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 25, 26, and 27 below and with our Twitter followers at #NOSB.
For background on issues up for discussion at the meeting, see:
- The NOSB’s Proposals & Discussion Document for Spring 2023
- Cornucopia’s formal written comments
- Cornucopia’s notes on the oral comments for the Spring 2023 NOSB meeting
- Additional information on this meeting and past meetings dating back to 2012
Tuesday, April 25, 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.
- Handler/Processor: Gerard D’Amore and Kimberly Huseman
- Retailer: Mindee Jeffrey
- Organic Producer: Nathan Powell-Palm, Amy Bruch, Logan Petrey, Javier Zamora
- Public Interest / Consumer Interest: Brian Caldwell, Carolyn Dimitri, Allison Johnson
- Certifier: Kyla Smith
- Scientist: Dr. Dilip Nandwani
- Environmental Protection & Resource Conservation: Wood Turner, Dr. Franklin Quarcoo, Nathaniel (Nate) Lewis
For more information about the NOSB members, check out the NOSB’s biographies.
NOSB Board Chair, Nate Powell-Palm makes opening remarks.
Dr. Jennifer Tucker, NOP Deputy Administrator calls the meeting to order.
Welcoming Remarks and Comments
Dr. Jenny Tucker introduces the topic and speakers for the welcome commentary.
Organic Transition Initiative (OTI) – 300 million dollar initiative to support existing and transitioning farmers who want to explore organic option. To be here today 6 months later to be able to hear from members already doing field days is remarkable. TOPP is 100 million program. We have set up 6 regional partnerships and includes states that already have a number of organic farmers and those that are underrepresented. Going to be hearing from partners in southeast region. Already doing field days and are really having difficult conversations about what is going to get funding and how going to served community best.
The five areas for each region in the OTI:
1. Mentor-mentee program – connecting local farmers.
2. Local technical assistance – local field days, business planning, market development, understanding how to negotiate contracts.
3. Workforce development – developing expertise for organic farms and the generation that will oversee (including inspectors)
4. Community building – where local organic folks can find each other.
5. Data and reporting – How do we get that number of organic farmers and acres up? Organic is good for planet, good for people.
Running TOPP out of the National Organic Program (NOP).
Dr. Tucker introduces Billy Mitchell, the project manager for TOPP in Southeast (with Florida Organic Growers (FOG)).
Billy Mitchell: On behalf of FOG and TOPP welcome you to Georgia. Honor to share the stage. Recognizes panel and those working on TOPP. Thanks Jenny. IN southeast FOG is working with amazing partners in 7 states and 2 territories. Includes community based organizations and universities. Work is lead by those who reflect communities. Farmer to farmer mentorship program provides mentorship, community building – hosting on farm gatherings and connecting producers with resources. Tehcnial assistance – share on farm solutions that inform field-days and trust builds better resources, identify barriers, an translate rules and regulations. Producer lead tech resources benefit community. Workforce training – educate future growers, word is out that people awant to work at farm, aggregators involved in future certification. This is unrelated, Hearts of Harvest strawberries are out of this world and flowers take breadth away. Thanks USDA for opportunity and funding and to build organic communities. We truly believe partners and producers will create meaningful change.
Don Cooper: (No slides.) Georgia Organic Peanut Ass’n (GOPA). Former program director. Not for profit cooperative. Wife and I fell in love working with organic peanuts. Farmers couldn’t be here today. Farmers preparing fields. Cooperative formed in 2019. Georgia largest peanut producing state. We are startup organization. Have been working over decade and want to move certified organic forward. Georgia, Florida, Alabama – GOPA aggregates crop and markets final product. Certified organic supply chain would not exist without GOPA. Only one certified sheller in the state. Processing is very limited. Organic peanut production in subtropical environment is very challenging. Some farmers have walked away. Farmers yield quarter of what conventional grows. Steep learning curve with seeding and weed control. Need to continue research to educate them about organic certification. Need to invest in farmer led research and in soils and climate. Thanks Florida Organic Growers for including in project.
Jerry: What were the pounds per acres again?
Don Cooper 8k pounds an acre is common for conventional, but only 2k pounds per acre is typical for organic peanuts. Weeds are our biggest challenge.
Nate Powell-Palm introduces Dr. Shandrea Stallworth.
Dr. Shandrea Stallworth: I am from Rodale. Come from a wheat science background; I am familiar with the challenges of the SE. Worked in University with genes and Rodale sees a value in that. Will be offering technical consulting services to our TOPP members. Our consultants have been trained by Nate Powell-Palm in organic inspection. My team is young, but over 4 years grown to 3 consultants. We try and place our consultants where there is a specific need. We are working on several projects, including determining which veggie varieties work best regionally, getting rid of plastic mulch, etc. Rodale is also part of TOPP discussions going on across the USA. We want to help our farmers understand the NOP and the challenges of organic production. Happy to be a part of it.
Nate Powell-Palm introduces Roland McReynolds.
Roland McReynolds: Thanks everyone. CFSA is a member driven, farmer based serving North and South Carolina. Been around 45 years next year. WE provide a range of services to support farmers and businesses entering local and organic. Began organization as certifier prior to NOP and since have focused more on education. Host conferences for organic and transitioning. Support research and work with farms to conduct on-farm research, run incubator, and conduct participatory research programs, working on climate smart research, and provide technical assistance to help farmers adopt organic high tunnel, conversation, OSPs. Our role in transition partnership – Carolinas have constellation of NGO and land grant institutions that have worked to support organic. North Carolina is 8th ranked state in production by sale and leading state in SE region for organic sales. SE TOPP program is providing orgs greater bandwidth to expand opportunities for organic ag. Supply chain infrastructure, on farm packing and storage to local organic grain marketing facilities and as well as independent poultry and livestock processing. Increasing farm and mid-scale farms access to funding for transition, decision support tools, and increasing access to risk management. Program presents great opportunity over next 5 years.
Amy: Increasing access to risk-management tools – can you define that more?
Roalnd: Comes in different shapes. Small farmers can spend money on things like row crop covers and it will be more useful for them than insurance or loans. We support farmers to reduce their costs of production and make it easier to adapt to the risks in agriculture.
Amy: Thank you for talking about the FSA component. “Storage loans” – do these need to reflect transition or organic pricing currently? They default on conventional price.
Roland: We’ve looked at that with small scale fruit and veggie producers. Investment into better shelf life is often what those folks are looking for. Microloans are also useful (less than 100k).
Kyla: Wondered – TSP and helping producers with OSP. What are benefits of common OSPs – access to programs across agency and burden reduction.
Roland: didn’t provide testimony in written comments. At annual conference we have put on pre-conference workshops about how to fill out application and OSP and only moderately useful b/c every certifier has a different form. Certifiers could eliminate that as obstacle but need to learn how this change would affect other aspects of the operation.
Jerry: I know North Carolina as a volume grower for sweet potatoes and blueberries. What are the top crops you deal with?
Roland: About 2/3rds are diversified vegetable. A large contingent of mid-scale producers where tobacco, sweet potato, and wheat are their organic rotation.
Carolyn: You covered so many topics – on farm research activities grabbed my attention. How do you develop the partnerships? Think it is important to feed into EOIR funding.
Roland: certainly land grant partners have had excellent programs. For our work, we don’t compete for those sorts of grant. Emphasis is on applied research. Tomato grafting has been area of research. 5 page report we produced was most read report by my BOD b/c it was practical information they love. Focus on supporting applied research.
Carolyn: One interesting thing I’ve observed: on farm trials at Universities versus what happens on organic farms – there is a huge gap in yields and other aspects. On-farm research should be the way to go.
Roland: Incentivizing our university partners to do more of that is important. Because it’s a pain. We have to make those incentives stronger for academics to pursue that.
Nate Powell-Palm introduces Michael Wall, director of farmer advocacy at Georgia Organics.
Michael Wall: Presenting about Georgia Organics and ag history in Georgia. Probably feel a little uncomfortable. A lot like CFSA. Roughly 1200 farmers in network. Had annual conference earlier this year and 500 farmers showed up. Often copy and paste Roland’s great ideas. Similar organizations. Accelerator program – farmers get about $10,000 for on-farm investments. Have a champion program – look for stickers on restaurants. Bridge program provides 2 years of free health insurance. Farmer Fund – were able to distribute $200,000 to farmers hit by storm.
I’m a 7th generation family farmer. I’ve helped 30 farmers transition to organic. 7 generations means ancestors used captive labor force of Africans and descendants of Africans on their farms. History of GA: 1611- 1751 slavery banned. 1751 stopped and slavery takes root. 1973 cotton gin invented in Georgia. Accelerated monoculture and with that came institution of slavery.
Cotton was a bountiful crop and lead to increasing number of forced slave labor on land. We’re on land that was held by Cherokee people. Treaty of New Echota – relocation to Oklahoma. Trail of tears was because of cotton agriculture. Ag in Georgia started as exploitive and would argue still today.
Shows slide of density of slave population in southeast. Swooping line is pattern that will see – about geology and plate tectonics. Brighter the color the higher the concentration of slaves.
How many know what strike force county is? USDA designation – 30 percent lives below 30% of federal poverty line and has for 30 years. Entrenched poverty. The line is not moving. My family farmland is in strike force counties. Paraphrase Amber Bell: people think poverty is miss delta or app mts, but poverty in Georgia is not budging. What does this have to do with organic agriculture? Shows slide with glyphosate use – predominately row crop where strikeforce counties are.
I work on spreading organic industry b/c organic hotspots philosophy that it makes a difference in economic in region. A $2000 income boost changes lives in strikeforce counties. Enough organic industry stacked with recommendations USDA equity and reparations would mean justice for strikeforce counties. Number of organic farms grew 121.4 percent growth in Georgia. For some reason 51% of black farmers in our network are landowners – crazy statistic and need to replicate it. Other things black farmers are behind in terms of post-harvest handling. Georgia Organics official equity statement (slide).
Have some efforts pointed toward equity. (slide) AT least 50 percent of Accelerator farmers must be BIPOC. 25 percent cost-share available every year for BIPOC organic.
Dilip: How much percent of cost share do you offer to organic growers? 50% is the current level from FSA/USDA because cost share was reduced.
Michel: In Georgia it is 75% but you have to apply twice, once for $500 and one for $250. FSA/USDA program. Georgia Organics gives 25% reimbursement for white farmers during transition for BIPOC farmers, every year.
Implementation of racial recommendations – value there and hopeful so think and hope USDA all employees will lean into recommendations and see how to get implemented. Training for staff, especially for FSA staff, believe racial equity training for all FSA staff especially those on local level. You can have a great leader committed to anti-racism in DC, but has to filter down to local levels.
Nate Lewis: Can you talk about appetite for organic research at land grant universities.
Michael: Amongst organic researchers I know – they are passionate. But conventional ag dominates in Georgia. And therefore dominates land-grant. So Georgia Organic is trying to be an extension specifically for organic. Organic is not usually embraced or highlighted at all.
Nate Powell-Palm: when you look at farm numbers, 162 farms, as we look to TOPP and getting more acres into certification. Do you feel like current organic farms are thriving? Are we missing key infrastructure and how do we build resilient marketplace.
Michael: Not thriving financially. thriving in other ways. I would call reality of farming right now a crisis. Stability is not there. Forget prosperity, stability would be nice. Truth is that it depends. Closer you are to Atlanta, the better. Athens is also good. Restaurant sales. But further get from Atlanta the tougher it is. If look at strikeforce counties not even thinking about buying organic. What infrastructure we need –farmers need to feel financially stable to transition. If consumer isn’t financially stable also not going to try. Economic dev would help – spent a lot of time in strikeforce counties, and folks do it for couple of reasons – to make money, to take a stand, and others doing it because see neighbor doing it or see a farmer they respect doing it. Need more markets like the Atlanta market – consumers with disposable income and willing to buy organic produce. Growing is just as good in other parts of state and can grow in every county in state.
Kim: Can you speak to farm-to-school program?
Michael: Right now the program has shifted over to farm to early care centers. Working with local growers, helping with production, post harvest handling, etc. And then aggregating that produce and providing it for discounted price to daycare centers. We now have lots of campaigns across Georgia. October is farm-to-school week and we have been trying to get kids excited about food various ways.
Nate Powell-Plam: Theme of a lot of incubation – spawning more and more organic farms where they all support each other. Thoughts on how we can track that networking effect that Georgia Organics has had on the local community?
Michael: Impact tracking is challenging. The social resilience of farmer-to-farmer network is so valuable but it’s difficult to track. We need a sociologist.
Dr. Tucker: How are you going to track the impact of TOPP? What are the numbers/metrics of what we need to do? We encourage tracking stories of real life impacts as well. More qualitative data. Data gathering is a real challenge with TOPP.
Michael: it would show up in some of the numbers. Besides acreage increase, there is a safety buffer b/c of the relationships. Happens all over the state. Introducing Paul Sorah: met at food safety training. Paul is here to tell us about his farm.
Introduces Paul Sorah, farmer.
Paul Sorah: Pleasure to be here. Thanks everyone. Wife and I and business partner started Hearts of Harvest. In Arnoldsville, GA. Entering 6th season.
We have 1.5 acre and purchased 108 acres and expanding. Diversified fruit, veg, flower operation. In fruit world, grown a lot of strawberries. Also focusing on organic fruits. At 2 weekly farmers markets, 2 wholesale customers, and 7 restaurant when started farm, all I’d ever done was kill house plants. I was a touring musician in buses and planes. Wife and I living in Atlanta and decided to slow down. Were going to build a studio and farmer gave me book about organic and biodynamic and opened whole new world to me. Books don’t tell you that Georgia is a lot different – weeds, pest, disease, rain – dumped life savings into starting a farm. Business partner Mark came down and been getting after it ever since. Diversity of our production was critical for any shot of financial success. Ebbs and flows of veg production is volatile. Having flowers has been one of most crucial parts of business. Overhead of labor is better than veg production size of things. First year doing about a half acre went to two. Started farming that and now will be 25-30 acres this year. Ordered green house. Built high tunnel in shin deep mud. Grow sweet potatoes. Flowers have expanded for us and now have over 3 acres. Labor is a big challenge b/c way look at managing farm is that these people are in my circle. I take care of people. I pay well. Cost of labor is a reality and yes trying to invest in machines but costly and in this hybrid space, the processes and systems you need – we’ve tried to shrink full-time staff with sustainable wage. Raised money for cancer treatment for employee. Theme of networking and community is a powerful thing in our area. When I started, I knew nothing. Learned a lot from other farms and helping each other. Extension to Georgia Organics – we lost over $100,000 in 2 nights in storm in December and they stepped up to provide assistance. WE were part of Accelerator program and we growing mushroom and can produce year rough in-door. Trying to build in layers of revenue that can build in resilience. Have bunch of blueberries. Planted about 10,000 strawberries this year. Reality of taking brand new piece of land and bringing it into farm – worked with FSA on loan – those things can be challenging too. Grateful.
Logan: Could you state what kind of impact it would have on you if you didn’t have plastic mulch as a material?
Paul Sorah: There are certain crops that I didn’t know how you’d do it – anything that is going north and south. You either would have to set up spacing 8’ apart to where you could get a tractor between the rows, and giving up a whole row of production, or paying people to do manual weeding. We invested into an old belly-mount tractor and we are experimenting on some other types.
Franklin: Apart from existing farmers adding you to ???, are there things that you think would help marginalized farmers?
Paul: Organizing any kind of community-based cooperative. We just did something with GA Organic where we started a community based cooperative where we were able to cut cost by buying bulk.
Nate: Could you talk more about building cooperatives, buying and selling power? Have you explored the formal cooperative?
Paul: There are a few of us in the area that are going into this place of 25-40 acres of production. The reality of that is that… To be able to provide organic food from real organic farmers, I think we have to look at each other’s farms as part of the greater farm. Have an aggregate organize crop planning where we could be a larger distribution model. Where if someone needs 500 lettuce heads… I think that developing a cooperative in that way – there is something like that in NC – there is a cooperative who are distributing to grocery stores all over the east cost, but we do not have that thing here in GA.
Logan: Right now you are very diverse. If you were to join a cooperative – you might have to simplify to scale up for the equipment. But you benefit from being a diversified farm right now. So when you start segregating it could cause issues.
Paul: Absolutely. Feel like challenge with hybrid model – going to do farmers market because Buckhead market is fantastic and need it for diversity of sales. Looking at farm thinking 7 acres high rotation restaurant production and then 10 acre block on rotation and cover cropping. Still remain diversified and collaborate – I’ll take radishes week 1, you take radishes week 2 – and infrastructure that comes into play when trying to produce on large scale –packing, washing, and pick-up, and storing and food safety and quality – these are big barriers.
Franklin: Particularly interested about cooperatives. Not able to stay together for long. Fall apart and most of time technical assistance and sort of ignore group dynamics and how to stay together as a group. Contracts that insure things are done. Think w/ cooperatives to help small farmers, there is more needed in terms of technical support and training to make sure they stay together.
Paul: Yes, I do. It may just be a shift in what we think of as a cooperative or how we are defining it or identifying it. For instance, with Fresh Harvest, which is a company we work with, they do home delivery of over 3000 boxes across Atlanta every week. There are 10 of us farms who work with them – supply them stuff, and they handle the boxing, packaging, and delivery. We are all working together, and they are the hub. I think that hub piece is what is important. There are growers in my community that aren’t going anywhere. If the hub piece is there and the ability to distribute more and more product, I do not think the farms in my community would want to get out of that situation. We are all looking to sell more product. The group dynamics is always going to be a thing. Maybe there needs to be more assistance and technical research done on how to make that effective. But I think that for farms like us to thrive financially, there is going to have to be this access to distribution that is not all tied to large farms on the West Coast.
Nate Powell-Palm: What is the value that being certified organic brings to your farm? Why organic?
Paul: We are actually putting our new property in certified. I have been operating under the NOP/OMRI organics since the beginning, but it has been overwhelming to us on the paperwork piece of it. When you already feel that you are burning at both ends and working 60-hour weeks, it’s hard to come in and put in data. We are certified ??. If you operate organically, but you still do not have the label, you’re getting conventional price points.
Dr Jenny Tucker: Thank you to welcoming panel. The TOPP investments are designed to harness the power of partnerships that are already there and working. Illustrates why the TOPP program was able to get going so quickly.
Amy Bruch, Secretary, approves the minutes as written.
Presentation by Nate Powell-Palm, NOSB Chair.
The day before I left for Sacramento, it snowed in MT, and it has not stopped snowing even until now. It has been a really cold, hard winter. It has been hard to keep animals alive. It has been discouraging not to get into the fields.
We, as a Board, have gone through a lot over this past 6 months. It’s been a dynamic and challenging time. I look to all of my fellow Board members on how we embody resilience. I think about how when we were on the farms yesterday, they were talking about if you’re not a sustainable business, there’s no way you can be a sustainable farm. It’s the same with the Board.
We have come through a lot on the Board. I want to give a really big shout out to our former member, Liz Grazniak. She came from a very productive farm, first generation. After the last meeting, she came to leadership and said that she thinks the Board is great, but that she just didn’t have time for it. She served us so well, but handed off the baton when the time was right.
That’s something we don’t talk about when we are recruiting. It’s okay if it’s too much. We are grateful for all your service. The fact that we are still here shows that this community is going to last. The work that we are doing is in the right direction.
I want to thank you all, to the community, and especially to my fellow Board members. We spend a lot of our lives in organic protecting what we saw as our seal, in a way, from the USDA. We weren’t sure of the USDA as a partner, and I think we have an incredible partner in Dr. Tucker. I would encourage everyone – we won’t always have her, and she cannot get everything done that we want to get done, and the program cannot be everything to everyone – but I encourage us to figure out how we can get as much done in the time that we have.
Encourage everyone to bring your big ideas. Who has the right skill set ad authority to do certain work? We can get an incredible amount done together, and I think that’s evidenced by what has been heard today.
USDA/AMS/NOP Update & NOP-NOSB Q&A
Dr. Jennifer Tucker, AMS/NOP
Dr. Tucker: I am going to give a short presentation. Part 2, because Part 1 is in the learning center. This is something we kept from pandemic and works really well. We used to come here and talk for 45 minutes. Instead, only going to talk for a few minutes and then open up for questions.
The Organic Learning Center gives presentation on everything been working on.
The National Organic Program (NOP) provides a program update before each NOSB meeting. Even though we are meeting in person in Spring 2023 we are continuing to provide the NOP update in this pre-recorded way for maximum viewing flexibility, so you can watch it at any time.
It is now available in the Organic Integrity Learning Center and can be accessed within Course “NOP-998 – NOP Presentations.”
- Direct Link: National Organic Program Spring 2023 Update for NOSB
- Need a Learning Center account? Access sign-up page
- Have a Learning Center account? Access site
For questions about the Learning Center, contact [email protected].
Usually get asked about the status of rules so wanted to remind about rulemaking process. Right now we have rules and tomorrow morning we will have a box for public comment, so lots of rules in pipeline. (Slide shows overview.)
Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE): Implementation and talking with certifiers about what it means.
Origin of Livestock (OOL): Enforcement phase – now enforcing and asked certifiers to give us updated systems and how implemented and surveillance team has it on schedule to access compliance.
Organic Livestock & Poultry Standards (OLPS): Final rule that is now in legal review; finished drafting process; now in legal review.
Nitrogen Rule: Working on a proposed rule – very recent NOSB recommendations related to nitrogen fertilizers.
Market Development: Addresses pet food and mushrooms – working on this.
SOE: Want to emphasize this – a number of important provisions. This is game changing. That is a term we have been using. It changes the games in that certifiers are going to need to do comprehensive updates to their entire systems based on risk. It addresses risk mainly in the middle of the supply chain – brokers, handlers – people working in complex supply chains are the ones that are most affected by this rule.
Big ask – please help us emphasize the importance of certification. Anyone who is actively engage in handling and arranging organic trade need to get certified. There are not VERY FEW exemptions. Important for them to get started on certification.
There are 4 key ways that people can stay updated on what we [NOP] are working on. We keep a scorecard on what we are doing and how we are doing, and that’s part of how we are assessed. We also report back to the NOSB in memos to the Board that we issue after each meeting. We have recently added a section on regulatory priorities – that will report on where our priorities are until the next meeting. I think if you look at the rulemaking slides that I just covered, that is what we said our priorities would be, and that’s what we are working on.
Inerts: Inerts are a complicated topic. Wanted to layout next steps for the NOSB. Was issued as advance notice of public rulemaking after many years of work. Inerts – overview: Ingredients other than active pesticide ingredients in pesticide products.
Supports those lists – long time that we’ve had these inactive lists. There are a lot of materials on List 3 & 4 that farmers rely on every day. We issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking to outline the work that had been done and ask stakeholders which alternatives could be used to replace List 3 & 4.
Almost 400 comments in response to that AMPR – good news – about 70% of the problem, we have solutions for and there is broad agreement on it. That leaves the other 30%.
So, the next step is that we are going to be providing a Work Agenda request to the Board – likely this summer – where we will summarize what we believe the 4 key options might be based on public comment with some pros and cons – analysis of AMPR. Based on those 4 options, we are going to ask the Board to make recommendations to the program on different options on addressing this 30%. We are going to put a time limit on it – only a certain # of meetings – because we want to get this done before Lists 3 & 4 come up for sunset again. We need to get to a final rule within a certain time period, or we will be back where we started.
Therefore, I am asking the Board, please, please, please, when you are working on recommendations, give us all possible options that you think are feasible. We cannot add a synthetic to the NL without you. We need a recommendation from you to put a synthetic on the NL. If you give us a recommendation that is untenable for cost or feasibility or benefits, then we are right back where we started from. We need something that we can get through rulemaking that takes into the costs to farmers. That is different from the criteria that you folks work with at the Board level, but we need something, because we cannot do anything without you.
Technical support: The NOSB needs help. We’ve heard for years that the board needs help. Board did really good work. Appreciate all dialogue and public comment. We are ready to give you some help. Appreciate you gave us options. We are working in complex federal system that has strict hiring and budget rules. We have written a position for staff members that would be able to help – doing research for you, reviewing public comments, so providing with staff level support. We are proposing to staff within NOP. A lot of them are here today. Those folks will need to help you in a way that can support rulemaking process. We are going to recruit 2 folks to help you – within NOP. Hope to have people in place by summer.
Organic Transition Initiative: You heard a great update this morning. Thanks to the panelist for being here today.
Market Development: Upcoming Competitive Grant Request for Applications – Want to give an update – specific information – $300M initiative. A lot of the pieces have been announced – TOPP, NRCS did a launch. There is an upcoming competitive grant request process. There is information on the AMS website – we are looking for peer reviewers. In general, grant application periods are open 60-90 days. Funds are rewarded following peer review and internal processes. The pinpointed markets are grain, feed, legumes, other rotational crops, dairy markets, and dairy. Program is planning to be regionally and crop specific. Targeted to key markets to ensure meaningful impacts. Investments will be outside of the cost share program, because we do not want to duplicate efforts.
We do continue to coordinate with NRCS and RMA on these initiatives and trying to figure out how to reduce the multiple avenues in reporting. Every program has different rules based on funding sources. I think those partnerships are being built, and I wanted to emphasize that.
SOE – Even though we talk about this being in the implementation period, there is a lot that we are doing now. We have seen sentencing with prison time for violators.
QUESTION & ANSWER SESSION:
Kyla Smith: In my opening, I said I was equally excited and terrified for SOE. You encouraged us to all read the rule, and certifiers still have questions. Can you speak to if and when we might see additional resources in the OILC for the rule?
Dr. Tucker: We will be putting training into the learning center. Right now, it’s scheduled for summer. Every certifier’s system is different. We have to be careful with how think about consistency. b/c some folks really scared it will have such impact on small farmers and handlers that won’t drop out. So, want to make sure folks telling us about challenges we don’t want SOE to adversely effect in search of consistency. Middle of long supply chain is where main risk lies. Not talking about local, regional – not risk area as much. Certifiers need to keep in mind what trying to go after. Will put something in learning center and ACA is doing good job of setting up sessions.
Nathaniel: Commend program on SOE – quite an undertaking. Wanted to acknowledge. It is the type of rule that its success means we do not really see anything in the news – like food safety – when it succeeds, nothing happens. I hope that is the outcome from this. Question relates to President’s Executive Order on racial justice – I am encouraged to see the Program taking on some of the Racial Equity recommendations from the Equity Commission. I found some of the first response underwhelming, but good first steps. I’m curious from the Program what you can see we can do to help you integrate some of those recommendations into your workforce or support your work at the Board level?
Dr. Tucker: Appreciate that. True change happens both at personal and systems levels. We look at actions we can take at Program level to support broader USDA and each of us needs to look at internal level. At the AMS level, our agency was ahead on racial diversity by setting up a group on this. I meet with civil rights every quarter. We do active hiring through different types of recruiting. We are bringing on diverse hires. These are core values for us as a Program. Remote work has helped us in diversity! We’ve looked at our job requirements in different ways – organic is not very diverse – we realized our job descriptions needed organic experience, closing ourselves off to sources of organic diversity. Some positions provide an opportunity to learn organic. As an exec within AMS going to trainings: I’ve become aware of things I haven’t been aware of before. I entered the world as a woman with disabilities: wondering if I got the job because I am qualified or because of sources of differences? I think everyone with sources of differences wants to feel that way. I invite the NOSB to work on this issue and invite you to look at yourselves and how you approach your world as individuals. On the panel – who got asked questions and who didn’t? For example.
Allison: Heard overwhelming support in comments for furthering recognition of organic as climate smart. Can you offer an insight for advancing that as a priority within USDA?
Dr. Tucker: That’s been an important conversation over the past couple of meetings, and I’d encourage you to keep having those conversations. You can give us a recommendation, and I think there are certain items on the Work Agenda that we keep open. A number of people have been talking about today devastating things that have happened on their farm. We do bring that back to USDA. We keep a close relationship to the team that are working on these topics. Keeping yourselves at the table, and participating in broader programs outside of the organic community.
Brian: Specific question. Last fall I brought up issue of accreditation of Texas Dept of Agriculture certification program. As I understand it was withdrawn and appealed.
Dr. Tucker: I do. Is Robert here? Yes. I want to highlight the Accreditation Division – Robert is the Director – and they oversee the certifiers. Texas Dept of Ag received a proposed suspension of their accreditation – appealed it – it was denied – upholding the suspension. This is all due process in the Regulations. TDA has requested a hearing in front of an Admin Law Judge. That is where it is now within USDA. A hearing for that is expected in early 2024.
Amy: Market Development component within TOPP. Want to highlight 2 specific needs: grain and feed need special attention and require federal licensing and oversight. Facilities going bankrupt and issuing claw backs and even though delivered grain and need to pay back due to bankruptcy laws. When approving grants want special consideration of financial wherewithal of companies. Second, crop insurance protections – so much risk in organic farming, we are almost encouraging producers to grown no-insurable crops.
