorities. We do generally review standards priorities as part of our regular program updates to NOSB.
I will also try to share the reasons we’ve chosen not to move forward with certain priorities and I know that people will still disagree with those decisions, but I will be clear with you on what the current decision is and, and why.
We’ll also look at how we might include more of this information in our memos to the NOSB that we complete after each meeting, those are already standing mechanisms of communication.
Those have been sustained through multiple administrations as standardized tools that we use to communicate with the organic sector.
Memos to the board are useful for communicating both to the board, and the public, and since they’re posted on our website as public comments that can be tracked over time, and there are going to be times where we’re going to say something in a memo to the NOSB and a few months later, it will change because new information becomes available or priority shift. And so, I do think there’s always a little nervousness and putting on paper.
Right now we’re committed to this because if that changes down the road well you said five years ago that you were committed to this and well yes and that was five years ago.
There has to be the ability to move over, over time and space as conditions change. Thank you to everyone who participated in that process.
That was a lot but I think was important to take the time to go through the summary because you took the time to have your voice be heard.
NOP and Board QandA
Nate Powell-Palm: Our work is our work is being heard. So we’re really grateful for it, and this bar to do so questions from the board for Jenny and this is sort of a general opportunity for q amp a from board members to the program.
Carolyn Dimitri: I have two questions about things that have been to predate me on the board and so this is maybe also partly information gathering for myself, and one is about Native ecosystems, and the other is about interrupts and there are two things that I actually know very little about. And so I think for native ecosystems. I’m wondering, especially with this administration’s interesting climate change.
And I’m not really sure how native ecosystems fit into that is there like anything the NOSB can do to like, reshape that or bring that to life or is [Native Ecosystems] just dead, or I don’t know if I’m allowed to be so blunt in my question but that’s me. And then the other question with inerts. Another thing that seems important to me.
I’m not that kind of scientist so I can’t always wrap my head around it. It sounds to me like the NOP is going to take additional steps on this and I’m just wondering if you can elaborate upon that process and how you see it going ahead.
Jennifer Tucker: Let me talk about Native ecosystems.
First, and you know this is one where there’s a lot of science involved, as well as a lot of emotion involved. People feel very strongly about this and it really does strike at the core of organic, as some very key questions.
The challenge with native ecosystems has been that there is the intent of the organic community and the intent of organic, and then there is the actual organic food production act and what it says.
And so the recommendation from the NOSB. It drew outside the lines of OFPA, and so it called for like a 10 year transition period and so there were things in that recommendation that really can’t, there’s not a line back to the act on how it would fit within what Congress actually authorized us to do regulations on. So, the question is what’s next, you know, there’s also questions of costs and if there’s a question of whether it would actually discourage transition and questions, of course, so the economic impact of that role.
We do take the recommendation seriously. We have done internal thinking and talking and analyzing on it. As some of the public comment said, you really can’t get around some of the legislative issues.
So, the question is, I’ve heard from folks who are willing to compromise on this, so we have learned a lot. Also, about the boundaries of OFPA. And so the question is: does the board want [Native Ecosystems] back?
Would you want to request a work agenda item to see if you can come up with a recommendation that would be more closely aligned with OFPA? I’m open to that conversation. Because right now, it is not actively on a regulatory agenda. I think if the board feels this is something the board wanted to take another stab at it, and if it more closely aligned with OFPA, I’m open to hearing about that and having that conversation.
Inerts is incredibly complicated, and the board has come up with recommendations on inerts. There is no easy button on inerts. And so there was a recommendation from 2015. That really called on us to work with EPA and the Safer Choice Program. We’ve been in touch with EPA and the Safer Choice Program, and it’s not a good fit with them. They don’t have a list that is codified in the regulations, which is a problem for us in terms of how the process works. So, I think the recommendation that the board came up with is, it’s just not feasible given the EPA definition of their programs.
And I’ve thought the general feeling was that we need to hand the reins over to NOP and the community for a little bit through an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking to get some concrete recommendations on what the best path is, so that is what we’ve done. We’ve consolidated all the conversations that have had done today with a number of options based on everything that’s been heard so far and we’ve written it into an advance notice of proposed rulemaking, that would be a formal publication the Federal Register that everyone would then have the opportunity to comment on. Based on that, it could either go back to the board for a very specific question or we could move ahead with a proposed rule based on the feedback, it could go either way, depending on what comes out of the ANPR (Advanced Notice of Public Rulemaking).
Kyla: I’m going to ask you a question not related to anything that you just talked about so apologies about that. But this is sort of top of mind coming off of organic week, and that being that there’s several situations happening on the international landscape that either are or have the potential to impact imports of certain commodities, namely soybean meal and certain oils. And so I just wanted to ask you, what do we all need to know. And keep in mind, up and down the supply chain or other stakeholders. If and when we are hearing about these shortages and are trying to preemptively plan for shortages that are being caused by the International situations.
Jennifer Tucker: Yeah, great question and really important in the daily lives of a lot of farmers, and a lot of processors out there and in the world so I’m going to share with you and then by extension, the entire community here are our policy on this. The question relates to the use of nonorganic feed and ingredients in organic commodities and products. That’s generally how the question comes to us. May I use nonorganic feed to feed my livestock or may I use a nonorganic ingredient in my potato chips or whatever. My processed product and so, since the start of the pandemic, I’ve gotten these questions. In fact, the program has periodically been asked if we would allow the temporary use of, for example, nonorganic livestock feed for organic. As an example, poultry, and the temporary use of nonorganic ingredients in processed food during do two different types of supply chain disruptions. Our primary mission has to be to protect the integrity of the seal and to ensure a fair and competitive playing field. So request for exemptions to the regulations, such as the use of non-organic feed and ingredients are handled through a process called the temporary variants process, which is laid out in the regs and the NOP Handbook, those requests come from certified operations through their certifiers to the NOP.
With respect to request for nonorganic feed, it is long standing public policy and practice that temporary variances may not be granted for feeding nonorganic feed to organic livestock, this is outlined in NOP 2606, which is our instruction on temporary variances and the NOP handbook. This type of both formal and informal request has been submitted for dairy animals in the past due to drought, and we have rejected that every time.
These supply chain questions recently have been different. They focus more on poultry then on dairy, but our messaging and policy has been consistent over time on that.
We’ve also received the question about nonorganic ingredients. Most recently, we reviewed and evaluated a temporary variants request to use conventional non-GMO sunflower oil in place of organic sunflower oil in certified organic processed products to do business interruption. And so I’m going to get a little regulatory wonky here because I think it’s important. The regulations at seven CFR two five to 90, he, which is temporary variances part of the temporary variances section, says that temporary cannot be granted for any practice material or procedure prohibited under 205.105, which is allowed and prohibited substance methods and ingredients. Now sunflower oil is not listed in 205.606, which is non-organically produced agricultural products allowed as ingredients. And so, as such, nonorganic sunflower oil is a material that would be prohibited under 205,105(D), and therefore may not be used and products labeled as organic and so these are regulatory constructs that are laid out.
In the temporary variants section and has cross references throughout the regulations and so the use of only organic feed for organic animals and the use of organic ingredients in organic products are consistent with the regulation and is a core expectation for consumers and is essential to maintain a fair and competitive market. And so, I did want to appreciate the question we’ve been getting that question on and off that I think it’s useful to review even though it’s wonky, the full picture and in this public setting.
Nate Powell-Palm: Great. That was the wonkiness we need right now. It’s a tumultuous time. I really appreciate the depth to dive in there.
Wood Turner: As I’m listening to Sean very can speak this morning and referencing this issue and then trying to sort of reconcile the conversation, the presentation from Adam chambers with the sort of need for data and sort of deeper data and deeper harmonization you know something that’s on my mind, relative to that topic is the is the fact that we still have very persistent barriers to certification for folks that don’t have for socially disadvantaged farmers who don’t have access to as many systems don’t have as access to data collection tools and the like.
It’s hard to sort of almost processor to where we need to go relative to kind of the need for data, and I’m just curious, I know you’ve spoken to this before but I I’m curious about progress that’s being made at USDA and in the NOP to make sure that resources are getting allocated to farmers who’ve been who don’t have access to the kinds of resources that are needed to be able to ensure sort of a an affordable certification process.
I’m just curious about partnerships that may exist that sort of help ensure that folks who have not had access or not had as much opportunity to participate in the program are getting some of those funding opportunities to a variety of means so if you could speak to that a little bit and if you can put it in context for some of these, these leaps forward that I think are referenced in some of what Adam particularly was talking about today, it would be really helpful.
Jennifer Tucker: There is a significant interest and in the topic of how best to support farmers going through organic transition, and so last year, Secretary Vilsack did announce that USDA will be providing a 200 million to support organic transition initiatives with a goal of building more and better and fairer markets for any farmer with interest by helping farmers navigate transition and supporting a strong market that the details associated with that organic transition program are being developed right now.
And so we’ve heard a lot from stakeholders on the needs of transitioning farmer so the importance of consistent standards and the importance of protecting those standards, but also the need to support transitioning farmers and remove those supply chain barriers and so we’ve heard that the need for direct Farmer to Farmer mentoring and technical assistance to really have somebody right in your community, who can help you understand and navigate the technical aspects who speaks in your language, and who understands, not only the physical environment but the cultural environment the market environment that you’re working and the need to engage knowledgeable really local partners that provide very much hands on, like field based assistance workshops field days access to local resources and peer to peer mentoring, in a range of topics things like agronomy certification extension services where do I go to get help, conservation planning business development navigating the supply chain regulations and even local marketing, strengthening the link between conservation management and organic transition you know that comes up over and over and over again we can do some of that at headquarters here we can work closely with an RCS talk about how do we get these systems better aligned.
But we also need to build the expertise across USDA to build a pool of organic inspectors really focusing on those underserved a traditionally underserved area in a way that supports equity, while also developing market so that’s a lot of need, out in the community and we have heard that those are the types of services that would help make that onboarding into transition, a bit easier again we’re not ready USDA is not quite ready to announce a sort of formal program but those are the types of things we’ve heard, and it does build on that, that commitment that Secretary Vilsack made about a year ago on organic transition so I don’t right now would have the specifics of that program to talk about.
But I can tell you that it is a big point of interest in emphasis within the administration.
Amy Bruch: I have a two-part question on economics, I know economics is an additional metric, the NOP leverages in order to evaluate the NSP recommendations and to turn them into rules.
First: can you elaborate from what point of view economics are considered. Since the organic community is diverse and consists of organic certificate holders and non certificate folders.
I just wanted to know that perspective of which viewpoint you look at, and consider and then secondarily, I just wanted to know the timeline that you’re also evaluating when considering economics because from a point of view of one group costs might be high on the front end but if you look at another groups point of view, they could incur significant costs down the road or cumulative costs.
Jennifer Tucker: You know they have entire courses on that question.
I’m going to give a bit of an overview because I think we are all learning a whole lot about what the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is really interested in when it comes to cost with these roles.
We learned a lot as a team by writing and finalizing the Strengthening Organic Enforcement [rule]. Origin of Livestock and in the OLPS process too; this is something that we don’t consider as much at the Board-level but is kind of front and center during rulemaking. I think that is sometimes the disconnect where people talk about well the board process should be, that is that that is the thing you know what about all this rulemaking stuff it’s the board stuff that really is the heart of it.
We have to remember that rulemaking is under a completely different set of rules, it’s called the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) and on be governed to how rules consider economic analysis and that’s really separate from any backup process that governs the Board. I think there is a little bit of a switch that happens when we get into rulemaking in terms of economics becoming kind of front and center.
If OMB [finds a] rule significant or economically significant meaning it hits a certain cost threshold that we have a number of steps we need to go through for economics now most organic regulations beyond routine national list roles are considered significant because they raised policy issues that are novel, and therefore they required economic analysis so what does that actually mean, they’re actually nine steps to it, we have to identify what the need is so what is the problem to solve, we have to define the baseline in terms of how much does it cost now so origin of livestock just published, that’s an easy one to talk about what is happening.
What are the practices out there and how much do those practices cost, what is the time horizon of analysis so how quickly do farmers need to change their practices to a new method and for how long will those costs be incurred.
If you’re talking about changes to capital investments like buildings and things like that. There may be a longer time in calculations, and sometimes agencies use for example, IRS depreciation models to figure those types of things out so there are a lot of different kinds of data that you can use to define the baseline and the time horizon on when things would change. Generally, you identify a range of regulatory alternative so no action is always an alternative and then there may be different types of alternatives that have different costs with them. Sometimes those different alternatives relate to how long it will take for the implementation period, because different costs may be incurred over different time periods.
What are the consequences of those alternatives; you have to describe sort of therefore what that if then consequences of each of those alternatives and quantify and monetize that benefits and costs.
You also have to discount the future benefits and costs and so there are all sorts of economic formulas and very complex Excel worksheets that go into these things.
There’s also non quantified and non-monetized benefits and costs so I think one of the things we struggle with in organic is quantifying the benefits.
So how do you quantify the benefit of a rule, because it turns out you know consumer expectations sounds lovely, and it’s really hard to attach a number two when it comes to something like Origin of Livestock. So how do you find the numbers that support the benefits. And how do you find the cost figures, when you’re working in a public private partnership where certifiers have a lot of this data. And there’s a full range of production practices. So those costs really do relate to whatever the rule is at hand. And how do you quantify or describe the consumer benefits or the benefits to producers.
Now that was interesting and so we and this was in the proposal that was published, I can talk about that, that the benefits outlined and so we related to the avoidance of fraud. If you’re decreasing the incidence of food fraud, you have to make all sorts of estimations based on published research on how much does food cost and if you take these actions, how much food fraud.
Are you going to cut out of the system and how much money is that going to say, again it’s very very quantitative, and so we often in organic talk about the intent of the Act or consumer expectations or all of the on quantified benefits.
Just like the climate conversation with data; OMB likes data. They really like data, and that’s hard. The costs are considered; the benefits are calculated based specifically on the alternatives in a rule, what the rule is going to do and how it changes practices so for example origin of livestock well may have actually a big impact in the market the costs are actually relatively reasonably low compared to other kinds of roles now it might cost certain types of operations, money, and there might be disproportionate costs based on the size of the operation the current practices to change those practices.
And so he drank the organic enforcement, a lot of the costs are actually paperwork in nature that certifiers need to do more supply chain analysis so it’s a lot of the costs of that verification need to be taken into account.
Again time analysis: a time periods and the actual costs and the audience is impacted very by rule, and by the data that is associated with the stakeholders who are actually impacted by those roles.
I’m going to pause there for follow up or questions that might have been more than you want it.
Now it’s really helpful to just understand, just because I do know, again, our community consists of those that hold certificates and those that do not and we work together and in concert so it’s just helpful to hear that kind of bigger picture of how these things are evaluated.
Allison Johnson: Thanks Jenny for your time and for the focus on climate smart agriculture today. And I think it’s really exciting to have recognition within our world of what organic can contribute to the conversation. And I’m excited to see it on our work agenda.
I’m curious if you could say a little bit more about what you see the NSP is role and our stakeholders role in advising the program and raising the profile of organic within USDA and the administration at large as a climate solution.
Jennifer Tucker: I will also keep this short. I think it is so important to come up with practical solutions, a climate can feel so big and so multi-dimensional… I would love the Board to come back with recommendations that are practical for farmers, and that help us communicate effectively about climate change both across USDA and with farmers and so a lot of the questions we’ve asked are pretty concrete and because it can get so big and so esoteric.
But I do think you know the path forward can centralize so much around organic practices that are already being done, how do we explain it how do we capitalize it how do we capture it how do we tell that story using data in a compelling way how do we help organic farmers navigate that world.
But I would love to see a focused on practical impact out in the community.
Javier Zamora: My couple of questions that I have a really simple. I wanted to ask you to describe the process and you summarize really nicely. The different comments that we got written and verbal comments during the time that people the public were able to make comments.
The first question is, and then there is a second period during the implementation of the ruling that there is another opportunity for the public to make some comments.
The first question is, and then there is a second period during the implementation of the ruling that there is another opportunity for the public to make some comments. But not everyone does not or they don’t return. My question is, do you, or does the NOP, consider the first set of comments at the beginning for the second process of implementation… because sometimes there is a limit of how many people can actually make comments.
I’m talking about farmers and constituents around here. It’s limited; it’s not for everybody. So maybe that’s during the implementation of the ruling. It gets a little more corporate because people are following what’s going on so those initial farmers don’t really have the opportunity to make comments again because maybe limited to how many people [can respond].
That’s one. And then you also talk about changes of, you know, the percentage of the rules making doesn’t get out of the pipeline. And a lot of people are very frustrated with that, what’s the percentage of changes in that city that, but the board. The NOSB board, some part of it now decides to make some rule but then it’s on a verse, at the end, what’s the percentage of that because I hear like it’s a high percentage.
I guess that’s about it but anything that as we talked and how fellow board members, how they’re, how smart they are, it sounds like there’s questions and question questions about just every little thing that I would probably be here for a week. Those are my questions.
Jennifer Tucker: I really appreciate you taking them on the great questions and so I’ll take the first one first about kind of these two phases of Board work and rulemaking work.
I do talk about participating in both when we write a proposal so we do pick up a Board recommendation we write a proposal that proposed rule. We do take the Board’s input very seriously and in fact a lot of that proposal really describes what the recommendation was. It wouldn’t even that it that it’s very important background and context for why we’re proposing it and how we propose it in the role so all of that work into the board process does feed forward into that, that proposed rule face.
I’ve gotten some really interesting recommendations and comments about how that tie back could be stronger so for example in the supporting documents part of the docket on when we produce a rule, could we be more overt and linking back to the board to work on a topic to make that connection more complete so people are working in the rulemaking process can see all the work they might not be aware of all the work that went into that night that seems like a really good idea to me to tie those processes to gather and say hey this recommendation came out of an awful lot of work and I, we do describe those in the proposed rule, the comment period, what we do though in a proposal that differs from what the board does is we do for example for the significant role, do a fairly detailed economic analysis all the stuff I just talked about the answer the last question which is in the proposal that isn’t part of that NSP recommendation so it is new information.
And I think, so for that phase, we do need everybody kind of commenting again on whether the costs are accurate whether we miss cost or their benefits for which there are data that we haven’t captured.
So, the proposal does capture the board’s work but it also has this additional cost component which is why it’s so important to continue the comment process you know we have three phases of public comments for origin of livestock, where we over and over and over and over and over again ask Please give us more cost data. Please give us more data that to inform this rulemaking, that’s where that part isn’t really part of what the board tends to look at because of the criteria that the board is considering that’s different from the rulemaking process so I think that’s why both phases are important and why they’re different, and why people who really do care about the economics are paying very close attention and the rulemaking process, because that’s where rulemaking, that’s where the economics, I tend to play out is in the rulemaking process not the board process are there slightly different emphasis points in terms of the amount of rulemaking that moves ahead.
