Corn husks in a fieldA cover crop of perennial ryegrass and clover grows in corn husks, replenishing the soil after a harvest. Cover crops are foundational to organic farming, which prioritize the most important system of all — the one we can't see. Image source: AdobeStock

Last week, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) unanimously voted to limit the use of highly soluble nitrogen fertilizers. This is a win for authentic organic farming.

“Feed the soil, not the plant” embodies the wisdom of the organic movement. Instead of relying on shortcuts, authentic organic farmers steward their soil, tending the tiny lives (microbiome) beneath our feet that feed the plants. Conventional farmers have long been leveraging nitrogen fertilizers to bypass this natural system. Look to Iowa to see how that’s going.

This vote is a culmination of years of work by Cornucopia, our colleagues, and the NOSB. Read our notes on the NOSB discussion of highly soluble nitrogen fertilizers for details.

Progress is now in the hands of the USDA National Organic Program. Cornucopia will press it to swiftly give this matter the attention it deserves. New fertilizers containing highly soluble nitrogen from natural sources continue to show up in the market. Organic integrity is at stake. Healthy soil provides abundant nutrients for plants and people. We need minerals for our health, not just green leaves.

In other good news, USDA is proceeding on the NOSB’s fall 2021 recommendation to prohibit the use of ammonia extracts. We hope to see a draft rule quickly.

Also at this meeting, the NOSB added troubling new language to its Policy and Procedures Manual regarding the public comment process. It reads:

Commenters shall refrain from including personal attacks or remarks that might impugn the character of any individual.

“Personal attacks” and “impugning character” are subjective phrases. If a person or company acts without integrity, Cornucopia and the public need to call it out. How can the NOSB limit free speech at a federal meeting?

Cornucopia gives all due respect to meeting participants – we do not enjoy rude behavior. But will our comments be cut short for telling the truth? And how will future board members employ this policy? Read our full thoughts, starting on page three of our written comments (PDF).

Stay tuned. This issue will rise again.

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