Dr. Tucker: Appreciate the comments. Market development grants are focused on building that infrastructure. Coordination with RMA. I think that you folks have been engaging in Crop Insurance. I think this Board is getting more involved in the broader set of USDA. I also want to emphasize that the topic technical assistant element can also be about market savvy, development, and planning – how do you protect yourself as a farmer going into the market. I think how you navigate the economic landscape that minimizes risk is important. I think that getting that expertise to the right people is important so that the buyers and sellers know how to ask the right questions as part of that process – that can also be part of technical assistance.
Amy: Enforcement and implementation of SOE. What cross collaboration happens among our equivalency partners? How do we work with them when we do these enforcement acts?
Dr. Tucker: Equivalence for those not familiar is when we agree with another gov’t that our organic standards are equivalent (fair). The initial equivalency agreements – they were very focused on materials and practice standards. Today, we are looking at a broader control system perspective (how do they do enforcement and compliance). There are countries we do not have equivalency because they are not the same in how they do oversight (so in those countries you need to use the NOP standards to sell in the USA). If we’ve been growing as an industry we have also been growing in oversight. If other gov’t are growing in operations we are watching to see if they are also growing in oversight. We have a lot of technical conversations with other gov’ts. Very technical conversations with CA regarding supply chain audits. The EU published new regulations recently. All gov’t that we have agreements with, we need to renegotiate. We did terminate a trade arrangement with India. We found that control system was not adequate. We had an 18 month implementation process. Robert just had 4 folks in India doing audits for 4 months. Trade notices that. A few years ago, I was told that India is the wild west of organic, and I got a call a couple of weeks ago that said it’s not anymore.
Are there still challenges around the world in many countries? Yes. We now have more tools that we had before. One of the challenges we have are operations that get kicked out of the program but keep shipping products. Import certificates will put a stop to that.
Import oversight is a big part of what we do. Won’t always hear the news stories of what we do.
Carolyn: Several commentators asked us to try to accommodate farmers’ schedules and trying to have Jan virtual listening session. What would that look like?
Dr. Tucker: If the NOSB is interested in exploring that option of a listening session for farmers. There is a repeatable calendar every 6 mo. If the NOSB wanted to supplement with a winter event between Fall and Spring meeting we need to know how it would inform NOSB deliberations. Deeply appreciative to community desire to engage in process.
Compliance, Accreditation, & Certification Subcommittee (CACS) Update
Amy Bruch, Chairperson.
Nate Powell-Palm notes that Mindee and Allison are virtual on Zoom.
Amy: Welcome back. Three topics to dive into. Three additional topics before get started. Thanks committee. Had a lot of great public comments and having voicing on all sides of the equation. Thirdly, additional work agenda items: enforcement, organic and climate smart agriculture, and human capital.
Enforcement- Expand residue testing for global supply chain.
Organic and Climate Smart Ag – What & Why Organic – Goal is to summarize the infrastructure behind the program and promote advantages.
Human Capital – Supporting Transition – Determine tools and alignment strategies that support transition.
Proposal: Organic & Climate-Smart Agriculture – Organic IS climate smart
Nate Powell-Palm: This was prompted by Dr. Dimitri. Started as a letter to the secretary. Climate change and responding through agriculture is topic priority and we wanted organic contextualized for addressing concern. Administration responded with list of questions to inquire for entire rest of USDA how organic is climate smart. Given prompts to answer and that’s what we did. Not a lot of latitude to explore why organic is most climate friendly option out there. In the preparation for climate smart commodity partnership which was a funding program to different grant opportunities for projects and research, we had a deadline. Our job was to communicate to USDA why organic is climate smart. A lot of organic projects got funded through the partnership. Standing work agenda item. With this document we answered questions and program gave very quick turnaround for questions. Not the end of the game, this is an open work agenda item. You brought a lot of questions about what climate smart means to organic. We’ve answered the questions. It’s not a vehicle for giving all the information. We get more work agenda items to capture all that is relevant to organic and climate smart.
Brian: Not feeling too good about this. Think the proposal as written applies really well to about 90% certified organic operations. Reluctant and struggle with this. Several classes of org farms should not automatically qualify for organic climate smart. At least way I understand climate smart, a farming system that is positive in responding to climate change. A few that don’t think qualify is what we call deep compost vegetable production which a lot of our small scale farmers do in NE and Midwest. Compost applied at approx 10% more and used like a mulch and if done year after year, it is just an incredible input in carbon that’s not coming out in output. Another one is the hydro and container production that is very energy and plastic intensive producing high yield but not a positive balance in terms of climate. Dairy operations that import the majority of their feed that do not have the acres to apply the manure to, I do not think they will make it. Finally, the use of heavy amounts of plastic mulch in some of our berry and vegetable operations. Those throw away a lot of high-energy intensive materials every year. I believe that we really do need more life-cycle analysis on these types of systems. Almost all of the research that is done on climate-smart organic is done on soil-based, standard cash grain operations. It is not done on these specialty systems that do not really make it. I do believe that 90% of our organic farming operations are very climate smart. I do not feel comfortable with this blanket sort of recommendation that all certified organic farms automatically qualify.
I’d like to see this go back to Subcommittee. It wouldn’t take too much to fix this and make it really reflect the climate-smart status.
Amy: A question for you, Brian. I think we are very fortunate to be organic farmers. I’m just questioning when you say, “climate smart,” there isn’t one definition for that word. What is your definition so we can calibrate as a board what we’re talking about? What is your interpretation?
Brian: I struggle with that one, too. It is basically a farming system where the input, when you balance the inputs of energy and carbon and the lifecycle of the inputs in terms of the energy that is required to create them, and you balance that with the outputs of the system, including the buildup of carbon in the soil, our inputs minus our outputs need to be a balance where the outputs are bigger than the inputs. That’s the way I’m looking at it. Would love to hear some other takes on it that might change my conclusion on this.
Logan: Question – inputs and outputs, is that per season or per year? Organics is the entire system and yes strawberries or tomatoes have to be on plastic for the type of production. Is it more climate smart compared to conventional?
Brian: I think that is one of the ways this proposal could be improved, and that is that I think that almost any organic system is going to be more climate smart than its conventional counterpart. You want to use the whole system – not only looking at one short season crop – it has to be the whole rotation and whole farm. In terms of suggesting that all certified organic operations should be eligible for government climate-smart – we are not saying that they are better than the conventional counterparts. We are saying that they are climate smart.
Dilip: Clarification to Amy or someone else. This proposal is that we going to suggest organic agriculture in general is climate smart or are we talking that each or agriculture practice or management practice is climate smart and certain org management practices are climate smart. Just want to understand.
NPP: We’re proposing that the organic regulations are climate smart. We were given – turn to page 3 of proposal – when look at questions, look at cover crops, no till or till, buffers, nutrient management. How does organic interact with these very specific practices. All are baked into the standards so is organic generally climate smart – they are asking are these specific practices included? We answered specific questions about particular practices and organic is head and shoulders above conventional. If we can’t say that we have a bigger problem on our hands. We are going to dice out details, but for these practices requested we are going to say organic. It is organic versus conventional. We are up against whether organic is at the table. This doesn’t make everyone suddenly love organics, but what consider climate smart, for these practices organic has it baked in. Organic was the original climate smart solution. Our system works, we have market for it, we should be one voice. Question to Dilip – asked about particular practices and how correspond to prompts. Answer is baked into the regulations.
Carolyn: First, I want to say something to NPP. I admire and respect your desire to have no conflict. I do think there has been a history of conflict on the NOSB and in organic, and I recognize that you are trying to navigate us through what could be land minds. I do not think this Board will have a giant fallout over this proposal, but I do have some comments. In the interest of full disclosure for the new people on the Board. When we got the 17 questions, I came back with a very snarky comment of, “USDA, go ask your staff these questions.” NPP was much more diplomatic and typed out answers to each question. 1. When people read this, they aren’t going to be thinking that we are talking about the practices, they will think we are talking about anything that is USDA organic. 2. I agree with Brian. There are some cases where it just isn’t going to be true. Those are the cases I worry about. I think they have a competitive advantage in the market because they can produce at a much lower cost. I think you see this in organic dairy very clearly, and that concerns me. I also think the climate smart phrase isn’t defined yet, but there are companies that do really great at marketing based on climate smart. I do not want to add anything that is going to allow some hydro company to say that they are climate smart. I do not know if the right thing is to send it back to committee. Maybe we can make some small tweaks.
Nate Lewis: I hear you loud and clear Brian that there are likely going to be some operations that do not provide net carbon sink – which is one way to describe your concern. I am not thinking that every farm needs to be a carbon sink to be “climate smart.” The regulations have the potential to applied to every farm to be climate smart. The USDA is trying to draw a circle around everything that is climate smart and if we don’t get in the circle in time, we will miss the ship and not be included. This has been an issue for other USDA programs. We need to get on the bus early with USDA. We can go back later and carve folks out as needed. We don’t need to do that now because the standards meet what USDA is describing as Climate Smart. I want to move this proposal forward no matter how imperfect it is.
Wood: Really like Brian’s definition of what climate smart means to you, I just want to frame is bad and the question we were asked was fuzzy about something called climate smart. Responsible ag should be about storing as much carbon as possible for me, I look at page 3 and it says principles of regenerative ag. I wish this was more about organic being regenerative. So many different angles about what does regenerative or what does that mean – I get the frame I don’t like the frame. We should be singing from rooftops that organic is regenerative.
Kyla: Sitting here reflecting and landed similar to what Nate Lewis had said. I am thinking about unintended consequences and timeline. That is what I was thinking about. Is it better to move forward with the proposal and have a seat at the table, and what is the unintended consequences of that option and that version, versus sending it back to subcommittee.
Carolyn: Jenny, it seems that USDA is down the climate-smart road already – they’re not waiting for us, are they?
Jenny: They are very interested in hearing from the community. USDA proposed this work agenda item to help you tell the story of organic. There is a lot of about organic that is climate smart. I cannot advise you.
Jerry: Simple question: when we first started this I asked: “Unintended consequences – what do we want?” of this document. What I got back to that queue was helpful: “we want to be in the queue.” By and large as the organic stepchild we are not in the queue. To Brian: During our oral comments last week there were so many comments on hydroponic. I am sensitive to that. Hydroponics is part of the discussion. I saw four different references in the public comments that said hydroponics and climate smart ag do not mesh. We have a living document here, do we not?
NPP: No. This is a living work agenda item, but for these questions this is final. We did not solve climate change, shocker.
Jerry: I stayed quiet until this point because I thought I saw things coming together in a way that makes sense to me. I think that we do need to be in the queue. We aren’t in the queue. Let’s get in the queue.
Kim: This is not perfect, but I don’t know if I can answer Brian’s questions and make it perfect in this format. Or if taking it back to subcommittee and trying to redefine it. Things I wrestle with – as an industry there is a lot of work to do, but this is starting point to get us where we can go. I haven’t heard enough to say we should take it back and when bring it back up in fall we’ll be 6 months behind. We have to start somewhere. I hear you Jerry, it’s hard to make sense of it. Comfortable with us moving forward.
Amy: I am glad that this topic and work agenda item is a living one. This topic, and we have to refer to the scope. I agree with what has been said – we have to get on the bus and in the queue, but I think that we need to be the leaders. I believe that Carolyn got us onto this with a letter that she wrote to the Secretary of Ag because there were no references to organic. I think there is way more to the equation than just carbon. This is a gray area that we need to make black and white. Water is part of the scope, but needs to be part of the conversation. Equity needs to be part of the equation. So much we aren’t talking about because we are so focused on carbon. Organic sector needs to be the leader in this area. I do have 1 question: Based on oral comments, there was also a correction that in this current document, we should probably talk about the need for changes.
Franklin: I’m of the view that all that is done in organic agriculture we are more qualified than most to be in this category. We don’t have to be perfect to be in this category. If we wait, then may never get included.
Nate Powell-Palm (NPP): Hear, hear. Thank you. We heard from the ever-articulate Mike Dill that we have some absolutes that need to be adjusted “synthetic nitrogen” instead of “synthetic fertilizers” and then “most” instead of “all.”
Alison: Along the lines of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer. What USDA is putting forward is what is climate smarter and synthetic nitrogen fertilizer accounts for 2.4 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. When dominate practices rely on greenhouse intensive inputs and one of reasons focus on healthy soil is b/c it avoid s talking about greenhouse gas effect of inputs. Appreciate range of climate benefits that might benefit from that type of production. We have a lot to stand on and shouldn’t let the dream of the perfect get in the way of touting organics benefits across the board.
Mindee: This is different than the context the NOSB usually engages in. We usually look at the minutiae. This is the greater concern for the earth: we can communicate our greater care to the USDA. In this context “organic” — it’s a real opportunity to voice the very specific sound support we have for climate change. This document provides context and information for those that need greater understanding of the work organic does that benefits the environment. I want our voice to be expressed clearly and am proud to support this document.
Brian: Thanks so much. What I’m hearing is that we do not want the perfect to be the enemy of the good. I’m hearing from everyone that maybe in the scientific literature, you have to be really careful about what you say, but in communications that are not all that parsed and rigorous, it is not the same thing. I think that this document makes really strong arguments in favor of organic, and I have been convinced that the goal that we can achieve is not as important as some of the things that I brought up. I think that we can say that we put this thing through the ringer. I think that 90% of the arguments in the document are forceful.
Jerry: I have heard in this room today back and forth two things – organic is THE climate smart solution, or it’s A/AN – which is it?
NPP: I’m an organic guy all of the way, so it is THE climate smart solution.
Dilip: I haven’t seen a clear definition of climate smart. I might be wrong – if we don’t have one, whose job is it to put forth a clear definition?
NPP: Right there with you. Brian did you want to put in motion to send back to subcommittee?
Amy: Are we ready to vote? I’ll read the motion for the record then.
Motion to accept the proposal on organic as Climate Smart Agriculture.
While all certified organic production is climate-smart, not all “climate-smart” production is certified organic. Therefore, this proposal aims to articulate why, if an agriculture producer is certified organic, they should be automatically considered climate-smart and made eligible off all climate-smart funding, buying, and other programmatic opportunities administered by the USDA.
Yes: Alison, Brian, Nate Lewis, Dulip, Kyla, Amy, Jerry, Mindee, Kim, Franklin, Logan, NPP
Abstain: 2 (Wood, Carolyn)
Absent: 1 (Javier Zamora)
Discussion Document: Organic & Climate-Smart Agriculture – Climate Induced Farming Risk & Crop Insurance
The reality of organic crop insurance: Not meeting organic farmer needs and not meeting actuarial mandate.
Amy: This is important for the community. We had a research-forward approach. We are looking to build on this to make recommendations for a future proposal.
Carolyn: A few background things to say. Partly, this is part of a larger research project that I am working on to improve farm programs for organic farmers. Many people on the Board have been interviewed by my team of researchers who have been doing a good job of tracking people down and asking lots of questions.
I am going to take us back through time a bit. There is a reason for this. Partly looking at how farm programs have evolved over time is important when looking at them going forward.
Crop insurance was developed in 1938. Farmers didn’t really like it. Slow adoption over time. 1980 Farm Bill said that insurance premiums would be subsidized by the USDA. That created private sector agents. 1984 there became a lot of requirements for insurance. 2000 premium subsidies increased. Almost all of our farm programs at this time are couched as a form of risk mitigation.
In 1994 and 1995 big input in acreage. So, discussion about crop insurance and risk management agency and b/c organic so small it’s hard to understand the extent of usage of crop insurance. RMA records kind of weird things, including share of acres insured by crop insurance. Have almost all conventional farmland being insured. And then there’s this part of farm bill that requires crop ins be actuarially fair. The thing that’s striking is loss ratios. For organic crops (except apples) loss ratios are much higher and have questions why risk management agency has these set up as two separate risk pools. I think when you think about moving ahead and making crop insurance work, you have to deal with the reality that from an economic perspective, it doesn’t seem to pay, because there is more money going out than coming in.
Belasco survey – tried to understand why a lot of organic farmers aren’t using crop insurance. Reported the percent of their farmers that use crop insurance. From the people they talked to, the field crops were using CI at higher rates than other producers. They could have some sample bias, and that’s why the #s are low, but overall you see fairly low adoption levels. What my research is trying to do is to look at state and local information to compare commodity findings for the adoption of crop insurance. As far as the surveys we have, they really cannot say whether or not it is likely that an organic farmer will use crop insurance.
The reasons that farmers give for not using crop insurance – the public comments reflected – it’s very expensive, farmer isn’t familiar with it, farmers do not want or need it. This comes from USDA production surveys through organic data initiative.
Have a couple of thoughts: what I’ve learned is that we have a couple of groups of producers: those who use crop insurance and they have very strong ideas about how to make it work better. The diversified operations are in a different pool and find it doesn’t work for them. The usage rates are declining over time. Problematic. A group of people think crop insurance isn’t suitable for them. And then dairy producers need better support as well and their needs are different from diversified needs.
I have a couple of other thoughts to launch our discussion. I do have a lot of research in progress with now and will be able to share some of that soon. The other idea I had that could be helpful would be to ask the Secretary of Ag to have USDA create a farm policy task force that has representatives from all program agencies to understand how to improve the program – economist who think about policy and how to design farm policy, and also program implementers – risk management agency or NRCS. I would like to see a Task Force that worked really hard for a year and then wrote a report, and then we could read it and see what they had to say.
Kyla: If we were to put that into a pie chart, what would it look like?
Carolyn: I think that maybe half of the people do not need it or want it.
Amy: Is it because coverage is not adequate. Do we have the rest of the story with reasons in the survey?
Carolyn: No, because I think that when USDA does a survey, there are just checks, and people check it and there isn’t room to add more information. I have not looked at the survey instrument, which is on the USDA website and I can later, but usually they give you 4 reasons and you just pick one of those reasons.
Logan: Don’t need or don’t want could?
Amy: From my perspective, the same interactions and 2 different types of scenarios. We’re recruiting transitioning producers and have a lot of figurative risks: market instability, uncertainty, do not have transparency with markets like conventional. With transitional they are looking at 36 months so real uncertain. Markets where handlers are going bankrupt. As organic producers should have coverage we can count on or at least supplement the gap and I realize crop insurance can be complicated but think all familiar with insurance (health, car, etc.) when have an asset worth X dollars, when conventional house gets adequate coverage. If organic, get discount that is not associated with own production history. There is a real big disadvantage when have production experience versus someone with zero experience and wants to be conventional. Right now focusing on crop insurance and have to make it function.
Logan: You see it isn’t working for the farmer, and it’s not working for the gov’t, either. It’s not working for anyone. That’s what I am comprehending; does that seem right?
Carolyn: Yes. That’s why I question if they have to be in separate risk pools. Why can’t they be in the same? There aren’t that many organic farmers.
NPP: A lot of it boils down to that data set for organic is somewhat skewed. When look at who is organic it has been folks on marginal land at risk of going bankrupt. Not those that have best yields. As organic grows, professional farmers, will be more data to support less of a risk.
Nate Lewis: Thinking back on my advocacy days and bringing farmers to meet with RMA in DC. We were able to get incremental change from RMA and explained things very clearly. Those were successful because we heard from people what the specific issues were and we got them in the room. I think we have a unique opportunity to identify all sort of risks for the Secretary. If we can create a list of all sorts of issues for organic farmers… I do not particularly want to do RMA’s job for them here, but I was also compelled by Roland’s comment this morning that risk management for a small operation in GA might look like row cover. Different ideas of risk management within the scope and scale of an operation. Might be part of how we comment to the Secretary on how to mitigate risk based on the scope and scale of the operation. Might be a framework within which we might be able to frame the conversation and turn it into productive output that USDA is going to listen to.
NPP: Want to elevate one thing you said from experience working on farm bill? Did you have any info on contract price addendum?
Nate: Many crops are contracted for so many aren’t looking for price on Chicago board and folks are reluctant to share contract prices b/c private business dealings. It was about getting the right people in the room and getting them all of the right information so that they couldn’t go back and say “actuarily sound,” which is what they do.
NPP: Both of our calls with RMA were productive and their inclination is how to help organics do better. The contract price addendum is unique to organic. Do some research if don’t know about it. One thing that b/c of work like this document RMA is able to make products that are good with tangible impacts to communities.
Amy: One thing to add about contract price addendum – not only for organic, but for transition, as well. Provides extreme benefit for our community. Grateful for the list that our commenters provided to us. Detailed ways that we can look to improve things. Need to aggregate voices and look at multiple methods of risk management.
Brian: Spoke last week with insurance agent at a meeting. Really surprised that in whole farm program they said CSAs could not be covered, because record keeping requirements do not fit with CSA model. That’s a barrier that could be overcome.
NPP: That’s one good form to fix that problem.
Dilip: One other point you mentioned Carolyn is higher subsidies for conventional. Is there a big difference for organic? Higher subsidies for conventional farmers, any difference in subsidies for organic, or are they applicable to the same subsidies. And the second was it’s too expensive b/c they have less acreage?
Amy: I can speak to this in my area, and this relates to coverage, subsidies, and your history. This was an example that one of the public commenters mentioned. It seems like, in my general growing area that is traditional for corn and soybeans, there is a discount factor that is provided to transition producers – 65% – lower base-line – I am starting with less coverage even though I do have experience, because my conventional experience does not relate at all to my transition. The T yields that set the baseline can be aspirational to some, and that’s where you’re getting high ratio payouts that do not make sense for RMA. In my area, the base-level yields that are assigned are incredibly depressed from what I can produce. I am one of those members that purchase crop insurance, but if I have an event, I do not really have the coverage that makes a difference. It’s catastrophic insurance, at best. There is a slight scale difference on the subsidies. One of the survey questions asked for the cost of it – with TOGA, it provides us with a discount on insurance – I am not finding that the cost is the issue, it’s the price that I’m getting – I’m not getting anything for the dollars that I’m spending. It’s interpretation of the words. If you’re not getting adequate coverage, then it’s definitely an expensive product.
Logan: Do you expect to use crop insurance. Is there going to be a use of it? When you’re saying it isn’t justifying the expense, how often do farmers normally see that payout?
Amy: Matter of the weather. Drought isn’t a peril I have to face compared to a lot of the country. My only risk factor with insurance is hail, and the extent of damage on my crop. If I get 30% crop damage I don’t get coverage because I am over-yielding If I was a conventional farmer my yield history would provide me an insurance payment because I would have impacted my safety net.
Logan: With the historical yields, as I was learning with some of the commenters, it has to be on that field or that farm year after year, so that doesn’t fit for organic. I think this needs to be tailored to organic. That will take a decade to get sufficient information or data.
Amy: positive change that occurred. If transition in particular county, you can move over your yield history. New yield history can feed into 4 numbers of what replacing. Clock starts over when organic so real challenge building yield history with crop rotation.
Wood: Totally off topic – Do you find that there is some built-in resilience to your organic acreage versus conventional? How does that factor in?
Amy: Yes, I do believe we have a higher level of resiliency, especially when it comes to drought. In terms of hail, that is nondiscriminatory issue – impacts everyone the same. Tools to recover are different. Wind is a big factor. The resiliency of the nutritional levels in our crops helps with wind issues.
Nate Lewis: regardless of the producer’s ability to self-insure there is often financial reality of not having choice of not getting crop insurance and working to make it more functional product, it is a requirement for a lot of conventional financing.
Amy: There is one other topic I want to discuss – diversity. There were quite a lot of comments on it. I think it needs to be defined and interpreted. I want to have additional diversity on my farm. I try to plant crops that have insurable attributes. I have one legume that is insurable, but the others that I plant are not insurable. Hand-in-hand we have to have RMA in a partner in this. What is normal in terms of crop rotation for a conventional producer is different than organic producers. Crops that make sense, we need to be able to have insurance for those. There is currently a process for this – called a written agreement – takes three years usually. They generally say that they have not had a lot of requests in that category and therefore they are not offering coverage. I think diversity could increase, but I think it’s going to take not only markets, but also crop insurance on things that make sense.
NPP: On written agreements seems opportunity for university or other folks – start throwing crops on farms to get actuarial data. I have to do written agreement on flax but no one else grows it so I have to do a written agreement. What crops could we grow in a county and get data and through universities or more strategic planting.
Amy: 100%. I think this is a big community effort. Complicated issue. I think we can move the needle. We have seen some changes that are very positive that we have highlighted here. We need a list of additional items that would provide similar type coverage when we are organic producers.
Carolyn: What do people think about a USDA task force to put some of their highly specialized knowledge to the broader topic of farm programs for organic farmers.
Amy: I love Task Forces – I think they are great. We need functional people on the team. We need insurance adjusters that visit our fields and may not have the knowledge on organic production, and agents, as well.
Carolyn: One of my personal pet peeves is that I understand how farm programs have evolved over time, but it seems that maybe organic farmers need something different. I think maybe organic farmers need something different rather than trying to tweak these programs that don’t really take care of what is needed.
Kyla: Right now the ACA has a working group about assessing resources for gov’t programs to help producers better utilize those programs. Is that a similar idea as this task force? We could see what the deliverables are from working group. Some things being discussed are: Universal OSP, how to streamline resources, etc. Maybe we could start there and pursue this other idea if it does not give us what we are looking for.
NPP: This is discussion document so more of it coming.
Amy: Thank you, Carolyn, for leading this important topic. Looking forward to continuing the conversation.
Discussion Document: Oversight Improvement to deter fraud: Consistent Location Identification
Challenge: The location of certified organic operations, including fields is inconsistently recorded and managed across certifiers. This challenges the industry, leading to a gap in certifiers’ ability to accurately cross- check the operations and fields they certify with other certifiers. Furthermore, some certifiers cannot conduct independent verification or unannounced inspections of fields because they don’t have mapping capabilities of all field locations.
Solution: Certifiers located both domestically and internationally can seamlessly harmonize the data intake of their clients when producers request to certify new fields for organic certification. By requesting the geolocation of certified operations , certifiers will be able to receive consistent data that is easily managed while also allowing the inspectors to confirm the accuracy of the data during the inspection and use it as a cross-check.
Amy: Thanks Board for farm pictures for presentation. This document is result of collaborative effort of subcommittee and chair. Slides organize the discussion document. This topic is relating to consistent location information. For certified operations the challenge is more consistent location identification for all certified operations, domestically and internationally to report GPS coordinates was an example. Buildng on basic conditions in fall to record certified acres on organic certificates. Building on that to actually know where fields are located. Based on consistency aspect and recommending that certifiers deploying same approach and inspectors can spend more time fighting fraud than finding the farm.
There were some certifier comments that mentioned that it is a low-burden ask, as it is a one-time collection. Through public comments, we wanted to provide some clarity. We are not requiring those that do not use technology to use it. We are not requiring annually where you plan each crop. We are not indicating that this information be public facing; just for certifiers to use. There was also confusion around field and parcel and nomenclature around that.
We had great participation in public comments – 7 certifiers – 1 inspector and 1 inspector group supported – several farms, including one from the plain community, supported. There were 3 commenters that listed limited support, but I hope that clarity that we provided would garner more support from those groups.
In general – how are we going to accomplish this? Great solutions and no tech solutions discussed. Trying to get a very similar language to manage these cross-checks. FSA and RMA use similar systems however not all producers are doing those farm programs. Looking for system that will work domestically and internationally.
One thing to highlight, and public comments provided some of this data of the geo coordinates in practice. We learned that the Mexican organic standard requires this. Some aspects of grower groups within the EU community have this as a requirement. FDA and new food traceability rule – some crops and products will have further scrutiny on the traceability. RMA requirement (see slide above).
Will turn it over to the Board for discussion. We have 2 recommendations in this document – one about consistency and how we are communicating, and second about land affidavits. So you have the complete tracking history from when a farm comes on line and if that farm changes hands. That whole history will be available.
CACS has two recommendations:
- Consistency amongst all accredited certifiers to use a universal system, the GPS, to obtain specific location data information of all certified operations.
- Previous land affidavits include and are reconciled with GPS location information, which is essential for both domestic and international.
NPP: Going through a couple of these things in context of public comments. In my head this is a big beautiful nothing burger and I’m so surprised how you grillers can make something out of nothing. I appreciate all groups that represent farmers. If I were not in organic community, it would sound like you didn’t have control over organic system at all. Just thinking about – call us folks if you have that fixable of a question and it took almost 2 days of comments to talk to member of plains community that field means something different than plain. Hearing from plain community it was a very quick fix. We encourage you to contact us when one word correction. Trying to describe a word applicable to unit of land is going to be unique. We need your input on right word or set of terms. We want to try to figure out word that captures a legal descriptor that would live with the property until legally subdivide it. Certifiers that have a question and want to call each other, you basically have to talk in pictures. There’s not a good vernacular among certifiers. That’s the point of this. Explain to me how we can write better because these things in my head or so simple. This is in no way a public facing piece of data. How can ewe make that more clear, because I thought that was clear in the document?