We do keep its kind of the scorecard that recommendations library that we update. It has the percentage complete of all the recommendations that have come from the board what we’ve completed. Now, according to our tally, I’m going to use the lowest number for practice standards.
It shows that we have implemented more than 80% of the board’s recommendation. We don’t always implement those things through rulemaking that sometimes I’ve said it earlier, you don’t have to change the rule which needs to do is enforce the rule, or perhaps that’s dealt with through training or guidance or handbooks the rulemaking process is really long, and so we have to pick those.
You have to pick those carefully, in terms of, we only get so many points with all the different steps of the review process, because we’re competing with every other program and every other agency for limited capacity at OMB limited capacity at USDA in all the different offices up to look at all these rules and there’s, there is the reality of political cycles that are reality of throughput, and what can make it through all these different offices, so that’s why sometimes we don’t move ahead with rulemaking. I do think we want to be.
I want to make sure that we’re communicating more actively about when priorities change, and why they change, because we’re all learning as we move here, we’re all learning what works and we’re all learning what doesn’t work.
And I think as long as we’re all willing to learn together we’re going to be fine.
Brian Caldwell: Well, Jenny thanks so much for sharing all this with us I cannot believe how many balls in the air, it’s just shocking to me but a really amazing job with it.
You mentioned that, that more information was needed in order to move the whole hydroponics issue forward. But I wonder if you just elaborate briefly on exactly what types of information are needed there.
Jennifer Tucker: There was a 2010 recommendation on containers that’s often I kind of refer to hydroponics and containers is often referred to, when you actually read the recommendation.
Jennifer Tucker: There was a 2010 recommendation on containers that’s often I kind of refer to hydroponics and containers is often referred to, when you actually read the recommendation.
There’s not a lot of detail; it’s a fairly short part of that recommendation. And so, standards you know container standards, would be. If we worked on container standards, somebody suggested a few suggested in the comments that would need to be like a separate section of the regs for example if there was a separate section of the regs. There’s a lot of technical work that would need to go into that.
Defining what those standards would be for those types of production systems. We do not at the NOP/program level have that level of expertise, so the task force.
We did have a task force that worked on this issue before the board voted on hydroponics. I think it was 2017.
There was a lot of work that went into that task force but a lot of that work was on tour a pros and cons of the system, not what the standards would actually be what those producers would actually have to do to comply and we don’t have that technical that we have the regs that bind us all in the shared set of standards that bind us all but I think for the point or the feedback has been they need to be more specific, in order to ensure consistency and fairness and that’s where I think a process would be needed to articulate what those standards would be so right now the USDA Organic standards do govern that system, but more specificity would help implement them more consistently across different production systems because systems are different in different parts of the country so that kind of the standards development work and the level of granularity is needed, that we don’t have right now.
Nate Powell-Palm announces lunch break.
Livestock Subcommittee (LS)
Kim Huseman, Chairperson, introduces the Livestock Subcommittee agenda.
Kim Huseman: The livestock subcommittee currently has a fairly light agenda. And we do have six sunsets though that will be presented for voting in the Fall. We’re going to start with the first Sunset Review, which will be Chlorhexidine. I am actually also the lead for this particular set review so I’ll go ahead and hand it over to Kim.
2024 Sunset substances reviews:
Reference: §205.603(a) As disinfectants, sanitizer, and medical treatments as applicable.
(6) Chlorhexidine—Allowed for surgical procedures conducted by a veterinarian. Allowed for use
as a teat dip when alternative germicidal agents and/or physical barriers have lost their
Technical Report: 2010 TR; 2015 TR.
Past NOSB Actions: 10/1999 minutes and vote; 11/2005 sunset recommendation; 11/2009 Annotation
change/clarification; 04/2010 sunset recommendation; 10/2015 sunset recommendation; 11/2017
Recent Regulatory Background: Sunset renewal notice published 06/06/12 (77 FR 33290); Sunset
renewal notice effective 3/15/2017 (82 FR 14420); Annotation amendment effective 1/28/2019 (83 FR
Sunset Date: 01/28/2024
Kim Huseman: Chlorhexidine is listed under 205.603 as a disinfectant sanitizer and medical treatments as applicable for medical procedures conducted under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian allowed for the use as a dip when alternative journals title agents and or physical barriers have lost their effectiveness. And do you want to point out that in the initial Sunset Review, we use the word surgical procedures.
However, as per the National List medical procedures, under “conducted under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian” is the most technical verbiage, so I’m reviewing the written comments and actually an oral comments during last week. We did get a dozen responders; for chlorhexidine the majority of the responders including two veterinarians did speak in the affirmation to keep chlorhexidine on the national list as a medical procedure used by a veterinarian and I spoke very highly of the necessity in those particular time periods, as well as a significant support for utilizing chlorhexidine as an alternative to dip.
When other assets or when other products are not as effective – note that there was some comments regarding the use of a teat dip – needing to be analyzed and the review of the annotation should revert back to only for medical procedures, and essentially stating the necessity and natural alternatives being sufficient.
However, in saying that I both dairy operators and veterinarians have supported the use of it as a alternative to, or we underwent other trauma center agents are not responding.
And that was essentially the review for chlorhexidine.
Reference: §205.603(a) As disinfectants, sanitizer, and medical treatments as applicable.
Technical Report: 1995 TAP.
Past NOSB Actions: 10/1995 minutes and vote; 11/2005 sunset recommendation; 10/2010 sunset
recommendation; 10/2015 sunset recommendation; 11/2017 sunset recommendation.
Recent Regulatory Background: Sunset renewal notice effective 3/15/2017 (82 FR 14420); Sunset
renewal notice effective 10/30/2019 (84 FR 53577).
Sunset Date: 10/30/2024
Amy Bruch: Glucose is a synthetic substance allowed in organic livestock production for medical treatment for animal health purposes it is Primarily used as an aid and treatment of cattle when they go into negative energy balance, often times after calving. and this is also what’s known as ketosis and glucose is a remedy for dehydration as well and cows and horses. My veterinary friend likened it to humans drinking orange juice when we need an energy boost.
The main question that we had for stakeholders was whether or not, other substances are available for the treatment of ketosis. And if it is an equally necessary and effective tool for organic farmers for treatment of all stages of the development of
Generally the comments that we got back which weren’t very many were from the community and that they emphatically support the need for the use of glucose and that it definitely should remain on the National List without further annotation.
Reference: §205.603(a) As disinfectants, sanitizer, and medical treatments as applicable.
(29) Tolazoline (CAS #-59-98-3)—federal law restricts this drug to use by or on the lawful written
or oral order of a licensed veterinarian, in full compliance with the AMDUCA and 21 CFR part
530 of the Food and Drug Administration regulations. Also, for use under 7 CFR part 205, the
(i) Use by or on the lawful written order of a licensed veterinarian;
(ii) Use only to reverse the effects of sedation and analgesia caused by xylazine; and
(iii) A meat withdrawal period of at least 8 days after administering to livestock intended for
slaughter; and a milk discard period of at least 4 days after administering to dairy animals.
Technical Report: 2002 TAP; 2019 TR.
Past NOSB Actions: 9/2002 recommendation; 10/2010 sunset recommendation; 10/2015 sunset
recommendation; 11/2017 sunset recommendation.
Recent Regulatory Background: Sunset renewal notice effective 3/15/2017 (82 FR 14420); Sunset
renewal notice effective 10/30/2019 (84 FR 53577).
Sunset Date: 10/30/2024
Amy Bruch: We are at Section 205.603. This is part eight as disinfectant sanitizer and medical treatment as a clickable. And then, lastly, goes on to say Federal law restricts this drug to be used by more on lawful written or oral order of a licensed veterinarian, and full compliance with the mdu CA, and the FDA regulations, and then also for you, under seven to our part two, five, you know, it requires one use by or on the lawful written order of a licensed veterinarian to use only to reverse the effects of sedation caused by as I was 18, and three me withdrawal period of at least eight days after administering to livestock intended for slaughter and a milk discard period of at least four days after administered and ministering to dairy animals so there’s quite a few restrictions with this substance here.
There’s quite a bit of information out on use manufacturer and international allowance currently right now plasma is not listed as improved substance internationally or on Codecs or iPhone, environmental issues with this particular substance is there’s no published toxicity or carcinogen studies on the toxicity or lethal dosage of tolazoline. It is though listed by the EPA is an inert ingredients.
The main question we had for stakeholders on to lazily is this if there were any new non synthetic substances that could be used to reverse the effects of silencing and other sedatives as effectively as two lazily so that particular question in general,
The community, most folks were were stating that they were unaware of any additional substitutes for this particular product but there was one commenter out of, out of all of them that did comment that mentioned there were two substances that could potentially be used but there, but there is not a history of them being used with regularity and farm animal medicine.
So that was basically the answer substitutions and then comments in general just to summarize those two lazily and silencing are always used together so there was a comment to say can we review these two in concert during the sunset process.
I thought that was interesting, another commenter mentioned that keeping emergency treatments such as Eileen and lazily and on the national list will allow or getting by stock producers to both provide emergency care to sick animals and maintain their organic status. So all the comments were generally in favor of keeping this on the list. The last thing, and this might be something to asterisk for addressing during finalising sunset was just, there’s some conflicting information between the usage from an FDA Standpoint, and the AMD CA, so that that is something that the board wrestled with a little bit in 2015 when i last census was reviewed and then, and in the TAP.
There is some information that leads us to believe that maybe we want to take this up as a, as a work agenda item to kind of dive into those conflicting viewpoints on the usage of of silencing so if there’s conflicting uses to design Lizzie, then that would impact tolazaline.
Reference: §205.603(b) As topical treatment, external parasiticide or local anesthetic as applicable.
(1) Copper sulfate.
Technical Report: 1995 TAP; 2015 TR.
Past NOSB Actions: 10/1995 minutes and vote; 11/2005 sunset recommendation; 10/2010 sunset
recommendation; 10/2015 sunset recommendation; 11/2017 sunset recommendation.
Recent Regulatory Background: Sunset renewal notice effective 3/15/2017 (82 FR 14420); Sunset
renewal notice effective 10/30/2019 (84 FR 53577).
Sunset Date: 10/30/2024
Nate-Powell-Palm: copper sulfate from the National list of synthetic substances for use in organic livestock production under 25603 as a topical treatment external parasiticide, or local anesthetic.
Overall comments especially from producers (primarily dairy producers) were in favor of retaining this material, and that it’s an essential tool in the toolbox.
The use of copper as we’ve discussed in a kind of across the subcommittee’s is tricky. We do understand that it’s a potential contaminant for the environment, and we’re always looking for ways to identify other materials that might be able to serve the same purpose, while maintaining animal welfare and efficacy. So as we look to alternatives, we did hear more talk about zinc and identifying animal welfare practices that might reduce, then the outbreak of foot problems, especially in Cattle production is something that I would love more input as you move into the fall meeting. But also, thank you to all of the commenters who did bring really good information about their operations and about their communities operations on this material.
Jerry D’Amore: Thanks, not so much a question but a willingness to share with you a brand new TR on this subject (ordered by Crops Subcommittee) That’s going to be coming in within a month. It’s supposed to be 65 pages long.
Reference: §205.603(b) As topical treatment, external parasiticide or local anesthetic as applicable. (2) Elemental sulfur—for treatment of livestock and livestock housing.
Technical Report: 2017 TR. Petition: 2016.
Past NOSB Actions: 11/2017 recommendation to add.
Recent Regulatory Background: Added to National List on 5/30/2019 (84 FR 18133).
Sunset Date: 05/30/2024
Brian Caldwell: Sulfur is you used for many different purposes in organic agriculture and this is at 205.603b, a topical treatment for a synthetic substance used in organic livestock production.
the comments were pretty much, not, not 100% in favor but I have in my account I had eight and favor every listing, and one saying more review as needed and one against saying that it was not essential. Alternatives that are sufficient to control external livestock pests. And basically we got no answer to that. We did get a listing of have some materials that could be used, but there was no information about efficacy.
So, essentially, in the 2000s the first time that this was proposed for use. It was added to the nationalist in 2019 and at that point. Some, some livestock folks were saying that it was really important need for their systems. So we got we have that in favor of it being essential, and then one person saying, or one group saying that it was not essential, but no information about any efficacy of an alternative controls.
Reference: §205.603(b) As topical treatment, external parasiticide or local anesthetic as applicable. (5) Lidocaine—as a local anesthetic. Use requires a withdrawal period of 8 days after administering to livestock intended for slaughter and 6 days after administering to dairy
Technical Report: N/A Petition: N/A
Past NOSB Actions: 10/1995 minutes and vote; 11/2005 sunset recommendation; 10/2010 sunset recommendation; 10/2015 sunset recommendation; 2016 annotation change recommendation; 11/2017 sunset recommendation. Recent Regulatory Background: Sunset renewal notice 2017 (82 FR 14420). Annotation change effective
1/28/2019 83 FR 66559
Sunset Date: 01/28/2024
Nate Powell-Palm: Uses as a topical treatment for external paraciticide, or local anesthetic. Lidocaine is used for pain relief, especially in the de-horning of cattle and I think lidocaine is one of those materials in the organic toolbox that helps keep organic really at the forefront of animal welfare, and I think we heard that that dehorning and horn management in, especially dairy cows, is a common practice that we all have to deal with.
But having this tool available to reduce pain and suffering is very much in line with off but that was echoed in the public comments both written and oral.
Compliance, Accreditation, & Certification Subcommittee (CACS)
Amy Bruch, Chairperson of CACS, extends greetings and a summary about what CACS topics will be covered.
1. Proposal: NOP Risk Mitigation Table review
Kyla Smith: We have to talk about is the risk mitigation table. The NOP sent the NOSBa memo on November 18 asking us to review the risk mitigation table that was developed in response to the 2020 peer review conducted by ANSI.
This table seeks to document the ways that NOP safeguards impartiality in the delivery of their services according to iSO 1711; the CACS reviewed the table and did not identify additional conflicts to be added. The CACS did ask stakeholders to provide feedback on it on two specific things.
So firstly to provide feedback on if there were any conflicts that were missing, and also to provide feedback on if any conflicts were unclear.
The public comment received was appreciative of the opportunity to provide this feedback, there were there were some areas that commenters identified as missing, and a few areas for further clarification.
Most of the commenters stated that the table did a good job at covering conflicts of interests like specifically related to, you know, personnel and decision making, however they identified the areas that were missing were more related to other types of risks related or risks of impartiality.
So, I think we have a couple of options here as a board. I don’t know that we’re going to have the time in to debate all of the areas that were identified in the public comment and parse through them all here today. So, we can either vote to move the proposal forward. And if the proposal would pass, then we can include a write up in the cover sheet that the board recommends that the NOP include the suggestions that were identified in the public comment in the risk mitigation table.
Or we can send this back to subcommittee to further discuss each of the suggestions made in the public comment and like sort of parse through them.
In order to make it a determination on whether or not we think that they should be included, and then come back with that more comprehensive proposal.
Brian Caldwell: In favor on sending this back to CACS. The table does not include all the potential conflicts of interest. And so I think it’s kind of directly against, even if we put a whole bunch of caveats into the cover letter, it would actually sort of make the actual decision false.
Amy Bruch: The table does communicate needed information however I think the comments from the stakeholder community and expanding the scope I think that there is additional work that could be warranted on this so I would echo Brian to take it back to subcommittee and work on a little bit more expansive approach on this really important table, and then I really took know and Jenny also mentioned this in her remarks about the community talking about the importance of the handbook and where are some of our best practices land and then the regulations, and just, I don’t know if that’ll be in scope in this during the second round but I thought just, that’s an important thing for the community and our board to digest. Because, best practices are voluntary and the regulations are really where the enforcement and legal actions take place so internalizing that information potentially in this chart might be helpful as well.
Rick Greenwood: I agree with, with the two previous commenters. I don’t think there’s a great rush. To do this, and I think it’s better with a lot of these things that we look at that we get it right because we don’t get another shot at it from many years sometimes so a little extra time in the subcommittees I think is well worth it to get it as close to accurate as possible.
Jerry: At this point, there’s no other alternative from my point of view. The slow down here are comments from our stakeholders. For me at least there’s been no debate on those comments so I would go right along with the flow and support that motion then.
Kyla Smith makes a motion to send this item back to subcommittee (CACS), Amy Bruch seconds.
VOTE: Yes – Amy, Brian, Jerry, Carolyn, Rick, Liz, Kim, Mindee, Allison, Dilip, Logan, Kyla, Wood, Javier, Nate
- 15 yes, 0 no, 0 abstentions/recusals
2. Discussion Document: Human Capital Management: NOSB Technical Support Initiative
Much of the momentum for the initiative to seek technical support for the NOSB came from the Fall 2020 discussion document titled, Human Capital Strategy for Organic Inspectors and Reviewers. During its Spring 2021 meeting the NOSB considered a discussion document on Human Capital Management: Supporting the Work of the NOSB. Additionally, the NOP released a Request for Applications (RFA) for human capital in Spring 2021, which included a request for industry stakeholders to bring forth ideas on ways to support the NOSB through the public private partnership. No proposals were made for that component of the RFA. Therefore, the CACS developed this discussion document seeking feedback for NOSB support specifically. The rationale for this initiative is simple. NOSB positions are not financially compensated, and many Board members have full time jobs. The time investment and workload for NOSB members can be 10-15 hours per week and this can potentially limit the number of people willing to take on board membership.
Jerry D’Amore:The notion that the workload carried by the NOSB board members can be daunting has been around for a long time. And this discussion document has its origins in the fall 2020 discussion document title human capital strategy for organic inspectors and reviewers, that’s where it all started under the larger caption of human capital.
So there were 17 total comments responding to the 2022 spring discussion document. About 1/3 were oral and 2/3 were written. Most of these stakeholders did respond to all four questions. And this one I’ve got underline all of the stakeholders were in favor of some form of support for the NOSB.
So I’ll review the questions and answers:
1. What are the advantages or disadvantages of having support come from within the government? From a nonprofit or university?
Notable comments are as follows: Strong “no” to any us government support, as it would threaten the NOSB’s autonomy. A limited “yes” to inside support but it should be limited to career scientists within the USDA, EPA, and FDA who themselves could work with land grant universities, the public at large should be part of the support team. Commenters asked to “expand your thinking to include the organic community.” One last answer: regardless of where the technical support comes from the NOP should be responsible for all contracting activity. The public at large should be part of the support team through the use of the open docket.