In talking about facilitating unannounced inspections or cross-checking – how do certifiers talk to each other more effectively to bust fraud – with cross-checks, we are going to have a common language to try to figure out what fields are getting double certified, what fields are coming back in one year after being sprayed. That goes beyond legal descriptions or hand-drawn maps. When representing stakeholders – and I say this with all due respect – understanding what the ground truthing comments are…we had a comment that said, “Doesn’t every field have an address?” No. Houses have addresses. We are trying to set a common denominator on how to talk about this. I was surprised at the confusion regarding what we were talking about. It seemed like there were a lot of opinions in the comments that we got that could have been done away with if we’d provided more background information – that’s on us.
If I’m an inspector, most likely going to have to ask operator where the field is. No consistent way for certifier to locate the field. It allows us a backstop so not being lead around by producer not following the rules.
Logan: Funny comment as far as the terminology and how it can differ across growing regions. In most of the world, when you say “plow,” that is to like “bottom plow,” but in the SE we sometimes think that means “cultivate.” I don’t know how that got to be that way, but sometimes we indicate that we are plowing our carrots, and people are like, “Why in the world would you do that?” I can understand how different language can be from one place to another.
NPP: We try to teach organic inspectors how to get a rip on colloquialisms. Tricky.
Amy: I was going to add with that – we have that challenge a little bit here. Listening to oral comments, there was one certifier that said that GPS is the language oversees. I thought that was interesting. The US space program are the ones that uphold the GPS systems. That is a system that can be understood internationally. I think that solving it internationally might be easier than solving it nationally.
Kim: Sounds like we need a glossary of terms when we put something together.
Kyla: just going to say whatever word you land on, then provide a definition. Current word is “land” not “field” or “parcel.” The other thing I caught in comments, is consistency and some commenters from certifiers being able to utilize more than one tool so I wonder how we can do both. How can we be consistent but not too narrow.
Amy: I’m glad you called that out. We want to be accommodating to multiple means for the end results. Parcel identification, legal address, or GPS can all get us to where we want to go. Street address, potentially, but a lot of people confuse street address with mailing address. Mailing addresses will not yield a GPS coordinate at the end of the day. I think GPS is more universally internally accepted, but I do think there are different ways to figure this out.
Nate Lewis: To add: field is the defined term but the land requirements also include “parcel” so we have language to choose from.
Amy: Other general thoughts? I feel good with providing clarity on the field/parcel. Other thoughts on the document itself?
NPP: In bringing on fields, there is usually a few different ways to do it – at the application period at the beginning, middle of the season, annual inspection for all producers, but often have spot inspections for a quick checkup for something in the field. I was interested in how much was made of the concern that we would put Amish inspectors out of work for this possible tech requirement. I was hoping to hear from more certifiers, because there are a lot of times when that annual inspection has a spot inspection where you might get a different inspector who does use technology. Figuring out how we get more folks involved with big ideas is something I would ask of the community going forward. Trying to come up with solutions for us so that we could parse them out would be great.
Kyla: Couple things thinking of: inspection scheduling is complicated. A lot of things go into it to try to match up qualified inspector with operation to keep costs low and rotate inspectors in. That’s one additional factor that goes into inspection scheduling. Devil is always in the details. Do think more than one tool to get at this information would help facilitate the action that certifiers would need to do to implement this recommendation.
Amy: Thanks so much for thoughts. That completes our CACS work agenda items.
Nature Powell-Palm calls the NOSB meeting into recess, concluding Day 1 of the Spring 2023 NOSB meeting.
Wednesday, April 26, 2022: Spring NOSB Meeting, Day 2
Jennifer Tucker, National Organic Program (NOP) Deputy Administrator makes some introductory remarks and calls the meeting to order.
National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Census of Agriculture Survey Results
Dr. Jenny Tucker introduces Tony Dorn; his branch is mostly responsible for the dissemination of NASS statistics.
Tony: (Goes over 2021 Certified Organics briefing.) The 2021 release was the 7th release by NASS – planned census special study. The 2018 Organic production Survey was the first organics study by NASS.
The 2021 release is the census of all known operations with certified or transitioning organic production in the USA. The data includes commodity level for acreage, etc. There has been a steady increase in organic farms since 2008. Organic croplands remains strong, 3% increase. But pasture and rangeland decreased 30% since 2016.
California is the clear leader in most categories. The top 10% of states account for 75% of organic sales in the USA.
Crop sales increased by 6%. Total sales increased 13% from 2019. Milk is the largest commodity, with broilers and eggs second.
Livestock sales were up across all categories. Broilers and eggs increased over 30% each.
Organic marketing practices showed that direct to consumer sales were marketed by over 3k farms. Value added products has over $7mil in sales.
The top production practices were fairly consistent. Use of manure is down, and the no-till practices are up.
Regulatory challenges remained similar to farmers to 2019.
Most farms plan to maintain their current levels of production. The acres of cropland and acres in pasture decreased overall (20% decrease), and fewer acres were transitioned to organic overall.
Organic farms by sales class:
The largest farms accounted for the most sales but was also a small % of the total farms.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS FROM THE NOSB
Nate Lewis: The NOSB provides research priorities to shape grant programs: do you think a type of recommendation from us about which data points to collect would be useful for NASS?
Tony: We have a federal register notice that goes out, and you can always give feedback to NASS directly. We’d be glad to consider any kind of changes. We want to reflect the current data needs.
Dilip: Decreasing organic land from 2019-2021 – what’s the reason behind this? Does it mean that domestic production has decreased? Also see that it is a $62bil industry
Tony: The pastureland and acres did show a decrease. Organic is a fairly concentrated industry so we can’t disclose individual operations, but individual operations changing can drastically change numbers. But cropland was increasing.
Dilip: food sales have been increasing and even during COVID-time had increased about 12%. Do you have any say on the difference or what could be the reason or you may not have covered this in the survey?
Tony: We’ll have more information and will be another indicator of trends. When 2021 comes along well have more data. 2019 did see strong sales and will have to look at what crops might be decreasing.
Brian: If I understood correctly, response rate was 42%? How do you extrapolate to get the figures if you only have that level of respondents?
Tony: Follow on survey is mandatory. 20129 wasn’t part of that program so it was non-mandatory. Even during the census we go into full detail for adjustments for non-response. Not everyone responds. We account for like farms and analysis trends to account for those that are not responding. Responses are critical. Stronger data we have, we can make adjustments, but having report by producers is really valuable.
Jerry: Nice to deal with numbers. Surprised me: ratio of specialty crops to commodities. The specialty crops have their place. The geographics also surprising. To Dilips question: Maybe that dip was attributable to COVID and the disappearance to the decrease in food service market? Is there any attempt in greater agency to compare the conventional to he organic? Might be something there to be learned.
Tony: So normally don’t really do special study report on our own. Do have a data lab available. Can dig into data more deeply. Everything is confidential. As far as our scope, we kind of produce reports, ERS will take reports and might compare organics. Do value added reporting based on statistics.
Amy: Tony want to prompt Carolyn for reminder of your question?
Carolyn: Very happy data exists because remember when was no data. I know there are imperfections in data set. Yesterday we were talking about crop insurance and the way it’s reported out by NASS and one category that says doesn’t need or want. We’d like to know more about that particular piece of information.
Tony: That’s something we haven’t really dug into other than what was reported and what the results were. When we get down to the details of farmers responding – every type of detailed questionnaire – obviously there’s a burden on producers to report. I haven’t looked into that specifically yet, but I’d be glad to.
Carolyn: how do you create those questions? Where do those options about crop insurance come from?
Tony: Back to the earlier question – when we were first starting, we worked with other partners. There will be a Federal Register notice where we take feedback on what questions to develop and have. If you’d submit that as a question, we’d consider it. It is evolving and there is always opportunity to change.
Carolyn: I used to work for ERS and I have a bit of insight – I know there is a lot of agency-level discussion about what actually belongs on the survey. I’m wondering what you can say publicly about it?
Tony: I have been working in this area for a few years. We currently have a great working relationship with ERS. We are working to kind of restructure, and we have a good working partnership and are really working closely together. We are both interested in the data. Just like us, they get a lot of requests for more granular data.
Amy: Love to hear that you are working with diff partners in USDA. Curious: need sound actuary data into RMA to increase our database. Can RMA rely on this date to improve their actuarial database? Or would they just reference this data?
Tony: Well, federal statistical agency means that (inaudible). Transparency that we strive to do our policies. Same type of aggregate data you’re working with is what they would see.
Amy: No not necessarily individual, just aggregated data on regional database. Not everyone participates in crop insurance. But you noted that this survey is 100% participation going forward so it could be useful.
Tony: Don’t have any specific.
Dr. Tucker: Thank you, Tony. Want to comment when these surveys come out we send out Organic Insiders on that. If any groups are listening – augment those requests to group mailing lists. The data is very important! Especially when it comes to rulemaking. Well here was that response rate of that. If there are high response rates in organic data collection it supports asking for “special studies”. Makes it easier to get the rules everyone says they want.
Crops Subcommittee (CS)
Amy Bruch, Chairperson
Amy: We’ve optimized process for how do sunset. We also planning work more effectively. Sometimes seasonality with day jobs. Sometimes have off periods. Easier to work if know calendar in advance and tackling TRs. Hopefully what community will see is TRs in hands a little sooner. It does take a long time collectively among subcommittees – think 17 this year – trying to do this in efficient way b/c sometimes these material – review in tandem – like phosphoric acid – so good if have partnerships among subcommittees.
Jerry: As a more vocal naysayer, I’d like to say yes this is the way to go. Ability to plan out calendar has extraordinary benefits. These beginnings were difficult and pulled through.
Kyla: within each scope subcommittees – handling has 29 or 26 sunsets. Really had to work collaboratively. Can’t do it in a silo especially when workload in one subcommittee is more substantial – it ebbs and flows.
NPP: Shout out to Amy and the whole team who manage materials. When we have folks who do not show up or drop off the Board, that can throw a wrench into it, but everyone showed up and really stepped in, as needed. Thank you.
Amy: Now to 4th point and response to feedback. Crops – 4 complete TRS and 4 limited scope TRs. Still waiting for carbon dioxide. You’ll see on work agenda for next semester. Protocol for when receiving draft TR is begin leveraging document for review process. Heard a lot on potassium sorbate. Used TR to write our document. Want to clear up some confusion – do use draft mode to forward our work agenda. Documents will be viewed next semester, discussing them now, so longer runway to be prepared before we vote. Did decide to prioritize TRs above other work agenda item. Moving them to the front of the line. We talked about this to help feedback exchange.
I did review the work agenda for next semester – the carbon dioxide petition is the only addition.
Discussion Document: Potassium sorbate – petitioned
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS:
Summary of Petition:
Potassium sorbate, referred to as KS throughout the report, is being petitioned for use as an active ingredient for plant disease and insect control/suppression in field and greenhouse applications. The petition states that potassium sorbate will be an effective tool in a crop disease-resistance program with its contact mode of action, and that it is not suspected to contribute to the phytotoxicity of crops.
The petition identifies the substance as 100% food-grade KS with no ancillary substances. The proposed end-use fungicide/insecticide contains 45% KS, with the remaining 55% comprised of the inert ingredients’ urea and citric acid, both of which appear on the 2004 EPA List 4A: Inerts of Minimal Concern. With KS as an active ingredient, the end-use product would be used to target crop disease and insects such as powdery mildew, downy mildew, and whiteflies on many crops, including grapes, cucurbits, roses, stone fruit, pome fruit, nuts, solanaceae vegetables, and cannabaceae plants.
Questions for stakeholders:
1. Is there a need for potassium sorbate (KS) for use as an insecticide or plant disease control?
2. Is there any additional known research available to understand KS’s potential and efficacy if used as an insecticide or plant disease control?
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Amy Bruch is the lead.
Amy: This was a petitioned substance that the subcommittee thoroughly reviewed with the materials that were provided to us – new TR, old material – this was a substance that the 1995 subcommittee looked at, as well. There is a history. Interesting to read some of the notes on their process. One individual on the NOSB camped out at the FDA to try to get information on this substance. I’m sure Joanna knows more about that than I do. SEE SUMMARY ABOVE.
Currently on the NL as a synthetic inert ingredient. Has been petitioned three additional times for inclusion on the NL unsuccessfully – seed film coating and as a preservative – livestock as a mold inhibitor. It is listed on the inert List 4 ingredients – also exempt for regulations on efficacy and toxicity. GRAS. International – no current international regulations that accept this product for petitioned used.
Environmental and health impact: stated that the degradation of the product is more hazardous than the product itself. In general, and this was noted with public comments, there is limited information about the material in this petitioned function. There is a lot of information as a food harvest treatment and preservative. We do not necessarily understand chemical interaction, interactions with soil organisms – we have ideas on what that could be, but we do not have this substance that we can analyze in its current form. There is information to say that it would inhibit soil microorganisms and lower pH. Most of the potassium sorbate when consumed as a food preservative is expelled.
Many alternatives currently. Potassium silicate and lime Sulphur. (?) Extensive list of alternatives.
Not made with renewable resources. Materials used are not recyclable. Does not compliment natural resources. Heard with a lot of public comments that more research is needed.
Review of public comments: Lots of participation on this item. Several members had concerns including two certifiers and two advocacy groups. Farmers tended to be in favor along with grower groups. One farmer asked for additional research and if it meets OFPA criteria. The theme was that more research is needed. Farmers noted they need adequate tools to control powdery mildew and spider mites. Typically in tree fruit and veggie use could see some benefit from this product. Commenters noted that the product is already being used as an approved inert ingredient – why can’t we move it over the NL as an active? Stakeholders need solutions.
Brian: I have to admit haven’t looked at this in awhile. Petition for product had a lot of paragraphs cut and pasted from previous petitions – seems wasn’t focused on uses petitions for.
Amy: research is fairly limited – seed treatment and food preservative also in petition.
Brian: Believe there are conventional products used for this purpose. Well, side point. May be more data coming about efficacy if used in conventional world. Question I have for NOP if we vote petition down, it cannot be re-petitioned for this use. Is that correct?
Jared Clark (NOP): It would have to have new information for it to be petitioned again; or it could be petitioned again for a new use.
Brian: So it could conceivably come back. Those are my questions.
Amy: I didn’t necessarily see this use in conventional fields. Could be there are different modes of action chosen, like more octane for conventional growers. We did ask the community for additional resources and got one document from Extension. But it’s a lot of the transitive property: it’s used for food preservation so it should work in this capacity as well. In the TR it noted that this information is minimal.
Logan: Jared, when you mean new information is that efficacy information.
Jared: Minimal. Could be efficacy, could be environmental studies, etc.
Amy: Some efficacy data in TR and Comparisions done. But comparisons did not move some folks to think it would be more beneficial than products already available.
Kyla: Besides the research on efficacy, or question you had asked, is there any other information that would be helpful to write a proposal.
Amy: Public comments were helpful. There is a need for tools for producers. Questions if meet OFPA criteria. Originally we did deem TR – were trying to get more specific information. It’s just not available at least what was found in the TR. Additional research – asked community for this. Have to work with what we have. As for Conventional data, can do another survey to see if that data exists. Stakeholder feedback is. going to be critical.
The petitioner did listen into our oral comments. If there is information you can provide us feel free.
Dilip: Curious: synthetic substance. There are some alternatives available as well. Curious to about alternative substances – how efficient are they? We don’t really want to use synthetic substances in organic, so why add a synthetic when natural substances are available?
Amy: Have to take into account essentiality piece and when it comes to organic multiple tools are helpful with pest mitigation. In terms of naturals there were recommendations for alternatives planting certain varieties, rotations, biological controls, synthetics already on the national list. In sulfur category a lot of products people using and on National List. Kind of myriad of natural alternatives – biologicals and synthetics. Some community members asked about essentially and some farmers saying need additional tools.
Brian: I am going to put on my farmer hat and say that it is very often the case – and it is for this product – that a lot of the natural alternatives are not nearly as effective as even the synthetics that are allowed. I think that we do have some pretty good synthetics. I am not sure of the entire range of diseases that this material might be effective on. Powdery mildew, in my mind, is pretty easy to manage, but downy mildew and late blight are different. If there is a lack of research, maybe this product would be effective for late blight and we don’t know. I am very much in favor of having tools in the toolbox for farmers, but they need to be ones that go through the process and are not questionable. In my mind, I think there are real questions about this one. The fact that it could be re-petitioned with real data is what I would like to see.
Dilip: Natural vs. Synthetics. If you have natural versions of a material available, do we list the synthetic with a restriction? Is the material listed just for the synthetic, or is there some alternative way of listing.
Amy: I am going to pass to Kyla, our certifier, for the technical information.
Kyla: At the beginning of 601 it talks about certain uses (paragraph) that require that the practice standards 206(a)-(d) require natural be used before a synthetic on the NL. That’s where those natural practices are required to be utilized. I don’t think an annotation or restriction would be needed on that paragraph.
Dilip: Thanks, that helps a lot.
Nate: One of the elements in the write-up that I’m focused on is the registration history of the product. EPA registered pesticide until 1989. Then on List 4 – outdated. Now it’s a 25B registration. Read between the lines – usually when something gets cancelled, it’s because people aren’t using it. There’s a reason why it wasn’t used in the conventional world. I don’t know that for sure, but I’m making assumptions. Could it be part of a broader more complicated set of tools? That would be part of the information I’d like to see. Then we get into the issue of if it’s not allowed in organic, how can farmers know if it will work – kind of the chicken and the egg. I tend to want to expand the toolbox. Don’t know if that’s helpful or not.
Amy: there is in TR some studies but few and far between. In terms of efficacy comparing potassium sorbate with potassium bicarbonate. Understanding bicarbonate in the field could help. Did ask one commenter about efficacy data. Several people pointed to sulfur as main go-to. Did seem more superiority with sulfur based products.
Franklin: In the petition, it says that it was compared to conventional products in terms of efficiency and it was superior to that and does way better than any of the organic alternatives. Did the petitioner supply data to support this efficacy information that is in the petition?
Amy: That’s what we’re looking at – parallel information to support ot not support that information – independent data. We are trying to reconcile that.
Franklin: Back to what Nate said, research institutions test materials all of the time – does not have to be a certified organic plot. This comes back to research institutions and how they can supply us with some of the data that we need to make those decisions.
Logan: When saying doesn’t align with OFPA – does seem benign. What are the properties that don’t align with OFPA that give us hesitation.
Kim: That is definitely something we want to review as a full Board. The list that I provided that you just summarized is the initial list that we were tackling with crops, but that is something we need to deliberate on. Your input with farmers from the south is what we need to hear.
Logan: The diseases that it seems to have most efficacy on are ones I don’t deal with. Usually strongly support having those tools b/c of area we grow. Don’t deal with powdery mildew in our area.
Kim: Do you have spider mites?
Logan: Yes. That is more common in plastic-culture crops – tomatoes, squash. I do not know if it’s because of overhead irrigation, but I think it alleviates some of the problems with spider mites. We seem to see flare ups when you’re using pyrethroids in conventional settings. We do not have that in our crops, so these are not things that I’m used to controlling, but I know there are a lot of other growers that probably are having issues with these things, and I will look into that.
Amy: More discussion?
Brian: Just wanted to point out that there are potential health questions in terms of interactions with nitrates and digestive process. Doesn’t have a total green light in terms of health effects is the way I understand it.
Amy: Absolutely. The breakdown products leave sorbic acid and nitrite – we talked about that extensively in subcommittee. There are some negative reactions with those two. The TR noted that there might be some negative accumulation in rats, so that could be accumulation in the body.
Amy: Send questions our way.
2025 Crops Sunset Review
Alcohols: Ethanol – 205.601(a)
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS:
Use: Ethanol is used in organic crop production as an algicide, disinfectant, and sanitizer, including irrigation system cleaning.
Manufacture: Ethanol can be produced by fermentation and chemical synthesis through direct or indirect hydration of ethylene. Fermentation to produce ethanol can use starch, sugar, or cellulose using either natural or genetically engineered strains of bacteria or yeast.
Discussion: The Crops Subcommittee noted there is little to no environmental or human health impacts associated with the use of ethanol.
In the 2017 sunset review, the NOSB voted unanimously to keep ethanol on the National List. Public comments during 2017 were mainly in favor of keeping ethanol on the National List, but one commenter did suggest that organic ethanol sources should be investigated.
Questions to our Stakeholders:
1. Should there be an annotation requiring organically produced ethanol if sufficient quantities are available for organic production?
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Amy: Public comments more or less aggregated information. My plan is to review overall intro to both substances and aggregate discussion on comments. Ethanol is listed 205.601 synthetic substances allowed. See info for uses. EPA considers practically non-toxic. Biodegradable. Little to no or evidential or human health impact.
Isopropanol: (see info for uses.). EPA considers it slightly toxic to practically non-toxic. Commenters – 4 certifiers say a lot of operations using. Farmer groups provided examples of uses. When used as labeled it does not pose risk for health or environment. Not directly applied to edibles. Alternatives: chlorine materials, essential oils, heat treatment. Chlorine materials can corrode specialty tools. It’s more available in rural areas. 1 question about requiring organic produced ethanol. Comments: producers would just switch to isopropanol. Brought up bigger question about whether all inputs should be organically sourced.
Logan: On that, specifically, the compost and manures would have to be organically produced, which would shut us down for a bit. That’s how big opening that can of worms would be if we opened that.
Alcohols: Isopropanol 205.601(a)
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS:
Use: Isopropanol is used for a variety of industrial and consumer uses. In organic crop production, isopropanol can be used as an algicide, disinfectant, and sanitizer. Isopropanol has broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity against vegetative bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
Manufacture: Isopropanol is a synthetic compound that is manufactured by hydration of petroleum-derived propylene. Acetone can also be used as a hydrated base chemical over a metal catalyst.
Discussion: The Crops Subcommittee reviewed the use, manufacturing, and environmental concerns of isopropanol, and previous NOSB reviews.
When isopropanol was reviewed for the 2017 sunset, the vote by the NOSB was unanimous in retaining it on the National List. Public comments from stakeholders were mainly in favor of keeping it on the National List as an example of why multiple sanitizers and disinfectants are needed and listed for organic use.
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Newspaper or other recycled paper, without glossy or colored inks 205.601(b)(i)
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS:
Use: Newspaper and other recycled paper is commonly used in organic agriculture as a non-chemical means of weed management and soil moisture retention, soil temperature moderation, and boosts to soil organic matter. It is also used to shade out plant growth; it then degrades into the soil.
Manufacture: A 2017 TR on this material reports that one-third to one-half of all paper in the United States is recycled into other paper products, and reports EPA figures from 2013 data that paper is recycled at a rate of 63% in the United States.
Recycled paper comes from a number of different sources that affect the grade of the recycled paper product; old corrugated containers, mixed paper, old newspapers, high grade de-inked paper, and pulp substitutes. These larger categories are further segmented into as many as 50 different sub-grades of recycled paper. Paper recovered for recycling is ultimately shredded and pulped to produce new paper products.
Some recycled paper cannot be made into other paper products but can become a feedstock for compost products, while some recycled paper carries too many contaminants – some of it toxic — including plastics, motor oil, paint, glass, and other non-paper materials.
An important consideration of newspaper and recycled paper in organic production relates to the inks that are printed onto the paper. Black ink has historically been derived from vegetable- or petroleum- based sources that involve the use of solvents that can damage the environment in a variety of ways. Increasingly, black inks have become water-based, though not 100% solvent-free. The use of various heavy metal compounds in colored ink has been an important consideration in excluding colored inks from use in organic production. Similarly, while glossy inks can gain their functional components from nonsynthetics like bentonite or kaolinite, those functions can also come from petrochemical synthetic polymers like acrylonitrile, polyethylene (LDPE), styrene, butadiene, vinyl acetate, and polyvinyl chloride, excluding them from any use in organic production.
Adhesives, glues, waxes, and resins are also among the materials that could be found in newspaper and recycled paper products and raise similar questions to those posed during prior reviews of biodegradable biobased mulch film.
Paper mulches are not regulated as an herbicide by the EPA and are considered inert.
It is worth noting that virgin, or non-recycled paper, comes from a variety of plant materials, including wood, trees, straw, hemp, sugarcane bagasse, bamboo, reeds, and kenaf, with the majority coming from wood fibers. As noted in the 2017 TR , most of the wood fibers derived from trees used for paper production do not incorporate methods considered to be excluded from organic production. However, some genetically modified trees are being produced that could potentially be used in paper production in the future. Some sources have reported that as many as 200 different chemicals can be used to make it possible to use tree fiber as a feedstock for paper production (Discover Magazine, April 4, 2014).
Discussion: At the 2015 NOSB sunset review, it came to the attention of both the NOSB and the public that there are new, less toxic materials used in production of newspaper and other recycled paper products which could stimulate the NOSB to consider a change to the annotation for this material. A technical report (TR) was requested and subsequently completed in summer 2017. The TR revisited the ingredients and colored inks in newspaper as well as their effect on the environment.
While there has been progress towards less toxic materials used in inks, and more recycling of paper products since the original listings and annotation of newspaper and recycled paper, it is difficult-to- impossible to determine if the inks present in the newspaper are ones that are less problematic. There is no methodology to distinguish between color inks that might be more acceptable for direct application to organic land and those that are not. When reviewing the 2017 TR, the Crops Subcommittee decided the current annotation for newspaper and recycled paper, which prohibits glossy or colored inks, should remain. This conclusion was presented as an update to the full NOSB at the Fall 2017 NOSB meeting. The NOSB unanimously voted to continue this listing at 205.601(b) in 2018.
There was continued support for this material to remain on the National List with the current annotation. Certifiers, grower groups, and individual growers all submitted comments in favor of retaining this material in both locations on the National List. While some stated there was currently not much use of this material in organic crop production, they also stated it should continue to be allowed for those who wish to continue using it. One certifier noted that newspaper could be included in manure that is cleaned out of livestock barns, supporting the relisting as a compost feedstock.
Questions to our Stakeholders:
1. Should there be an annotation for this listing that attempts to further clarify what uses are acceptable within organic production?
2. How widely used are these materials in organic production?
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Wood: There are actually two listings, and I would suggest we have this conversation at the same time. Interested in the written comments on this material. Appreciated the community raising some interesting issues. In both cases, we are talking about paper that is essentially been repurposed to support weed suppression in one usage and as a compost feed stock in the other case. As outlined, one of the biggest issues that comes up is related to the inks with the recycled paper. Historically, black inks have migrated to more water-based materials, so they are not entirely solvent free. On the glossy and colored inks, it’s a bigger question. As the listing outlines, the listing allows for the use of the material without glossy or colored inks. There were a lot of questions about whether or not you could adequately keep those glossy or colored inks out of usage. It is pretty hard to perfectly regulate the use of that material. We do see some permitted use of recycled paper in Canada. No other specifications internationally. There has been a lot of discussion over the years. 2017 TR outlines a lot of these types of issues. After the 2017 TR, the subcommittee and the Board unanimously decided to continue to relist the material. This does seem to fall into the larger conversation about keeping a closer eye and understanding in more depth the PFAS issue and ensure that it does not have adverse impacts on organic or the ecosystem. That said, a lot of support for maintaining this listing as it is currently articulated. Heard from a lot of certifiers saying it is important to users and showing up in many OSPs. We had support from growers who supported the use of the materials, trade associations supported the material. There was a category that I would consider to be “not opposed” to the material, but one retailer in particular asked a series of questions that would push the conversation further, which I thought was interesting. There was one opposition to the material from a nonprofit, but suggested the material should continue to work on the material – whether growers can identify sources for recycled materials that are compatible with organic systems. Appreciated the breadth of feedback on this material and would welcome discussion others might have on the topic.
Brian: Alot of these materials are much more nuanced and complicated than they seem at first. Paper is quite different than it was in 70s and 80s. Concerned about PFAS and recent study saying newspapers have it – not sure how much. Get stuff in mail and it’s like the paper is plasticized and it doesn’t feel like old-fashioned paper. Are we worried about plastic fibers?
Wood: I do not have any real comment on that. Technically, the paper that is allowed to be used is the non-glossy paper without colored inks. I cannot speak to the certifier world and what they are seeing on the ground, but the feedback from certifiers suggested that it is still widely used. I agree with the point that you are making.
Nate: Can we talk about compost feedstock listing? Both at same time? Problematic to me b/c use not as feedstock but incidental accompaniment. Parsing out regulation – maybe issue in my brain – room for discussion about what the risk is in compost once composting occurring is there a contamination concern. Many states have a heavy metal test. Are there other contamination concerns as way to start at backend and move upstream.
Wood: Great point. Begs the same question Logan just raised on compost – what is coming out the back end.
Allison: Is cardboard covered here? I see the note about glues, adhesives, waxes – but didn’t know if that was covered here. Is that without the realm here?
Wood: Ask Jared – do not think so.
Jerry: Nor do I.
Franklin: In the report I see a blanket statement that there are less toxic materials using ink – that is so broad – are we going to assume that there is a general progress towards less toxic inks and make a decision – and then there are different sources of paper. Plus, there is a lot of work done in material science – when you look at a material, you cannot always be sure as to what is being used to make it. Are we at a risk that we might be allowing things that we otherwise wouldn’t if we didn’t put it under this broader material?
Wood: love that comment. Blanket statement about a move and blank inks are more and more water and vegetable based so that’s a fair point. There is conflation in write-up that I should fix and would benefit from your input and that of subcommittee.
Jerry: Franklin, I agree with you entirely. The question I would ask of the group, if it’s not used, what replaces it? That’s not a theoretical question, but perhaps a question we cannot answer here. Is it probable that it might be replaced with something that is worse?
Wood: Fair question. Would like to hear more nuance from certifier community. Seems to be broad support in certifier community. Does that mean we’re looking at every bit of newspaper on the ground. I don’t know of any newspaper without colored ink. Needs to be some nuance. I recognize certifiers don’t want to take position – but helpful for us to know what it looks like on the ground in terms of how to regulate.
Jerry: You’re right. The whole discussion around what the alternatives are stems for me in having worked for six years in trying to get a clamshell that was recyclable. Everyone was really happy that we got it, but at the end of the day, the glue that applied the label to the clamshell wasn’t allowed – and that was it. No discussion. So, in my mind, we have something here, but what is the alternative. It’s complicated – it’s nuanced.
NPP: Did you glean any information on how commonly this product is being used? And what scale of operation? Do these questions represent a large material contamination? Who is using this?
Wood: I do not know the answer to that. That’s a question that we could articulate for further feedback in the next few months.
Jerry: Mostly not used by itself. In terms of inspection process have no idea how that would go. In the berry world, it is widely used and don’t always see it b/c not highly visible.
Brian: Mentioned the other day in some comment: paper pot products. They use recycled paper as a constituent; we approved that thinking paper was quite benign. Another issue is municipal compost –a re growers allowed to use it? Yes. So that might be another source.
Kyla: Yes, they are allowed to use municipal compost. When I was looking at the certifier comments to see the #s provided, it seems to be a little all over the place. I know that PCO didn’t have a lot – 1. I did see, Nate, you had asked about types of producers, I think that one certifier reported smaller producers. I think scale might be a factor. Allison – you asked about cardboard. OMRI does list cardboard for this use.
Nate Lewis: I’ll just add my OSP includes cardboard and restriction of no glossy or colored inks.
NPP: To beef up that data set, perhaps the community could provide some information if you have any on the application of this material – I think we could all benefit from that.
Amy: Great discussion. Thank you, Wood.
Plastic mulch and covers 205.601(b)(2)(ii)
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS:
Use: Plastic mulches and covers provide multiple functions in organic production including, but not limited to, weed barrier, soil, nutrient and water retention, soil warming, soil solarizing, high and low tunnels, and reflective barriers for insect pests.
Manufacture: Plastic mulches and covers are thermoplastic resins of high melt viscosity, usually polyethylene. Resin pellets are melted into an extruder and pumped or blown through a die or tube to form the plastic in the desired shape.
Discussion: The Crops Subcommittee discussed the use, manufacturing, and environmental issues with plastic mulches. The expansiveness of the listing and annotations were reviewed, and it was noted that the term, “covers,” can be in reference to high and low tunnels as well as ground coverings. Members of the subcommittee discussed the significance of recycling as a diminishing option and reviewed the social concerns about recycling of plastic mulches not being a viable option. The subcommittee also discussed § 205.206(c)(6) that requires plastic mulches to be removed at the end of the growing or harvest season and how it is applied with this listing.
Questions to our Stakeholders: Please describe in detail how this listing for plastic mulches is being applied in conjunction with the § 205.206(c)(6) requirement for removal, and specifically, how is the provision being applied in all areas of organic cropping systems?
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Logan: (Summarizes the material information.) Many commenters ask for the re-listing of this material but asked for research into bio-based mulch film (BBMF) in addition to their support of the plastic mulch. Another commenter: NOSB and NOP should develop a plan while recognizing it is essential at this time. Interesting to ask certifiers the acres or amount of the producers using plastic mulch. Wondering how much of an impact this product has on the organic industry. It’s enough to give it a subset name: plasticulture farming. The plastics are a concern for stakeholders. If we can get an idea of which crops and how many acres; if we just do acres it will look small due to grain crops. We talk about this product a lot.
Nate: point you brought up if consider moving forward that NASS data would be important. Biodegradable mulch is not actually available. Its not something that can actually replace plastic with (yet); BBMF isn’t a product we have listed doesn’t exist.
Wood: commenter wrote that under OFPA all of these listings should say what is condition, what is the use, and lack of specificity is problematic. Do you feel like that would help this particular listing ? Is this example of how to figure out what to do, is one way to start to get really specific about conditions in which we’re allowing.
Logan: Do you mean adding annotation for it? Or in the OSP? People don’t like annotations always, but maybe that’s some way we can have restrictions and phase-out this product.
Kyla: Responding to Wood’s comment. Believe reference in OFPA is 65.17 (reads text). Crops list is divided by use. My interpretation is that current crops list is categorized satisfies that condition in OFPA.
Amy: Sounds like macro definition. Question for Logan: Did ask question on removal and for seasonal crops it’s somewhat intuitive. But for use in orchards, what about removal? 10-12 years longevity?
Logan: Question better for Jerry.
Jerry: Can’t be more helpful.
Nate: My understanding is weed mats is not a typical practice. Typical use of plastic mulch is for seasonal weed control or light reflection similar to annual crops, could potentially be reused year after year.
Franklin: farmers in hot regions say it doesn’t last throughout the years and in short time weeds poke out. Microplastics in everything – this will have to be dealt with at some point. What work is going into alternatives. Farmers find it useful for purpose for which it was made.
Logan: Biodegradeable – do not have that product yet. Conventional farmers, compared to plastic mulch – they expect 2 seasons. It lasts all summer and then they plant into it again to try and get a benefit of what’s remaining of the plastics. But for organic farmers they are removing the plastic at the end o every season, so they are not getting multiple-seasons out of the plastic mulch like conventional farmers. So if the BBMF biodegrades in one season that would be okay for organic farmers. Farmers seem eager for the BBMF products.
Aqueous potassium silicate 205.601(e) & (i)
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS:
Use: Aqueous potassium silicate is used as an insecticide for insects and mites. Formulations of aqueous potassium silicate are either sprayed on the foliage of plants or incorporated in the soil with the goal of plant uptake across root and leaf boundaries. The silica tetrahedra are purported to be incorporated in boundary cells (in roots and leaves) inhibiting insect feeding and the onset of plant disease infection.
The action of applying potassium silicate in a foliar spray serves to induce production of phytoalexins, chitinases and that in turn strengthen stroma and cell walls.
Manufacture: Aqueous potassium silicate is manufactured by combining high purity silica sand and potassium carbonate (both mined materials) and heating to a high temperature (2000 degrees F). The potassium carbonate and silicon dioxide fuse to form a molten potassium silicate glass with the evolution of carbon dioxide gas. This glass can either be 1) cooled and ground into a powder or 2) dissolved in water to form a potassium silicate solution. The solution may subsequently be spray dried to form hydrous powder granules of potassium silicate.
Discussion: Written comments in 2018 were heavily in favor of relisting. As an example, the Organic Produce Wholesalers Coalition wrote— The substance is taken up by plants and reinforces the plant’s ability to defend itself against diseases and pests through enhanced activation of specific immune responses.
The [TR] cites many articles and reviews that support positive and beneficial effects of soluble silicates in protecting plants from abiotic and biotic stresses. The most significant effect on plants, besides improving their fitness and increasing plant productivity, is the suppression of insect feeding and impacts from plant diseases.
Aqueous potassium silicate is approved by the EPA as a biopesticide for use on agricultural crops, fruits, nuts, vines, turf, and ornamentals, making it useful for producers of many of the fruit and vegetable crops distributed by OPWC members.
EPA notes that there is minimal potential for concern about exposure of insects, fish, and other non-target wildlife as a result of using potassium silicate for pest control. At the recommended concentration for potassium silicate foliar spray, reactivity with other substances used in organic crop, livestock or handling is not expected.
Based on information in the 2014 technical report (TR), concerns were raised in the 2018 sunset review regarding skin irritation from handling aqueous potassium silicate, effects on farmworkers making the foliar application, effects on human or animal consumers because of its reported effect of making forage plants less digestible, its reported effect of elongation and thickening of stems, delayed antithesis and flower deformation in some plant species, and whether it is essential to and compatible with organic production.
Following up on these concerns: Investigation of the effect of aqueous potassium silicate on flowers showed that the articles cited were greenhouse studies in soilless media. One study showed that applications of potassium silicate “either increased or decreased height, diameter, fresh weight, dry weight, flower diameter, and leaf thickness.” The other study found that drenches with higher rates of potassium silicate resulted in stunted plants with deformed flowers. However, substrate pH was not carefully controlled with the addition of such high-pH drenches. These studies have little to do with use of aqueous potassium silicate as a foliar spray in organic agriculture.
Similarly, the study showing that aqueous potassium silicate could make forages “more difficult to chew and digest” was unrelated to the use pattern of aqueous potassium silicate in organic agriculture. The study looked at forages harvested at different growth stages and showed that overmature grass forages contained high levels of silicon and were less digestible.
A new, limited scope TR currently in review says that aqueous potassium silicate does not present an inhalation hazard to farmworkers.
Aqueous potassium silicate products are used by some organic fruit and vegetable growers. They have not reported adverse effects on their produce, on the contrary, they advocated for its relisting. One grower reported that two early sprays of aqueous potassium silicate eliminated several late sprays of sulfur.
Questions to our Stakeholders:
1. What is the efficacy of aqueous potassium silicate relative to available alternatives?
2. How would the removal of this product impact organic growers?
3. To what extent does listing aqueous potassium silicate result in reductions in use of sulfur-based products for pest management?
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Brian: (Summarize uses.) Considered quite benign. Considered non-hazardous. Health and environmental impacts negligible. Some questions about it. Some commentators were pointing to 2014 TR and strange effects on plants like less digestible and palatable. I did some digging into literature and turns out that questionable and bizarre anomalies are studies done in water solution, hydroponic – where added to growing water medium. Not really looking at the same thing we are talking about here as a pest control. Palatability and digestibility to livestock, as it became overmature, it had higher silica materials – unfortunate this stuff in TR b/c not relevant to products being looked out. I did due diligence and looked at questions raised. New TR was requested and one of questions it asked was whether hazards to applicator if spraying silica type substance and it is in dry conditions and droplets evaporating. Could applicant be inhaling dust particle of this product? Said no, not an issue b/c size such that would make it to the plant. One issue that did come up that needs closer look is when this product is sprayed at lower pHs the actual – material is not a solid, it’s a glass. And sometimes makes a gel. Different in way we think of dissolved product so referenced in new TR that some of it goes into nano particle gel form within the droplets. What does that mean? Is this a problem? I don’t know. Input from community would be great. In terms of re-listing 4 in favor, 1 opposed, 1 I’m not sure, CCOF said 214 of growers use material and those who use are enthusiastic about it. I use it and think it’s awesome in combo with potassium bicarbonate. It is great.
Kyla: Looking at comments from the certifiers – some seemed to combine the reporting and some seemed to split out reporting for use. From my read, it’s being more widely used as insecticide listing than Fungicide listing. However CCOF combined them. Do not know if it’s being used more in one listing than another.
Brian: I do not know the answer. I wasn’t able to parse that out. I use it as a fungicide. I think it is interesting that so many of the materials that we look at can have effects as plant growth promoters, insecticides, fungicides – doing multiple things to the plant organism.
Elemental sulfur 205.601(e)(i)(j)
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS:
1. Reference: 205.601(e) As insecticides (including acaricides or mite control). (5) Elemental sulfur.
2. Reference: 205.601(i) As plant disease control. (10) Elemental sulfur.
3. Reference: 205.601(j) As plant or soil amendments. (2) Elemental sulfur.
Use: Approved legal uses of the substance (TR 67-75): Elemental sulfur is currently on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances as a synthetic substance allowed for use in organic crop production for the following categories:
1. For uses as an insecticide, including acaricides or mite control (7 CFR)) 205.601 (e)(5).
2. For plant disease control (7 CFR 205.601(i)(10)).
3. As plant or soil amendments (7 CFR 205.601(j)(2)).
The current sunset review includes all three listings of sulfur, used as an insecticide, plant disease control, and as a plant or soil amendment.
Sulfur is an essential plant nutrient, naturally present in our food and soil, and is part of normal human biochemistry. When sulfur is used as a soil amendment it can have a strong acidifying effect by replacing sodium with calcium in high pH alkali soils. Sulfur is considered the fourth major plant nutrient after nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium-. Sulfur can also be used to control insects and/or diseases. It is approved for use on conventional and organic crops to help control fungi and other pests and is commonly used on farms domestically and internationally.
Manufacture: Sulfur is one of few elements found in its elemental form in nature, typically in limestone/gypsum formations, limestone/anhydrite formations associated with salt domes, or volcanic rock (d’Aquin 2007).
Currently, elemental sulfur is produced as a by-product from natural gas or petroleum operations and refinery processes. The latter is the primary source of most elemental sulfur currently being used.
Discussion: 2018 NOSB Review: Historically, there has been strong support for the continued listing of sulfur, particularly for use against various bacterial and fungal diseases, insects, and as a plant and soil amendment. It was noted that several agricultural commissioners in California had encouraged a shift to wettable formulations in vineyard applications, and anecdotal information suggests fewer drift and regulatory problems.
Based on the extensive public comment and discussions, new technical reviews, previous committee votes & discussions, and historical public comment, the 2018 NOSB review concluded that elemental sulfur still appears to be necessary in organic crop production. The NOSB should continue to monitor sulfur use in organic agriculture and respond to any new information raising environmental or, in particular, public health concerns.
The current Subcommittee reviewed the use, manufacture, environmental concerns, and previous board reviews and research. The Subcommittee also discussed the Spring 2018 recommendation to add a new use for sulfur: as a molluscicide. The subcommittee reviewed a journal article, and a study completed at Oregon State University to further discuss the effects on children’s respiratory health.
Questions to our Stakeholders: How often are wettable formulations used for the application of sulfur?
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Amy: (Summarizes the listing and it’s 3 uses.) The comment discussion: majority were in favor of listing for all three substances. In general, considered one of the cornerstones in some farming operations. Alternatives do not have the same uses. Sulfur is commonly used since the beginning. General comment that if the material was removed, hundreds of thousands of acres would be removed from organic (saying it is vial). As a soil amendment, deficiency is an issue in some soils. As insecticides it’s especially useful for spider mites; useful for powdery mildew. Commenters that had concerns were human health and environmental impacts. Much of the sulfur is derived from scrubbing from burning of fossil fuels; so, there is a concern with contamination of heavy metals. Annotation request for heavy metal contamination, worker protection, etc.
There were questions for the community regarding how the product is used. Commenters noted that having dusting and wettable applications – have different efficacies for different application. Dusting is best for powdery mildew. Wetting is better when fruit is set. On my farm I use it as a soil amendment. Sulfur and N work in tandem with each otherer; if you have the right amount of sulfur it makes N more efficient. It’s a moveable nutrient – have to ensure you are testing for it. In terms of wheat production it drives wheat protein.
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS:
Reference: 205.601(e) As insecticides (including acaricides or mite control). (6) Lime sulfur—including calcium polysulfide.
Use: Lime sulfur is on the National List at §205.601(e)(6) as an insecticide (including acaricide or mite control) and at §205.601 (j)(6) for plant disease control. As an insecticide, lime sulfur is used to control mites (spider mites and rust mites), aphid, and San Jose scale in tree fruit and other organic crops.
Manufacture: Lime sulfur is often referred to by its chemical name, calcium polysulfide. It is considered to be synthetic and is produced by reacting boiling calcium hydroxide [CaOH2] and ground sulfur (2014 TR).
Discussion: The vast majority of public commenters during the previous review were in favor of relisting lime sulfur for control of fungal and bacterial diseases as well as its uses for various insects. It has widespread and historical use across many crops and regions. Many comments note that there are not viable alternatives for its various uses. The few comments against lime sulfur primarily referenced the 2014 Technical Report (TR), noting that later-season use of the material may have a negative impact on beneficial insects and that large scale releases of the material could have environmental impacts.
Lime sulfur can cause phytotoxicity in some crops, however, rates and timings can be used to avoid this problem. In fact, lime sulfur pesticide applications during and shortly after bloom can have a desirable crop-thinning effect on apples. The TR notes that lime sulfur may impair some beneficial insects, but timing of use can minimize the negative effects. It also noted potential human health concerns from lime sulfur primarily due to its high alkalinity or the release of hydrogen sulfide. In New York State, lime sulfur is classed as a restricted use pesticide because of potential hazards handling the concentrated product. This concern can be mitigated if proper safety procedures are followed during manufacture and label directions including personal protective equipment (PPE) are followed. The TR also provided an extensive list of alternative materials and practices, however, if an outbreak of mites or scale occurs, lime sulfur is an effective option.
Questions to our Stakeholders: Is lime sulfur a necessary organic pesticide?
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Brian: (Summarizes material information.)
Fruit and vegetable growers depend on it heavily. In terms of public comments they emphasize that. 13 in favor of re-listing. 1 in favor of re-listing and same group says we should specify the uses. Fortunately from Kyla’s help, it’s already being done by way listing is organized. I consider it 0 opposed. Been in sue long time, a little hazardous to person mixing concentrate material. If touch eyes can have major problem. One of few that is restricted use material, in NY state have to have applicator’s license. People say effective and want re-listed. Env and health effects pretty benign once applied.
Amy: Notes that this also has two listings.
Nate Lewis: Want to ensure it’s captured that it’s an essential component in non-antibiotic fireblight control. Essential in organic apples, which we saw this morning was a top commodity.
Amy: Speak briefly to two of the points. I’ve heard anecdotally that farmworker org haven’t gotten fully behind organic and want to assess this. To those who are listening if have info about worker impacts, I think this is essential in many producers locations.
Brian: in Ne don’t use sulfur as a dust. In terms of lime sulfur after it’s sprayed, it is not hazardous to workers.
Amy: applicable to elemental sulfur and prior listing – use as soil amendment and as soil and pest mitigation. Dust does cause respiratory issues and challenges. Some commentators said PPE should reduce challenges. And maybe increase harm to children and did review several articles about children-impacts. some studies show children more susceptible b/c closer to the ground, play in the dirt. Something to be aware of.
Dilip: insecticides study you’re aware of on beneficial insects. Any alternatives to lime sulfur?
Brian: not 100% sure but primary use would be for mites and it harmful – kills beneficial mites as well and what can happen is can get a flare up if wiped out all good guys. Very common in conventional and with this material can be a problem too. Well documented IPM protocols and not flare up your pests. Hurting beneficials but if use it in right way won’t have a flare up. Don’t know about other more generalist insect predators, but it’s a harsh material, but bugs are tough so it probably has some negative impact on insects. Beneficial mites can get hammered by it.
Alternatives: Nate made a good point about fireblight. This is an essential material along with some coppers in managing fireblight. There isn’t anything as close to effective for fireblight. The research being done in this are is intensive; as time goes on we will have more and more effective tools in the toolbox to manage these problem-diseases like fireblight.
Franklin: When read about product that has effect on beneficial, when I see something described as harsh especially for organic growers because a number of problems we have is wiping out beneficials. Wiped out so many beneficials and first line of defense almost non-existent. Organic growers don’t have access to quick fixes when blow back comes back can be even more difficult. When expose mites to wipe out can actually increase reproductive rate so this whole beneficial pest we need to take a closer look.
Brian: Thank you – we are going tor rely on your wisdom and knowledge as we go forward.
Kyla?: Practice standard at 206: one of the things it says producers must do before using a synthetic is to use management practices; for pest problems, one of things required for use is the development of natural habitat. The requirement at 200 for all producers to incorporate biodiversity. It’s a systems approach. It’s not perfect but there are parts of the regulation that work to protect our beneficials.
Brian: Couldn’t be more supportive of deep organics where people ware really structuring system to be resilient from many different angles. Critical for success.
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS:
Reference: 205.601(i) As plant disease control. (4) Hydrated lime.
Use: Hydrated lime is a synthetic substance limited for use in organic crop production for plant disease control and as an external pest control in organic livestock production (7 CFR §205.603(b)(6)). Regarding livestock applications, hydrated lime may not be used to cauterize physical alterations (medical treatment) or deodorize animal wastes. Hydrated lime, also known as calcium hydroxide, is listed for handling as an allowed synthetic, nonagricultural substance which may be used as an ingredient in or on processed products (7 CFR 205.605(b)(8)).
Manufacture: According to the 2015 Technical Review for Livestock, the “industrial production of hydrated/slaked lime involves two elementary reactions beginning with naturally occurring limestone deposits. In the first step, ground limestone—which contains predominantly calcium carbonate (CaCO3) with smaller amounts of magnesium, silicon, aluminum, and iron oxide compounds—is thermally transformed into quicklime (Oates, 2010). Specifically, heating raw or minimally processed limestone to temperatures in excess of 900 ºC results in conversion of the calcium carbonate content of limestone to calcium oxide (CaO) in a material known as quicklime (equation 1). This thermal transformation occurs with liberation of carbon dioxide (CO2) gas. In the slaking process, quicklime reacts exothermically (releases heat) with two equivalents of water to produce hydrated/slaked lime consisting primarily of calcium hydroxide [Ca(OH)2] (equation 2). The normal hydration process is carried out at atmospheric pressure and temperatures of approximately 100 ºC (Kenny & Oates, 2007). A variation of the normal hydration process involves reaction of quicklime and water under a high steam pressure of up to 1 MPa and at temperatures approaching 180 ºC to form hydrates. After hydration, the hydrated lime product is dried, milled, and air classified” (TR 231-243).
Discussion: The Crops Subcommittee discussed this substance and its use across all areas of the National List, including Crops, Livestock, and Handling (listed as calcium hydroxide). Two Technical Advisory Panels (TAPs) and two Technical Reports (TR) were compiled in 1995, 2001, 2002, and 2015, respectively. The use of hydrated lime (as has been practiced in organic production) is known to be an effective disease suppression practice. A previous sunset review noted that the use of hydrated lime in Bordeaux mix to make copper available for disease suppression is highly effective and widely used by fruit and vegetable growers. The Subcommittee discussed the history of hydrated lime and expressed a desire to receive further information on the current extent of use.
Questions to our Stakeholders:
1. Is there any new information that would warrant the need for a new TR for this substance?
2. Please provide information on the extent to which hydrated lime is used in organic cropping systems.
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Liquid fish products
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS:
Reference: 205.601(j) As plant or soil amendments. (8) Liquid fish products —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.
Use: Liquid fish products are used as fertilizers in the production of organic crops. Liquid fish products contain fundamental nutrients and many trace minerals critical for use in organic farming. Liquid fish foliar application can deliver important nutrients that can reduce certain nutrient stresses which can, in turn, improve crop yields.
Manufacture: Liquid fish products are fish hydrolysates that are made from chopped fish byproducts that are (1) enzymatically digested and heated, or (2) enzymatically processed without heat (cold processing). Liquid fish products are then stabilized with an acid, such as phosphoric, sulfuric, or citric acid, to prevent microbial growth. The use of formic acid is prohibited due to phytotoxicity. A third method of liquid fish product manufacture utilizes fermentation by bacteria that produce lactic acid, which preserves the fish. All three methods of liquid fish product manufacture cannot result in a pH below 3.5.
Discussion: Previous NOSB sunset review summary: Historically, there has been strong support for keeping liquid fish products on the National List, and public comment at the October 2018 NOSB meeting reiterated the strength of that support. Many farmers considered liquid fish products essential for many crops, including foliar and other applications. Concerns about the sustainability of source fish, including the possible use of wild fish harvested for the sole purpose of producing liquid fertilizers, were raised by the Crops Subcommittee, and extensive discussion during the October 2018 NOSB meeting focused on production methods and sources of raw fish material for the production of fish-based fertilizers. These discussions resulted in a work-agenda request to assess the environmental impact of harvesting wild, native fish for all fertilizer purposes, to protect natural fish populations, and to ensure that liquid fish and other fish-based fertilizer products used in organic production are not harmful to the environment. Information from this review could inform future policy recommendations regarding the use of wild fish for organic fertilizers but is beyond the scope of review for this sunset review.
The current Crops Subcommittee discussed the uses of liquid fish products as a plant or soil amendment, the manufacturing process, and environmental issues. The Subcommittee also reviewed the October 2020 NOSB recommendation on Wild, Native Fish for Liquid Fish Products, which the NOP has not implemented; it is currently listed as “On Hold” in the NOSB Recommendations Library.
Questions to our Stakeholders: Is the liquid fish products annotation “- 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.” clear and able to be enforced?
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Amy: (Summarizes information on liquid fish products (LFP).) EU does not list liquid fish but allows fish meals. Received a lot of comments on this items. 6 farmer groups, 5 farmers, 6 certifier – all pretty supportive of this listing and indicated it’s just used widely. 2 groups wanted more restrictive annotations. Comments in favor said product widely used to produce organic tree fruits and vegetables and produce. Delivers important micro-nutrients. Concerns are about the fist in and of itself and impact of fish harvesting, fish may have ecological value. Just because using fish waste doesn’t’ mean not disruption ecosystems. Using fish waste – does it provide incremental financial value? Concern that synthetic liquid fish products not essential. Concern about PFAS. Concerns with fortification with phosphorus. Can be blended type products – concerns that increased phosphorus levels used in initial formulation and then additional ingredients used to get back to pH 3.5. also asked about annotation being clear. Most said clear and could be enforced. Once said 3.5 is too tight of a tolerance. He wanted more wider ph range. few calls to action to restrict down what fish could be used to make the product. Were also 2 groups that wanted further restrictions, outside purview of this review, and wanted to make sure not using viable fish to make these types of fertilizers.
Wood: Can you remind me what the delay from the October 2020 Board recommendation is about?
Amy: I do not remember this being discussed. Jared, can you fill in?
NPP: It will probably be a Jenny question, so we will have to circle back after lunch.
Brian: Wondering, Amy can we ask stakeholders next time around if we could drop phosphoric acid from materials to adjust pH, would take a little P out of the final product. Producers might not like it, but they may be adding synthetic P that they are not aware of. But that might be a problem with passing sunset if we want to change it.
Kyla: I have a draft Work Agenda item that is about annotation changes and how we can incorporate that into our processes. That will be discussed on the next Executive Committee call. You are correct that we are not able to change the annotation during sunset vote. Hopefully, with this future Work Agenda item, it would be possible to do so. It would be useful to know which products are using the different types of acids in the annotation, is what I’m hearing.
Amy: Interesting point Brian about phosphoric acid. One manufacturer noted it was phosphoric acid being used in his process. Not sure if other acids are being used in the processing. Would be interesting to learn more about.
Franklin: Restrictions concerning use of fish products on land close to water bodies? Are there restrictions?
Amy: Good point. There isn’t necessarily restriction via annotation about that, but that was brought up by other commenters regarding nitrogen runoff in general and if it is not used with good farming practices.
Nate: The practice standard requires that all nutrients that are being used on the farm that prevents the runoff. Fish would not be excluded from that general requirement that farmers would need to comply with.
Amy: Wood had a question and Jenny is here.
Wood: Curious about the October 2020 proposal that shows up as on-hold and curious where that sits?
Dr. Tucker: On hold; did preliminary analysis; we are an international operations around world; also implementation questions and costs to trade so at the time and now there are other regulatory priorities so we decide to table it and OLS and SOE and right now it’s going to remain on hold to unpack that recommendation would take significant time.
Wood: what would it take to get it off hold?
Dr. Tucker: if we decided to – haven’t made a decision not to do it. When we decide not to do something we will close it and explain why. I think we evaluated it enough to know it’s going to be a big deal, we haven’t made a decision.
Sodium carbonate peroxyhydrate 205.601(a)
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS:
Use: According to the 2014 TR and previous reviews by the Board, sodium carbonate peroxyhydrate has been used in organic production as an algaecide in rice fields, ponds, ditches, and irrigation lines. It was added to the National List in 2007 as an alternative to materials such as copper and chlorine; it has been registered for use in rice since 2010. In wider legal uses of the substance, “In its primary registration by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a biopesticide, use sites for sodium carbonate peroxyhydrate include ornamental plants, turf grasses, terrestrial landscapes, commercial greenhouses, garden centers, nurseries, and storage areas. Target pests included algae, moss, liverworts, slime molds and their spores. There was no food use authorized.” (TR 104-107)
Manufacture: According to the 2014 TR, “Sodium carbonate peroxyhydrate is the chemical name for an addition product produced by drying hydrogen peroxide in the presence of sodium carbonate (CAS No. 497-19- 8). The pure substance contains 32.5 % hydrogen peroxide and 67.5 % sodium carbonate (based on weight)” (TR 51-53).