2. What NOSB tasks, if any, are critical to keep completely independent from the support team?
Notable comments are as follows: The support team should not deliberate or decide and issue; they should not be voting, or arguing for against anything. They should not draft recommendations discussion documents or other board documents. They cannot be the primary author or have a subcommittee document. They cannot initiate polls of stakeholder groups. They cannot communicate on behalf of the NOSB or any subcommittee. The support should support groups should vet and review materials and documents for “regulatory accuracy.”
3. Should the support team be privy to all Subcommittee meetings and discussions?
Notable comments are as follows: Four groups answered that basically “yes” when they’re discussing things that pertain to where you’re being active.
4. What should be the scope of the NOP’s relationship with the contemplated support group, i.e., should they be able to task the group directly?
Notable comments are as follows: The first answer was “no”, period. Next, the NOP should administer the Program by setting up contracts and making payments, etc. But the individual NOSB members should create the work plan, direction of the technical support team should only come from the NOP.
So those are the answers to the questions but they’re not where I found the most interest, they were good. But there are some Random ones that did not address questions and there’s only five of those and I’m going to read them to you create more time for Critical thinking and reflection by going through this process us begin endeavor to broaden the pool for a more diverse and NOSB membership.
Make more and better use of your technical advisory panels.
This initiative must equip the NOSB to provide the NOP with clear, more legally sound and actionable recommendations, you might find backlogs disappearing.
This is a two way street, managing the NOSB is a huge task for the NOP. And my last one is just one sentence from a former board member that says this initiative is long overdue and if well done could greatly enhance the work of the NOSB.
Carolyn Dimitri: Comment: I think it would be very hard to have someone working for USDA and not at least giving the appearance of a conflict.
Jerry D’Amore: I think on this one that the juice is worth the squeeze and we got to find a way to do it. And being totally transparent I think we could manage that.
Carolyn Dimitri: I’m in my position at the university, I can actually hire a student to do a lot of these activities. People think they are not biased but they are.
Allison Johnson: I have kind of a similar thought to Carolyn: it seems to me that members of the board will have different needs and could benefit from different types of support, given our broad range of backgrounds and expertise and work lives. And I am especially interested in finding ways to improve representation of different perspectives on the board and diversity in the organic sector.
Maybe assistance in hearing a broader range of perspectives or from stakeholders who we might not interact with directly sort of a different type of technical expertise that I wonder if there’s a way to encompass that here as well, assistance with diversity, equity and inclusion issues and and ensuring that we have those types of resources at our fingertips.
Jerry D’Amore: One commenter: “Use this endeavor to broaden the pool for a more diverse NOSB membership base.” This is potential road towards inclusion.
Rick Greenwood:What do we expect these people to do? Some work is highly technical. Technical expertise comes from people who work in industry. I can get graduate students too but usually they don’t have expertise to do some of this work. Lit reviews and things like that but for some of the work, like a TR, you need people who have been in industry and know impacts. All of those people come with a bias. If you recognize NOSB membership – we come with a bias. That’s part of who we are. It is tough call. Our stakeholders will be concerned about who we get to help on this.
Jerry D’Amore: There has been a universal stakeholder response saying “get this done.” not one person said it is a bad idea.
Kyla Smith: My comments are similar to Rick’s. When we first started talking, we talked about human capital. No proposal submitted to NOP on this topic for human capital grants. What non profit or non government entity could do what we were asking them to do? That was not a viable path. But concerns about it being housed at USDA – conflict of interest concerns. Doesn’t sound like a shining, blinking path forward. Got to pick a viable option and try to put guard rails around it.
Jerry D’Amore: We need to be transparent in how we go about it. I’m at a loss for where we go from here. Is it too risky? What is the next step?
Amy Bruch: Stakeholders are in favor, but the how is what we need to focus on.
Javier Zamora: Not an easy fix, but tailored to the need of someone like me. I’ll tell you why. I have the knowledge of growing things and can communicate myself okay. But technical/clerical knowledge is really really hard. Something needs to be done with NOSB – not USDA or NOP. That is a conflict of interest. I could go to someone like ALBA or another non-profit. Go to someone who has different ways of making money. If nothing is done to give help for someone like me, it will be hard for me to deliver on what this board is asking me to do. You will probably not have a good solid representation of what small/mid-size farmer is, esp. Latino or some other than a Caucasian person. If person coming on behind me doesn’t get help, then you won’t have the representation that is needed. I am coming on at a good time to use me as a guinea pig to make something out of this. It is 100% necessary. Even right now – hard issue navigating the drop box and if the TR is needed. Really commend Liz because she presented something. I am being asked to present something simple. Does that mean I am not able to read something? No – but it is navigating the steps needed to make sure I feel I am representing and doing the constituents that asked me to be part of this board. There is quite a bit of work that needs to be done. Kyla and Jerry – you are on the right track. We have to see what that reality is in the farming community. Farmer seat will struggle more with it esp. minority part. I am here to make it work!
Liz Graznak: I had a long conversation with a fellow organic farmer after the end of the session last week about the exact same topic. I heard from the listening session the comment that people think we need much better representation on the board – more diverse collection of organic community. More diverse ethnically, financially, and in general. I heard that interest in addressing that topic. There is no way they will ever get any people from those communities to serve on the NOSB. I am having a very hard time giving the time that is required for the Board to do my due diligence because I am that small certified organic farm that depends on me being in the field working with my crew when carrots need to be hand weeded. I have employees thankfully, but I just know there is a HUGE disconnect between what the board says they want and achieving it. There IS NO WAY we will represent those communities unless something changes.
3. Discussion Document: Oversight improvements to deter fraud: Modernization of organic traceability
Amy Bruch reports on the third agenda item, noting commenter summaries.
Amy Bruch: Commenters indicated steps that USDA and community can take to enhance traceability. 1) Acres per crop type; more granular mass balances; stakeholder feedback: generally in favor and supportive; a few certifying bodies capture info and place on organic certificates and addendums, but gaps; Practice is not mandatory;
ACA best practices: traceability in supply chain; all certifiers submit data to NOP for inclusion in organic integrity database (OID); this will allow for calculation of mass balance across supply chain
Concerns: small acreages and diversified farms, how to categorize these and the best practices that can alleviate concerns
Reporting production area (acreage) information by crop, livestock to OID is one of most impactful single actions to increase integrity in global organic integrity system; aggregated level in OID to protect confidential business information.
Nate Powell-Palm: When we look at ability to identify red flags in supply chain for organics, we have one chance every year to have an inspection; the chance of catching fraud in inspection is low; it’s a snap shot. Folks rely on crowd sourcing tips. As an inspector – trying to give reviewer and certifier narrative of farm; don’t need to have been there but such detail that they can make a solid determination. Acreage on certificates would enable inspectors to gather data about potential red flags. In either direction, anyone who has done business – is there anything of concern? This is only real way to catch fraud and see enforcement action – need more data on potentially fraudulent actions. Several certifiers (3) are already doing this and many farmers said that it is not a concern for them in oral comments. It’s feasible to have acres by crop.
To address small holder concerns: i.e. fixed vegetables, small amount of land; certifiers have addressed those same concerns and have good models. We can look to those.
We heard the concern that SOE is nigh but don’t get cart in front of the horse. This question is a simple way to increase transparency and utility of inspection. Look at certificates and check for evidence of fraud in that inspection.
Brian Caldwell: This is an important issue. I am totally in favor of the idea of including acreage by crop on certificates. Easy to say “mixed vegetables” when under 5 acres. If one crop is more than an acre, specify. Certification helps you keep track of the records you need. Everyone feels that way. Small scale producers in particular. In terms of fraud, need to focus on targeting measures of detecting fraud on the potential areas where fraud is likely to occur. Farm with less than $100,000 of gross sales is not prime target. They are not the problem; it will not distort the market. But there is fraud that does and hurts legitimate producers.
Kyla Smith: Sometimes when I talk about these things, I feel complainy. We will figure it out. But there are 76 certifiers and 76 ways certificates are issued and taxonomies are used. Maybe some of it will get solved with SOE. When the OID came out, PCO used to put “mixed vegetables” on the certificate. Once that taxonomy came out, folks wanted more detail. Had to produce extra letters. So we started putting right on our certificate. So to go back to mixed vegetables feels like a step backwards. One certificate in this one case to use database and a different one in another case. Acreage and how reported – how will I actually do this with data going into database. We haven’t, as some certifiers have indicated – we haven’t either. Viewed it as confidential business information. Unless mandatory, I’m not comfortable to gauge whether certified operations want it on a public facing document.
Nate Powell-Palm: If it was mandatory, then worth the investment?
Kyla Smith: Yes.
Javier Zamora: I would like to figure out if someone is buying and reselling and being dishonest; it’s not that difficult but it is touchy. My certifier has been asking about mass balance. How many acres. Every time we plant something, we need to get in website and how much acreage. It feels personal. But I think something needs to be done. There are things that impact 2-5 acre grower. They plant leafy greens, radishes, cilantro. I think when you grow like this – CSA, farmers market – a constant usage of the land. But…the CPC that the ag commissioners issue to sell at a farmers market – per pound, per linear feet, per boxes…how many certificates you have. The problem – are you invading the growers privacy? I think it should be on a larger scale. 30-50 acres is larger in my area. I am 100 acres. Small here – 10 or under. Needs to be based on scale. Something that complicates it – how diversified a specialty crop grower is. 50 or 60 crops for some. How deep and how personal do we need to get without invading people’s privacy. If you are going to mandate things. Some might not like and some okay. How much more work you will create for the producer. Does the producer have the personality to keep track of all these things. NAP insurance, insurance company, ag commissioners, USDA census and all these things…just depends which route we need to go.
Nate Powell-Palm: really appreciate that insight. That gives us some fuel to this discussion. It is already existing data – how to make it useful to catch fraud. Work for certifier….we are all in this together. Not about making more work but leverage data we already collect to be more effective.
Kim Huseman: I’ll echo that from perspective of FSA acreage data. I was looking at it as we were talking. The challenge is to define an umbrella statement or expectation that encompasses everything from linear feet to a section. It’s very difficult to do. That is where I get hung up in this situation. I listen to Javier as a farmer and how he has designed his plan and how I grew up farming – talking about mile lines and sections. But then try to encompass plot I grew for a farmers market. This is a good challenge for us to have. We are going to get multiple responses as to traceability and confidentiality. We need to determine what that looks like as well. My initial statement – there is data within USDA. Can we use that from a certifier standpoint? Are all certifying bodies using the same mechanisms?
Brian Caldwell: Do buyers need to know if this farm grows cilantro or not? You can say, mixed vegetables including (and you list certified crops). Not an extra burden to list it out. Certifier has the info on the field forms. For 20 years, I grew 5 acres of vegetables. No confidentiality with letting people know what I was growing on the five acres.
Amy Bruch: I appreciate the different viewpoints. Data exists. Can we streamline the data collection to make it relevant and no extra work for farmers. There are best practices we can use from certifiers who are already doing this. There was overwhelming support for this type of initiative. Basis to identify certain regions and volume that they are exporting and producing. Can look at individual field level or large region level. Different applications to getting this information.
I’m assuming we will table the discussion and work on the 2nd part in subcommittee on universal bill of lading. We will deliberate on it in subcommittee.
Nate Powell-Palm: Farmers are celebrating that organic is the most traceable system, but some obvious black boxes that we can address. In dry grain, missing piece that is not being carried through. We love organic for the traceability but how do we improve that traceability. How to make it even better?
Nate Powell-Palm makes some remarks at the close of Day 1 of the Spring 2022 NOSB meeting, noting that the Handling Subcommittee will begin the day before the NOSB hears from the Organic Seed Alliance and NIFA (USDA).
Wednesday, April 27, 2022: Spring NOSB Meeting, Day 2
Handling Subcommittee (HS)
Kyla Smith, Chairperson of HS
Proposal: Cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC) – petitioned
Summary of Petition, Petition addendum #1
Cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC), CAS #123-03-5, is being petitioned by Safe Foods Corporation as an antimicrobial processing aid specifically for application onto poultry or poultry parts at slaughter or processing plants. As such it is being petitioned to be listed on the National List at 7 CFR 205.605(b), synthetic nonagricultural (nonorganic) substance allowed in or on processed products labeled as “organic” or “made with organic (specified ingredients).” CPC would be added to water used as a drench or dip to reduce populations of foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella and Campylobacter that may be present on raw poultry.
The petitioner’s proposed listing is “Cetylpyridinium chloride – Antimicrobial food treatment for use according to FDA limitation.” The petition was received on 12/4/2019 (referred to as “petition”) and amended on 4/24/2021 (referred to as “addenda”). A Technical Review (TR) was completed and found sufficient on 8/5/2021 (referred to as “TR”). The Handling Subcommittee is bringing this petition forward for full NOSB review at its Spring 2022 meeting.
Wood Turner: Asa Bradman did most of the work on this prior to leaving Board. CPC being petitioned as an anti-microbial processing aid, specifically for use in poultry slaughter. It would be added to water to help prevent food borne pathogens that might be present on raw poultry. CPC petition would cover FDA approved uses.
A few issues: Did not hear much from folks in oral comments but a significant number of written comments. Fundamental issue relates to CPC being a material that is a “quat” (quaternary ammonium compound), microbicides that have risen in prominence since the COVID-19 pandemic. They are very powerful and have many have indicated a number of impacts to human health and environment. Residues on surfaces and meat may remain. Other issues: ongoing process to understand where and how to use sanitizers, what is the appropriate rotation, how do we evaluate them, how to we meet consumer expectations for food safety without using sanitizers indiscriminately. This petition would introduce a new sanitizer into the mix; does not provide helpful guidance about right review or rotation for sanitizers. We have another anti-microbial petition in the mix as well – important to consider.
In order to produce CPC you have to use another material, propylene glycol (outlined in full in TR), which raises questions about handling material reviews. We don’t have a process to review ancillary materials. The subcommittee in discussions noted we could review CPC on the merits without this consideration based on info on “quats” and the properties. We are accumulating a list of materials that is required to move other products forward. When NOP provides guidance on how to review ancillary substances, we can take into consideration how to do that. I am suggesting we have a discussion on this material on the merits outside of the ancillary substances.
Very strong community concern about the material that CPC is not consistent with organic principles; especially about “quats” being persistent materials. Emphatic language about a material from commenters – people shocked to see a material like this come before the NOSB for consideration. But the industry as a whole suggests it’s a critical material; argument CPC ensures higher quality meat than other sanitizers, but I don’t understand that. The food quality statement from the industry may be overstated. I don’t want to minimize food safety concerns of the consumer, but I don’t think this material is necessary to assure that.
Rick Greenwood: Tough issues. Push to have more disinfectants due to resistance in microbes; industry wants lots of options so they can rotate. Quats have real limitations besides residue. Some microbes can grow nicely in quats; I’ve seen problems with it firsthand. I don’t think CPC is necessary with our other tools.
Allison Johnson: I was relieved to see this on our voting list because quats are a straightforward no for organic. I don’t see any reason to add it now.
Kyla Smith: We have not been having any operators asking for CPC or other quats.
Dilip: There are reports in the scientific community about these residues on poultry’s skin and in humans. I can share those.
Logan Petrey: Kyla, have you heard of issues with sanitizers not working and processors needing something? I expected more commenters to say there is a need if there was an actual issue.
Kyla Smith: Not to my knowledge.
Kim Huseman: To follow up: stakeholders I am in contact with have not mentioned a need for additional products in order to safely produce poultry products. My question to Wood: Were there stakeholder comments needing CPC in addition to current practices?
Wood Turner: There was a comment from a producer suggesting that it would be beneficial. But not a flood of comments. The only comment was from that large producer and the petitioner.
Mindee Jeffery: Thanks, I appreciated the emphasis that CPC is nonessential, that existing materials work and we are compliant with food safety standards. CPC residues have been found on poultry skin. This is a customer service nightmare waiting to happen at Good Earth. Consumers will ask which one of these chicken companies do not use quats in their processing. Our consumers are real organic enthusiasts. If we don’t need it in the poultry industry, we don’t need this question in the customer service interaction!
Wood Turner: There will be people in the community who might say, CPC is in every mouthwash and toothpaste we use every day. Secondly, it doesn’t mean it’s consistent with organic principles. Not the same thing. We’re not charged with the same mandate. We have to represent that.
Rick Greenwood: Final comment: great that organic keeps this wall up. For example, they’ve been saying for years to take aspirin for heart attacks and as of two days ago, you shouldn’t do it. Organic is great because we don’t come back 10 years later and say oops, this gave you cancer. Having a strict line is important.
Kyla Smith explains the voting process for petitions, including this petition.
Motion to classify cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC) as a non-agricultural synthetic substance
Motion by: Wood Turner
Seconded by: Kyla Smith
- Yes: 15 No: 0 Abstain: 0 Absent: 0 Recuse: 0
National List Motion
Motion to add cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC) with the following annotation: “CPC can only be used in formulation with propylene glycol per FDA requirements” at 7 CFR 205.605(b)
Motion by: Wood Turner
Seconded by: Kyla Smith
- Yes: 0 No: 15 Abstain: 0 Absent: 0 Recuse: 0
Proposal: Phosphoric acid – amend annotation – petitioned
National List Motion: Motion to amend the annotation of phosphoric acid to (underlined verbiage is the proposed addition) “cleaning of food-contact surfaces and equipment, and as an acidifier to adjust pH of an extraction solvent to extract antioxidants or other target molecules from lamiaceae plants, provided the amount of acid used shall not exceed the minimum needed to lower pH to 2.5.” at § 205.605(b).
Questions to Stakeholders:
1. If the use of phosphoric acid is expanded through this petitioned annotation change will it perform an essential function that is different than other already listed acids?
2. What is the application of phosphoric acid in the finished food product (i.e., what does “The extracted target molecules may be subsequently blended with appropriate carriers for help in proper dispersal across the surface of finished food products” mean in an actual use case)?
Kyla: Petitioned to expand the annotation as noted above. Asked clarifying questions, as noted above. Did not receive direct answers in the public comment process. Most commenters felt that additional information, such as the answers to the questions we posed, were needed prior to being able to vote on this substance. We do appreciate all of the feedback that was provided, and we will take this back to subcommittee to do more work. That is my recommendation.
Brian: So everyone knows, lamiaceae is the mint family. I did not see any explicit information of how the extract was going to happen – what the process was that involved the phosphoric acid to extract whatever they are extracting from these plants. That’s a bit of a gap. Also, any materials that are used in that extraction, do they have to be on the National List in some way also? Or how is that handled? They talked a lot about how phosphoric acid was extracted from the brew that produces it, but did not talk about how a sugar or some kind of acid would be extracted from the mint plants.