The TR lists three common manufacturing processes via drying, crystallization, and a spray granulation process. “The dry process involves spraying an aqueous stabilized hydrogen peroxide solution on solid sodium carbonate with continuous agitation. A solid-liquid reaction yields sodium carbonate peroxyhydrate” (TR 232-33). “In the spray granulation process, solutions of sodium carbonate and aqueous stabilized hydrogen peroxide are sprayed onto a bed of sodium carbonate peroxyhydrate nuclei in a fluid-bed granulator. The product bed is kept in movement by a stream of heated air. Product is continuously withdrawn from the dryer and the desired grain-size fraction is obtained by classification” (TR 235-238). “The crystallization process takes advantage of the high solubility of sodium carbonate peroxyhydrate. In this method, sodium carbonate peroxyhydrate is salted out of aqueous solutions with sodium chloride. A sodium carbonate/NaCl suspension is reacted with stabilized hydrogen peroxide under stirring and cooling. The crystallized sodium carbonate peroxyhydrate is separated from the mother liquor by centrifugation, and drying in a fluid-bed dryer” (TR 240-244).
Discussion: The Crops Subcommittee considered previous reviews of this substance. In the last review, the Subcommittee sought input comparing this material with copper sulfate for control of algal scum in rice production and asked if it could replace copper sulfate for that use. Limited and conflicting comments were received. Points raised in favor of renewing the substance stated that it provides better control of algae, and its breakdown components of water and oxygen are more favorable than the accumulation of elemental copper associated with copper sulfate. Additionally, when utilized in irrigation ponds sodium carbonate peroxyhydrate has fewer corrosion issues with irrigation equipment than copper sulfate.
The Subcommittee recognizes the value in the continued presence of the substance on the National List, even if it is not a commonly used material. Additionally, the potential for inadvertent use as a fungicide in branded products marketed for both uses was discussed by the Subcommittee.
Questions to our Stakeholders:
1. Is there potential for misuse as a fungicide when sodium carbonate peroxyhydrate is applied as an algaecide? Additionally, should the NOSB consider expanding the listing to an allowance for use as a fungicide?
2. Is this substance being used as an effective alternative to copper sulfate in rice production to control algae?
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Mindee: (Summarized material.) Minimal concern for environment or health risk.
Public comments: certifiers in the West coast saw more uses for this substance than other regions. Regionally interesting material. NL material could impact farm economies. Farmer requested more specific annotation – as an annotation for copper products. PCC prevents the growth of algae. One group of comments said the addition of this substance was to reduce copper use, and it’s not clear if this is actually happening. Another group expressly requested the de-listing unless the NOSB documents it is effective in its intended use as alternative to copper in rice production.
Went back to 2017 Subcommittee notes due to these comments – they saw some incompatibility in meshing with OFPA, but environmental impact is less than coppers. The groups not in love with this material noted it does not fall into OFPA category. Materials should be looked at through a systems lens. The previous NOSB’s recommendation helped me figure out how this product is situated. It’s being used more as an algaecide.
Another group noted that this material breaks down into hydrogen peroxide and sodium carbonate.
As far as questions for stakeholders, apologize if first question wasn’t clear. EPA fact sheet states it is granular chemical which is active ingredient so subcommittee is requesting info on whether potential for misdirected use. Essentially and efficacy – we are looking to western regions. Encourage stakeholders to engage with process.
Brian: Did you get a specific response to whether it is being used as an alternative to copper in rice production?
Mindee: I do not remember seeing exactly on this one if they were saying that – Yes, I’m sorry – a couple of farmers did say it is better than copper for algae growth, and they supported the specific annotation.
Brian: especially Jerry has worked hard on copper and rice and other systems and good to fill out whole picture if we can.
No other questions.
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS:
Reference: 205.601(j) As plant or soil amendments. (11) Sulfurous acid (CAS # 7782-99-2) for on-farm generation of substance utilizing 99% purity elemental sulfur per paragraph (j)(2) of this section.
Use: The primary use of sulfurous acid is as an acidifying agent to neutralize and reduce excessive alkalinity in soil and/or water. The resulting acidic irrigation water can be helpful with nutrient deficiencies that arise when saline or alkaline conditions tie up essential micronutrients. This use supports improved crop yields and can help to reduce soil degradation from salinity build up.
Manufacture: The primary ingredients used in the preparation of sulfurous acid are water and elemental sulfur. Almost all elemental sulfur is produced as a byproduct of coal, natural gas, and petroleum refinement. Sulfurous acid is manufactured by spraying water through smoke and fumes created by burning elemental sulfur. Several substances are created in this process, including sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and hydrogen sulfite.
Discussion: During the Fall 2018 meeting, the NOSB voted unanimously to keep sulfurous acid on the National List. Most of the written comments at the Fall 2018 meeting supported the relisting, several indicated “no reported use” and one commented that no synthetic fertilizers should be permitted.
A limited scope TR was received by the Crops Subcommittee in early February 2023 and was declared “sufficient” during the Subcommittee meeting held on February 9th, 2023. The TR authors did a seemingly complete job of listing potential alternatives and then evaluating these alternatives as being less effective than sulfurous acid. This limited scope 2023 TR is in the process of being posted online.
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Jerry: (Summarizes info). Written and oral comments were one commenter noted it could mask poor soil conditions and has not itent of being amended and guess note to certification that if masking poor condition swith no ient to amend then problem. Received limited TR. Authors did complete job of listing alternatives and less effectie that sulphurs acid. In reviewing respondents then whose who of tree fruit growers. Quick note on TR: request was single question. What alternatives exist that could be used for organic production? Listed gypsum. Chelated micronutrients discussion and again there’s nothing that can hold candle to sulphureous acid.
Nate Lewis: To illustrate the value in Washington – we have a wet side of the state with more acidic soils and the side the grows more blueberries, but a lot of fungal issues because of that. Sulfuic acid has been essential to allow the east side of the state to grow blueberries. A lot less pest and disease issues because of the arid soil there. Sulfuric acid has opened the door for blueberries in WA state. WA state produces half of the volume of organic blueberries are grown in the US, #1 ahead of CA.
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS:
Reference: 205.601(k) As plant growth regulators. (1) Ethylene gas—for regulation of pineapple flowering.
Use: Ethylene gas is on the National List for use as a plant growth regulator, for organic pineapple production only. Ethylene gas is used to induce uniform flowering in pineapples and is applied 7-15 months after planting. Application can be repeated two to three times after the initial application (2011 TR lines 53- 56). Ethylene gas is made from hydrocarbon feedstocks, such as natural gas liquids or crude oil.
Operators should be well trained and prepared. However, the safety concern to workers is limited when correctly used and monitored (2007 TAP, pg. 4).
Manufacture: Ethylene gas is produced almost exclusively from the pyrolysis of hydrocarbons in tubular reactor coils installed in externally fired heaters. Ethylene may also be made from ethanol in fixed or fluid-bed reaction systems (2007 TAP).
Discussion: The Crops Subcommittee discussed the use, manufacturing, and the environmental issues, and previous NOSB reviews of ethylene gas. The Crops Subcommittee will incorporate information from the 2022 Technical Report into the Sunset proposal document for the Fall 2023 meeting.
As part of the Spring 2018 public meeting, the Crops Subcommittee requested additional information regarding the issue of scale and the use of ethylene and alternative technologies. Written and oral commenters expressed continued support for this material, stating that it is an essential tool for the commercial production of pineapples for the export market. Commenters stated that no viable alternatives exist. Without ethylene, commenters said, it would be impossible to achieve the uniform ripening necessary for timing the harvest for fruit shipment. Others commented that the material does not fit any OPFA criteria, and it is not essential for the production of the crop but rather is employed for economic reasons.
Questions to our Stakeholders:
1. Have any alternatives become available?
2. Based on the international acceptances, is there a need to expand the use of ethylene?
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Logan: (Summarized material.) Its current listing use is to induce uniform flowing in pineapples. Can be used 2-3 times per season. International acceptance – wide use – de-greening of bananas, controlling sprouting of potatoes and onions – a lot is post-handling. We have this material in the handling side, as well. The only use as a crop input is the inducement of flowering of pineapple. This is little environmental concern. Material is explosive and workers must be trained in handling, otherwise material is not toxic. Comments said there are no alternatives. Commenters noted there is interest in expanding the use of this material, but I think a lot of those desired uses are covered on the post-harvest handling. I did not see any additional use for in-season crop inputs for this material.
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS:
Reference: 205.601(o) As production aids. (1) Microcrystalline cheesewax (CAS #’s 64742-42-3, 8009-03- 08, and 8002-74-2)-for use in log grown mushroom production. Must be made without either ethylene- propylene co-polymer or synthetic colors.
Use: Microcrystalline cheesewax has been used in organic agriculture as a production aid in log-grown shiitake mushrooms since the 1980s. Microcrystalline cheesewax is used to seal holes in hardwood logs (commonly oak) after the shiitake spawn is inserted.
Manufacture: Microcrystalline cheesewax is a food-grade product made up of a mixture of microcrystalline wax, paraffin wax, and petroleum. All three of these materials come from refining crude oil, where these petroleum waxes are separated by fractional distillation followed by fractional crystallization.
Discussion: At the Fall 2018 meeting, the NOSB voted unanimously to keep microcrystalline cheesewax on the National List. Some of the written comments reviewed during the Fall 2018 meeting focused on the current need for microcrystalline cheesewax, saying that the production method (inoculated logs) was no longer used. This notion was countered by the assertion that there was still wide use by small growers.
Questions to our Stakeholders:
1. Is there now an effective natural or approved synthetic replacement for the microcrystalline cheesewax that is not derived from petroleum by-products?
2. Should an annotation be added that requires the removal of residues of the microcrystalline cheesewax that remains in the environment once the logs are finished fruiting?
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Jerry: (Summarized the material.) No known health risks. 13 written and oral comments; none opposed to relisting. One commenter encouraged efforts to source a non-petroleum alternative. Question about an annotation to have people remove the wax from the log.
Allison: As a practical matter could you remove it from a log? Seems labor intensive.
Jerry: get a 3 inch log and 3 –4 in diameter, plug it with microcrystalline cheese wax and they come right out of the logs. Is that the question you asked?
Allison: The question about the annotation was about removing the wax after – could that happen?
Jerry: In my experience with it, there’s nothing to be found by the time you are harvesting it. Another misconception is that the mushrooms come out of the drilled hole, but really they will come out of anywhere in the log. By the time you are down harvesting, the log is broken down and I don’t think you would find anything to take out of it.
Alison: Is matter left over composted or left over?
Jerry: usually composted. 5 years later had nothing to look at any more.
Amy: in terms of alternatives? To connect your world with my world: is there a way to transition not to different production methodology but to different method now that more non GMO- soybeans or wax?
Jerry: Certainly, in my time there was no alternative. In what I read here, it did not strike me that there was really a strong desire, although I may have missed something. I just do not see that. There is not a lot of volume to be running after.
Amy: I think I saw 1.5 oz of material/log.
Nate: to address that question. My recollection is non-GMO soy wax was petitioned to the board – it did not get approval vote b/c it was a very resilient wax in contrast to what we have available now. It has been petitioned and at that time seemed incompatible with OFPA.
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS:
Reference: 205.602(e) Potassium chloride—unless derived from a mined source and applied in a manner that minimizes chloride accumulation in the soil.
Use: Potassium is required for health in humans, plants, and microorganisms (1995 TAP pg. 4, 14). Potassium is an essential element for plants as they use it to regulate movement of water and nutrients within the plant, photosynthesis regulation, and enzyme activation. While potassium is found in many soils, it may not exist naturally in a high enough concentration for optimal plant growth, and/or it may be present but in a bound format rendering it unavailable. Potassium is commonly used by growers either alone, as a complex in potassium chloride, or as an ingredient in a fertilizer blend for soil supplementation.
Chloride is also an essential element for plants (TAP pg. 12); however, monitoring of chloride use is required to assure soil salinity is managed appropriately. The current annotation in the NOP regulations stipulates chloride monitoring when potassium chloride is used to prevent chloride accumulation in soils.
Manufacture: Potassium chloride is a mineral that occurs naturally and is a product of potash mining where water is forced into the ground to dissolve potassium chloride deposits (1995 TAP, pg. 3). Brine is brought back to the surface where the water is evaporated off to isolate the potassium chloride. Potassium chloride can similarly be produced from sea water extraction via solar evaporation.
Discussion: At the Fall 2018 meeting, the NOSB unanimously voted to relist potassium chloride at 7 CFR 205.602
During 2018 meetings, public commenters were also unanimously supportive of continued listing with the current annotation, and there were no other non-chloride types reported by the public. At the time, one certifier recommended that the NOSB request a technical report (TR) on potassium chloride to thoroughly consider the use of synthetic dust suppressants or other synthetic additives.
A draft TR was provided to the Crops Subcommittee on December 2, 2022 and was deemed sufficient, although the Subcommittee requested additional information on effective organic alternatives to potassium chloride. This 2023 TR is pending.
The Crops Subcommittee has had anecdotal discussions about whether or not potassium chloride (per this listing) is being used by organic growers. Subcommittee members have acknowledged that potassium chloride is an inexpensive means of dealing with potassium deficiencies in the soil and is likely very geographically specific in its application (potassium is prevalent in high mineral soils, for example, and thus minimal need for supplemental potassium), but also noted that potassium sulfate may be another good cost-effective alternative with adverse effect. Subcommittee members also discussed the nature of the annotated listing itself and whether it has been successful in reducing chloride leaching – and associated environmental impact — where it is applied, and also noted that if chloride buildup in the soil is an issue that merits monitoring, there are likely other problematic accumulations in the soil in such contexts as well. The Crops Subcommittee discussed the wide use of potassium chloride in conventional agriculture and the fact that conventional growers are able to mitigate salt concerns by virtue of the conventional toolkit.
Questions to our Stakeholders:
1. Is potassium chloride widely used by producers of organic crops?
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Wood: (Summarized the material.) Moving into 602 – interesting – basically prohibited, but then the annotation creates an allowed use – a brain bender. The allowed use is from a mined source, something we talk about all the time, as they have environmental impacts. International standards – allowed for this use in Canada. EU does not specify the use. Other international standards do allow some usage. The last time this material came up it was unanimously voted to relist in this way. We did ask for a TR, which is pending. It was considered sufficient, but we did have some additional questions about alternatives. It’s my understanding that we did receive that, but after materials had closed for the semester. The committee has not fully discussed that information. I do not know exactly when the community saw it, but hope to hear some feedback on that. There has been some discussion about potassium sulfate as a cost-effective alternative, although it does deliver lower potassium, and the sulfate itself can result in acidification of the soil. In the written comments we got lots of use and lots of comment in support of this annotated listed as it reads. It appears in a number of OSPs. Many folks are using it. We heard from a number of certifiers in that regard. Other organizations, coalitions, and nonprofits supported the continued listing as it is. There was no, from my read, no argument to change the listing or not relist in this way.
Logan: we do use potassium chloride at times and haven’t had any problems with acculmulation. It is good to have the product. It’s relatively inexpensive. To have multiple different potash sources, but good to have as option when supply chain shortages. Critical to have that macro-nutrient.
Wood: No build up of chloride, but any issues at all?
Amy: your soils are high in pH Logan? In your case, would you choose to use potassium sulphate?
Logan: Yes, preferred to use the sulfate whenever, and potassium magnesium sulfate, we like that, too. We do have to add Epsom salt, if we are using this material. We do like having sulfur in that product, but it is cheaper to use. Our soils are relatively neutral, although probably higher than 6-6.5 – use elemental sulfur to pull it down. I haven’t contributed most of our pH moving to products like that.
Amy: when farming further south than you. We were in the 8s pH. After you use one product form another, potassium sulphate will increase sweetness? Grapes?
Logan: I do not know that – I have not done any taste testing. I know that potassium is important for moving sugars throughout the plant. I do not know if other microbes are contributing to that or if the potassium contributes to it.
Livestock Subcommittee (LS)
Kim Huseman, Chairperson
Kim: Our livestock workload for the spring has been centered around sunsets. Looking at livestock in general, we anticipate that the subcommittee will have a heavier lift in the coming year with adding more to the work agenda. The communication was clear that there should be work done around swine and some other things. Want to make it clear that these things are being heard. More to come on this.
2025 Livestock Sunset Review
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS:
Reference: 205.603(a) As disinfectants, sanitizer, and medical treatments as applicable. (1) Alcohols. (i) Ethanol – disinfectant and sanitizer only, prohibited as a feed additive.
Use: The United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) regulates all non-food applications of ethanol, including its use as a pesticide and plant growth regulator. According to the Reregistration Eligibility Decision for Aliphatic Alcohols, ethanol and isopropanol were registered in the US as early as 1948 as active ingredients in indoor disinfectants (US EPA, 1995). Approximately 48 ethanol products were registered for use as hard surface treatment disinfectants, sanitizers and mildewcides as of 2012 (US EPA, 2012a). Ethanol is also the active ingredient in certain plant growth regulator products [2014 TR 118-123].
Manufacture: Both fermentation and chemical synthesis procedures are used in the commercial production of ethanol for the preparation of disinfectant solutions, spirits, and industrial fuel sources. A variety of methods are available for the fermentative production of ethanol from carbon sources such as starch, sugar and cellulose using natural and genetically engineered strains of yeast or bacteria. Ethanol can also be produced synthetically through the direct or indirect hydration of ethylene and as a by-product of certain industrial operations [2014 TR 43-48].
Discussion: The Subcommittee highlighted the fact that to maintain efficacy, producers need a range of sanitizers so as to not have any one sanitizer lose its efficacy. Additionally, the benign manufacturing process of this material further confirms it as being aligned with OFPA.
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
NPP: (Summarizes ethanol and isopropanol materials together.)
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS:
Reference: 205.603(a) As disinfectants, sanitizer, and medical treatments as applicable. (1) Alcohols. (iii) Isopropanol-disinfectant only.
Use: Isopropanol is used for a variety of industrial and consumer purposes, ranging from chemical and solvent applications to medical and consumer usage [2014 TR 54-55]. Agricultural uses of isopropanol include the disinfection of production tools and surfaces and topical antisepsis during medical treatments. Livestock producers may use alcohol (i.e., isopropanol and/or ethanol) solutions for sanitizing and disinfecting surfaces (e.g., production implements, troughs, and floor drains) and during medical treatments as a topical disinfectant (Jacob, 2013; Dvorak, 2008) [2014 TR 60-63].
Manufacture: Chemical synthetic procedures are used in the commercial production of isopropanol that is used in the preparation of consumer-use disinfectants, industrial solvents, and specialty chemicals. Specifically, indirect, and direct methods for the hydration of petroleum-derived propylene are the two primary commercial processes to produce isopropanol. In addition, smaller amounts of industrial isopropanol are generated through the hydration of acetone over transition-metal catalysts (Papa, 2011; Merck, 2006). A variety of methods are also available for the fermentative production of isopropanol from carbon sources, such as starch, sugar, and cellulose, using genetically engineered yeast and bacteria (Papa, 2011) [2014 TR 37-44].
Discussion: The Subcommittee highlighted the fact that to maintain efficacy, producers need a range of sanitizers so as to not have any one sanitizer lose its efficacy. Additionally, the benign manufacturing process of this material further confirms it as being aligned with OFPA.
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
SEE ABOVE – COVERED WITH ALCOHOL: ETHYNOL
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS:
Reference: 205.603(a) As disinfectants, sanitizer, and medical treatments as applicable. (2) Aspirin- approved for health care use to reduce inflammation.
Use: The following information and data was taken from the 2017 TR: Aspirin is considered a pain reliever and fever reducer in the over-the counter, tentative final monograph for Internal Analgesic, Antipyretic, and Antirheumatic Drug Products for Over-the-Counter Human Use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (53 Federal Register 46204, Nov. 16, 1988 and 21 CFR 343). Aspirin is included under 21 CFR 343.12 and 343.13 for the prevention of cardiovascular events and the treatment of rheumatologic disorders. Aspirin is also listed at 7 CFR 205.603 as a synthetic substance allowed for the use in organic livestock production and is approved for health care use to reduce inflammation. Its half life is short in cattle, and it is not as beneficial in reducing pain as Flunixin. However, aspirin is usually given orally, which makes it easier and more usable for farmers in an emergency. Additionally, Flunixin must be administered under written orders of a licensed veterinarian, and it has a restriction annotation for a withdrawal time. A second pain medication approved for pain relief in organic livestock is Butorphanol (7 CFR 205.603(a)(5) and 21 CFR 522.246). Butorphanol is a synthetic opioid partial agonist analgesic; however, it also must be administered under a veterinarian’s written orders, and it too is restricted by annotation to a withdrawal time. Aspirin inhibits the biosynthesis of certain hormone-like substances called prostaglandins, which accounts for most of its clinical effects. Depending on where in the body these prostaglandins are produced, they may trigger pain, inflammation, fever, or blood clotting. Following absorption, aspirin is hydrolyzed to salicylic acid, which is the active metabolite for its major clinical effects. Aspirin also inhibits platelet aggregation by irreversibly inhibiting prostaglandin cyclooxygenase.
Manufacture: The most prevalent method of synthesizing aspirin is via esterification. Salicylic acid is treated with acetic anhydride, an acid derivative, causing a quantitative chemical reaction that turns salicylic acid’s hydroxyl group into an ester group (R-OH → R-OCOCH3; Figure 2). This process yields aspirin and acetic acid, which are considered byproducts of this reaction. Small amounts of sulfuric acid (and occasionally phosphoric acid) are almost always used as a catalyst. The chemical feedstocks for synthesizing aspirin are also manufactured through a chemical process. Salicylic acid is produced commercially via the Kolbe- Schmitt process. Here, phenol and sodium hydroxide react to make sodium phenoxide. The phenoxide comes into contact with CO2 to form sodium salicylate. The salicylate is acidified to give salicylic acid.
The acid is usually crystallized from an aqueous solution to give a technical grade 99.5% salicylic acid product. For a pharmaceutical grade product, salicylic acid is further purified by sublimation. The commercial process for acetic anhydride was developed by Wacker Chemie in 1922 and uses a chemical reaction between acetic acid and ethenone at a low temperature and pressure.
Discussion: Aspirin is important to the humane treatment of organic animals and is commonly used to reduce inflammation. It is the only real-time responsive form for inflammation and fever management available. There are other products that are available but do not offer the same type of timely response to ensure animal health and wellbeing. This is also a proven remedy and is critical in organic livestock production.
This material satisfies the OFPA evaluation criteria.
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Kim: (Summarized material.) Handful of comments, all overwhelming in support in relisting of this material. Environmental: There is rapid biodegradation, very benign from this perspective. Important to the humane treatment of animals; commonly used to reduce inflammation. Satisfies OFPA criteria.
No questions from NOSB.
Biologics – Vaccines
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS:
Reference: 205.603(a) As disinfectants, sanitizer, and medical treatments as applicable. (4) Biologics – Vaccines.
Use: he Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) specifically allows vaccines to be used in the absence of illness, while prohibiting all other medications from this use. Vaccination against bacterial or viral infections is a cost effective and efficient method or lessening animal suffering and disease. A vaccine contains, or produces in the vaccinated individual, an antigen that stimulates an immune response and enables protection from the disease and/or future infection. In the case of a disease outbreak, administration of vaccines may be required by government agencies.
Manufacture: Vaccines are produced through a variety of methods that use natural or genetically modified pathogens grown in a culture (yeast, bacteria, or cell), separation and purification of the vaccine, and addition of other materials that may enhance the efficacy of the vaccine. These methods will result in a live, modified live, or killed vaccine.
Discussion: The Livestock Subcommittee recognizes that use of vaccines can be critical to the success of organic livestock farms.
During the 2018 sunset review, there was universal agreement among producers, certifiers, and organic advocacy groups that vaccines are an important health maintenance tool on organic livestock farms, with agreement to relist with no other annotation.
However, there have been inconsistencies between certifiers about allowable vaccines. Two areas in the organic regulations address use of vaccines; one on the National List (NL) of allowed and prohibited substances at §205.603(a)(4), and one at § 206.105 (e). that details excluded methods.
In the past, some certifiers did not allow the use of excluded method vaccines, relying on the NOP regulation at §206.105 (e) which only allows use of this type of vaccine if it has gone through NOSB review and NOP placement on the National List. Other certifiers allowed any type of vaccine to be used, and may or may not have inquired if the vaccine has been produced through excluded methods. These certifiers relied on the presence of vaccines on the National List at § 205.603(a)(4) without any restriction or clarifying annotation.
In 2019, the NOSB passed a formal recommendation on this issue. It requested the NOP change the USDA organic regulations at § 205.105(e), from: (e) Excluded methods, except for vaccines: Provided, That, the vaccines are approved in accordance with §205.600(a).
(e) Excluded methods, except for vaccines: Provided, That, vaccines produced through excluded methods may be used when an equivalent vaccine not produced through excluded methods is not commercially available.
The 2019 recommendation also directed stakeholders on how to determine whether a vaccine was produced with excluded methods, offered a list from the 2011 TR of those produced with and without excluded methods, and requested that the NOP and stakeholders enhance and update that list. At this date, the 2019 recommendation has not been adopted by the NOP.
This sunset review encompasses the entire class of synthetic livestock vaccines, including those made with excluded methods. The NOSB encourages the NOP to adopt the 2019 recommendation. In the meantime, our interpretation is that this listing fulfills the requirement at § 206.105 (e) for all livestock vaccines.
Questions to our Stakeholders:
1. What are the most up to date organic regulations on GMO vaccines in other countries?
2. Are there concerns about components of vaccines besides the active ingredients?
3. Are certifiers interpreting the provisions at § 205.603(a)(4) and § 205.105(e) consistently, even though the 2019 NOSB recommendation has not been officially adopted?
4. Is the yellow highlighted wording above an acceptable interpretation of § 205.105(e)?
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Brian (Summarizes material and comments): This listing would appear to allow any vaccine without qualifications. When listed at 206.605(e), that is talking about excluded methods – reads that “excluded methods, except for vaccines, provided that they are in compliance with 205.603(a). The first listing appears to allow any vaccines to be used – 2nd listing makes it clear that they have to apply with the standards/NL. Commenters strongly supported. Issue of whether or not a GMO-derived vaccine needs to be on the NL is still apparently in conflict within our certifiers and how that is interpreted and applied.
In 2019, the NOSB made a proposal that was passed that attempted to fix this ambiguity problem. Basically, the desired language would say that vaccines produced through excluded methods may be used when an equivalent vaccine not provided through excluded methods is not commercially available. That was the recommendation – the NOSB’s attempt to fix this problem. That has not been adopted by the NOP, so we are still in the same place that we were before.
Responses: one said they thought GMO vaccines should be allowed, but that the 2019 proposal should be implemented. Seven more said adopt 2019 wording. One said do not adopt 2019 proposal because commercial availability may be a barrier for farmers. One said do not allow any GMO vaccines unless they are on the NL.
Upside is that the wording has not been fixed within OFPA, but by far the majority of the stakeholders want us to continue going forward and interpreting it as they please. Most of them are allowing any vaccines to be used, whether they are GMO or not.
I guess this points to it is one of those places where we run into a snag. Everyone understands and agrees that vaccines are vital for the farm health and enterprise and to alleviate animal suffering. I think that barring action by the NOP, I think we are at this place and will probably just continue this listing as is and keep moving forward and reiterate the request that the 2019 proposal be implemented.
NPP: could you talk more about 7 public comments that said we should encourage NOP to adopt 2019 rec and one that cited the barrier.
Brian: 7 said 2019 wording should be adopted but continue listing as-is until then. One said do not allow any GMO vaccines unless on National List. None have been reviewed for National List.
NPP: Got it. Thanks. I think the public comment that hit me the hardest on this was by Organic Valley vet who gave us public oral comments and talking about how vaccines are one of the bright spots in organic. When I have to contend with my conventional neighbors who are skeptical of organic…usually, to be a good neighbor, you do not want to be the disease vector of the neighborhood, and organic has done well. The comment from OV that said vaccines can protect disease and suffering in animals. I took to heart that comment – because we do not have a lot of buying power in organic, we probably cannot exert a lot of power over manufacturers, and therefore I do not think that we are going to be able to get vaccines specifically for organic. Perhaps the 2019 recommendation are not what farmers and LS producers are looking for, who have to deal with at all times.