Kyla: That was part of our struggle to fully understanding the exact functionality.
Kyla makes a motion to send the annotation change back to Subcommittee, Mindee seconds.
- Yes: 15 No: 0 Abstain: 0 Absent: 0 Recuse: 0
Motion passes; petition goes back to subcommittee.
Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) Update on State of Organic Seed
The OSA update is presented by Kristina “Kiki” Hubbard, Director of Advocacy & Communications.
Mindee Jeffery introduces Kiki Hubbard: They have 20 years in anti-trust, intellectual property, and organic regulation. Kiki grew up in WI and working on an organic farm, then DC policy, then MS in Environmental Studies in MT. Co-authored all three State of Seed reports spanning 15 years.
Kiki Hubbard: I feel honored to share findings from our Organic Seed Report. We are a mission driven organization that works nationally to ensure growers have access to the seed they need to be successful. Jared Zaistro, my colleague and co-author is also here to answer questions.
The State of Organic Seed is how OSA monitors the status of organic seed systems in the US: How much organic seed growers are using, barriers, and enforcement, and public research dollars are going to organic plant breeding. Every 5 years we release this report to help us understand trends and publish recommendations. Fostering seed grower networks and lead to decentralized seed ownership.
Read the report on the State of Organic Seed. You can read key findings from the OSA report. The data brief for organic regulators and certifiers can be found here. A data brief for organic farmers can be found here. A data brief for organic seed producers and companies can be found here. The interactive SOS data explorer is a great tool to explore.
Conventional seed trade is highly privatized and consolidated. Expanding organic seed goes beyond the regulatory environment. It ensures growers have access to well adapted varieties that are resilient. They will be more successful when they have genetics that are suited to their operations. It also allows us to broadly expand organic agriculture. Fewer synthetic inputs on our food and our landscape.
Our third update means 15 years of data for organic seed trends- sourcing, research, and more. More data than ever before in this report.
First, we conducted a national survey of organic producers with OFRF which informed their research agenda and our OSA seed report. Seed producers and seed companies to understand challenges, scaling up, and surveyed organic plant breeders to better understand successes, needs, challenges. Organic certifiers to understand enforcement. What tools needed for support. Some seed producers and companies agreed to an in-depth interview, and we compiled a database of public research investments, and finally pulled from OFRF from 16 focus groups of over 100 organic producers. What did we find?
- Organic producers still use non organic seed for part or all of operation. 100% organic seed used on operation has remained stagnant in the last 15 years.
- By crop type, organic seed sourcing has also remained stagnant. Decrease in organic seed use by field crop acres, stagnation in forage crop and cover crop acreage.
- Vegetable producers growing fewer than 50 acres showed an increase in the use of organic seed. As acreage increases, organic seed use decreases. This is in line with our 2016 findings. The largest producers are using little organic seed. This has a big impact on overall acreage!
- Fewer producers are reporting that certifiers ask them to take efforts to source organic seed or take greater steps to source organic seed. In 2011 there were more – now only 35% of producers report that these requests are being made. For those producers who do see certifiers request they take steps, the producers respond.
- Variety availability (for specific organic seed) remains the top reason for not using organic seed.
- Increase in producers reporting a processor or buyer requirement served as a factor in not sourcing organic seed.
- Fewer organic producers are saving and/or producing organic seed on their farms. Last report had 40% and that has dropped in this report to 25% of respondents.
- 40% responded they are interested in producing organic seed commercially. We need to expand organic seed production. With training and support we hope some can integrate organic seed production into their operations and expand the diversity of organic seed available.
- Like in 2016, organic producers understand organic seed is important to organic integrity. Varieties bred for organic production will support their success.
- Certifier survey: 2020 ACA survey. 22 certifiers responded. More than 80% of organic farms represented. Only 16% believe producers are going beyond 3 catalogues or sources [during seed searches].
- More than half of certifiers would like to see more certifier and inspector trainings. 80% of certifiers surveyed would like to see more educational resources.
- Organic variety trials are useful.
- Need a comprehensive seed database. Ongoing need for organic community.
- Backed up a trend from organic producer survey- certifiers also reported that processor/buyer agreements serve as a barrier to sourcing organic seed.
- Research investment data—ton of data. Total of these investments over last 5 years- $40 mil. Much of this money is coming from OREI program. We are enjoying more dollars in that program thanks to the last farm bill.
- State of Organic Seed report was also an OFRF/OSA OREI grant. Thank you NIFA for the support.
- We were able to go beyond the scope of previous reports because of Liza Wood’s SARE grant, PhD Candidate and co-author. This data is available to the public through an interactive website. Search our specific surveys (https://organicseed.shinyapps.io/SOSData/ ).
- Growing understanding of why organic seed is important. Still no meaningful improvement in the absence of regulatory changes.
A few recommendations [from OSA]: Not much is changing on its own – there may need to be a change in the regulations to move things forward. The NOP will be re-evaluating organic seeds as a regulatory priority – this is good. Organic community understands that seed is a foundation. Support the 2019 recommendation from the NOSB to strengthen seed guidance document. It’s time to revisit and hold buyers and processors more accountable to organic seed requirements. Buyers and processors need to be part of the solution. A comprehensive org seed database is desperately needed. Funding for training and outreach would also help increase support and sourcing for organic seed.
Questions from the NOSB:
Javier Zamora: I live this when my certifier shows up and asks about searching for organic seeds; I have 3-4 companies I go with. The last 15 years you noted the amount of organic seed has stayed level – but the number of producers has increased. $40mil invested in research to produce organic seed – but what seeds is that research monies going to? It’s hard to find seeds in the amount I need as a mid-sized grower. Believe that the NOSB needs to look into that issue because the amount of organic crops has grown but the seed does not reflect that.
Kiki: Research investments we document – about 80% are going to project on plant breeding or organic variety trials. How they compare to conventional varieties. We know that the organic seed supply has grown since the program was implemented, but we desperately need a comprehensive listing of what’s out there. We don’t have that and that will continue to be a barrier. We need that to make progress.
Logan Petrey: This really isn’t supposed to be a reason to look or not for organic seed, but the financials of organic seed really is important. Is that looked at in the research? At least trying to level that playing field? It obviously is going to cost more to produce organic seed with potentially lower yields, but… I can imagine that if farmers do x, y, z and they can stop there rather than going further to really look for organic seed…
Kiki: Organic seed isn’t always lower yielding, as conventional seed, which I think you implied. Which is why these research $$s are so important to adapt these organic seeds. There is a wide variation in the cost of organic seed versus conventional. We do ask about price being a factor in our survey of farmers, even though it’s not supposed to be, but my understanding is that this is less of a factor than it used to be. As we expand our supplies, I believe that cost will come down, as well. These organic supplies are taking a financial risk that isn’t required fully to be used given the exemption to use nonorganic seed. Unfortunately, what we see as we document a lack of progress of use of organic seed, we see some of these seed suppliers closing, because they are no longer willing to take that risk. We are at a critical juncture. I think that mandating continuous improvement will go a long way to provide confidence to organic seed companies that are committed.
Logan Petrey: When I was stating yield, I didn’t mean on the farmer side, I meant on the producer’s side.
Kiki: Only 5% of these research dollars have gone toward research projects that support organic seed production. Our in-depth survey this time around will hopefully inform those requesting funding this time around. They face a number of challenges, both production and nonproduction, that can be addressed through research.
Wood Turner: Every slide, I have a root cause questions – I know we don’t have enough time for all of them. I am curious about whether any of the research is going into capacity building in the grower community? I am surprised that there isn’t more seed saving happening in organic growers. It goes a bit to Logan’s question—the cost to growers to buy seed year over year would suggest that there is a better investment to be made on the grower’s side on learning how to collect seed, save seed, and deal with that side. I was surprised to find that we have to function in an “expensive” market for growers for seed and if better management of seed collection and keeping it in circulation wouldn’t be something we’d want to do?
Kiki: That’s a great question. The challenges reported by organic seed producers- small-mid scale enterprises. Capacity rose to the top. want to scale up but don’t have capacity or equipment. Don’t have data to plan. OSA has done a number of trainings/resources to support these growers, but we need an influx to build the capacity you articulated. We have only done it through helpful smaller grants. Several need those to purchase a piece of seed cleaning equipment. This is discussed more fully in the report.
Amy Bruch: Kiki, thank you. I am an organic seed producer. I would love to have more conversations. I grow seed corn and have a lot of conversations with seed corn companies. It is more management, however, that’s the conversation… needs to be a contractual agreement to minimize risk and negotiate. As a farmer point of view, it’s an additional, more insulated revenue stream than the normal production outlets we have for our crops. Corn is different- cross pollination, seeds need to be planted, but other crops, saving seed, we’re doing this in the Midwest more informally because price IS a problem. The retail price might not look to different, but if you look at something that could be used again. Wheat, oats, the value is pretty low compared to what we buy for seed 4-6 x different. Price is crazy because farmers purchase retail and sell wholesale and pay freight both ways. There is an opportunity for farmers to internalize cleaning (4-5x extra). Huge opportunity. Farmers are raring to go to circulate more seeds.
Kiki: Thanks for sharing that. I would love to chat with you at another time. Bravo for being engaged in organic seed corn production. I agree that it can help the price point and provide that additional income. We recently published an organic seed production…if anyone is curious about the economics of organic seed production. Seed Economics Toolkit: https://seedalliance.org/publications/seed-economics-toolkit/
Allison Johnson: Thank you, Kiki and Jared. Such a service to the sector and for making our discussion concrete. Buyers are playing such a big role in driving seed decisions! Consolidation in seed and inputs! How do buyers fit into that. Who? What types of buyers are setting these requirements for producers? A buyer knowing a variety is produced only conventionally and selecting it for that reason to keep costs down. Or relationships/seed/inputs.
Kiki: We don’t collect names of buyers or processors. Buyer is dictating that a variety be sourced, which isn’t available in organic form, and quantity is an issue. Larger scale producers under contract and buyer is providing seed directly to growers. There could just not be a variety available in organic form, but there is an opportunity to contract organic seed production well in advance of growing season with seed companies that can offer that variety or an equivalent variety. This is an opportunity to make more progress in increasing the amount of organic seed planted to organic acres.
Kyla Smith: 1) The additional resources with the best practices and the training session in the learning center are helpful for certifiers and hopefully they allow certifiers to gain more confidence in making compliance-related decisions. More tools are good for sure. I believe the learning center course is sort of new-ish, so hopefully more people are watching that. 2) I think that for certifiers, with the evolution of certification, sometimes we really come up with a data harmonization problem. A lot of this data lives in paper OSPs. Over the years, as we are getting more into electronic formats, we will be better equip to track organic seed usage over time so it is recordable, trackable, and something we can monitor. I think it just takes time. 3) You mentioned about really wanting a comprehensive list of certified organic seed. We have the OID. It doesn’t seem as if that is currently an effective tool, but could it be? Does it just need to be updated more frequency? Is there data that is missing that we could add? Could that be a place where we could capture organic seed?
Kiki: The OID? Would that database provide specific varieties? Are you thinking about it documenting organic seed producers? What do you think it provides?
Kyla Smith: It lists certified organic operations and the products or crops that they produce. If someone is producing seed corn, it should say that for her products lists. Perhaps this is part of where we need additional data harmonization where certifiers do not always use taxonomies in the same way – could it be? If we included varieties or something like that?
Kiki: Absolutely. There is potential for that. There could be improvements in the documentation of seed crops. There could be changes that would help organizations like ours to collect data to start with. It was hard to know who was a seed producer to begin with. If there were to be an opportunity to collaborate with the program, that would be huge. Current databases are not reliable in consistent updating. We need a reliable tool. Love to explore that.
Kyla Smith: I think that will be an ongoing and continued problem with OID, as well. I know that is something that the Program is always working on with certifiers. I understand there will be some additional requirements when SOE comes out.
Oftentimes, a grower will note that they requested organic seed, but then it showed up and it wasn’t organic. In the Learning Center course, there was a suggestion to order earlier. But if everyone orders earlier, someone is going to be left without organic seed. I don’t know if it’s better communication from the seed supplier to let the grower know that they don’t have that. Perhaps it’s order earlier and better communication from the supplier?
Kiki: I agree with you. We could find some ways to create feedback loops so organic companies and producers know what the seed supply gaps are and create a system to improve communication. Seed companies- should we send our list to the certifiers so they know we have this? We could produce this organically, but we don’t know if we should!
Kyla Smith: Yes, send the list. When we issue non-compliances, we have a sheet and we have a list that we have sort of put together of seed companies, but keeping that updated all of the time is challenging. Yes, send the list.
Dilip Nadwani: I’d like to say it is a nicely presented presentation. My students have attended your OSA conference since 2015. The organic seeds availability since 2001. Came really in 2002 or around that time… from that, little over 20 years, seed has come a long way because at that time there were barely any. In 20 years, we have a lot of veg, fruits, almost all crops. Still a lot of work to be done. But in 20 years, this is a lot of work. Much better shape now. Seed saving… if they plant organic seeds and save seeds the next generations seeds, will they produce the same results? (vigor, growth, etc.) Hybrid or open pollinated? Have you done this research?
Kiki: Yes. Maybe, as you were starting to say, if it is a hybrid, probably not – it will not grow true-to-type again if it is a hybrid. It is important to note, though, growing seed takes a different knowledge base and skill set than growing a food crop. There is a lot of education and training to support growers who are interested in saving seed. There is a lot of decision-making and selection that goes into it. This is an opportunity and a real need. I would also be remiss in not mentioning that there is also the challenge in encouraging producers in being more independent because of organic seed intellectual property rights. We will be publishing a resource on this later this year so that it doesn’t serve as a barrier.
Nate Powell-Palm: When we say organic seed production/development, there seems to be 2 things in one bucket. I am an organic seed producer- yellow pea seed and flax seed. It’s very easy. I get conventional seed, I grow it out as organic, it goes into the market as organic, certified seed. Supporting that would be the expansion of certified organic certified seed- the other side of developing organic seed under organic plant breeding methods. Could you talk about the difference between those two? What should we advocate for?
Kiki: Great articulation of the difference. Like you are saying, we need both. In between the organic plant breeding investments and taking organic seed and producing it – that is where ongoing variety trials play in to identify which crops will do well in a region. Sometimes you can find a conventional form that will do well in an organic system, but there is research that shows that often that isn’t the case. And if those seeds are not optimal, would it be easy to select for certain traits and then produce them? The organic crop breeding projects are also helping to develop new varieties that will do well under organic conditions. We need them all, and they all fit together to a certain extent. We are thrilled to see more investments, but those investments pale in comparison to conventional, and WE NEED MORE. Often the research going to organic also helps conventional growers.
Amy Bruch: When these tests are being conducted looking at organic production and these seeds and their fit. Is the condition of the soil and the balance of nutrients being considered? This one performs, this one doesn’t. The deficiency in the soil is not brought to light. It’s our ability as organic producers to manage below ground what is evident above ground. I haven’t found seed as a limiting factor to yield, it’s usually something else I need to address.
National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Update on Organic Research Priorities
Presenter: Mat Ngouajio, National Science Liaison, Institute of Food Production and Sustainability (NIFA).
Mat Ngouajio: Update on organic research priorities. We have made a lot of progress in terms of advancing organic agriculture, but to sustain that type of investment we need support from private and gov’t sectors. NIFA has met some of the gaps and had research to address some of the industry needs. Most of our NIFA programs include language on organic, even if the program is not specific to organic (including capacity and competitive programs). There are two specific programs to address needs of organic industry: organic transitions (ORG) and Organic Agriculture Research Extension Initiative (OREI).
NIFA organic program covers all production systems: animal and plant, entire supply chain. The two organic-specific programs are:
- ORG: $7.5M Supports development and implementation of research, extension, and higher ed programs to improve competitiveness. Smaller program are only available to educational institutions.
- OREI: Larger program of $30M, funding high priority research. Any citizen can apply.
Overlapping priority areas for these programs are production efficiency, profitability, and competitiveness. But ORG focuses on: ecosystem services, tools and models development. While OREI focuses on studies for operating systems, including postharvest, seed/breeding, IPM, and curriculum development, on-farm studies, etc. Whenever we have any new NOP program priorities – antibiotics that were discontinued or research on methionine, we tend to put those in organic transition priorities. If you look at RFAs, you will see more detail there. [Describes project types for 2022.]
Since 2014, also included a proposal type called curriculum development because industry told us they wanted to see more education. We would like to see more proposals submitted under that category! This is one of the few programs under NIFA where we fund conference proposals (under OREI, can fund up to $50k). Planning proposals can also get $50k planning grants.
Challenges of the organic industry – facing a lot. Issues span the entire supply chain form “farm to fork.” The NOSB is a key partner. Stakeholders and partners are different, partners we work together with to address the needs of organic industry. We get data from surveys like that came out of OSA and comment periods and listen to what partners are telling us for issue identification. Partners help us identify priorities and help us work with Congress.
Actions by Congress – OREI funding is through multiple Farm Bills. Congress has responded by providing the support NOSB and others have asked for.
When NIFA gets support: take all the input from industry and translate that into RFAs, then use that to use a strict panel application process for review. We only base our review on scientific merit to fund our selected programs. We then follow up to ensure they are meeting promises.
The NOSB meets, you spend a lot of time developing your priorities for NOSB. What do we do with them? Your priorities become our priorities. Once they get published we take them and they become our priorities. We include them in our RFAs of organic transition and OREI programs for the last couple of years. It would be difficult to narrow them, so we put a direct link to them in our RFAS. The first couple of years it wasn’t easy because we have to justify everything we do. But now they accept them directly.
Implications: every single $ created for organic research – we want to make sure it’s spent on organic ag, and the MOST important issues of that industry. We have received project requests where they just added the word “organic” to try and get monies. We establish relevance by asking applicant how they are addressing key priorities of the industry.
Example of how our applicant community is responding: Applicant put in their project that their project “addresses three NOSB research priorities…” The applicant community is taking NOSB’s work very seriously to establish what is relevant. Should we be ranking some of these priorities? Even within NIFA we do not rank our priorities because it would have no impact on our peer review system. Our focus in our peer review once relevance is established, most of the review is on scientific and technical merit of the proposals.
ORG and OREI has quickly become nationally accepted, with more applications coming from NE and West Coast with other high applications from TX and FL. The number or proposals funded shows the exact same data spread. Only a few states have not received any awards; soon every state will have received funding to do these research projects.
There were very few projects funded in the South, but that has changed. Funding has improved for animal systems proposals, small and minority serving institutions (MSI), and the southern region.
Not so good news is that OREI applications are down 40% compared to 2021 and ORG applications down 50% drop in applications for ORG. Unsure why this is happening – active project directors are asking for no-cost extensions, struggling to get their work done. Possibly due to COVID-19? We will work with industry, partners, and stakeholders to increase applications because we want to make sure we are only funding the best science.
Future perspective is to promote research and innovation, explore new extension opportunities, and and train. We also want to work with everyone to promote these two programs and stimulate the applicant community. We want to work within NIFA to improve the language on organic research in other programs. It’s possible that some applicants can see opportunities in other programs for organic and so are not using ORG and OREI.
There are external evaluations of the NIFA organic program – they may come up with more ways to improve the applicants.
[Ends with non-discrimination statement for USDA]
Questions from the NOSB for Mat Ngouajio:
Wood Turner: I know you have presented to us fairly recently, and we continue to say tell us more about how this process is working and how the research priorities are making a difference. I think that is on the minds of all of us. I think we come on this Board and end up inheriting a process. I think that is really true of Research Priorities, and we question what the impact is. You did a great job of explaining that. It would be helpful for me to understand is can we do a better job of articulating…I get the point of ranking the priorities…but articulating what the priorities are trying to get at? I want to make sure that somehow the objective…there is clarity in what we are seeking to really understand? The second point about ORG in particular, we hear a lot in the community about improving resources to farmers who are trying to transition to organic, it makes me worried that ORG grants only go to colleges and universities and the folks that really need those grants the most are too far removed from the program. It’s a small program compared to the other program. How is that funding directly affecting those growers?
Mat: ORG program: we should be getting more farmers involved! Organic transition program, just like many other programs: IPM, and others, they come with a strict prescription of an “integrated programs”. That means you need research, education, and extension. Only land grant institutions offer these things. ARS cannot compete for the ORG program. But we have language that came from industry that they want farmers involved. That is so important. Required to work with a certified field or one that will be certified by the end of the study. Once the project was finished- all done- so now- need to certify land. So work with a farmer! It’s still a weakness for our programs to not have people from industry like Kiki, OSA, and farmers that cannot submit applications directly. Would have to go through a university and be a sub-award. Budget will be less than 50% of the entire project. We need to change the law if we want to change that.
Priorities: Personally, the way you present them in terms of giving a summary followed by a more in depth discussion is still the best way to do it. We are facing a significant problem- we express needs, more methionine research, more soil health research, but still we need the researchers that are specialized in those fields and who would be attracted to engage in those fields. We don’t have the luxury of that number right now. Keep it broad, whoever we can grab- be grateful. We don’t want to narrow a community that is already too small.
Amy Bruch: Thank you. Could you provide additional information on the feedback loop for results. You talked a lot about the application process. I am curious about status updates, how results are communicated, and if an awardee takes up one of the NOSB research priorities, is there any opportunity for interaction between our group and what that person is real-time researching?
Mat: We were doing a lot of Project Director’s Meeting where all of the people that were funded got together once per year to share their research results, but with us moving to Kansas City and COVID, we lost about 80% of our staff, and one of the things to cut was that Project Director Meeting. We are focusing on the basics – what we can do to get the money out the door. We will be doing more of that now that we are fully staffed. The other thing that happens is that most of our projects are funded as a grant, and we have a minimum report requirement. I am rejecting more and more reports than I used to do, because you have someone giving you five sentences on a $2M grant. It’s not like the SARE program, where most of them are cooperative agreements. They can ask for extra reporting. We cannot do that. The best way for us to get more is through the Project Director meeting. It is a very important point, Amy. If the research is done and the only output is waiting for a scientific publication, most of that is not going to get to the hands of the industry right away. It might take 5-10 years, when we actually need to have that feedback on a continuous basis.
Dr. Dilip Nandwani: Good to see you; good presentation. Also noticed there was a drop in applications. I am with TSU and you did mention that in ORG and OREI have preference for applications coming from minority institutions – is there other programs specifically for minority institutions? Is there any update in research priorities [for minority research?] For ORG, does it only cover transitional growers?
Mat: For the ORG program, we really want most of the research to be done in certified organic facilities. It is based on the past. Many people – back in 2001, I was a post-doc and we received one of the first ORG projects—when you go back and look at all of those projects, everything was shut down at the end of the funding. The industry told us that we cannot continue to give money and not get any results. We want to grow the organic community. That is why we put the requirement that if it is not certified organic, at least tell us that you are documenting everything so that you can be certified by the end of your project, which is what we are doing now. If we say that certification is not required, much of that is going to be done on conventional land. It limits the # of applications that we can get, but ensures that we are using organic money to support the organic industry and is probably still the best way to proceed. In terms of priorities, with other programs like AFRI, we fund a lot of organic projects. I made sure there was enough language there to allow for organic research, but the priorities for AFRI are usually really broad. If you are looking for an AFRI program, check with the Program Managers to ensure that your program would fit. Each time we tried to narrow down things, we had so many communities that would come to NIFA and complain. To avoid that, we keep the door wide open as much as we can. That has been the message that I convey to the community. Do not look for the word “organic” in a program to know that you can compete in that program. The success of the programs in AFRI is higher than OREI. We have funded conferences through that AFRI program. Check with the program manager, and you can probably submit. Those programs offer an extra level of…the organic industry told us that they do not want to see a bunch of research conducted with OREI $$ comparing organic and conventional. Indeed, when you look at early projects, that is exactly what was being funded. The industry told us that it does not advance our industry and we do not want to see that anymore. We do not fund those type of studies anymore within OREI. However, you can still, if you make a case, do some sort of comparison studies within AFRI. They offer more flexibilities.
Allison Johnson: Thank you. Really interesting. I appreciate the time you’re putting into thinking through fairness and investments. I’ve been working on a comprehensive transition program focusing on small/mid size producers. Part of our motivation is that its hard to figure out how to access resources, time consuming to apply, etc. Your point about dropping application rates made me wonder about this participation issue. How can we make it easier for producers to access funding, etc.
Mat: That’s a tough one. If I had the same question, I’d be going back to the industry and asking them to help me…how can we get this done? I would think that if we want to get more growers involved, we need to continue to do more of what we have heard from the industry and putting in that requirement to ensure that each project has a relevant component and make it adaptive right away. We are lucky that a lot of people who serve on our panel see that need –the need to engage farmers and industry folks who are working directly with those farmers in the research that we do. To my knowledge, that makes a project more competitive. There is no project that we fund in our program, if you do not have a grower component, it is very tough. How can we do that? I do not think that the way that the law is set right now that we can get to where we can replicate something like the SARE program where farmers can apply directly. Our programs and the regulations that come with it do not allow that. That would be a good addition to our program. Right now, all we do is work with farmers and make sure that they have a budget in the project. If they do not have a budget, they are not part of the project, so that is a big part of the project. It’s a good question and one that we need to work together with industry to try to solve. The solution to that would come from all of us.
Nate: Exceptional opportunity to improve NOSB’s work when writing research priorities. We are going to run a little late.
Materials Subcommittee (MS)
Discussion Document: Research Priorities 2022
Wood Turner: We’ve gotten good support for the priorities again. Some folks are leaning hard on certain topics we know are important: including inerts, BBMF, and similar.
Wanted to make sure community is clear that we produce an executive summary that is a list of the distilled down priorities we’ve landed on. The supporting document goes into more detail. Feedback from community that we’d dropped a discussion of more research into copper under the corps subcommittee — that’s not the case. The summary under disease management did not mention copper by name, but the detailed discussion document did talk about copper in detail.
Point out that feedback we’ve heard is that there is a legacy concern in research priories around suitable alternatives to BPA and “materials of concern” (like PFAs). I do think that’s worth some discussion on how to include by name and by reference some other materials beyond BPA that are a concern to folks.
I am not going to go over every single research priority. We want to create feedback loops on what’s getting funded through NIFA. Question about ORG – how do we involve farmers in this research and help people on the ground? That’s a meta issue I want to flag.
Nate Powell-Palm: I was heartened to hear the presentation today that our research priorities are so deeply used to inform grantmaking. I would like us, as a Board, to review the respective priorities in our subcommittees and try to find stakeholders for each of those priorities. I think it would be good to find where the rubber meets the road by identifying what our communities need. I know that we have a lot on our list, but I think it’s worth our time to identify how to bring anecdotes from stakeholders regarding these priorities.
Amy Bruch: Thanks. I look at these priorities – they are meaningful, they would advance our work agenda items. That info is so critical for advancing forward our industry. There needs to be worthwhile discussion to get feedback loops. On my farm and other northwest farmers, they are taking on no-till organic [without funding backup]. We learn from our mistakes – if there is a way to capture this info so it can remain useful. Data collection is so important.
Nate Powell-Palm: I cannot second that enough. As an inspector, I’ve seen so many of these priorities be solved in the field by a farmer and that never makes it out to others.
Jerry D’Amore: Addressing the issue of research for copper sulfate – what Wood said is spot-on. This research priority on disease control is a pillar of support for examining copper sulfate. I think that the issue from our stakeholder community has been quiet for the year that I’ve seen.
Brian Caldwell: I feel like, unfortunately, my brain is headed into the slippage zone. One of the things that really strikes me with our RPs is that we have 2 different types. One is a broad topic to discuss, and the other is a series of very specific questions that we want answered, usually in conjunction with materials. It was really interesting with me that the successful proposal mentioned 3 NOSB priorities that were all quite broad. Something like the fate of copper or something like that, the chance of that being part of these mega projects that OREI funding is really small. It is not going to be answered that way. I’m feeling that we might need a two-pronged approach to get these things answered. It would be really fantastic if there was some kind of small program within USDA or NIFA that could address with small pots of money specific questions that we have but really try to nail it. The overarching OREI and ORG projects that I’ve been involved with, at least 3 of them, they aren’t going to look at these specific questions.
Nate Powell-Palm: We should follow up with NIFA/Mat and see how we strike that balance.
Carolyn Dimitri: Comments related to what Amy and Brian said. The OERI grants are integrated – they need to partner with extension or education. Farmers are where the extension piece comes in. I usually partner with NCAT. It’s great when farmers have close relationships with groups that do outreach; they can share info with researchers as well. If there is more involvement on the part of organic farmers that would be helpful in pushing forward important questions and getting info translated back to the farm. I am a researcher and I do what I want – if my interests align with the NOSB that’s great, but I wouldn’t change what I am doing based on recommendations. NIFA can’t give cooperative agreements because of how the Farm Bill gives the money. Is there a way to have some other kind of grant program? A heavy life. It would be more along the lines of a cooperative agreement. It would be more applicable to an organic farmer/handler than a researcher. Very specific materials questions are not otherwise going to be addressed.
Kyla Smith: I think along all of these lines, I was trying to think about how we get the information back out. Mat was talking about his challenges within his team, and Amy was talking about on-farm research that happens that isn’t part of a big funding stream or any type of grant. Would it be possible to periodically pull together various folks to do a research update and there could be someone who has done some on-farm something, someone who has wrapped up their OREI grant, and possibly all of these other ag grants that are out there that aren’t within the OREI stream. Just trying to pull together pieces and parts of what is going on out there.
Nate Powell-Palm: The foundation of that Q is to get more stakeholder outreach from the Board to our respective communities. We can tap researchers in the Board communities to create small pipelines to share into the NOSB.
Allison Johnson: This list is so long, and it feels like there is so much work to do. I’m looking at it with 2 big sets of stakeholders involved when I think about the highest priorities from my viewpoint. Those that need help with production practices –and from that standpoint I think about who is served and who isn’t served well enough. And then I think about people who need more research to understand that organic is valuable. I feel like there are 2 areas missing. 1) Regionally development techniques from under developed regions – such as high tunnels in the south. Everyone I’ve spoken with in the south has said that they haven’t found much help with this. 2) Climate change – I think we’ve heard about an audience that need convincing of the qualitative benefits or organic. I think that we are in a place that even if we realize that there are a lot of benefits out there, there is an audience out there that needs to see it written down in a journal.
Nate Powell-Palm: That is huge looking at climate-change solutions; we could have an entire new subcommittee on climate.
Liz Graznak: I am not 100% positive that this group is the one that needs to hear this: in the last 12 years I have been in a number of research projects by universities – the work they are doing is super important, but I am also one of the only organic farms to participate. The amount of money offered to farms for this research is laughable, a couple hundred dollars at most. The amount of time, land, and resources farmers have to put in does not match up. I’ve been dealing with this; the last two times I’ve been asked I said no and that’s unfortunate for them because they don’t have other organic farms they can ask in Missouri!
Nate Powell-Palm: We do need to hear that because it’s good to hear the barriers for everyone. The inconvenience is worth more than $200.
Brian Caldwell: I am going to write a long email to OFRF, who is going to be evidently doing some kind of evaluation of NIFA and put out a bunch of this stuff, and to our partners who are watching this exchange, applying for one of those conference grants that Mat mentioned, that is a way to get all of that information spread out to your regional producers. A really good avenue for information sharing.
Javier Zamora: It’s overwhelming the amount of asks that you can get, and the reward for the farmer is very little. I am doing 10 things this year collaborating with different people. There seems to be very little that goes to the farmers to collaborate on research. The money funnels down – there needs some arrangement [to support farmers]. I got a CDFA grant to plant some hedgerows.
Wood Turner: Thanks for the discussion. To reiterate, I would suggest that coming out of this meeting you all bring your set of priorities back to your committees and make sure that we’ve discussed and incorporated any new thinking on this, and we will get this document updated.
Proposal: Excluded Methods Spring 2022
Mindee Jeffery: This subject can really give a person stage fright in the board has really answered the call to review drops that regulatory frameworks using a process based approach and definitions, as a trigger for regulatory oversight needs to be updated to remain relevant.
We watch as new technology and biotechnology rapidly outgrow our regulatory definitions, requiring a high level of specialized knowledge to make clear distinctions. When we are classifying excluded methods for this USDA version of organic systems. It is an untenable position as the biotech industry is rapidly outpacing and the enemy regulatory structure and is very difficult to track before us in this meeting is a proposal to clarify which methods are considered excluded in organic production, specifically cell and protocols fusion. In this case, we are making a minor clarification to the TBD list.
This proposal seeks to remedy the information provided on these techniques, as there is information in terms defined and there were follow up notes on both techniques left in the excluded message charts by previous NOSB work. It is clear from terms to find the policy memo, the NOSB work and stakeholder feedback that our community is aligned with the proposal to list cell and protocol as usual, as excluded methods, except when the techniques are employed within taxonomic families with a consistent suggestion from stakeholders, for language tweak in public comments, one group expressed full support for the NSP recommendation, as stated in the published proposal with one small suggestion regarding the definition.
We suggest competent DNA be changed to in vitro nucleic acid technologies to provide a more comprehensive definition in vitro nucleic acid technologies includes techniques including recombinant DNA and ribonucleic acid, RNA techniques that use vector systems and techniques involving the direct introduction into the organisms of hereditary materials prepared outside the organism, because it is not only DNA that can be manipulated but also RNA and other materials, we find this definition to be more comprehensive. In addition, this is the definition us by codecs, which brings our standards into alignment with this global standard.
This was a consistent suggesting across the colder groups, see companies expressed full support for this proposal, their comments were presented along with a strong emphasis on the need to strengthen organic seed requirements, one seed producer reflected that we are facing the potential stagnation of organic seed usage and a weakening in the resiliency and public perception of the organic produce market. Another group noted that the transgression of excluded methods into organic systems continues to create an unjust playing field with a burden falling squarely on the shoulders of growers and markets that do not benefit from and in fact are harmed by the presence of these excluded methods.
Here I would echo the notion that the best way to prevent excluded method transgressions and seed supply problems is to grow our investment in certified organic seed.
I was happy to hear that stakeholders have elevated this issue as a priority and thank you to Dr Tucker for reflecting the concern in the program update yesterday. Farmers and producer groups were also in full support of the passing of the proposal also suggesting the amendment to the language.
In conclusion, stakeholders agree that the determinations for women were both techniques are to be allowed or excluded as outlined in the proposal language are correct with this minor adjustment as you can see on the slide.
Brian Caldwell: Thank you, Mindee, for your work on this and your intended work into the future. As we move forward, I want to point out that the definition of Excluded Methods talks about…variety of methods used to genetically modify by means that are not possible naturally…it’s the means, not the end that they are talking about. Sometimes, a genetic modification could happen naturally, but it is the MEANS, not the END that we are focused on. Just an observation that I wanted to make.
Amy Bruch: One comment that really echoed with me throughout our whole work agenda, is the importance of elevating these outside of the handbook so that we have some meat for regulations.
Wood Turner: Giving props to Mindee and the purpose she has for this work.
Javier Zamora: This is where I find myself at a crossroads. I am trying to understand what exactly this wording change will mean. To me, it feels like there is some sort of need for me to have some example of what they are talking about. When you listen to some of the comments—advancing plant propagation for something that could potentially happen in 50 years and you are going to speed the process—it sounds like GMO to me. I am going to need some help to really understand what exactly this excluded method is trying to accomplish and who is really asking for this change.
Mindee Jeffery: Is your question specifically asking about the word change in the proposal? Or would you like a larger overview of EM?
Javier Zamora: I would really like to hear what the Board is being asked to look at or change?
Mindee Jeffery: In this specific instance, how biotechnology has progress and how it applies the technology and how it has progressed so fast, I just didn’t get the words right with “recombinant DNA” and the suggested wording covers better… the in vitro nucleic acid technologies is a better update because now we need to use what they’re using the technologies in more subtle ways inside the cell.
Dilip Nandwani: First, nucleic acids are RNA and DNA in the scientific world, so there is not doubt about that. If we change the term from recombinant DNA technology, it is helpful to us in the organic community. 20-30 years ago, we had only DNA technology, but now we have RNA technologies, as well. Nucleic acids are DNA and RNA, so this is the correct term that we should be using. The second part of Javier’s question is how we go about this…
Mindee Jeffrey: It’s complicated how we deal with excluded methods. We have the definition and because the tech has moved so much the goal is to try and keep up with technological progress. In this instance thank you to Dilip for your expertise.
Motion to accept the proposal on excluded methods determinations for cell and protoplast fusion.
The NOSB recommends the NOP develop a formal Guidance document to include the above Definitions, Criteria, Excluded and Allowed Methods tables as developed by previous Board Proposals in 2016, with the addition of the following:
1. Cell Fusion
- The NOSB recommends the NOP add Cell Fusion to the table of Excluded Methods when the donor and the recipient cells are outside taxonomic plant families and/or when either is derived using techniques of recombinant DNA technology; with notes on the exception for use when donor and recipient cells are within the same taxonomic plant families.