Brian: I agree. And that comment jumped out to me as well. The point that livestock industry does not have sufficient clout to get manufacturers to create what we want. In terms of 2019, the Board did go back and forth on a lot and option of essentially allowing anything in marketplace to be used – they did not adopt. Requiring lack of commercial availability to use the excluded method. Thinking about it, it seems that the point of 2019 was not to push industry into making non-GMO, it was just to say if they aren’t available you can use GMO one. I’m not sure I see the force of that argument. In practice I don’t think it makes a difference. Almost all commentors endorsing 2019 if implemented it was important to have list clearly available of what vaccines available and which GMO so everybody on same page.
Having said that, ti seems to me that a given farmer and vet in a given area, when there is a disease outbreak or threat that is imminent, they might not be able to shop around for a material that is on the list or is not available right now. I think we have to be very careful with this. I totally agree with you that it is a plus for organics to be good neighbors. It is a tough one. I should point out this yellow highlighted section of the review. We asked people to comment whether this was okay or not, and got very few responses. What it does is say that this review encompasses the entire class of LS vaccines, including those made with EM. [See yellow highlight.] In other words, they would all be allowed to be used with this wording.
We would love more feedback from everyone on this. We can revisit whether or not it is wise to require commercial availability or not. I guess that’s a separate action from the sunset. I think it is an important issue that we need to resolve.
Kyla: For Jenny, since this one also in recommendations library on hold, could you speak to the status?
Tucker: Think that the dialogue here is that there’s not actually agreement on some of these points. When we did regulatory priorities, this ranked as a low priority and there are some concerns that have been raised even in this conversation. I actually wonder if we should close it honestly. The system right now seems to be working the best that it can because we have a lot of other priorities.
Allison: I have a history/lawyer question. From a statutory interpretation point of view, taking out the reference to 205.600(a) and inserting the alternative language might imply that it does not need to be on the NL at all. Does anyone recall when it was listed if that was considered? In other words… If I were suing someone over the recommended annotation, I would say that we removed the language that said vaccines have to be approved through the NL process…and therefore we removed the intent that they have to go through the NL process…
Brian: I think the answer to that is that in this listing that’s where they’re all being considered.
Allison: So, if the commercial availability language were put on, would that imply that we no longer need vaccines on the NL at all?
Kyla: I don’t know or remember the discussion from 2019. I’d have to go back and look at the transcript.
Brian: I did read through most of those discussion and I don’t remember it. I apologize for getting lost in regulations – not a lawyer and confusing sometimes.
I think we will move ahead with this feedback, recognizing what Jenny said and what Allison said.
Nate Lewis: A quick scan to jog my memory – there was a concern that if every new commercially available vaccine had to be added to the NL…if you were going to apply the commercial availability requirement, you have to be more nimble tan we have been to date.
Kyla: Also, (a) requires inclusion at 603. I do not think that the new language would trump that requirement.
Brian: I do not remember anywhere reading to delete this listing. I do not think that was part of the discussion.
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS:
Reference: 205.603(a) As disinfectants, sanitizer, and medical treatments as applicable. (11) Electrolytes – without antibiotics.
Use: Electrolytes should more properly be called veterinary electrolyte formulations. They are mixtures of multiple synthetic ingredients used to restore ionic balance, especially in oral rehydration solutions to correct dehydration and in oral and injectable formulations for the correction of milk fever. Key electrolyte ingredients include calcium, potassium, magnesium, and sodium salts, plus phosphates, dextrose, and other additives.
Electrolytes are considered animal drugs by the FDA. In USDA organic production, they may only be used when preventative practices are inadequate to prevent illness and may not be given in absence of illness. Electrolytes are used to restore ionic balance, treating a variety of metabolic conditions such as hypocalcemia, scours, milk fever, dehydration, mastitis, ketosis, acidosis, and more. Electrolyte balance is essential to maintain the normal physiology and health of livestock. When there is an imbalance of cations such as sodium, potassium, calcium, or magnesium, either too low or high, the health and life of the animal are at risk. Stages of life, environmental stresses, and stages of production, such as birthing an animal, are all conditions that can throw the electrolyte balance off and would necessitate the use of this material to restore health and well-being to the animal.
Manufacture: Electrolytes are produced through industrial processes and fermentation or may be mined. The major component of electrolyte formulations are salts and would have a variety of carriers or other ingredients (i.e., excipients) that enhance their properties, such as dextrose, citric acid, glucose, glycine, and more. The 2015 Technical Report (TR) has a detailed description of the various manufacturing processes.
Discussion: Commenters from the previous sunset review universally agreed that electrolytes are essential and should remain on the National List with no changes to the annotation. Organic certification agencies noted they certify many organic producers who use electrolytes to maintain healthy livestock, both mammals and poultry. Environmental and consumer groups, as well as companies that market organic livestock products, also supported the relisting of these materials.
The Livestock Subcommittee believes that electrolytes satisfy the OFPA evaluation criteria. They are used regularly and found to be essential by a large number of organic livestock producers.
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Brian: (summarizes) basically listed as medical treatments. Widely used in vet medicine to correct metabolic imbalances in animals. Work fast and relieve distress. Only got 7 comments on this maybe b/c everybody so in favor. All in support of relisting. Strong support for relisting. Basically, no animal health downside. Powerful tool to alleviate animal suffering.
NPP: As a cattle producer with sick baby calves every spring, I am grateful for this listing.
No other questions or discussion.
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS:
Reference: 205.603(a) As disinfectants, sanitizer, and medical treatments as applicable. (14) Glycerin – allowed as a livestock teat dip, must be produced through the hydrolysis of fats or oils.
Use: Glycerin has over 1,000 uses; however, its use in organic livestock is limited to an ingredient in teat dips (§205.603(a)(11)). As an ingredient in teat dips it prevents teat irritation and improves skin conditioning. Glycerin does have some germicidal activity (Fox et al., 1990) [2010 TAP p. 1].
Manufacture: Glycerin is a byproduct of the soap manufacturing process. The oldest method of manufacture is by hydrolysis of natural fats & oils (either animal or vegetable): heat, steam, and pressure “split” the glycerin from the oil. The glycerin is concentrated in multistage evaporators and refined. Purification is achieved through either an ion exchange process or a distillation system, but it can also be produced synthetically from propylene. If only heat, steam or pressure is used to split the ester bonds to liberate free glycerol from fat (i.e., triglycerides), then this is a hydrolysis reaction catalyzed by physical forces and is compatible with organic criteria. However, if glycerol is formed by the chemical reaction of sodium hydroxide, then glycerol is produced by a chemically catalyzed hydrolysis reaction and may be considered synthetic [2010 TAP pgs. 1, 3].
Discussion: Glycerin falls under section 6517(1)(B)(i) of the OFPA code that describes livestock medicines.
Natural alternatives include castor oil and vegetable oils. There are some management tools for controlling mastitis, which include wiping debris from the teats, massaging the teat to loosen debris and stimulate milk letdown, wiping off the teat dip using individual cloths or paper towels, and applying the milking unit without air admission. None of the management tools seem to be effective alone. The public comments from 2018 were supportive of continued listing of glycerin as a livestock teat dip.
Questions to our Stakeholders:
1. Are natural alternatives sufficient to remove glycerin from the National List?
2. What protocol is followed to determine if the glycerin used is produced through the hydrolysis of fats or oils instead of synthetically from propylene?
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Kim: (Summarized the material.) Has a lot of other uses, but this listing is very specific in how it is being used. We do know that there are some natural alternatives and other management tools in controlling mastitis, but there does come a time when you do need this as an effective management tool. A couple of commenters mentioned Castrol Oil as a natural alternative. Even though there are natural alternatives, this is good to have in the toolbox. I would say that through public comment, it sounded as if from a certifier standpoint, it is quite clear that you can go back and ask manufacturers who it is being processed to very how it is being produced. There was an overwhelming suggestion to keep it on the list. From the dairy community, the support was pretty significant.
NPP: Think this is good example of role certifiers play in general and invest a lot of time and resource in this. Grateful for all the work they do and homework they are doing for us.
No additional questions or discussion.
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS:
Reference: 205.603(a) As disinfectants, sanitizer, and medical treatments as applicable. (25) Phosphoric acid – allowed as an equipment cleaner, Provided, That, no direct contact with organically managed livestock or land occurs.
Use: Phosphoric acid (H3PO4) has many uses. As a cleaner, it is generally used to remove rust and mineral deposits found on metal equipment such as boilers and steam-producing equipment. In dairy operations, it is used to remove calcium and phosphate salt deposits from processing equipment. Phosphoric acid is a hazardous substance.
In livestock facilities, phosphoric acid is used in Clean-In-Place (CIP) and non-CIP systems to remove encrusted surface matter and mineral scale found on metal equipment. The chemical reaction of the acid with minerals found in deposits makes them water soluble and thus easier to remove. For cleaning purposes, phosphoric acid is often combined with a surfactant, usually a detergent.
Phosphoric acid is sometimes used to remove resistant biofilms, colonies of microorganisms that attach to a surface and are protected by a self-generated protective film of polysaccharides (Muhammad et al., 2020).
Surfaces covered with mineral scale are particularly susceptible to biofilm attachment. It is important to note that when the mineral scale is dislodged, the biofilm is also dislodged.
Manufacture: There are two ways to create phosphoric acid:
1. Wet Process – Mined phosphate ore is treated with sulfuric acid, and the resulting phosphoric acid is separated from the calcium sulfate crystals produced. Many ore impurities exist; therefore, they can be further purified to obtain technical or food-grade phosphoric acid.
2. Thermal (furnace process) – Pure phosphorus is burned in excess air, and the resulting phosphorus pentoxide is then hydrated, cooled, and the acid mist is collected. It is considered purer than phosphoric acid achieved via the wet process and is considerably more expensive.
Discussion: The Subcommittee reviewed the use, manufacturing process, and environmental concerns. A Limited Scope TR was requested, reviewed, and deemed sufficient for explaining alternative practices and products that can be used in place of phosphoric acid.
Questions to our Stakeholders:
1. Is phosphoric acid essential for organic livestock production?
2. Would an annotation be beneficial to clarify when a rinse or purge is or is not required?
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Amy: (Summarized the material.) Invites Kyla to chime in, as she will be covering this later. Internationally, Canada and IFOAM have similar listings to ours. EU and Japan do not have it listed, based on the 2021 Handling TR. Human health dangers depend on solution’s concentration. Unanimous in supporting the relisting, but also unanimous in clarity of use – sanitizer or cleaner? Depends on the definition and consistently defining – cleaner – needs a rinse – sanitizer – does not need a rinse. We could make a recommendation for some guidance here. This was really across the board a concern. Certifiers are reviewing this material differently. By not having clarify, it can cause economic harm. Water rinse will nullify sanitation for milking. One dairy farmer noted that it is used 2x per week, and sanitizer requires a rinse, but they use a chlorine sanitizer rinse. The PMO does not allow a rinse. Others say that rinse is not forbidden by PMO. This needs to be cleared up.
This is outside of the Board scope, but additional information about the need for clarity. If it is the policy of a certifier that all ingredients be on the NL for a material to be allowed without a rinse, then this would require a rinse, because it requires inert materials, that are not on the NL. Should the material contain only phosphoric acid and water, that would supposedly have some certifiers say it is allowed without a rinse.
Solution could come through annotation or guidance. Commenters also noted that review of sanitizers and cleaners should be reviewed as a whole. It seems that would really help stakeholders in our community out if we took on that type of work agenda items.
Another issue on clarity to determine if a bulk tank and I’m learning dairy after the milking has occurred the product then moves to storage tank and that is referred to as bulk tank. Some certifiers are not considering it in the review process and some are looking at it. Rinsing or sanitizer. The rinse that is collected goes into manure and then it is applied to land and says product can’t have contact with organically managed livestock or land.
It sounds complex, but I think with more discussion, we can provide community clarity. The listing for LS is a little different from Handling, and community noted they wanted that additional wording under the Handling, as well – no direct contact with organically managed livestock or land. Problem is that a producer could claim they are using the Handling definition rather than the Livestock definition. Couple of things to clarity and potentially work to clarify how this is listed on Handling.
Brian: Question maybe Kyla answers. One comment took me by surprise b/c of how little I know about livestock systems and some handling issues. Person saying that essentially any cleanser can be used not on list to clean equipment and storage and whatever and if rinsed then it’s okay. So I guess I wanted to ask if that’s correct and are there concerns about where rinse water goes from that. I don’t know where it would go if its not into a sewer system or something like that.
Kyla: That is correct.
Brian: Coming from a cropping perspective, that is very similar to being allowed to use a dual use sprayer – rarely done – but you can use one if it is triple rinsed. Amy brought up the issue of whether this phosphoric acid rinse could then be washed out and mixed with the land. How is that handled?
Kyla: Nate have made reference about this earlier- any input not to contaminate land.
Amy: I understand your question regarding cleaners in general. The formulation needs to be reviewed by the certifier. It has to go through the materials review process, and if it’s not listed on the NL, then that certifier has to approve it on the farm operations OSP. The certifier would come up with a protocol, and usually it is the triple rinse that you mentioned.
Brian: If it’s approved then seems like it shouldn’t be an issue. Commentor implied it didn’t have to be approved by anybody as long as it was rinsed off.
Amy: At a minimum, should be on OSP and approved.
Brian: Nothing goes away, right? Everything goes somewhere, so you have to think about it.
Kyla: You did a great job of summarizing but from my understanding there is an ACA working group material and understanding there was consensus about how substance being reviewed and enforced. Don’t know the details and can follow-up to see. This working group does have a best practices document on ACA website. I would also say that your comments apply more broadly to sanitizers in general and perhaps will discuss that more as a future work agenda item.
Amy: Thank you. Appreciate that. I would love to hear the follow up so that I can include that and embed those links for best practices into this document so that it could be used as a resource for this.
Nate Lewis: Just to add in the 1999 rec included additional language to this annotation that had to do with minimizing contamination of surface water. The need is for producer to minimize effects of contamination rather than us get into nitty gritty of that. We should look at evolution of that.
Amy: Absolutely. I appreciate that archival information. We have a rich history and we want to incorporate that into future reviews.
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS:
Reference: 205.603(b) As topical treatment, external parasiticide or local anesthetic as applicable. (6) Lime, hydrated – as an external pest control, not permitted to cauterize physical alterations or deodorize animal wastes.
Use: Information and data was taken from the 2015 TR: Under the USDA organic regulations for livestock production, hydrated lime is only permitted for use as an external parasiticide. Regarding livestock applications, the final rule states that hydrated lime may not be used to cauterize physical alterations (medical treatment) or deodorize animal wastes.
The NOSB sunset review of hydrated lime pertains to applications of the substance for parasitic mite control in sheep, goats, cattle, and other livestock. Mange caused by parasitic mites is highly irritating for animals and can result in economic losses from wool damage (lamb and sheep) and reduced production of meat products (McNeal, 1999). Sheep scab—caused by the parasitic mite Psoroptes ovis— is a contagious, highly pruritic (i.e., itching) disease that results in the development of large, yellowish, scaly, crusted lesions, accompanied by damage to wool and hide. Sarcoptic and demodectic mange are problematic for producers of sheep and goats (CFSPH, 2009). In U.S. cattle production, sarcoptic mange (scabies), psoroptic mange, chorioptic mange, demodectic mange and psorergatic mange (itch mite) continue to be problematic skin diseases. Dips consisting of 2% hot lime sulfur (i.e., hydrated lime, elemental sulfur, and water) are recommended as treatments for parasitic mites associated with these diseases (Losson & Mignon, 2011).
Composition of hydrated or “slaked” lime consists primarily of calcium hydroxide [Ca(OH)2] and magnesium hydroxide [Mg(OH)2] at 50 – 95% and 0 – 50% of the substance, respectively. High purity forms of the substance contain greater than 90% calcium hydroxide.
Manufacture: The industrial production of hydrated/slaked lime involves two elementary reactions beginning with naturally occurring limestone deposits. In the first step, ground limestone—which contains predominantly calcium carbonate (CaCO3) with smaller amounts of magnesium, silicon, aluminum, and iron oxide compounds—is thermally transformed into quicklime. Specifically, heating raw or minimally processed limestone to temperatures in excess of 900 ºC results in conversion of the calcium carbonate content of limestone to calcium oxide (CaO) in a material known as quicklime (equation 1). This thermal transformation occurs with liberation of carbon dioxide (CO2) gas. In the slaking process, quicklime reacts exothermically (releases heat) with two equivalents of water to produce hydrated/slaked lime consisting primarily of calcium hydroxide [Ca(OH)2] (equation 2). The normal hydration process is carried out at atmospheric pressure and temperatures of approximately 100 ºC. A variation of the normal hydration process involves reaction of quicklime and water under a high steam pressure of up to 1 MPa and at temperatures approaching 180 ºC to form hydrates. After hydration, the hydrated lime product is dried, milled, and air classified. Equations 1 and 2 below provide molecular depictions of the overall synthetic process.
CaCO3 → CaO +CO2 (g) (equation 1)
CaO + H2O → Ca(OH)2 (equation 2)
Discussion: In the previous sunset review, the majority of public comment supported relisting. Many commenters suggested that hydrated lime was essential for organic production in that it prevents the spread of pests among herds. A few commenters said that there are no alternatives to hydrated lime. In subcommittee for this review, it was noted that disposal of hydrated lime when treating a herd could be of environmental concern and seek stakeholder input.
Questions to our Stakeholders:
1. Is hydrated lime regularly used currently for parasitic control in animal herds?
2. What are typical disposal protocols for spent lime after dipping?
3. Since the material was last reviewed, have additional commercially available natural alternatives emerged?
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Kim: (Summarized material.) In previous sunset reviews, there has been significant support to relist, and that is true this time, as well. The public comment around hydrated lime as parasite control is very clear cut. In saying that, there is some concern about if the listing is clear enough to not use hydrated lime in ways that it is not intended for – such as for a deodorizer. I think it is quite clear, but there were some very specific comments brought up that an annotation reiterating or being more direct with it not being a deodorizer – is it being used in that fashion and not in the intended use – questionable. But, as it is intended, it is supported. There were less than 10 comments in total, but that was the direction of the comments.
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS:
Reference: 205.603(b) As topical treatment, external parasiticide or local anesthetic as applicable (7) Mineral oil – for topical use and as a lubricant.
Use: The USDA organic regulations currently permit the use of mineral oil in organic livestock production for direct topical application and as a lubricant under 7 CFR 205.603(b)(6). Regarding this use pattern, mineral oil acts as an external parasiticide when applied topically to animals infested with mites, lice, and other parasites. External parasites such as lice, mange mites, and various insects can adversely impact the health of individual animals and lead to economic losses for livestock. These parasites do not generally kill their hosts, but they can weaken the animal and, in some cases, transmit diseases to the host animals. Mineral oil is also used as a lubricant during artificial insemination (AI).
Mineral oil is administered internally to lubricate the intestinal tract to treat bloat and dislodge intestinal obstructions in cattle and other ruminants under 7 CFR 205.603(a)(20) Mineral oil—for treatment of intestinal compaction.
Manufacture: Crude petroleum oil is the predominant source of mineral oils used in organic and conventional agriculture, as well as food for human consumption, cosmetic products, and drugs. Refined mineral oils are obtained through physical separation, such as distillation and solvent extraction, and chemical conversion processes, including cracking, hydrogenation, alkylation, isomerization and/or other chemical transformations. The composition of mineral oil is dependent upon the crude oil source (e.g., location of procurement) and the processing that occurs in the refinery, such as physical separations and chemical conversions. Because of the complexity of the mineral oil mixtures, refined mineral oils are identified using several CAS numbers depending on the treatment processes utilized and the intended use pattern of the mineral oil product. Mineral oils used in organic livestock production are hydrocarbon molecules containing 34 carbon atoms. These untreated mineral oils may also contain small amounts of nitrogen- and sulfur containing compounds, as well as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs may be toxic, and some are carcinogenic in long-term exposures.
The industrial production of highly refined, food-grade mineral oils involve chemical processing and refinement using various chemical reagents and/or catalysts. Crude oil is desalted, distilled, and subjected to solvent extraction, de-aromatization with fuming sulfuric acid or sulfur trioxide, and/or catalytic hydrocracking treatments to reduce the concentration of polar constituents containing heteroatoms (nitrogen, oxygen, and sulfur atoms) as well as polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and other aromatic compounds. Crude oil is considered an economically significant natural resource throughout the world, and would likely be classified as a naturally derived, non-synthetic substance according to NOP definitions. To produce mineral oil however, the chemical composition of natural crude oil is altered through physical separation (distillation) followed by reactions/combination with synthetic substances and reagents (aromatic solvents, strong acids and/or catalysts). Thus, the NOSB has classified mineral oil as “synthetic”.
Discussion: Mineral oil for veterinary use appears to have little negative effect on the animal or the environment, while being critical for humane treatment of some serious animal health issues. The EPA approves pesticides, including the use of mineral oil as an external parasiticide under this listing.
As a veterinary medicine for use in artificial insemination (AI), however, the FDA has jurisdiction. The Livestock Subcommittee is unclear how this would function in practice, given that the FDA does not approve generic materials or ingredients, only complete formulated products. Are only 100% mineral oil products allowed by organic certifiers?
The majority of 2018 commenters considered mineral oil essential for organic agriculture and suggested re-listing. Most commenters indicated that they use mineral oil as a spray, and use it minimally (as little as one cup per animal) to control flies and mites. One commenter suggested de-listing mineral oil citing alternative substances to control pests.
Questions to our Stakeholders:
1. Are there products used for artificial insemination and parasite control that are not 100% mineral oil? How are they checked for compliance with the Organic Regulations by farmers, technicians, vets, or certifiers?
2. Is mineral oil essential for livestock parasite control?
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Brian: (Summarized material.) For topical use and for lubricant. A little confusion/duplication with mineral oil. We approved sunset for mineral oil last year for internal use of mineral oil. This is for external use. For use as parasiticide externally. Last year we approved for internal use. For the external use there were 8 comments all in favor or of relisting. Benign use to alleviate when different kinds of parasites get out of control. This is just another tool in the toolbox. In terms of questions that we asked, believe there were 1 or 2 that the products they used were required to be 100% mineral oil. So that was it. One point is that mineral oil is very self-stable.
Materials Subcommittee (MS)
Wood Turner, Chairperson
Discussion Documents: 2023 Research Priorities
See the 2023 Spring NOSB Meeting Materials (All Proposals and Discussion Documents) (pdf) for a detailed breakdown of all the research priorities.
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Wood: Commend the Board for leaning into this process and try to invigorate this process. To remind the community and Board, this is a living document, something that is used by funding organizations and research organizations to motivate and inspire deeper organic research on a variety of topics that we feel are important and driving what we are doing and what our mandate is. It really does feel like a living document over time. At first I wondered why we kept putting things on the list year after year, and the reason is that we consider them important and we need more research. We want to continue to remind all of the talented researchers out there that these are the things that matter to our community.
Each subcommittee has members and have all liaised to the other subcommittees. I’m going to kick it over to Brian to offer a view – he liaised on livestock and crops – and want to give him an opportunity to speak to that process since out last cycle.
Brian: I’ve been on the outskirts of academia and participating in a lot of crop and research in previous job at Cornell and I think these lists are really good. Also been part of grower focus groups and we suggest to researchers what we’d like to see happen. These lists are specific and clear. These are well crafted. In terms of livestock subcommittee I wanted to talk about what we have here compared to last year. From comments we got last year, we tried to enhance or reword some of these to bring forth breeding as being importation, livestock rations, and the parasiticides. Didn’t get changed a lot but got consolidated to bring those topics to the front. We got a lot of great comments that we will work hard on over the summer. We haven’t digested them yet. There’s a lot in there.
For crops, basically, what we’ve done so far, again from comments from one year ago, we’ve added three more research items to the crop list. They are research into PFAS alternatives and remediation, which we hear loud and clear. Certainly, our friends in Maine – that was a total upsetting of the applecart with ag producers. The economical impacts of GMOs on organic crops. Finally, the extent and impact of plastic use. That goes right back o our first Q&A period after the presentation this morning about Logan talking about how many acres of plastic production there are, how big of a factor is this, and I think that we’re going to find for some crops that it’s huge. We do need those numbers, and it doesn’t have to be universities that are finding this information. It could be NASS.
That’s a quick one. Wood, anything else?
Wood: say that’s good and on handling side, think we had less additions to our rolling list. Think that some of the ones have been focused on in handling particularly sanitizers and ancillary review process , heavy metal. contamination, essentiality, have all been important. Those related to excluded methods are incredibly important. The feedback we’ve gotten from community: lots of support on whole around research priorities. Appreciate it when organization calls out specific priorities like climate change, like strategies for managing insects and weeds. Appreciate feedback. Support for PFAS research, heavy metal contamination research and always good clarification points. Just talking about carbon sequestration got to also focus on reduce greenhouse emissions.
There is a reference that keeps coming up and I think there has been some confusion about this regarding copper sulfate in rice production. That is something that is rolling over. It is already not only referenced specifically under #5 in the crops research priorities, but there is an entire section that is about copper use in rice production. I would encourage the Crops Subcommittee to ensure that the way that we have it articulated in the document is covering that topic effectively.
There was some good feedback, as well, about potentially thinking about predator and wild animals on farms, racial equity. I did like the feedback we heard about trying to formalize our process here. Maybe every couple of years getting NIFA in here so that we can be in dialog about how this research is being used.
We try, if there is a need – we have a summary section, and then a much deeper dive in some of the categories, as well. Sometimes the summary priority, as written, is intended to be enough. One organization said there is a mismatch that LS priority #2 is not spelled out in more detail, but I think we felt we had said enough in the summary section. Perhaps we should be clear about that in the larger document compared to the summary, but they are not always intended to have a more detailed section.
There were a few things that came out of the process. Some of the feedback didn’t feel as if they would fall into research priorities. Should resource priorities be focused on understanding organic poultry feed or understanding the petition process. Appreciate the feedback.
Appreciated hearing from the community and encouraging the committees to use these comments to try to tighten up these priorities.
Amy: Review all priorities and all incredibly important. Think my question as always been on that feedback loop. I think getting NIFA here is helpful. As farmer there are some of these that are extremely critical and some of use doing our own on-farm research. Opportunity for board to be more of a clearing house and return to community. I think I’ve wrested with how to do this. 3 total priorities would fit well within OTI – expanding markets and highlight to grant markets and the three that I mentioned; one is on livestock list to expand livestock rotations:
- LS – Expanding LS feed situations that accept ingredients that are rotational crops. Ties back into building the market. Rotational crops were one of the 5 that were highlighted by the administration.
- Eliminating the barriers to access organic produced food. That is new. Do not think it’s on the list. Ties in with market expansion.
- Crop insurance document – to get this actuarial information. This is part 2 – we need rotational crops, markets for them, and we need to have the coverage for them that are common sense crops that producers need to produce.
There is the grant process that Jenny mentioned, and perhaps we could incorporate those into the process. Also reach out to our private partners, universities, and any companies that are working on these. I think getting this list to as many people who can help us, the better.
Kim: Can you reiterate the second one: eliminating barriers to access organic produced food.
Carolyn: Research priorities always make me happy like barriers to transitioning to organic production. A lot of research in that area. I wonder how we bridge – are there creative ways to think about connecting with researchers doing this work. A lot of people here don‘t know about it.
Allison: Impressive list. I hesitate to offer to add more, but will. Amy – I like your suggestion of expanding markets umbrella and the points you made. Under general, there is the influencing access to organic food. The other I would add to that list is markets for rotation crops. We see so much around excluded methods and such, and I keep wondering why the “organic pulse burger” isn’t making a big splash on the market. The other area I wanted to flag – there is a longstanding push to have our research priorities around seeds and breeds – I wanted to reiterate that priority on our research agenda would be helpful.
Nate: Echo and commend group for synthesis of these ideas and also wondering about NIFA and match waivers and type of research applicable to lots of commodities. Would like to see waiver opportunity for land grand. Can we take steps to ameliorate inequity in funding. Any thoughts on obtaining research dollars.
Franklin the money is there, but what you need to do to get the money becomes the problem. The money is announced and supposed to be available but there are institutional differences whether you actually have access to the funds.
No other discussion at this time.
Excluded Methods TBD list update
See the 2023 Spring NOSB Meeting Materials (All Proposals and Discussion Documents) (pdf) for a detailed breakdown of all the excluded methods up for discussion.