- The NOSB recommends that Cell Fusion be added to the table of Allowed Methods with notes limiting the use to when the donor and recipient cells are within taxonomic plant families, and neither are derived from techniques of recombinant DNA technology.
2. Protoplast Fusion
- The NOSB recommends the NOP add Protoplast Fusion to the table of Excluded Methods, when either the donor or the recipient cells are outside taxonomic plant families and/or when either is derived using techniques of recombinant DNA technology; with notes on the exception for use when donor and/or recipient cells are within the same taxonomic plant families.
- The NOSB recommends that Protoplast Fusion be added to the table of Allowed Methods with notes limiting the use to when the donor and recipient cells are within taxonomic plant families, and neither are derived from techniques of recombinant DNA technology.
Subcommittee Vote: Motion by: Mindee Jeffery Second: Logan Petrey
- Yes: 15 No: 0 Absent: 0 Abstain: 0 Recuse: 0
Day 2 of the Spring 2022 NOSB meeting was closed at 5:20pm ET.
Thursday, April 28, 2022: Spring NOSB Meeting, Day 3
Chair Nate Powell-Palm calls the meeting to order at 12:00pm ET, does a roll-call of the NOSB, and an icebreaker conversation.
Crops Subcommittee (CS)
Proposal: Highly Soluble Nitrogen Fertilizers
Context: non-synthetic processes to produce highly soluble fertilizers have been developed. The recent NOSB vote to prohibit ammonia extracts is an example of when a new material, meeting the organic definition of naturally derived, enters the organic marketplace without a review process as to whether the material complies with OFPA criteria. Future processes will likely be developed for new, highly soluble nitrogen fertilizers. Therefore, it is critical that restrictions on the use of these materials occur before they can be reviewed and become widely used. If, after review, the NOSB determines that the use of a particular material falls within organic production standards, that material could be exempted from any restriction on the National List and allowed for use…
NOTE: The motion for this proposal is to add at § 205.105: nitrogen fertilizers with a C: N ratio of 3:1 or less, including those individual components of a blended fertilizer formulation, are limited unless use is restricted to a cumulative total use of 20% of crop needs.
Amy Bruch: I want to recognize Steve’s efforts in making this proposal take shape. He also participated in the comment process and continues to express how important the organic industry is.
Giving some history, before diving into some of the stakeholder comments. So just as a recap the vote of the fall, the NOSB voted to prohibit ammonia extracts. This is an example of when a new material meeting organic definition of naturally derived in terms of the organic marketplace without a review process as to whether the material complies with OFPA
Today, this HSN proposal which is actually practice standard and not the prohibition of a material. It is in response to the NOSB and other stakeholders concerns that this new emerging category of non-synthetic highly soluble nitrogen fertilizers that fall outside of the definition of ammonia extracts will be developed in the future. Having no limits or restrictions. Prior to being circulated in use.
So as a commenter stated last fall: highly soluble nitrogen sources cannot be addressed in a vacuum. We can’t look at these substances one at a time because actually there is going to be a proliferation of them [in the marketplace]. We must take a broader approach to limit highly soluble nitrogen sources as a whole and not substance by substance.
The program history and precedents dating back to when the final rule was approved in 2000. The NOP agreed with the NOSB recommendation and put specific regulation of subsets of substances of highest solubility. The NOSB has also set precedents with certain substances including sodium nitrate and others, by prohibiting them or putting restrictions for use. The NOP advised vigilance in the approval of all liquid fertilizer products in and an official guidance was issued in relation to nitrogen liquid fertilizers that had an analysis of greater than 3%.
Yesterday we spent some time discussing the handbook, versus actual regulation…so today what we’re discussing what couldn’t be anticipated by this is a very new emerging category. The rationale for the practice standard [in this proposal] is basically to prevent the widespread use of non-synthetic highly scalable nitrogen sources, while allowing for restricted use of these materials in critical situations (which was an important component vocalized by our farmer stakeholders). An example of a “critical situation” is actually abnormal weather.
In general, the comments from longtime organic organizations growers and even a manufacturer of natural sodium nitrate tended to be in favor of limiting highly soluble nitrogen fertilizers based on organic principles of enhancing soil biological processes.
A few things that this proposal clarified: Because this was sent back to subcommittee last fall clarifications included the wording: we changed “Nitrogen products” to “nitrogen fertilizers” and we clarified how fertilizer blends were calculated and why that component was important. Clarification on the calculations [was also done for this proposal]; many examples were included several certifiers and farmers mentioned that with that the calculations were clear.
Some certifiers mentioned that additional guidance from the NOP could clarify placement [in the regulations]; the proposal is indicating this practice standard be placed at Section 205.105.
Ultimately the placement will be left up to the NOP, but the intent is that this listing applies equally to all producers of food crops.
For additional areas that I want to discuss before we wrap this up: the relationship to OFPA. It was determined with ammonia extracts that the use of highly stable nitrogen fertilizers may not be compatible with organic production.
Many commenters noted that the unrestricted use of HSN fertilizers runs counter to organic principles outlined in regulations and pointed to environmental concerns, while others say there’s a need for more consistent research specifically on organic land. As a commenter mentioned: the NOSB should not restrict the ability of farmers to develop the best organic system plan for their site-specific conditions.
As a reminder, the individual’s OSP (the organic system plan) defines how [they] remain in compliance with organic standards, it doesn’t set the organic standards solubility. The subcommittee spent a lot of time discussing and there were several public comments about solubility versus 3:1 requirement in general for solubility, finding a percentage above which a limit is triggered is actually difficult to justify and becomes difficult to test for using a seed.
The ratio (3:1) seems more complicated but actually makes setting a limit easier. Highly soluble nitrogen fertilizers contain mostly ammonia or nitrate forms of nitrogen. These forms do not have carbon associated with them and are immediately plant available and fall below a three to one seed in ratio organic products with greater than 3:1 C:N ratio fit into the category of materials that require soil biotic transformation to note these protein and amino acids structures cannot be built if there are fewer than three carbons to one nitrogen, the live return was also mentioned, quite a bit in public comments and oral comments. The law of return is important and essential to the organic way of farming but organic farming as we’ve heard in other material discussions, is not the industry’s way spin rules and standards foster clear expectations and are in place to protect the integrity of the organic industry and define what can and cannot be recycled.
Lastly, execution and implementation. I do recognize that there were some comments made discussing additional burdens in implementation. However, again a crop advisor, some certifiers and farmers during oral comments said that the calculations were clear and resembled the steps taken for sodium nitrate. The proposal indicates that certifiers or material review organizations could develop a list of unrestricted allowed materials that could be referenced to avoid continual analysis, well as certifiers compensated of these products if we don’t receive the information about these products. We just don’t approve them last week also would made a pretty impactful comment at our public comments just saying that bar for approval should be very high.
In conclusion, and this is a practice standard which is intended for all farms to prevent the widespread use of new non-synthetic highly soluble nitrogen fertilizers, while also allowing for restricted use of these materials in critical situations expressed by farmers, I leave you with the words of one farmer, the intent and goals of organic agriculture have helped to develop agricultural systems that will provide food over the long term in ways that build our ecosystems not reduce them.
Organic practices are not simply a way of trying to maximize food production now: but they are in place to maintain food production over the long term while building and protecting the resources required to grow the food. Please stop, take a step back and think about what an organic system means to you as you consider your vote.
Rick Greenwood: Thanks for a great overview. Opening up to comments and discussion from the Board.
Wood Turner: I wanted to ask the question – there were some comments that have indicated about the bookkeeping burden that is created by this proposal on the farmer. It was hard for me to get my head around those comments. I would appreciate some thoughts on that. This had not been an issue that I was concerned about, so to hear commenters talk about that brought it to my attention.
Amy Bruch: I invite the other farmer members on our Board to weigh in on this, as well. Wide range of comments on that issue indicating that every nitrogen fertilizer will have to be analyzed to the extreme of we will just check a box that says we don’t use this. This is not geared toward traditional sources of fertility that farmers are using. It is geared to sodium nitrate and some o f the new complex blends that are coming down the pipeline. It can be very simple. Where it does get a little complicated would be in the materials that are complex – where there are multiple components. We need to deconstruct these materials into their components and figure out what each component contributes to the 3:1 ratio. If one is above, that is where the restriction comes into play. That is where the extra work happens. For me and my farm, these are cost prohibitive for me to use and we have to be resourceful in other ways to economically produce our crops. Others that need to use these will need to know what they are putting on their farms, and a certifier will need to understand what they are putting on their farms.
Nate Powell-Palm: Any burden realized from this will be on certifiers. Certifiers do the materials review. This is not a farmer burden. Full stop.
Liz Graznak: As a farmer, whenever I want to add a new product, it doesn’t matter what it is, I submit that product request to my certifier and they do the work to ensure it is able to be approved. I do not feel it is going to be any extra work for me other than what I’m already doing.
Allison Johnson: I was looking at 205.105 last night, and I wanted to highlight that it is really where the core approach to inputs in materials live. It is where the overarching input on synthetics live. To me, it is a big deal to add something to 105, but I do think it is an appropriate place for this. This is a signal that fundamentally we are not focusing on quick fix input. We are focusing on things that build soil health over time, so this would be added as a core principle.
Javier Zamora: This is a touchy subject for organic growers. I’m thinking of the small-to-mid-size against the larger growers. It’s not just the nitrogen in the fish. I think it is a little more beyond the nitrogen that is being included in this new way of getting nutrients and nitrogen in this case. I think there are some really good certifiers that look at details on how it is made and what the advantage on different ways of growing crops is. It puts a burden on them, and also makes it more flexible for the ones that are not enforcing the rules as good. Growers, we see new products coming out on the market and are being told that they are better – help us grow faster and give better yields – sometimes not really knowing how these products are made. Ratios sometimes mean very little to us. We just want to make sure it works, but we might be adding something that will not be beneficial for the environment. This is where we need members who understand how these nutrients and nitrogen are created and how it is being utilized and might be giving a leg up to the larger growers versus the small family grower that does not have it as available to them. We have to think of many things. We need to listen to everyone. I am still a little concerned about how the whole ratio will work and what the burden will be on growers. I’m glad Nate is saying it will be on the certifier.
Logan Petrey: I was the one that voted “no” on this [previously]. I want to say that just because a grower uses or has a need for HSN does not mean that cover crops and crop rotations are not used. That seems to be a misconception. It might be cost prohibitive for certain types of growers, but it is just as cost prohibitive for us to have leafy greens that are not saleable. I believe in the holistic system and the 20% limitation. My hesitation for voting that in is who decides what the crop needs are. The references that we have are from universities that might be way behind. We do the 20% with sodium nitrate already. But my hesitation is going to be who is going to tell me what the limitation is. It is going to be a negotiation with the farmer. I’m okay with that. As long as there is a discussion with the grower, what are you trying to obtain, that makes sense. Grimmway agrees with the 20%. It’s not as debatable as the other petition that we had. We still use cover crops and other things, it’s just a different farming system that requires something very quickly, and the crop loss timing can happen within a few days, and the release curve on these naturals can take a few weeks.
Kyla Smith: As Nate pointed out, certifiers will probably be the most impacted. I would say that depending on a particular type of operation and what you grow, you may or may not be impacted by this. As a certifier, we have to apply all of the parts of the regulations to all of the operations to figure out where the impact is, so that is the burden that we carry. I feel that with a lot of things it does fall to the certifier to implement and enforce. Because of that, I’m always looking at what the impact is that this is going to have and is it worth it? SOE, there is going to be TONS of stuff for certifiers to figure out. For me, that is my lens, and that is what I’m constantly trying to address. What is the impact to the organic industry as a whole and will it be worth it? The answer may be yes. That’s the seat I’m sitting in.
I saw in the public comment a lot of confusion around whether or not guano was a focus on this. Seemed to fall on both sides of the fence. Question I’ve been getting from certifiers and how to specifically evaluate that. Can anyone speak to that?
Rick Greenwood: I also live in a regulated world from FDA with a medical device company. There is always pain with new regulations, but that’s the cost of doing business.
Kyla Smith: I totally agree with you, but there is a lot of talk around keeping the cost of certification low, so that is the balance point. We as certifiers need to implement all of these things that will increase the cost of us doing business, and the way that we can increase our costs is to pass that along to operators. There is a balance point there that we are all talking about already.
Rick Greenwood: Agree. It does cost a lot more money every time someone comes up with a great idea. Maybe that is where NOP can come in.
Nate Powell-Palm: Bridge between Javier and Kyla. I think one thing that certifiers do really well is material review. To Javier’s concern that some certifiers might enforce this differently than others, the consistency in this area across certifiers is admirable. I think this gives good boundaries to certifiers and in doing so, they make a more fair marketplace. As Kyla said, this is a lot of work, and I appreciate the certifiers that are eager to jump on this and work this out.
Carolyn Dimitri: Logan, can you talk more about the scenario that you gave—crop specific, region specific?
Logan Petrey: Specific to all of that. You will have growers in very arid climates that will not need a rescue treatment. It does not happen with us every season. We do not use it with every planting that we have. Condition would be a spinach, which is a 40-day crop, two weeks before harvest we get 2” of rain, and within a few days you watch is turn yellow and you need a HSN fertilizer. It is really hard to bring a crop that is only 40-days old to recovery. The timeframe is crucial.
Carolyn Dimitri: You told us that your company is moving its production because of climate concerns. Could we draw the conclusion that as we see climate change affecting agricultural over the next several decades that the use for this might become more important?
Logan Petrey: I have been to a lot of conferences where west coast growers think about how do we get to the east coast. Yes, logistically we are dealing with the conditions that you already have. I would say yes.
Brian Caldwell: There were a few comments that were specifically focused on the wording of the motion. It says these materials with a C:N ratio of 3:1 or less are limited unless… but I think what is meant is that they are restricted to 20% of crop needs. A little redundant in how it reads now. Do you see what I’m saying? The wording is a little clumsy. Could we fix that in the cover letter?
Amy Bruch: Yes, I did see that as well with some commenters. My opinion, and that can be confirmed, is that the intent of the motion is there. To make it more clear on a non-substantive change is something we can do. The intent is that it would be prohibited and then be restricted to a cumulative total of 20% of crop needs.
Mindee Jeffery: I see this proposal as functional compromise. Organic farmers are conducting the symphony of the soil. I really see us as being on the yellow brick road with this proposal.
Dilip Nandwani: My comment goes to the roots of our principles of organic ag. If the higher source of nitrogen is coming from an off-farm input, we have to keep that in mind. If it is really low, we have to think about that. The principle of using on-farm input, it is where we are looking into that and the balance into the quantity, low vs high, is what we want to keep in mind.
Amy Bruch: I appreciate the comments and the diverse panel of farmers and certifier point of view. In general, I think that was a great term that Mindee mentioned – functional compromise. Regionally, there are experiences that happen that isn’t a 1-to-1 comparison for farmers. This points to a comprehensive system and supplementation when those moments do occur. I think the intent of the motion is very clear. I want to have everyone think about the fact that right now, these are unregulated, and we need to think about putting more guardrails in place. Right now, there are no rules or regulations and up to the interpretation of certifiers. This gives some guidance. In terms of materials, there is a great chart that was put into the proposal with a delineation. Guano is right on the edge, and that one is probably the greatest of all materials that are in circulation. Reevaluation of these substances every year does not need to take place. This is to put some boundaries on materials that are unregulated currently. This is no different than what we did with Excluded Methods yesterday, and what we did with biobased films previously.
National List Motion: Motion to add at § 205.105: nitrogen fertilizers with a C: N ratio of 3:1 or less, including those individual components of a blended fertilizer formulation, are limited unless use is restricted to a cumulative total use of 20% of crop needs.
Motion by: Amy Bruch Seconded by: Brian Caldwell
- Yes: 15 No: 0 Abstain: 0 Absent: 0 Recuse: 0
Proposal: Carbon Dioxide – petitioned
Logan Petrey: For carbon dioxide: we received a petition requesting to add synthetic carbon dioxide to a 205.601(a) to allow for the use as an outside disinfectant sanitizer and to (j) as plant or soil amendments. Carbon dioxide is understood to be a material with inherently low risk, and is also approved as a processing aid.
The use of it in soils with high pH by applying water with a reduced pH can increase nutrient availability and increase plant health. Additionally, the activity of carbon dioxide and water can help prevent clogging of irrigation systems biology and other plant contaminants. The water pH adjustment can be manually controlled, as well as automatically controlled by adding a pH controller that adjusts the CO2 injection to maintain target pH values.
Alternative uses mentioned were sulfur burners and citric acid, because water pH cannot drop below 5.0 and carbon dioxide is uses it as an acidic fire.
This method may be considered more secure as a pH adjustment compared to alternatives which we did see that some commenters orally and on the written comments suggest that as well.
Carbon dioxide is prepared as a byproduct of manufacturing of line. During the burning of limestone combustion of carbonaceous materials, also from fermenting processes which would be this you know where we get some non-synthetic sources. The question has also been: why don’t we use non synthetic sources? Some of the commoners were great to mention that the infrastructure to support and logistically store that carbon dioxide is not available, and so therefore the necessity of synthetic is there. We also see that with the, with the handling carbon dioxide material.
One commenter was completely against the addition. Three commenters were against the addition without the annotation or without an annotation demanding that the material, be manufacture strictly from a byproduct (kind of similar squid byproducts [annotation]). And so that was a recommended annotation. Then five commoners weren’t supportive of this material, as stated, one commenter (QCS) was in support this material however and stated a strong concern for the lacking discussion of carbon dioxide at 205.601(j) as a plant or soil amendment recommending that the proposal be sent back to subcommittee. I know that’s been some of the concerns and some of the comments questions and board members so are there any other comments?
Brian Caldwell: I agree with some of the comments that said that the use for CO2 as an algicide or sanitizer was really well covered, and seems like a positive decision there, but how it could be used as a plant or soil amendment is unclear. If we pass this as is, it seems like we are going to pass it without any discussion, and I’m uncomfortable with that.
Nate Powell-Palm: I want to give a shout out to Logan who took on a proposal early in her career and slayed it. It is a lot of work, and you have been stellar. Thank you for all that you put into this.
Dilip Nandwani: You are talking about the solid, as well as the gaseous form of CO2?
Logan Petrey: Yes.
Mindee Jeffery: I feel similarly about (j). If we do more work on this, I will need help what the natural uses are so that I can better understand what the synthetic uses are.
Kim Huseman: I’m getting the impression that there…and reading through the comments…I have similar concerns with it as a plant or soil amendment and how that is incorporated. I’m thinking this is a back to subcommittee item.
Rick Greenwood: That is what I was going to suggest. I would like to call for a vote to see if we want to bring it back to subcommittee.
Kyla Smith: Clarification: The motion is to send the whole thing back?
Logan Petrey: Yes.
Motion to send this petition back to Subcommittee. Rick motions to send back to subcommittee; seconded by Kim.
- Vote: Yes: 15 No: 0 Abstain: 0 Absent: 0 Recuse: 0
Crops 2024 Sunset Substances Reviews
Reference: §205.601(b) As herbicides, weed barriers, as applicable. (1) Herbicides, soap-based—for use in farmstead maintenance (roadways, ditches, right of ways, building perimeters) and ornamental crops.
Technical Report: 1996 TAP; 2015 TR. Petition: N/A Past NOSB Actions: Actions: 1996 recommendation; 11/2005 sunset recommendation; 10/2010 sunset recommendation; 10/2015 sunset recommendation; 11/2017 sunset recommendation.
Recent Regulatory Background: Sunset renewal notice effective 3/15/2017 (82 FR 14420). Sunset renewal notice effective 10/30/2019 (84 FR 53577)
Sunset date: 10/30/2024
Rick Greenwood: These have been around for a long time. They are reasonably popular, but I sometimes wonder how effective they are, having used them myself. Written comments were positive for keeping them on, with no one strictly against them. They are basically a fatty acid that has been turned into soap. There is general agreement globally. There really aren’t any environmental concerns for them. A use of something that is fairly benign.
Biodegradable biobased mulch film
Reference: §205.601(b) As herbicides, weed barriers, as applicable. (2) Mulches. (iii) Biodegradable biobased mulch film as defined in §205.2. Must be produced without organisms or feedstock derived from excluded methods.
Technical Report: 2012 TR; 2015 Report; NOP Policy Memorandum 15-1; 2016 Supplemental TR. Petition: 2012.
Past NOSB Actions: Actions: 10/2012 recommendation; 11/2017 sunset recommendation.
Recent Regulatory Background: Sunset renewal notice effective 3/15/2017 (82 FR 14420). Sunset renewal notice effective 10/30/2019 (84 FR 53577)
Sunset date: 10/30/2024
Logan Petrey: Picked up from Asa; hot topic last year, when we voted on an annotation change. This is used to suppress weeds, conserve water, and help with row crops. Commenters have felt that this listing should remain, even though there isn’t any available at 100%. During Fall 2021, we voted for 80%. This is one of those that is a compromise and will help with the use of plastic. We are hoping that innovation really takes over in the marketplace and people will really want to get to that 100%. There is still no 100% available.
Reference: §205.601(e) As insecticides (including acaricides or mite control). (3) Boric acid – structural pest control, no direct contact with organic food or crops.
Technical Report: 1995 TAP. Petition: N/A Past NOSB Actions: 04/1995 minutes and vote; 11/2005 sunset recommendation; 10/2010 sunset recommendation; 10/2015 sunset recommendation; 11/2017 sunset recommendation. Recent Regulatory Background: Sunset renewal notice effective 3/15/2017 (82 FR 14420). Sunset renewal notice effective 10/30/2019 (84 FR 53577)
Sunset date: 10/30/2024
Wood Turner: As insecticides (including acaricides or mite control) and structural pest control, with no direct contact with organic food or crops. Material we heard from many in the community about its necessity in controlling ants and roaches in particular. Healthy debate over the years over the fact it’s a material that is not entirely benign, though GRAS. Preferable to other alternatives for these uses. Was general support for re-listing. One statement of opposition; one asked to look at material and annotate it to clarify it’s use as a gel and not in other formulations.
Reference: §205.601(e) As insecticides (including acaricides or mite control). (9) Sticky traps/barriers.
Technical Report: 1995 TAP. Petition: N/A Past NOSB Actions: 10/1995 minutes and vote; 11/2005 sunset recommendation; 10/2010 sunset recommendation; 10/2015 sunset recommendation; 11/2017 sunset recommendation.
Recent Regulatory Background: Sunset renewal notice effective 3/15/2017 (82 FR 14420). Sunset renewal notice effective 10/30/2019 (84 FR 53577)
Sunset date: 10/30/2024
Rick Greenwood: Used in pest control and monitoring and used with traps as a production aid. Does not come into contact with food. Used in limited quantities and sometimes on tree trunks. Listing covers a wide range of traps and coatings. Some of the traps do have petroleum wax, but overall, a very benign material. Generally positive comments on the written comments.
Reference: §205.601(h) As slug or snail bait. (2) Elemental sulfur.
Technical Report: 1995 TAP; 2018 TR. Petition: 2017. Past NOSB Actions: 04/2018 recommendation. Recent Regulatory Background: Added to National List on 11/22/2019 (84 FR 56673).
Sunset Date: 11/22/2024
Brian Caldwell: The situation with sulfur, it is used in a lot of different applications in organic agriculture. This was a new addition in 2019 as slug or snail bait. In terms of the comments, basically there were 5 in favor of relisting, 1 against, and 1 that said a review was needed. A couple said that even though it wasn’t widely used according to certifier surveys, since it was only available since 2019, we need more time for the grower community to see if they will use it more. The somewhat tricky issue comes in with the “inert” ingredients. These products are made with basically 99% “inerts.” This once again raises the importance of us being able to deal with “inerts” in these formulations. The reason it is so important here is that the sulfur use seems to be very safe and have little impact. There is another product – ferric phosphate – used for the same purpose. But wat has come up is that one of the inerts that is used for that is on the old list 4, so it is Defacto in use and approved, but it makes the material toxic to dogs, and there have been some issues where dogs have gotten sick. In fact, the history of this is that the ferric phosphate product was brought up for relisting under sunset, and almost voted won, but it was felt that there was almost no alternative. Since no till was becoming more popular, and that leads to more slugs and snails, we wanted a product. With this sulfur in use in organic, that may change that. BUT, the fact that 99% of this product are inerts, and in the ferric phosphate the interaction with the inert has made the product toxic to dogs, this is an important issue. It is unknown what the 99% of inerts are…it is like a 99% black box. The actual elemental sulfur active ingredient in these products seems very benign, is safe, and has low environmental impact, but we are once again commended to really do something about our inert situation. That is kind of a side issue, not the focus of this material, but it brings it up very clearly.
Rick Greenwood: We went through the same thing with the other snail baits and iron. We struggle with inerts – they are not inert (mis-named at the very beginning). Looking at key ingredient (iron or sulfur) is how we evaluate these.
Reference: §205.601(i) As plant disease control. (2) Coppers, fixed —copper hydroxide, copper oxide, copper oxychloride, includes products exempted from EPA tolerance, Provided, That, copper-based materials must be used in a manner that minimizes accumulation in the soil and shall not be used as herbicides.
Technical Report: 1995 TAP; 2011 TR. Petition: N/A
Past NOSB Actions: 10/1995 minutes and vote; 11/2005 sunset recommendation; 4/2011 sunset recommendation; 10/2015 sunset recommendation; 11/2017 sunset recommendation. Recent Regulatory Background: Sunset renewal notice effective 3/15/2017 (82 FR 14420). Sunset renewal notice effective 10/30/2019 (84 FR 53577)
Sunset date: 10/30/2024
Reference: §205.601(i) As plant disease control. (3) Copper sulfate – Substance must be used in a manner that minimizes accumulation of copper in the soil.
Technical Report: 1995 TAP; 2011 TR. Petition: N/A Past NOSB Actions: 10/1995 minutes and vote; 11/2005 sunset recommendation; 4/2011 sunset recommendation; 10/2015 sunset recommendation; 11/2017 sunset recommendation. Recent Regulatory Background: Sunset renewal notice effective 3/15/2017 (82 FR 14420). Sunset renewal notice effective 10/30/2019 (84 FR 53577)
Sunset date: 10/30/2024
Jerry D’Amore: With your permission, I’m going to do both of these at the same time. Coppers, both as plant disease control. They share the same annotation and the same 1995 TAP and 2011 TR. Our stakeholder questions for both are the same. I presented copper sulfate at Fall 2021 for two distinct uses in aquatic rice systems, and they were given another 5 years. During the 2021 sunset process, there was a relatively small, but very persistent group that insisted that we are rubberstamping coppers through the process. The research priority highlights the concerns that were brought up:
- Comprehensive system-based approach for managing individual crops in a way that decreases the need for copper-based materials including research crop rotations, sanitation practices. Plant spacing and other factors that influence disease
- Breeding plants that are resistant to diseases that copper controls.
- Developing alternative formulations for materials containing copper, so that the amount of elemental coppers is reduced.
- Developing biological agents that work on the same diseases copper is now used on
We have asked for a new TR for these two sunsets. The lead paragraph to the 4-page request for a TR reads as follows: The review of the 2011 TR highlighted 5 areas that should be expanded on and updated with latest research: human health concerns, soil health and microbiota, application and accumulation in the soil and aquatic systems, and alternatives. In response to this meeting, there were 30 stakeholder comments, with the overwhelming majority written. There was not one comment written or oral that advocated for removing copper during this review process. There were several that would like to see more research for eventual removal.
Javier Zamora: Copper is a thing that growers need, especially cane berry, apple growers, etc. I think it’s a tool that we need but we need to think of the future because of the remnants in the soil. The NOSB has to consider that and not keep pushing it for future NOSB members and generations to deal with.
Rick Greenwood: Agreed that’s why we asked for the new TR and research priorities.
Polyoxin D zinc salt
Reference: §205.601(i) As plant disease control. (11) Polyoxin D zinc salt.
Technical Report: 2012 TR; 2017 Limited Scope TR. Petition: 2016 (Addendum #1, #2, #3). Past NOSB Actions: 04/2018 recommendation. Recent Regulatory Background: Added to National List on 11/22/2019 (84 FR 56673).
Sunset Date: 11/22/2024
Brian Caldwell: Synthetic but is based on natural substance from soil microbes. The zinc is added to prevent it from leaching and make it more effective as fungicide. Comments 11 for relisting and one urging more review. The overwhelming statements from growers is that I is effective – that’s important. Products like this are of natural origin, sometimes needing some tweaking like the zinc salt, but are becoming more common. More research over the, and substances like this have the potential to limit copper uses. Some questions that we put out to community: is there concern that cross-resistance to this product and human health concerns? We didn’t get much response. Cross resistance to products that don’t exist is not an issue, but if these products start to have uses for human health it would be an issue. Essentially the responses we got are that I’s benign and very effective. One comment talked about a study with chromosomal aberrations in hamster cells, but the primary source in that was cited in an EPA document where they found several other studies that contradicted that. According to the EPA that’s not something to be concerned about. We welcome more comments on this from wider organic community – seems to be promising pest control material.
Logan Petrey: I use this. It is a great material. To talk about the copper reduction, I probably use 80% less copper for sprays because of this material. It is targeted for fungicides, so this reduces the use of copper for this reason. We have really improved the health of the farm with this, as it doesn’t kill the natural bacteria that we want on the leaf. Also, I have not seen any phytotoxicity, whereas if we use copper consistently, we do see some.
Reference: §205.601(j) As plant or soil amendments. 3) Humic acids-naturally occurring deposits, water and alkali extracts only.
Technical Report: 1996 TAP; 2006 TR; 2012 TR (oxidized lignite/humic acid derivatives). Petition: N/A Past NOSB Actions: 09/1996 minutes and vote; 4/2006 sunset recommendation; 10/2010 sunset recommendation; 10/2015 sunset recommendation; 11/2017 sunset recommendation. Recent Regulatory Background: Sunset renewal notice effective 3/15/2017 (82 FR 14420). Sunset renewal notice effective 10/30/2019 (84 FR 53577)
Sunset date: 10/30/2024
Amy Bruch: Naturally occurring deposits. Use is soil or foliar applied. Humic acids affect soil fertility by making micronutrients more available to plants – mainly as catalyst. Widespread use of this substance in the community. Environmental issues; couple commenters commented on the harm of mining. A lot of commenters in favor, many stated it provides benefits to their farms. One certifier noted 718 members had this on their OSP. Helps those liter solids maintain nutritional benefit. However, there is a lack of analysis on the efficacy of these products. Additional thing: looking at actual extractant itself – not a limit on the type of extractant used. Potassium hydroxide is the most common extractant. Other extractants don’t have frameworks for assessment. Looking at the framework of synthetic extractants is important and we can take that back to Subcommittee for review. Previous NOSB actions found this compliant with OFPA.
Javier Zamora: Can you share what would be the difference between usage and the carbon dioxide product – seems like they both enhance nutrient available to plants in soil?
Logan Petrey: We will know more in the fall when we request more info about CO2.
Amy Bruch: Awaiting your deep dive on that Logan. In response to Javier: Humic acids can be applied in liquid or dry form; comments say it helps reduce N fertilizers, and reduces toxins, and works on soil structure overall.. It is not a fertilizer, more of a conditioner.
Dilip Nandwani: I’ve been working on humic acid research for a few years. Javier asked about little information about you make humic acid and I’ve been working on you make theses acids in research past few years and I’ll just add some information for his sake, and they call it might be helpful. Humic acid substances – you know it’s a broad, class of organic compounds, and it derived from unification of digging on materials and microbial residues that includes fulvic acid uric acid and humic formations. Fulvic acid is also available commercially as well as humic acid. there is a lot of chemistry in it: [fulvic acid is] soluble under all pH conditions and the humic acids are soluble at higher pH, but it becomes insoluble at pH lower than 2. Some benefits: improves the fertilizer, efficiency, or reducing the soil compaction. Also, it has a direct improvement in the overall plant biomass and effect on plant growth. The use of unique substances can increase these root growth and uptake of some nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium and magnesium. Increases tolerance to a biotic stress, such as salinity. It comes in microbial and non microbial.
Micronutrients: Soluble boron products
Reference: §205.601(j) As plant or soil amendments. (7) Micronutrients—not to be used as a defoliant, herbicide, or desiccant. Those made from nitrates or chlorides are not allowed. Micronutrient deficiency must be documented by soil or tissue testing or other documented and verifiable method as approved by the certifying agent. (i) Soluble boron products.
Technical Report: 2010 TR (Micronutrients). Petition: N/A Past NOSB Actions: 04/1995 minutes and vote; 11/2005 sunset recommendation; 10/2010 sunset recommendation; 10/2015 sunset recommendation; 10/2015 micronutrient annotation change; 11/2017 sunset recommendation. Recent Regulatory Background: Sunset renewal notice effective 3/15/2017 (82 FR 14420). Sunset renewal notice effective 1/28/2019 (83 FR 66559)
Sunset Date: 01/28/2024
Amy Bruch: Deficiency in boron is common. This has been on NL since it was listed in 2000. Majority of comments are in favor of re-listing; minor input with major implications. It does help ability to correct nutrient deficiencies which is important in organic systems.
Micronutrients: Sulfates, carbonates, oxides, or silicates of zinc, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, and cobalt
Reference: §205.601(j) As plant or soil amendments. (7) Micronutrients—not to be used as a defoliant, herbicide, or desiccant. Those made from nitrates or chlorides are not allowed. Micronutrient deficiency must be documented by soil or tissue testing or other documented and verifiable method as approved by the certifying agent. (ii) Sulfates, carbonates, oxides, or silicates of zinc, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, and cobalt.
Technical Report: 2010 TR (Micronutrients). Petition: N/A Past NOSB Actions: 04/1995 minutes and vote; 11/2005 sunset recommendation; 10/2010 sunset recommendation; 10/2015 annotation change recommendation; 10/2015 sunset recommendation; 11/2017 sunset recommendation.
Recent Regulatory Background: Sunset renewal notice effective 3/15/2017 (82 FR 14420). Sunset renewal notice effective 1/28/2019 (83 FR 66559)
Sunset Date: 01/28/2024
Logan Petrey: Reviewed the reference noted above. Although these are micro, they are essential. Over 90% support in the written comments. They are required in very small quantities. Some are found in the soil, many producers find deficiencies of some or all on this list. Micronutrients are considered heavy metals, but the annotation prevents accumulation.
Dilip Nandwani: This is really nice to hear. There are some other micronutrients also. Are we going to present separately on them? They are also important – iodine?
Logan Petrey: Right, like silica. Does anyone know anything more on that? Are there sunsets on them?
Jared Clark: These are the synthetic versions of the micronutrients that are allowed. The nonsynthetic versions are allowed by virtue of them being nonsynthetic.
Vitamins C and E
Reference: §205.601(j) As plant or soil amendments. (9) Vitamins C, and E.
Technical Report: 1995 TAP; 2015 TR. Petition: N/A Past NOSB Actions: 10/1995 minutes and vote; 11/2005 sunset recommendation; 10/2010 sunset recommendation; 10/2015 sunset recommendation; 11/2017 sunset recommendation (relist C and E, remove B 1).
Sunset date: 10/30/2024
Wood Turner: TR as recently as 2015. Previously bundled with Vitamin B1. In the previous sunset review, B1 was recommended for removal from the List. There were some persistent comments to get B1 removed. This commenter also asked that C and E be removed. I would say that comments have been fairly limited on this. These are materials that we all know fairly well. I would say that the TR in 2015 was helpful in maintaining interest and keeping them on the list. There was a lack of practical information on these, and I think that was reflected in the comments. There was one particular commenter that focused on the question that we asked. That commenter indicated that Vitamin C is actually helping protect plants from smog damage, and alluded to the fact that protection from air pollution damage has some implications with climate change, as well, and cited research on this. The same commenter also supported keeping Vitamin E on the list, as well.
Rick Greenwood: Positive of looking at written and oral comments is getting other perspectives.
Reference: §205.601(j) As plant or soil amendments. (10) Squid byproducts—from food waste processing only. Can be pH adjusted with sulfuric, citric, or phosphoric acid. The amount of acid used shall not exceed the minimum needed to lower the pH to 3.5.
Technical Report: 2016 TR. Petition: 2015 (Amendment #1). Past NOSB Actions: 04/2016 recommendation. Recent Regulatory Background: Added to National List on 01/28/2019 (83 FR 66559).
Sunset Date: 01/28/2024
Logan Petrey: Review Reference above. Background: squid are commercially harvested using nets above spawning grounds during mating season. They will die after reproduction. There Isn’t an environmental or biodiversity concern. Fisheries have management councils- catch limits, insurance, limitation on using flies to attract squid to ensure uninterrupted spawning. A mollusk, not a fish. In many areas they combined with fish, so squid is not specific.
Use is fertilizer 2-2-2—3-3-3. Commenters- 85% for the use as the annotation.
Reference: §205.602(d) Lead salts.