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Mindee: will put a few comments. Since passage of OFPA, organic community has made it clear genetic engineering (GE) is not welcome in organic. Customers and retailers do not want GE in organic – no grey areas. It is this unwavering bright line consumer and retailers rely on. An infiltration of manipulative regenerative claims. The bright line and non-GE integrity has become even more critical. Appreciate NOSB recs have been unanimous. As for TVD list work, we intended to do this in open docket but didn’t work out with deadline. As far as public comments go, one groups said GE should be prohibited. Farmer group concurred that organic is different including methods to genetically modify are clearly not allowed or wanted. Comments from seed companies were extensive. Many TBD lists are highly integrated and may otherwise be achieved through natural breeding but could take 5 –10 times longer. Encouraged swift prioritizing 2018 and 2019. Tension b/w strengthening requirements and TBD list. One comment also said individual steps vary by institution and even within institution. Attempting to list all plant varieties and TBD techniques, this company seen as a herculean task.
The commenter goes on to say that the TBD techniques are important tools that speed up the breeding process… As they have written on numerous comments, the focus on this is taking away time from the NOSB work. All of the techniques in this document are not enforceable because they are not traceable. We need the NOP to close the loophole on seed breeding. [A lot here – talked about a competitive advantage of companies that are using the untraceable methods.]
Opening it up for general comments and for those that are experts on the topic of seed breeding.
Amy: Thank you for being a champion Mindee.
Brian: Thank you. Commends Mindee’s leadership. Just want to put out there that our stakeholders are big group, including consumers at base, retailers, farmers, and seed breeders, amongst others, handlers. Organic seed breeding community comes out of a very high pressure, academic furnace and they tend to see things differently than a person like me and many of our consumers. Anybody who would call bombarding seed with radiation as a traditional breeding method, would take umbrage at that as some of our indigenous cultures used techniques that bread corn and made incredible progress. Those are the methods that I call traditional that word bothers me sometimes when hear it. Also need to decide whether we want extremely toxic chemicals and radiation in plant breeding. My personal preference is no and whether going to grandfather stuff in and say that from this point forward organic plant breeding will or won’t have these. Have to make decisions and not be swayed by a small group within the organic community. Need to decide what makes sense. Organic farming when originated 100 years or more and said I don’t want to use chemical fertilizers people thought they were nuts for 70 years until dead zone in gulf of Mexico. So need to look inward and decide what really want, including plant breeders and a lot of other people too.
Nate Lewis: Maybe more of a question to the program – NOSB passed a recommendation related to seed – is there a timeline on that from the NOP?
Jenny Tucker: That was in the regulatory priorities process last spring raised as a high priority to look at. The team did a really nice analysis piece around all of the different things we could do around that. Rules take a long time. I think there are a lot of things that we could actively do before we do rule making. I do think this topic is next to talk about where to go next. I think this particular recommendation related to seed might live more with compliance and accreditation than with standards. We do have some compliance challenges. There have been some complaints, that led to adverse actions related to seed. This is part of the broader portfolio of enforcement where we don’t get to talk about our successes as much. We did put training in the OILC, and we think that certifiers are starting to see that if we put training in there, that leads to a natural cadence of activity. We are aware of how high of a priority this is for the community. We are getting there.
Allison: Brian, appreciated your comments and what came to mind is massive loss of biodiversity and concentration in our foods system of businesses. Need more public investment in seeds and breeds. This is hard and takes a long time so we need to think about other resources, it’s us, it’s Farm Bill moving in tandem. We should make recommendation that go to heart of OFPA and think about how overcome challenges as a community.
Amy: I have another comment – important request from the community around the requirements of organic seeds. When we had a report from Kiki from OSA, we have hardly any data from international producers. When we are making these requirements – how does that impact people from oversees? The accessibility of organic seed – right now we have very little data according to Kiki. Jenny, can you talk about how that will impact the international community?
Tucker: Any rulemaking we do will impact any operation certified to USDA standards. One of the get a better sense of actual issues – every year Robert and his team identify audit priorities based on community feedback and from the Board. Last couple of years priorities have been natural resources biodiversity and soil provisions livestock is also a big one that we’re looking at. Think question is do we need to do that again and check if noncompliances were corrected have to make space for other priorities.
There are only so many priorities the auditors can do when they are on the ground. We need to be very choiceful in the audit priorities. I think that how certifiers are overseeing seed searchers, etc. That is one of the options the team laid out – what do we need to learn about how certifiers are doing this. Perhaps we do not need new regulations – perhaps the ones that are already there need to be enforced.
Kim: I think there are a lot of resources available to us that may not be available overseas. Perhaps the commercial accessibility isn’t available overseas. We do not know what is happening overseas. If this is going to be considered as a priority regulation, we need to look at it on a global scale, as well. As a producer, we want to ensure that everyone is following the same rules. As a producer in the US, our regulations becomes more stringent, and I agree with that if the resources aren’t available to them.
Tucker: Shout out to those certifiers that are trying o work that out. The work that you do on this Board has ripple effects across all of those certifiers and all of those operations. How do you make it rigorous and fair – and fair might be different depending on what topic you’re talking about. Want to celebrate certifiers who are on the frontline of these decisions every day, and they’re tough decisions.
Mindee: excited about possibilities about working on this TBD list. We have OFPA and criteria for excluded methods. We can make progress on this list. Not daunted by the task. We can do it.
Wood: Thank you for your resolve and the great leadership you have shown on this. Brian – You are a huge player in this area and the wisdom of your comments resonated with me.
Kyla: Echoing everyone’s support and acknowledgement of Mindee’s leadership. Quote from ACA’s Best Practice document on this topic – Certifiers and MROs should utilize EM definitions at 205.2 and those developed by the NOSB work… The work of this Board is being utilized currently.
Technical Report (TR) Template update
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS:
1. Harmonize the flow of information requested in the TR with the petition template (NOP 3011, 4.22) and the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) criteria3, while reducing redundancy.
2. Add relevant questions/sections for Excluded Methods discovery.
Discussion: The Materials Subcommittee requests help to try to solve a gap/problem with the scope and format of TRs. The intended use of TRs is for the evaluation of specific substances. However, the Materials Subcommittee would like to request a TR for breeding methods, like induced mutagenesis, which may fall in the class of Excluded Methods. In the course of this work, the Materials Subcommittee discussed the possibility of using the TR process to evaluate many kinds of methods and practices in addition to the evaluation of specific substances. Excluded Methods may include both unique methods and specific materials in the creation/manufacture of a technique that is being evaluated for use in an organic system. The Materials Subcommittee is not advocating for a change in the TR process, but instead has framed several questions around the issue. The Materials Subcommittee asks the community’s feedback/ideas on how best to proceed.
Questions to our Stakeholders:
1. Are there other relevant sections of OFPA, or the NOSB PPM, that refer to the TRs that could provide further information on improving the TR process? Is the Materials Subcommittee missing resources outside of OFPA and the NOSB PPM?
2. Where in the TRs is the best places for questions? What questions should be included to help the NOSB identify excluded methods in the organic supply chain?
3. Who uses TRs and for what purposes?
4. Is the TR template functional for all types of materials, methods, and practices? If not, does the NOSB need to develop another report template for methods/practices?
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Mindee: Thanks to the NOP folks, especially Jared, on getting this document together. Thank you, OMRI, so much. Reviewed goals – see above. Did not get a lot of public comments back. Apologies to the community for how we could update the template with some updated suggestions. Thank you for your patience with evaluating those appendices. Public comments supported the efforts in this area. Materials Subcommittee understands that the TR template is a tool for the Board and can be updated without Board approval. Excited about the revisions, especially in light of the consistency issue that might surrounded excluded methods. One certifier noted that it is unclear to them if every certifier is following the same excluded methods chart. My hope is that we are going to be able to update materials with new TRs. The additional questions about EM in TRs will bolster our ability to protect organic. One commenter said they believe that the information presented in the TR template and the new TR template is the same, with new one easier to read and may be less repetitive.
Commentor encouraged technical reports. Commenetor emphasized not just input substitution. Certifier noted used TR for review of materials. Also made suggestion for an edit. Another group likes we are working to harmonize the flow of information. Clarity of format will help prevent errors and omissions. As far as questions, we got great suggestions. To the last question, TR template – probably functional as long as familiarity with OFPA.
We got a lot of support and some great suggestions. I took a lot of notes. Appreciated the very extensive suggestion for the revision to the petition template.
Nate Lewis: We will get an updated TR template – vote on it in the fall? Is it part of the PPM?
Mindee: Just a template – we don’t have to vote on it – we own it. We asked the question about who uses it, because we do want to honor its functionality in all ways. Want to consider all of the other users.
Logan: Which subcommittee will have EM come up in this process the most so that we do stay in front of it. If we do a TR – if our standard is every 10 years – are there certain areas that we have to highlight. Wondering about the logistics of it – will it take some time to adopt it?
Mindee: As fast as we can agree, we can start using it. We should be proactive about updating TRs.
Logan: I realized that after I asked the question. Thanks.
END DAY TWO OF THE SPRING 2023 NOSB MEETING
Thursday, April 27, 2022: Spring NOSB Meeting, Day 3
Handling Subcommittee (HS)
Kyla Smith, Chairperson
19 sunsets and the proposal on ion resins in the Handling Subcommittee. We are receiving some TRs late in the process, and will include the full info from some TRs for the Fall vote.
Proposals: Ion exchange filtration – Resins
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS:
Based on the public comments provided during the Fall 2022 meeting related to leaking and degradation, the Handling Subcommittee is comfortable with the review and oversight by certifiers and during the inspection process as the means of evaluating compliance with 7 CFR 205.272. However, the Handling Subcommittee acknowledges the concern expressed by some stakeholders around the concept of leaking or leaching. Therefore, the Handling Subcommittee requests information on current monitoring strategies or testing being used to ensure there is not leaching and that ion exchange systems are functioning properly.
Questions to Stakeholders
1. Are there tests or other ways to monitor final products for contamination?
2. What are the industry recognized practices to ensure your ion exchange system is in “good working order”?
Subcommittee Vote: Motion to approve the recommendation that the ion exchange resins used in the ion exchange filtration process are not required to be on the National List and that NOP provide instruction to certifiers as outlined in this recommendation.
Motion by: Kyla Smith Seconded by: Wood Turner
Yes: 6 No: 0 Abstain: 0 Recuse: 0 Absent: 2
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Kyla: We have heard from stakeholders that most were in favor of the proposal. Those opposed included a couple of certifiers, a couple of advocacy groups, and a farmer. A strong majority of certifiers were in favor. Those in support felt confident for certifiers to review. Comments opposed noted that while resins do not meet the definition of food processing aid and are in favor of listing them individually to evaluate compatibility to OFPA and for transparency for stakeholders. Also focused on the theoretical potential for leaching. One comment also noted that water that goes through the process is also synthetic and needs to be on the list.
Definitions – as certifier, is like my Bible. It’s how certifiers make decisions. If we aren’t going to adhere to them, what’s the point. Board was encouraged to use own definitions. Due to sorted history with FDA on how they classify resins. By law, resins don’t really have a home on the national list. Opportunity here not to create bad precedent.
Leaching – migration of chemical elements to food is the potentiality is not guaranteed and low risk. Certifiers evaluate OSP and comingling prevention and assessing adherence to food safety protocols.
Transparency – It is true that without listing resins on the NL, it is true that people would not be directly to the FDA food substances list to see all of those approved for use. That is why the process for certifiers is so important – it will reference the FDA database.
Synthetics – There are ions that are used to filter out heavy metals and other things, but it is still “juice” in the end. Water, which is probably the most common ingredient filtered, is not synthetic. This is not perfect.
Amy: Interesting to me. Several questions. First, international compliance? Resins are reviewed by FDA and want to understand how recommendation will be executed internationally? Are international facilities complying with FDA recommendations first?
Kyla: I do not really know what exchange systems are available in the international community. The proposal that is written does require that the recharge materials be listed on the NL, so certifiers would need to follow that. It also requires that resins be listed on the Food Contact Database, and that would be an instruction to certifiers, and the Program would follow up with certifiers to ensure they are complying with that requirement. So, I think those two things would ensure that they are in compliance.
Nate: The issue of definitions resonates with me. Processing aids are defined terms. The importance of being true to how use important for how certifiers do calculations and label determinations. Need to be able to use NL as a tool. Ned to respect the precedent there. That is a frustration and can see how it would make folks want to use NL as a tool. We don’t have a home for these types of materials – unfortunate. So what do we have in the standard. Want to make sure we don’t’ forget 205272 requires prevention of contamination. Ion exchange resins are overseen by FDA. There’s pretty strict testing requirements to insure not leeching. Can argue about whether trust FDA and those things will continue to govern these materials. Perhaps we extend conversation to how we support certifiers and their assessment. Would like to see how we can support certifiers of handlers for having additional tools for having contamination prevention plans. Maybe we could add to work agenda, but number of processes going on in a handling facility that have potential to contaminate products. Testing component could support those endeavors. Intend on voting for Option 1. believe contamination concerns should be addressed by existing regulations.
Brian: Appreciate work but have couple questions. Classification of material is ambiguous. I am not convinced that it does not have a place on the list b/c of how it’s defined. Seemed that there are 3 classes of materials involved: resin backbone, ions impregnated into resin, recharge materials. The first two groups would not be reviewed at all based on this recommendation. Some stakeholder comments said there are not that many of these materials – maybe 15. Not a huge lift to Sunset and review them every 5 years. Since there is concern among stakeholder community, what would be the resistance for doing it for the finite number of backbones and ions? They might have to go through petition process. What would be the resistance regardless of their status as a type of material?
Kyla: I think there are more than 15. I saw that #, too, but I think I also saw the #30, too. Mostly, the resistance from me, is that it sets bad precedent and sets it up for other things to be petitioned that do not have a home on the NL. It’s putting bad on top of bad and it’s bad precedent.
Kim: I think that Kyla’s answer is spot on and leads me to support the material. I think these resins are like equipment, and if we start to go down that road, what else are we going to feel the need to scrutinize? It becomes overwhelming quickly. We have concerns about plastic…about PFAS…thinking this is all fine and safe, and now we find it’s not…so I am thinking about that, too. But I think that under what we have put forward, it becomes reasonable and practical to deal with this in this way at this time.
Nate Lewis: Like Brian’s question. Consider, why not, precedents and definitions aside. I don’t think NL is structured in a way that allows the board to address concerns these materials raise to the community. Concerns are primarily around degradation and unintentional entry into food chain or product. Whether or not it’s listed on NL doesn’t give us tools to restrict that. Why I go back to 272 to address concern in rule that I heard from community. That’s my reaction to that question.
Kyla: Not that these resins themselves are not Being reviewed – being reviewed through OSP. Just not being reviewed in context of NL.
Brian: Quick thought – one of the issues is that these materials are in intimate contact with the product. Another example of that would be salad mix harvesters and snap bean harvesters. When they go through a field, they cut everything out and it goes through all sorts of things – pretty intimate contact – I can see that there is a potential for other kinds of things that we might not want to be evaluating on the NL. I hadn’t thought about that before. Just wanted to share that idea.
Amy: This has been great conversation. Big proponent of definitions. Clarity for me was in the term leakage. Option 1 points where needs to go b/c of precedence, but need to reconcile, this work project began because NOP issued memo that said all these materials need to be listed on NL. Trying to reconcile precedence with what NOP had communicated to community. Initially framework was different than what Option 1 telling us to do now.
NPP: Because we have the NOP/Program right here, I feel like we should kick it to them.
Jenny: Thank you. When the community/industry encounters new problem, sometimes we have to establish new solutions to ensure we are being thoughtful to be including the broader industry that will be affected by our decision. Sometimes, we say, Certifier A, you made a mistake and you have to change your mind. And sometimes it becomes a bit of an irreconcilable difference. At one point, we thought that we could answer these questions – we thought it should be on the NL – and man, did we get the letters flying. That happened three times – there were three times when we did that and got the same response. So, we responded with a new process, and that’s what happening today. That initial response we gave was based on our best assessment at that time, but whatever you decide as a Board is what’s going to happen. We have a greater sense of humility, and we got some pretty clear letters in arguing the opposite side. No one’s side is completely clear.
Amy: Helpful. Initial decision from the NOP said that all substances needed to be on the NL. I am clear with the current process, just wanted to reconcile what came before.
Kyla: Looking at the notice to certifiers that Amy referred to. They were equating entire filtration process to other filtering aids on NL. Looking at whole system, think community reacted b/c not that simple. You have to look at the component parts and put the recharge materials on. Originally assessment based on whole and now we’re breaking it apart.
Jenny: I really appreciate how much this Board has engaged in this complexity. There are so many complicated problems, and I feel a little relieved that this is as hard as it is. When we had to pull that memo, I thought, “Oh, no, I’m a new deputy administrator, and already I’m pulling back memos.” So, I’m really pleased to see how complicated this process really is, and it makes me feel like we really did the right thing.
Dilip: Kyla, you may have answered this. Is there any list of resins of what’s being used? Any review on those particular resins in the TR and their effects on plants and the environment?
Kyla: The list of resins can be found in the proposal, and what is recommended, is that they be listed either on the inventory of food contact substances or [another food contact substance list]. The TR did not look at the resins individually, but looked at them more as a class.
Franklin: I have a similar question. What are the tools available to certifiers and inspectors to carry out oversights. What temperature, what flow, and what factors lead to more leaching? What are the tools available to do oversight that everything that is moved to that side is the regulation side. So, what are the tools the person actually interfacing with the farm and making a decision? Also, one ppm of leached material – what are all those values and effects on people exposed to that? Is there a lot of work?
Kyla: In the context of the OSP an operator would be describing their GMPs and adhering to those. The FDA is the regulatory authority over these – it’s a food safety issue. If an operator is using these systems the FDA is the authority. Similar to any other type of equipment, like tubing, food contact substances that are overseen by the FDA. In the OSP it would cover information like that to indicate when they would need to change out to columns. I can’t speak specifically from experience because we don’t’ certify any resins.
Franklin: So, you think certifiers currently have information and tools?
Kyla: Do know within inspection reports, it’s common for inspectors to evaluate that operations have passed food safety protocols and getting passing grades with regard to food safety.
NPP: As an inspector… One comment that was made a few times is the idea that these materials aren’t being reviewed. I think that shows a greater misunderstanding of how we are operating as an industry. That is the role that the certifier plays. Because there is a really broad world of food substances – and I think of the tote bag that holds my wheat – and we, as inspectors, go and look – is that tote bag falling apart and is it time for it to be changed out. When we think about going through the ability of the certifier and industry to go through all of these issues – we have to think about for 30 years we have trusted the process. So, as an inspector, when we go on site and inspect – this goes back to leaching – like arsenic, we want to ensure that it has not gotten into the soil – so, as an inspector, we look at those certificates of analysis. So, how the on-the-ground process works, we are looking at all of these tests to ensure that the food has not been contaminated. We look at how long the manufacturer suggests it be used before it be changed out, and how is it working – is it beyond the life of the filter, and are the tests showing that it is working correctly?
Franklin: So, what you just defined as leaching is what I thought was leaking in the report. It’s no longer able to pull out. Leaching according to what I read was when resin starts getting into – need clarification. Another aspect. Are we saying that the whole honest certifier – saying let’s just go with what the FDA says. Is that the oversight – this is FDA approved, and not certifier or inspector that FDA guidelines being followed? I still think certifier and inspector play role.
Kyla: Leakage is the correct term. Leaching is the concern of leaking plastic. Leakage is what Nate was describing. It’s both in terms of oversight. The FDA has oversight over food contact substances The organic certifier and inspector as Nate described is looking at operations compliance with FDA as well as looking at contamination prevention. Nate is correct – those are the extra questions that would get asked.
Allison: I find some theme stands out from every meeting, and this one is that we need to be really careful with our words, and this is an acute example. The questions that we included to stakeholders were there in part because I did feel a concern about a leaching risk – a risk of exposure from these resins that are not associated with the proper functioning of the equipment. I feel convinced from public comments that there isn’t anything we can do. I am worried about unknowns, and we could test for something, but we wouldn’t even know what we were looking for. I am comforted by Gwendolyn’s comments regarding the fact that if there was leakage, you would see unproper functioning of the equipment before you would see anything else. I am comfortable being uncomfortable at this point. But I would hope that if someone did find that a particular resin was a problem, they would bring that to us and we could address it at that time.
Kyla: Think OMRI spoke to that as well that the potential for leaching is very low risk.
Mindee: When I was little my parents only bought salt and sugar because we lived so close to my grandparents farms. I want that local whole-food nutrition for everyone, but we don’t live there. I have think about the compromise to the best path (when a consumer wants coconut water shipped from Thailand). We live in an organic system that grapples with the industrial reality. I am comfortable with option 1 based on this process.
Nate Lewis: That sugar probably went through an ion exchange process.
Kyla: The motion to approve the recommendation was motioned and seconded. Motion to approve the recommendation that the ion exchange resins used in the ion exchange filtration process are not required to be on the National List and that NOP provide instruction to certifiers as outlined in this recommendation.
VOTE: 12 Yes; 1 No; 1 Abstain; 1 Absent; 0 Recusals – MOTION PASSES
Yes: Allison, Brian, Nate, Dulip, Jerry, Kyla, Amy, Mindee, Kim, Wood, Logan, NPP
2025 Handling Sunset Review
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS:
Reference: 205.605(a) Nonsynthetics allowed. (6) Calcium carbonate.
Use: Calcium carbonate is widely used as a dietary supplement, antacid, dough conditioner, acidity regulator in wines, food stabilizer, anticaking agent, gelling agent, glazing and release agent, thickener, bulking agent, and nutritional fortification additive. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) allows the use of calcium carbonate as a binding agent in meat and poultry pieces and a color additive mixture for coloring foods at 21 CFR 73.70. Calcium carbonate is also a precursor to the substance calcium citrate, which is identified on the National List in 7 CFR 205.605(b).
Manufacture: Calcium carbonate is a fine, white microcrystalline mined powder which is stable in air. Calcium carbonate is a mined mineral of at least 98% purity that is ground and screened.
Discussion: During the Fall 2018 Board meeting, public commenters widely supported the relisting of this material, noting its essentiality to organic production in the absence of viable alternatives. Commenters detailed uses including in soy cheese, yogurts, and beverages as a source of calcium; as much as 15% of the RDA. Comments also pointed to its use as a stabilizer. Calcium carbonate is not listed in the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990.
Questions to our Stakeholders:
1. What are the predominate uses for calcium carbonate?
2. Can alternative substances be used without reducing product quality? If so, what are these alternative substances?
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Kim: Summarizes info. Wide array of uses. Used as dietary supplement. When reviewed in 2018, support for renewal and essentiality noted. Same sentiment in public comment. About a dozen different commentors, noting different specific usages. Used ina varietyy of arenas. There was one commentator that wanted more specificity of uses and not let it be wide open. Does seem to have significant uses as non-synthetic.
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS:
Reference: 205.605(a) Nonsynthetics allowed. (12) Flavors – nonsynthetic flavors may be used when organic flavors are not commercially available. All flavors must be derived from organic or nonsynthetic sources only and must not be produced using synthetic solvents and carrier systems or any artificial preservative.
Use: Natural flavors are typically used in very small amounts in products (approximately 0.05 to 0.40 percent of ingredients) that contain less than optimal amount of flavor necessary to give the finished products the desired flavor profile. Natural flavors are widely used in baked goods, dairy products, jams and jellies, snack foods, and juice products, as well as in many other foods. Natural flavors are often proprietary formulations developed specifically for their intended purpose and functionality of the finished product. The significant function of natural flavors must be flavor rather than nutrition.
Manufacture: Flavors can be derived via several different methods. Distillates are a clear, flavorful liquids derived from fruits, herbs, roots, etc., produced and condensed by distillation. Extracts are products that use solvents (typically alcohol or alcohol-water mixture) to pull out certain volatile and non-volatile fractions from raw materials such as spices and herbs, cocoa and vanilla, or flowers. Extracts found on the grocer’s shelf, such as orange, almond, lemon, etc., are essential oils dissolved in an alcohol-water mixture.
Essential oils are volatile oils that give a botanical its aroma and can be the aromatic essence of a spice, flower, root, leaf, or peel. They are made by steam distillation or cold pressing. Essential oil isolates are a chemical or fraction obtained from a natural substance. For example, citral can be isolated from lemon oil or lemongrass. Oleoresins are solvent extracts of spices where the solvent has been completely removed. An oleoresin will contain the essential oil plus other important non-volatile components that characterize the flavor, color, and other aspects of the starting raw material. For example, the oleoresin of pepper will contain its aroma as well as its taste sensations of heat and spice. A single flavor chemical is a single molecule that provides flavor. These can be naturally or artificially derived, but they are specified to have a greater than 95% purity. Mixtures of these substances can also be considered natural flavors. A compounded flavor is a mixture of ingredients such as extracts, essential oils, and natural isolates. Processed flavors, also known as reaction flavors, are ones that are generated as a result of some form of processing upon a mixture of ingredients. A process flavor is a unique mixture of starting materials, like carbohydrates, proteins, and fat, which must then be heated for a length of time to yield the desired profile.
Discussion: The TR was received close to the Subcommittee submission deadline and therefore the information from the TR was not fully incorporated into this review. The TR will be available as soon as the Handling Subcommittee determines it to be sufficient. Its contents will be incorporated into the Board discussion at the Spring meeting as well as the Fall 2023 proposal.
During the 2018 sunset review, the National Organic Program (NOP) had not completed rulemaking on the petitioned annotation change requiring the use of organic flavors when commercially available. This was the main focus of comments at the time urging NOP to complete rulemaking. The annotation change was finalized in 2019 and is reflected in the currently listed on the National List.
The Handling Subcommittee’s discussion focused on trying to get a better idea of sources and manufacturing processes for flavors in an effort to determine the current and future availability of organic flavors in the market.
Questions to our Stakeholders:
1. Do you produce or certify organic flavors that include ingredients listed on § 205.605? If so, what ingredients?
2. How would removal of flavors from § 205.605 impact the commercial availability of organic flavors?
3. Are there flavors currently used in organic products that cannot be produced organically (including any of the examples listed in the TR such as castoreum derived from beavers, Tonquin musk oil from musk deer, wood chips from nonorganic forest products, distilled liquid smoke, fish flavors)?
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Logan: Extensive and broad. 2014, OTA submitted petition. Added annotation similar to seed – passed in 2018. Rulemaking in 2019. Also mentioned they would be putting a survey out and how many more organic flavors have come on board. (Summarizes uses of flavors). We asked 3 questions. Had 14 commentors on this material and all in support of it. If we were to take the synthetic away it would disrupt supply chain. Question about flavors that can’t be produced organically. A lot of products not going to be listed as organic and as aren’t agricultural. If commercially available for organic we can break that up and get more specific on flavors. With time this can progress but needs to be relisted or disruption in marketplace.
Jerry: In reading through material, brings me to one other thing that I ran into and it was colors. Even when have adequate supply of natural ingredients, the issue of batching and mixing becomes complicated. It’s a tough nut as far as I’m concerned with what you’re doing.
Logan, growth in organic seems to outpace availability. Don’t want to slow organic industry down.
Kyla: Thanks for taking on this topic. Appreciated the comments noted “we are on the right path” and “on the right direction” while admitting they wanted that path to move more quickly. Can we get more information – engaging with the flavors task force – so that we can get narrower in scope? We are talking about a non-synthetic on the NL. These are non-synthetic.
Gellan gum (high-acyl form only), Xanthan gum , Gums – water extracted only (Arabic; Guar; Locust bean; and Carob bean), and Tamarind seed gum
Note that the NOSB tackles all the gums in one discussion.
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS:
Reference: 205.605(a) Nonsynthetics allowed. (13) Gellan gum (CAS # 71010-52-1) – high-acyl form only.
Reference: 205.605(b) Synthetics allowed. (37) Xanthan gum.
Reference: 205.606 Nonorganic agricultural substances allowed: (j) Gums – water extracted only (Arabic; Guar; Locust bean; and Carob bean).
Reference: 205.606 Nonorganic agricultural substances allowed: (r) Tamarind seed gum.
Reference: 205.606 Nonorganic agricultural substances allowed: (s) Tragacanth gum (CAS #-9000-65-1).
Use: Gums are used in organic handling for different reasons, including: (1) thickening and gelling, (2) stabilizing foams, emulsions, and dispersion, (3) inhibiting ice and sugar crystal formation, (4) aiding formulation, and (5) controlling the release of flavors.
Despite having similar characteristics, the gums are not interchangeable. Due to their structure, some gums behave differently in different temperatures, pH ranges, physical agitation, etc. (2018 TR 194-200). This variability requires formulations specific to the type of food product, intended shelf-life, and product use. Often the gums are used in combination to impart specific properties of the finished goods (2018 TR).
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Xanthan gum – Most widely used of the gums – and really important for gluten free products. Some commenters wondered by xanthan is synthetic but gellan is nonsynthetic when they are both produced in the same way. A few commenters asked about making that more consistent.
Generally there was support for relisting. A few commentors questioned whether actually essential for handling. Currently don’t use it but want to use it.
Gellan gum – low to moderate use, question whether should be synthetic. Concern about GM use as part of Manufactuing process. Currently no organic.