Technical Report: N/A Petition: N/A Past NOSB Actions: 04/1995 minutes and vote; 11/2005 sunset recommendation; 10/2010 sunset recommendation; 10/2015 sunset recommendation; 11/2017 sunset recommendation. Recent Regulatory Background: Sunset renewal notice effective 3/15/2017 (82 FR 14420). Sunset renewal notice effective 10/30/2019 (84 FR 53577)
Sunset date: 10/30/2024
Javier Zamora: Several public comments from public and certifiers, national organizations. Most of them are in favor of keeping lead salts on the list of prohibited substances. Lead salts are toxic to plants and can remain in the soil for 2000 years.
Rick Greenwood: Obviously we want this on the list as a prohibited substance.
Tobacco dust (nicotine sulfate)
Reference: §205.602(j) Tobacco dust (nicotine sulfate).
Technical Report: N/A Petition: N/A Past NOSB Actions: 04/1995 minutes and vote; 11/2005 sunset recommendation; 10/2010 sunset recommendation; 10/2015 sunset recommendation; 11/2017 sunset recommendation.
Sunset date: 10/30/2024
Logan Petrey: This has been on the prohibited list. There because a hazardous substance for OSHA. Has been used as a natural pesticide for pest control. All comments are to keep it prohibited.
Policy Development Subcommittee (PDS)
Mindee Jeffery, Chairperson
Proposal: PPM Updates – Public comment process (JD)
Change to comment public process (added language): Commenters shall refrain from including personal attacks or remarks that might impugn the character of any individual.
Jerry D’Amore: The proposal had its origins in a Spring 2021 DD. It was introduced as “amendments to the PPM to provide clarity and provide protocols for oral and written presentations” now a proposal for full board discussion.
5 stakeholder comments. 4 approving of work and 1 against. The opposing was concerned about terms and the use of the word “impugn.” One supporter was not happy with the word “impugn” and offered “malign” as an alternative.
Mostly regarded as minor clerical changes and encouraging a respectful environment. The opposing comment mentioned FACA. Mindee on FACA.
Mindee Jeffery: I took a look at FACA and looked through s. 10 for meeting conduct. A1 Open to public, A3 interested persons shall be permitted to attend appear before…the PPM are our reasonable rules and expectations under OFPA. This is an extension of what is already in written comments, and this produces alignment. Codifying a level of respect. Want to hear facts and data from stakeholders… just “keeping it classy.”
Jenny Tucker: I would like that become a new subtitle to PPM- keep it classy!
Kyla Smith: Distinction between “impugn” and “malign”- your thoughts on that?
Mindee Jeffrey: We all like the suggestion- reflecting consistency in PPM. We can put that in our back pocket and update it. Reflecting consistency, stick with wording as is.
Motion: Mindee; Seconded by Jerry.
- Yes: 15 No: 0 Abstain:0 Recuse:0 Absent: 0
Deferred Votes (Materials Subcommittee (MS))
Discussion Document: Tall Oil, distilled – petitioned
Questions posed to Stakeholders for discussion document:
1. Does distilled tall oil as an inert ingredient provide functionality that could be beneficial to organic producers? Could that vary between usage in crop production versus livestock production?
2. As the petitioner suggests, are there no other, or few other, time-release agents available for use in organic production?
3. The regulation wherein the EPA classifies DTO as a List 3 inert is obsolete; however, according to the technical report, the rate of application for the substance as outlined in the petition could function more like an active pesticide, not an inert or adjuvant. Does the projected rate of application contribute to the substance functioning as an inert or active ingredient? Should the NOSB develop an annotation limiting the application rate of inerts and adjuvants so as to ensure they function as such and not as an active ingredients or pesticides?
4. Can DTO as an inert function as an active insecticide, making it fall outside the scope of this petition?
Wood Turner: We have a discussion doc on DTO – petitioner interested in seeing DTO listed as a synthetic substance permitted in organic ag. Used as an inert and adjuvant “sticker” for use in other pesticides. This petition has gone through several rounds of documentation requests, we’ve had a TR on this. History: previous petition on DTO that was rejected, but it was tall oil specifically. Concerned in the TR that there was a lack of clarity between “crude” and “distilled” Tall Oil. Wanted to make sure they were distinctly represented and addressed separately. Importantly, the issue is that we have a material that is being petitioned that is intended to be used NOT as an active ingredient, to augment functionality. We’ve noted we have no process on how to evaluate inert ingredients. In the SC we’ve had discussions on this topic: looking at material on the merits for example. Is the material as we understand it actually functioning as an inert ingredient? Will the rates of application for this material allow it to function as active or inert? In the discussion document there is a typo: 3rd paragraph, inert vs. Active. The petitioner said that the use of DTO is NOT as an insecticide, but as an inert. But we are still working through those kinds of questions re: inerts.
We’ve learned a lot about this material despite not having a process. Potential or DTO to provide some benefits, including sequestration of pesticides and micronutrients from leaching into groundwater or out of soil. Other contexts where this material (food packaging) is considered GRAS. We have an open mind but we do not have a path forward on this. A lot of interest from the community on DTO; Commenters acknowledged complications for this substance. Some commenters suggested we should just reject the petition outright, as it is. Many responses want to see these kinds of materials move forward due to functional benefits. Interesting process to hear from community. But until we have a clear path on how to evaluate inert materials, we are in a limbo period; unfortunately, situation where petitioner if left hanging. We have no imperative on this or on how to manage this process.
No vote on DTO. Hope this is helpful for those who haven’t been involved in these discussions.
Mindee Jeffrey: I wanted to take a minute and appreciate the petitioner because I know we’ve gone back and gotten more info. I appreciate the number of written comments on this subject and expertise. I appreciate the oral comments. One of the best pieces of advice I got was to remember that regulations take time because it is good for society. I also wanted to appreciate Jenny’s advance notice of rulemaking on this topic. Where that goes, and how it dovetails with our process: when inerts comes back across the aisle.
Nate Powell-Palm: Question for Jenny: I think it was 2014- NOP asked NOSB for a process for reviewing anciallry substances. Rec came out in 2016. NOP was reviewing it. Wondering about an update.
Jenny Tucker: We have not moved forward with ancillary substances. No update. I believe ACA has done some kind of best practices document, or was working on one. This is where I’m going to get myself in trouble. I don’t know. I have not been heavily involved. Would someone on my team like to jump in? Phone a friend. Not on active work agenda. Before my time in my current role.
And to Wood’s point of having a procedure in place- would like to follow up after the meeting.
Amy Bruch: Something was mentioned about quantity applied of this. Inert not having insecticidal properties. Minimal amounts can equal a big punch. Gibberellic acid- plant growth regulator. composition is 10ths of a gram applied on an acre. Small amounts creating a big punch. Look into details and don’t put it up to chance that a low amount doesn’t have properties that can contribute to an insecticide.
Jared Clark: We had a discussion as SC on that issue. Added layer of complexity to our concern, due to the debate of it being actual inert or not.
Carolyn Dimitri: This seems very weird to me. Maybe this has already been done. Can someone give me a 3-sentence non-technical justification for why this would be helpful to farmers?
Wood Turner: Defer to any grower on this. My understanding is that it helps bind other active materials. It allows them to…. I don’t know.
Logan Petrey: It’s sticky. Not chelating, but something to that effect. Sticks to plant so it stays on there. Rain period- don’t want it to wash off. Don’t want to overhead irrigate. Or fog setting in.
Javier Zamora: I think with farmers, we refer to something like this as a sticker for whatever product we are applying to our crops just before the rains, hoping that it stays there longer so that the ingredient that we are applying can work. Also, any kind of sticker like this will leach out and will end up in the soil. My concerns and questions are how long will it stay there, will it disappear? What will be the effect on our soil or other plants around after the use of this sticker?
Kyla Smith: 2016 ancillary substances recommendation – while related, I believe these are separate topics. We do not have a review process for inerts, nor ancillary substances. Ancillary substances are used in processing. Inerts are used in crops. Hopefully the AMPR will help the inerts situation, and then we need to circle back around to see what the next steps are for the ancillary substances.
Mindee Jeffrey: The inerts one was where they tried to marry us into the EPA Safter Choice Program, and it didn’t work out. Good job, Wood. Thanks for taking on some really dense subjects. Appreciate you.
Kyla Smith: ACAs work on ancillary substances. Did some training. More than one way to go through this process, however, it didn’t get incorporated into the ACA best practices doc on materials review stuff because there was not consensus amongst the group.
Wood Turner: We are flagging some issues here at discussion doc level. Welcome any thoughts rom you o NOP – don’t know what our path is to bringing this to a proposal to the Fall. That’s where I am ending this.
Nate Powell-Palm: This entire discussion has highlighted some issues with how we can proceed with the process. It permeates all subcommittees.
NOSB will not be moving forward with the DTO petition at this time.
Compliance, Accreditation & Certification Subcommittee (CACS)
Oversight Improvements to Deter Fraud
Amy Bruch: Quantitative quick way to match production with area produced. Any questions or comments on part 2 of that discussion document which is the universal bill of lading- recordkeeping minimums so we can have a clear picture on farmer reconciliation- lot numbers, sales, to end users. Also from a certifier/inspector point of view for cross checks.
Nate Powell-Palm: You sell grain and a lot of different loads. What is a bill of lading and why is it relevant here.
Amy Bruch: BOL is essentially our way to track lots leaving the farm- crop year produced, which farm from, if in storage, which bin. Certifier info on sheet, contact info, type of crop. Significant pieces. Trailer seals. Growing food for the consumer, so that process is my lot tracking. I can go back into my system and see where things came from.
Nate Powell-Palm: When you have your lot number- captures info to buyers. In settlement statements from buyers, does that track through.
Amy Bruch: No- other producers also in same boat. Difficult to match up lot numbers from sales slip to settlement sheet from the buyer. Dates are the only way. Difficult when taking products cross state lines. Dates don’t always line up.
Nate Powell-Palm: It seems like there could be a bit of pressure applied through certification process. Buyers should be expecting these lot numbers to carry through more consistently.
Kyla Smith: Maybe this was more the intent of the discussion document than the actual wording being so hyper focused on the document of the BOL. I am thinking about maybe not all sectors use a BOL. I think maybe what is intended is what you are talking about Nate, that through-line of elements on all documents. I know in the SOE proposed rule there was some language to have further detail in the recordkeeping section to identify products as 100% organic, organic, or made with organic. I am wondering if perhaps we do not make it so specific?
Logan Petrey: With BOLs. Produce and grain. Very different type of industries. In veg, dealing with packages. Small packages and not bulk product. With grain, putting multiple fields in a single bin. I wouldn’t be able to separate that. On produce, planting in field by variety by crop. For food safety we can track lot number to GPS coordinate. Our farm is digitalized, loads up on the truck, purchase orders, then audit tracing. May not have that lot number on every single piece, so it’s a map and you connect the dots. With the grain, don’t have the lot number, but do have the BOL ID number. On BOL sheet I have the lot number on that. It’s not always the lot number on the farm, but it’s a trail to follow back. That’s how we track it.
Nate Powell-Palm: As organic inspectors, we are trained to follow that roadmap, and find connections. Amy is citing when there isn’t a real connector between a receipt or a BOL. Between farm and processor, there is this growing black box.
Logan Petrey: That needs to be handled.
Kim Huseman: From a buyers perspective; different angle. We use BOLs – anything that comes into facility has to have purchasing number on that BOL or it’s rejected. For organic integrity and other reasons. We have internal numbers we communicate with our buyers to link those up. From mass-balance standpoint. I think that weights (not a buyer of veggies) are very critical to this phase. I don’t know who is responsible for entering that data. From an audit standpoint I know hat we go through as buyer. The disconnect for me is the link between buyer and sellers. Not clear on angle where we are going to create that conduit.
Nate Powell-Palm: Through best practices, how do we have more consistency for bi-directional discovery. Should be same information on both ends.
Amy Bruch: Yes- bi-directional look back is important. From the farm level, a lot of these prodcuts are leaving without being scaled up. It’s to make sure things aren’t being double counted and through different places in the supply chain there are different certifiers involved.
Kim Huseman: Our expectation is that farmers do not have certified scales on property, so using certified weight standpoint- difficult to get two matching numbers if comign off farm. Speaking from grains aspect.
Brian Caldwell: Thinking about making this work for everyone, I’m going to ask questions relating to the many micro small-scale producers who have nothing to do with BOL. When I deliver almost all of my produce by myself or an employee does it, and we have invoices and receipts, records that we keep about how many CSA shares go out. When we do farmer’s market, we would keep records of what produce we brought or donated at the end or brought back. It’s a different world. I hope that we can make whatever process we are putting in place here not be an extra burden to the small-scale producers, which there are many more than the large-one scale ones in the organic world.
Nate Powell-Palm: Business to business transactions. If selling direct to consumers, this does not apply.
Javier Zamora: Two different issues: the amount of products being grown on farm, that is relatively easy (numbers and data we can go by). If you are a specialty grower like myself and if you sell to a distributer we have a ay to trace our products with a little sticker and a grower number that is inputted into lot number the grower has. So if there is an issue it can be traced. If you sell at a farmers market there is no way to figure it out. Harvest records, designated ranch and block numbers – looking at two different things: traceability and the amount grown. How can NOSB come up with an idea the NOP can enforce. Unfortunately each group (grain versus specialty) will be different. Also you don’t harvest specialty crops in one block; very complicated. If the goal is to understand if these is fraud going on. But then are you interfering in the privacy of the farmer? When a certifier shows up there is no privacy. The biggest issue I see is when grains come rom overseas and the paperwork and tools are not in place to trace to that block where things came from. But if you do have a way to identify whether 400 acres in Mexico are actually producing 300tonnes per acre… figuring it out is tricky. But certifiers can go in and figure it out.
Kyla Smith: I’ll echo some of the things said. Whatever we come up with here, it’s important to make sure it’s applicable to all sectors, all types of operations, tech and no tech, current and pending regulations, and that’s where my struggle with this is. We know SOE is coming. It can’t come fast enough. I know the intent of this proposal is not to upset that apple cart, and to support, but it’s hard to know how it’s supporting, do we need to do more, without knowing what it’s going to say. The other thing… with BOLs…. it’s a transport document. There are other types of audit trail docs depending on your type of operation. Often time transport companies are not certified, so the oversight of that activity happens on buyer or seller side- black boxness- no direct oversight in the way we do of the companies we certify. Buyer or seller creates link. With SOE, there will be increased recordkeeping requirements and cross-checking required to be able to do supply chain audits. It’s coming and I know we want to do more and do things now. I don’t want us to get too far down the path without knowing what is going to be included.
Carolyn Dimitri: I think about the producers that are the edge – questioning whether they should get certified or stay certified. Keeping them organic is important. Can we think about them and not push more smaller scale producers out of organic.
Liz Graznak: This specifically goes to Carolyn’s comment. I fall within that small farm category. The conversations I have with many growers who are on that fence of should I certify/organic practices/don’t want to certify. One thing I tell every person is that in the course of my farming career, when I started keeping track in year 4 of specific details, lot numbers, seeding, transplanting, seeding in field, harvest records, lot codes to everything. That’s when I became a really good farmer. Those records made me much better and much more efficient. Even at my very small scale, I keep all those same lot codes that Logan on her farm keeps. I don’t personally think that is or should be used as an argument to keep somebody from certifying.
Nate Powell-Palm: As an inspector, the recordkeeping requirements are good business management requirements. Well run businesses don’t have a hard time with records.
Javier Zamora: Liz I’m glad you commented. Something that has been said, want to echo, the amount of smaller growers that are disappearing this is one of the biggest reasons. They don’t have the HR behind them to keep track of every little detail. Yes not difficult bc it’s just business, but it is a lot of work that needs to be done. I have two people to track my organic certification and we still struggle because we are so diverse (35-75 flowers and 40 different crops). That’s the only way for me to compete with a larger grower! Having unusual crops is the only reason I am still in business. If I went non-organic I would not lose all my customers, but I would lose some. There are limitations to how far the organic cert can go to keep new small farms available and an organic producer. This is the Santa Cruz/Watsonville area: you can count how many cert organic operations are there! Before most were not certified. We have to figure out a way to do this easily.
Nate Powell-Palm: The primary thing we are looking at here is buyers tracing back to farms. Farmers are already good at tracking this. That is the specific-ness of this discussion document.
Nate Powell-Palm: Fraud exists more in the business-to-business space. Direct to consumers is not what this is targeting.
Amy Bruch: I’m grateful for this conversation. It is not an easy subject. I appreciate the respect to find an efficient option. What data is being captured. Making things more transparent. What is concerning to me is that of noncompliances, 50% are because of bad records. I’d rather not see insufficient systems. As a T farmer, recordkeeping to this level is ambiguous. It can be helpful to tell them some minimum ways to… I appreciate the discussion. Seeing if there are opportunities to optimize. In terms of these 2:
Acres on certificates: Not within scope of SOE. Decouple these 2 ideas. 2 formats going forward to help shore up the gaps that have been identified.
Nate Powell-Palm: Thank you for flagging this. Many people had thoughts about this. Glad we got to circle back.
NOSB work agendas/Materials update
Chair Nate Powell-Palm reviews the current NOSB work agenda and the edits and notes made on that agenda during this meeting. A version of the NOSB meeting work agenda can be found here.
Welcome New NOSB Members
Nate welcomes the four new members. Everyone expresses the hope that they will be able to see each other in-person during the the fall NOSB meeting (in Sacramento, CA).
Other business and closing remarks
Brian Caldwell: If we can make an effort on moving the inerts question forward I would be happy to work on that. No matter what committee gets it, I’d be happy to help on that.
Nate Powell-Palm: Issue of our day, agreed.
Kyla Smith: We are in a holding pattern until the program puts out the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking? Until they put that out, and the ideas come in, then they sort out what that is, then it might come back to us. I appreciate your enthusiasm. Hopefully it doesn’t take too long. I hope you’re still on the board.
Nate Powell-Palm: Excited about 15-0 votes, discussion, and agreements during this meeting.
Michelle Arsenault: I just want to mention 2 things: We will have a NOSB nomination coming up for the one vacancy to fill come January 2023. Announcement will be for spring of this year. That‘s Rick in the Environmental Protection and Resource Conservation seat. We will be in Sacramento in the fall. Still working on where the Spring 2023 meeting will be; and fall 2023 in Providence, RI.
Jenny Tucker: Thanks the entire NOSB and the NOP team. I’ll close with a behind the scenes project that’s been going on for months, will be launching this afternoon. Today: launched new petitioned substances database. All folks involved in material views and are tracking all these substances – all the detailed technical work will be indexed. Andrea Holm has been leading this project. We are a global partnership and tech binds us all. Link to the database can be found here: https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/organic/petitioned-substances