Tamarind seed: recently added to list. The supply of it in organic version then maybe would replace use of some other gums. One said not to relist b/c not essential. Hasn’t been around long enough.
Arabic et – used in natural flavors; really not opposition to relisting; mixed comments about organic availability.
Tamarind gum – not widely used. One suggested annotation for specific use.
Nate: Gums are a good exercise in looking at essentiality. The question is whether it’s necessary to to prevent chalky mouth feel in organic products. It’s an interesting way to do exercises about essentiality for things on NL.
Amy: question about 1 in particular that said some stakeholders said commercially available and some said it was not. Is it regional or quantity thing – why disparity in that response?
Carolyn: Good question. I do not know. I can look through the comments again and look back to you. That did not pop out for me on my review.
Amy: Points to the need for more transparency in this commercial available arena for producers.
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS:
Reference: 205.605(a) Nonsynthetics allowed. (21) Oxygen – oil-free grades.
Use: Oxygen is used in modified atmosphere packaging, the processing of olives, and by wineries, breweries, and manufacturers of carbonated beverages.
Oxygen is an odorless and tasteless gas and is commonly used to help maintain color and prevent pallor in food (although in some volumes, it can have the opposite effect). It can also aid in inhibiting the growth of bacteria. Oxygen can be helpful in a modified atmosphere packaging environment because it can help prevent spoilage in products that are high in sugar or water.
Manufacture: Oxygen is separated from air cryogenically, or the super-cold temperature liquefaction of air and fractional distillation.
Discussion: The NOSB unanimously voted to relist oxygen in 2018.
Public comment prior to the Spring 2018 NOSB meeting was mostly in favor of relisting. One organization commented that oxygen should be removed from the National List if its necessity in organic production wasn’t documented. According to public comment, it is used by wineries, breweries, and manufacturers of carbonated beverages. One certifier reported that it is listed on 14 Organic System Plans (OSPs). One winery commented they use it for micro-oxygenation, a process where oxygen is added to red wine at a controlled rate and flow to stabilize color, improve astringency, and aromatic components of the final wine. Micro-oxygenation also allows wines to be released to consumers at a younger age which in turn reduces the amount of sulfur dioxide that needs to be added during the wine making process.
The Handling Subcommittee has discussed the substance during its sunset review and currently supports relisting.
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Wood: (Summarized material.) Very strong support for this material for a variety of reasons, but see it across the board – certifiers, producers, nonprofits and the like. There were no negative comments. Similar to comments during crops, and we’ve heard it already this morning, thinking about specificity abuse in these materials, there is clear interest from at least one organization in the community to lean into that moving forward. Otherwise, positive comments.
Jerry: Some industries – blueberries – it is essential to be able to hold products for longer. In the industries that I’m involved in, it can be a game changer.
Wood: Absolutely. The role it plays in reducing food loss and food waste. Appreciate that.
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS: Reference: 205.605(a) Nonsynthetics allowed. (23) Potassium chloride.
Use: According to the Food & Drug Administration FDA), potassium chloride is generally recognized as safe (GRAS). Affirmed uses of potassium chloride in foods are as a flavor enhancer, flavoring agent, nutrient supplement, pH control agent, and stabilizer or thickener. Like salt, potassium chloride provides a salty flavor and can also often play other functional roles (such as microbial management, protein modification, flavor enhancement) that affect the taste, texture, and shelf life of food products.
Potassium chloride is generally used for two main purposes in food products: to provide potassium enrichment to foods, and as a salt replacement to reduce the sodium content in foods.
Manufacture: Potassium chloride is a mineral that occurs naturally and is a product of potash mining where water is forced into ground to dissolve potassium chloride deposits. Brine is brought back to the surface where the water is evaporated off. It can similarly be produced from seawater extraction via solar evaporation.
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Wood: (Summarized material.) TR pending where we asked for specific examples of alternatives. All of the feedback for Handling use has been positive among the community. All strongly in support of this material.
No questions or comments.
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS: Reference: 205.605(b) Synthetics allowed. (3) Alginates.
Use: Alginates are used in food production and handling as an emulsifier or emulsifier salt, firming agent, flavor enhancer or flavor adjuvant, formulation aid, processing aid, stabilizer or thickener, surface-active agent, and texturizer.
The use of alginates is not limited to foods. Industrial applications use alginates to improve the performance of products such as paper coating, textiles, adhesives, air freshener gels and ceramics Alginates are also utilized in a variety of ways in the medical field. Examples include wound dressings, surgical implants, pharmaceutical preparations, and as a source of dietary fiber (2015 TR 279 – 283].
Manufacture: Alginates are produced from algin and are usually extracted from the cell walls of brown algae. Commercial alginates are isolated mainly from the following algal species: Laminaria hyperborea, L. digitata, L. japonica, Ascophyllum nodosum, Macrocystis pyrifera, Eclonia maxima, Lessonia nigrescens, Durivillea antarctica, and Sargassum spp (Draget, Smidsrød and Skjåk-Bræk 2005; Hay, Rehman and Ghafoor, et al. 2010). Alginic acid in brown seaweeds is mainly present as calcium, magnesium, and sodium salts. The first step in the manufacture of alginate is to convert the insoluble calcium and magnesium alginate into soluble sodium alginate by ion exchange under alkaline conditions (World Health Organization 1997). Extraction involves ion exchange in an alkaline medium followed by precipitation, purification and conversion to the appropriate salt (Saltmarsh, Barlow and eds. 2013). “Commercial manufacturing of alginate almost always involves a purification step where an acid treatment precipitates the alginate as alginic acid” (Drageta, Skjak-Bræk and Stokke 2006). The extraction process renders alginates synthetic [2015 TR 444-454].
Discussion: Alginates were added to the National List in 2022 and have been renewed at each sunset review.
Public comments from the previous sunset review demonstrated a continued need for this material. One stakeholder commented that alginic acid, like seaweed and fish oil, should be reviewed within the broader context of Marine Materials. Additionally, the Board was asked to consider the addition of an annotation related to harvest restrictions and risk-based testing for toxic materials, using a decision tree to identify harvesting areas where testing would need to be performed.
The Subcommittee discussion centered on the current forms of alginate that are being used in organic production.
Questions to our Stakeholders: What forms of alginates are currently being used in organic production (e.g., ammonium, calcium, potassium, sodium, propylene glycol)?
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Dilip: (Summarized material.) Cultivation is largely eco-friendly. Not aware of any evidence of adverse practices of harvesting brown seaweed. Added to NL in 2022 and renewed at each sunset. 12 stakeholders commented. One comment said listing should be broken down by species – concerned some may be overharvested. Another stakeholder commented that it should be reviewed within a broader context of marine materials. Board was asked to consider harvest restrictions and risk-based testing for toxic materials. The question we asked was what forms of alginates are currently being used in organic production. And we got given growing interested in plant-based meat alternatives this would be of particular interest in relisting.
Franklin: I see some environmental impacts for seaweed farming, including depletion of nutrients in coastal waters and effects on phytoplankton. I see suggestions on sustainable wild harvest techniques. But I also see seaweed is being used in bio-remediation techniques. Do we want things being used in bio-remediation being used in our food?
Dilip: Primary impact on environmental is that it comes under secondary env impact of seaweed farming. Given these challenges of managing this non-native seaweed, some say better to focus on sustainable wild harvest techniques.
Frankling: If we are using it for bio-remediation, removing things from the environment; is that what we want to use in processing? Is the processing done in such a way that it does not then impact the consumer? That’s my question.
NPP: Point taken.
Brian: That’s an interesting point. I assumed that the bioremediation would be nutrient loading, and that would be a good thing to take that out, but if there are other types of pollution, do we want to necessarily be eating that?
Jerry: I have a bit of a history with that in my first year. The thing that struck me then and now is that the entire industry is sort of young and sort of opportunistic. There seems to be a lot of things that could be done without a whole lot of work – moving the crop out a bit where they do not draw impurities from the water. The one that we looked at earlier – it does have some significant benefits as to erosion, but I cannot be any more specific as to your questions, either, sorry.
Dilip: I have made notes of these questions and I will be looking into them. Thank you.
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS: Reference: 205.605(b) Synthetics allowed. (8) Calcium hydroxide.
Use: Calcium hydroxide is used in food processing as a buffer, neutralizing agent, and firming agent. It is used in making calcium acid phosphate (a component of aluminum-free baking powder) and in nutrient supplements. Calcium hydroxide is an available source of calcium, an essential nutrient. In this regard, limestone (calcium carbonate) and thus calcium hydroxide, an essential intermediate in the industrial utilization of limestone, have no alternatives.
Manufacture: Calcium hydroxide is produced through four steps: 1) mining or quarrying raw limestone; 2) preparation of the limestone for the kilns; 3) calcining the limestone to produce quick lime (calcium oxide); and 4) hydrating (mixed with water) the quick lime. To produce calcium hydroxide, the temperature for calcining far exceeds temperatures achieved in the home kitchen, which the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) has previously considered decisive in judging if a substance is synthetic.
According to the 2023 TR, new techniques for the manufacture of calcium hydroxide continue to develop. Nanoparticles of calcium hydroxide were reported to be synthesized as early as 2001 (Salvadori & Dei, 2001). One article described calcium hydroxide as “one of the most magnificent materials in nanotechnology by virtue of its unique physical and chemical properties” (Harish et al., 2022). Most literature cited refers to medical or dental applications of calcium hydroxide nanoparticles. However, with growing interest in food applications of nanotechnology, food-grade calcium hydroxide nanoparticles may become commercially feasible. Nanotechnology is not permitted in organic production (National Organic Program (NOP) Policy Memo 15-2: Nanotechnology).
Discussion: During the previous sunset review, public comments submitted by organic manufacturers, trade associations, material suppliers and certifiers detailed calcium hydroxide use and necessity in the processing. The majority of public comments supported relisting of calcium hydroxide. One commenter suggested that the NOSB clarify which uses of calcium hydroxide are permitted, specifically if calcium hydroxide can be used as a firming agent. Additional commenters stated that they use calcium hydroxide in infant formula.
Questions to our Stakeholders:
1. Is calcium hydroxide essential for organic food production?
2. Since the last review, have additional commercially available alternatives emerged?
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Dilip: This should be straightforward (summarizes material). New TR that came a few weeks ago that gives a lot more info on manufacturing. Good discussion during previous sunset review. Necessary in processing. 11 public comments and majority supported relisting. One said should clarify whether it can be used as a firming agent. One question we asked is if essential for organic food production and if commercially available alternatives. 11 comments in favor and not much response received about commercially available alternatives.
Nate Lewis: During pandemic we had a lot of time on our hands and grew heirloom corn. Can tell you it is essential for good tortilla. Didn’t have good luck with wood ash.
Franklin: Took note of fact no alternatives. I was worried about report itself and extensive environmental impact and pollution of environment during the mining process. Does anyone know if anything coming down the line that is less impactful on environment?
Dilip: Not that I’m aware of. Anyone else?
Kyla: No, no current petitions before the Board that would be an alternative to this material.
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS: Reference: 205.605(b) Synthetics allowed. (14) Ethylene – allowed for postharvest ripening of tropical fruit and degreening of citrus.
Use: Ethylene is used in the post-harvest ripening of tropical fruit and the de-greening of citrus. Ethylene produced naturally by fruits has not been commercialized, and the mount produced for agriculture are small compared to emissions from car exhaust, petrochemical plants, or fires.
Discussion: During the last review, commenters stated that no commercially viable alternatives exist. Without ethylene, commenters said, it would be impossible to achieve the uniform ripening necessary for timing the harvest for fruit shipment. Others commented that the material does not fit any OPFA criteria, and it is not essential to produce the crop but rather is employed for economic reasons.
The Handling Subcommittee discussed the effects on the environment and human health, along with the apparent essentiality for the tropical fruit industry. Obviously, there is an alternative, which is to let fruit ripen naturally. However, as stated in the TR this is most ideal for local markets where fruit is picked closer to ripeness and time to market is short. According to the TR there are also alternative practices for degreening, such as being stored at low-moderate temperatures as the fruit is maturing on the tree. However, when comparing degreening via reduced temperatures vs. ethylene, ethylene was significantly faster at fully degreening fruit. There were also additional nonsynthetic substance alternatives such as smoke utilized in the Sri Lankan pit method. However, this resulted in blackening and over softening leading to decreased marketability. Smoke was also used in the past for citrus degreening, although there were problems with fire hazards, heat, and decay.
Questions to our Stakeholders:
1. What types of organic tropical fruits are currently being ripened using ethylene?
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Logan: (Summarized material.) International acceptance is wide. Also included in the crops section. Environmental issues – related to manufacture and petroleum use, but the product itself does not cause long-term harmful effects on the environment. Explosive in nature, but highly regulated. Overexposure could cause headaches or drowsiness, but if following the label, there is no harm. Alternatives – the alternative would be to allow things to ripen naturally. That has been brought up by commenters. The statement is that it is not essential to produce the crop, but may be essential to supply the supply-chain to operate. Whenever it came up for the sunset for the flowering of pineapples, the farmers who spoke out that it is necessary was overwhelming. Other alternatives – mention of using smoke – but that resulted in decaying of product and low quality of product. Fruits currently being ripened: Bananas, mangoes, avocadoes, and papaya.
Jerry: Banana industry would not exist today without this substance. They are cut and shipped dead green. We wouldn’t have a chance of a good banana where we are without ethylene.
Wood: I agree with Jerry. I am fully supportive of the material. In our conversations on climate-smart ag, this is a great example. If we are looking at full-scale greenhouse gas emissions, this is a factor. I don’t mean to call it out specifically, but it is one that leads to that.
Amy: I see that it was petitioned for use with pears, and it looks like NOSB did not recommend.
Logan: In 2018 – 8 yes; 5 no. Petitioned for that, but in the testimony, found out that in the industry people were able to get rid of all of their pears – it wasn’t make or break for the industry, like some of the tropical fruits. It seemed to be more of an economic boost that people were looking for – Board concluded that it wasn’t necessary or essential, such as for bananas.
Jerry: not sure why this doesn’t get more play unless off on my statistics, but 80% of all tomatoes in US go through this process.
I would argue that wouldn’t be allowed for a tomato based on the current annotation – it’s for tropical use.
Logan: It’s for conventional use. I’ve had people call me and ask why this isn’t allowed – especially in the southeast when you’re dealing with all of the rain and getting that fruit that close to being ripe. Yes, in the conventional world. Would need a petition to get it on.
Kim: other than the word tropical, is there an exact list of which tropical fruits.
Logan: It is not defined. I saw that in the TR. I don’t know if it could be branched out. I do not think it is a technical term – avocadoes, bananas, papayas, and mangoes were the ones put out there.
Glycerides (mono and di)
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS: Reference: 205.605(b) Synthetics allowed. (16) Glycerides (mono and di) – for use only in drum drying of food.
Use: Mono- and diglycerides have many applications as food processing aids. They are principally used as emulsifiers. This function also translates into stabilization, preventing food separation, stabilizing air pockets and extending shelf life [TR 2015 82-83]. However, the only use for which mono- and diglycerides are permitted in organic food processing is in the drum drying of food. In this application, mono- and diglycerides can have various functions, but most significantly they act as an emulsifier and release agent. When mixed with food, mono- and diglycerides help prevent sticking during processing, and in drum drying they help to strip the food from the cylinder walls once dried. In drum drying, a puree or slurry of food is added to one or two heated cylinders at varying feed rates depending on the particular food’s viscosity. As the cylinders or drums rotate, the slurry dries. The process creates powder or very fine flakes that can serve as the basis for snacks, soups, baked chips, some bakery items and cereals [TR 2015 91-92]. The use of mono- and diglycerides in dehydrated potatoes also aids in rehydration [TR 2015 105-106]; at the spring 1995 National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting, it was noted that the food industry was trying to move away from use of mono- and diglycerides, but that they were still needed for potato flake products [TR 2015 168-172].
Discussion: According to the 2015 TR, alternative ways to dry foods include spray drying, freeze drying, fluidized bed dryers, air lift dryers, scraped wall heat exchangers, etc. Drum drying is said to be preferred for potato flakes. Freeze drying has been suggested as an acceptable alternative to drum drying.
Evaluation question #13 in the 2015 TR suggested a few potential agricultural alternatives. One is a commercial product, made of organic rice bran extract, which is marketed as an emulsifier and drum release agent. Trials by the manufacturer concluded that rice bran extract had the highest capacity for oil-in-water binding. However, the hydrophilic–lipophilic balance of rice bran extract is narrower than that of mono- and diglycerides, which may make it less versatile as an emulsifier depending on the composition of the mix to which it is added.
Organic soy lecithin and gum Arabic (both currently on the National List) were also raised as possible alternative substances to glycerides, although the use of gum Arabic in drum dried food is not widely reported. The TR also considered the use of lecithin as an alternative but stated that as compared to mono- and diglycerides it provides much less emulsion stability, much less starch interaction, and more fat modification.
The TR concluded that in general, each emulsifier (and its form) is selected based on specification of the food and the processing application [TR 2015 522-547].
The use of mono- and diglycerides appear to be limited, but compatible with OFPA because the health and environmental risks are minimal. It would be helpful to understand current uses.
Questions to our Stakeholders:
1. What products are mono- and diglycerides currently used in?
2. Have any alternatives emerged?
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Allison: (Summarized material.) Are not significant environmental issues, other than pesticide use.
This, again, was a lesson in being careful with our words. We wanted to find out what products that glycerides were used in, but we didn’t specify “organic” products, and one commenter listed many products, but do not think they were all organic products. I did my own search, and found 2 products of potatoes that are produced with them. Did find many products that do not use them, so perhaps they are not needed? But several commenters suggested relisting just to keep options open, but one commenter suggested delisting based on the amount of alternatives that are listed in the TR. I believe that there is still something special about this product for potato flakes based on the TR and other comments.
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS: Reference: 205.605(b) Synthetics allowed. (19) Magnesium stearate – for use only in agricultural products labeled “made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s)),” prohibited in agricultural products labeled “organic”.
Use: Magnesium stearate (CAS # 557-04-0) is not commonly used in organic products (TR 2018 102). In conventional production, it is routinely used as an anti-caking agent in salt, spices, powdered foods and drinks, leavening agents, and candy (TR 2018 103-105). It is a flow agent, food processing machine lubricant, and may be an incidental additive. The most common use of magnesium stearate is as a binding agent in dietary supplements. Magnesium stearate is permitted for use only in agricultural products labeled “made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s))” and is prohibited in agricultural products labeled “organic.”
Manufacture: Typically manufactured as a synthetic from hydrogenation of animal fats or vegetable oils, magnesium stearate is produced by adding an aqueous solution of magnesium chloride to sodium stearate. Stearic acid is made by saponification of edible fat (lye plus tallow) that is treated with an acid to form stearic acid.
Discussion: The use of magnesium stearate appears to be limited, but compatible with OFPA because the health and environmental risks are minimal. The Handling Subcommittee is interested in answers to the following questions regarding current use:
Questions to our Stakeholders:
1. How is magnesium stearate currently used by organic processors?
2. Have any viable alternatives to magnesium stearate emerged?
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Allison: (Summarized material.) No other mention in any other international standards. Environmental impacts: Possibly involved with the substances involved in synthesis – but only in high concentration – so should not apply to what we are talking about. Commenters – certifiers noted that it is used in pharmaceutical products. Several commenters noted that they do not oppose relisting because it is used for “made with organic” products. One commenter generally supported relisting.
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS: Reference: 205.605(b) Synthetics allowed. (23) Phosphoric acid – cleaning of food-contact surfaces and equipment only.
Use: Phosphoric acid is used in organic handling and processing as a cleaning agent for “food contact surfaces and equipment,” as described in 7 CFR 205.605(b). Phosphoric acid has been approved for pH adjustment of some soil amendments (liquid fish products and squid byproducts) and as an equipment cleaner in both organic crop and livestock production. (7 CFR 205.601 and §205.603).
In addition to its appearance in 7 CFR 205.605, phosphoric acid has been used as an ingredient in plant extractions (USDA 2002, USDA 2019, USDA 2020a, USDA 2020b). When used in this manner, phosphoric acid acts as an acidifying agent and stabilizer to facilitate more efficient extraction of target compounds (Yoon et al. 2020).
In addition to organic applications, phosphoric acid is a widely used substance in conventional agriculture, with approximately 90% of wet process phosphoric acid used in the production of fertilizers (Shriver and Atkins 2008). Phosphoric acid has uses in food and beverage processing as a pH adjuster, flavor ingredient, and processing agent in dairy products (Wolke 2002, Gilmour 2019). Phosphoric acid is also a precursor to synthetic phosphates, which have a variety of uses including as fertilizers, surfactants, and detergents (Shriver and Atkins 2008) [TR 163-179].
Manufacture: See complete information regarding the manufacturer of phosphoric acid in the published materials: https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/NOSBMeetingPacketApril2023.pdf
Discussion: During the 2018 sunset review the NOSB unanimously voted to relist phosphoric acid. The discussion largely focused on the broader topic of sanitizers on the National List. It was stated at the time that while there is a general desire for a safer alternative to phosphoric acid, there didn’t seem to be viable options at that time.
In 2020, the Board received a petition to expand the annotation of phosphoric acid “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” (USDA 2020b).
During the Fall 2022 Board meeting, the NOSB unanimously voted against the petitioned annotation expansion.
While there was a TR contracted in 2021 due to this petition, the TR focused on the petitioned use (not the current listing as an equipment sanitizer). Therefore, it did not specifically cover alternatives to phosphoric acid as an equipment sanitizer.
The Handling Subcommittee broadly discussed sanitizers and various options for how to address the broader topic. At this time the Subcommittee supports the continued listing of phosphoric acid.
Questions to our Stakeholders:
1. Is phosphoric acid essential as an equipment sanitizer to be incorporated into your sanitizer rotation?
2. Is phosphoric acid used as an equipment sanitizer in a particular sector of the organic industry?
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Kyla: (Summarizes material). Thermal or “wet” process used for manufacture. Commenters – got lots of comments, widely used, cleaner-sanitizer. One commenter noted that because phosphoric acid works as a scaler it can remove biofilms. So it is the material of choice in some circumstances rather than a sanitizer in rotation. Widely used across spans of handling. Similar comments were also noted for this listing in livestock. There were lots of questions raised related to consistency in the listing and annotation itself. I will follow up with the ACA working group regarding this material.
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS: Reference: 205.605(b) Synthetics allowed. (24) Potassium carbonate.
Use: Potassium carbonate is both a carbonate salt and a potassium salt with many uses.
Discussion: Potassium carbonate has a vast amount of uses in organic production. Public comments from the previous sunset review demonstrated a continued need for this material. One manufacturer noted its use as a sodium reduction agent and that removal from the list would result in a rise in sodium levels in their product by 18%. Other commenters noted use in a protein bar and as a nutritional supplement.
Questions to our Stakeholders: Since last reviewed, have there been any changes (either in substitute products or manufacturing process) that would warrant removal of potassium carbonate from the National List?
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Kim: summarized material. Did have a TR and it was completed. Approved internationally. Asked if any substitute products on the market or any that would warrant removal. Seems the most used is to lower the sodium content in products. It was also mentioned in wine production for reducing acidity. Of the half dozen comments there were 2 that asked for more specification and to narrow the scope wanting more emphasis on when sodium carbonate is not appropriate or reduction agent for sodium itself. Would like to hear more from community about uses.
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS: Reference: 205.605(b) Synthetics allowed. (35) Sulfur dioxide – for use only in wine labeled “made with organic grapes,” Provided, That, total sulfite concentration does not exceed 100 ppm.
Use: Sulfur dioxide has been used as an antimicrobial and antioxidant in food, including wine, since Greek and Roman times. Sulfur dioxide is primarily used to inhibit microbial growth and prevent spoilage and oxidation in wine. It has also been used to preserve conventionally produced meats and avoid browning in fresh and dried produce and other products. The current National List annotation limits the use of sulfur dioxide to wine labeled “made with organic grapes” and further limits the sulfite concentration to not exceed 100 ppm.
Sulfur dioxide may play a number of roles in wine production, at multiple stages in processing. Cultivated yeasts added to enhance fermentation of wines have been selected to be more tolerant of sulfur dioxide than wild yeasts. Enough sulfur dioxide is added to deter growth of the wild yeasts or bacteria present in the grape juice, while not exceeding a level that will deter the growth of the desired added yeasts to the juice. This process helps to prevent the formation of “off” flavors. While sulfites occur naturally in wines, the level is too low to have a pragmatic effect.
Sulfites may be added to wine in various forms. Sulfur dioxide comes in pellet, liquid (sulfurous acid), or gaseous form. Potassium metabisulfite is commonly powdered; the 2022 Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) generic materials list states that potassium metabisulfite is prohibited.
Wine can be made successfully without added sulfites, but alternative interventions are often necessary to avoid microbial contamination, manage fermentation, and control oxidation. Sulfite reduction strategies include refrigerated fermentation in climate-controlled facilities, pasteurization via ultraviolet irradiation, and use of stable gases to fill the head space in packaging. Wines without added sulfur dioxide may also have a shortened shelf life.
Discussion: Sulfur dioxide is considered safe at the levels allowed under the current annotation, which are more restrictive than those for nonorganic wines. Strict sulfite labeling requirements also allow sulfite- sensitive consumers to avoid products with added sulfites.
Wine can be made successfully without added sulfites, but many winemakers do not find alternative methods and materials satisfactory to prevent spoilage and oxidation in wine.
The current annotation allows the use of sulfur dioxide only in wines labeled “made with organic grapes,” which continues to contribute to confusion in the marketplace. Internationally, the U.S. is an outlier in limiting use of sulfur dioxide to wines labeled “made with organic”; our major trade partners allow it in wines labeled “organic” as well as other fermented fruit products like cider and perry.
The labeling limitations for wine produced from organic grapes using sulfur dioxide have an important relationship with the potential growth of organic grape acreage. For example, in 2020, California had 625,000 acres of wine grapes, but only about 25,000 acres of harvested organic wine grapes. Wine grapes are routinely treated with a wide range of pesticides, including glyphosate which has been found in wine.
The Subcommittee discussed the health risks of exposure to sulfur dioxide, as well as the protective measures that are in place for sensitive individuals and concluded that the continued listing of sulfur dioxide is compatible with the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). The Board may also wish to continue to discuss the current annotation and the best ways to balance the individual health risks associated with sulfites and the broader health and environmental threats of conventional wine production. It would be helpful to understand the current state of the organic wine industry, label claims in use, and how sulfites are currently used in production of wine from organic grapes.
Questions to our Stakeholders:
1. Do you or your members/clients produce wine from organic grapes? What label claims do you use and why?
2. What form of sulfur dioxide do you use? Is there another form you would prefer, and if so, what, and why?
3. At what stage is the sulfite content of wine measured/verified (e.g., at bottling)?
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Allison: (Summarized material.) I went into a lot of detail in the sunset document regarding the international rules – most are much more permissions of sulfur dioxide. Allow higher levels and organic labeling, rather than “made with” organic. Sulfites get a lot of attention because about 1% of the population are very sensitive – very serious if you are sensitive. Unlike most chemicals that are harmful to people, there is actually very clear labeling on food to protect you. Impacts on organic wine sector – it is extremely confusing to the wine industry and to consumers to say, “This is a product that has all organic grapes, but you cannot label it as ‘organic.’” I think it is a matter of the community getting comfortable with a material that has some downsides and up sides. The production of wine grapes involves a huge number of harmful pesticides, so we have to think about the impacts of that. Almost no one has producers using it except CCOF. They said they have gotten questions about other forms. The TR notes that potassium metabisulfite is not allowed, according to OMRI, but you can add it to water, and the SO2 can come off that, and that is perhaps a gray area if that is allowed. They also noted that they heard that it may be safer to use. The TR does not address whether or not potassium bisulfite is allowed. It is mentioned in several international allowances. It seems that the composition of SO2 may need more review from us. Several commenters supported relisting – some noted supportive because of “made with organic” – one commenter noted that due to the risk to farm workers that using it in processing also presents risks, but the “made with organic” also gave them some comfort around that. We did not hear from any wine makers. We would like to hear how this is impacting them. There is a lot of new production around “natural” production. Would like to hear from wine makers for the fall.
Nate: I may not have this correct, but I understand that biodynamic wines require wines to be grown organically and do allow the use of sulfites.
Allison: Sulphur dioxide is also allowed in biodynamic wines. See biodynamic and organic marketed together often.
Wood: Is there anything magical about 100ppm threshold in the listing – is that one of the issues we should lean into more and understand if there is anything there?
Allison: Good question. I do not think there is anything magical about it. My understanding is that the current annotation is the product of negotiation, so I’m think that’s how we got to that #. The EU has the most detail around this. They allow higher amounts in white and sweet wines – lower amounts in red. There is a lot of consumer misunderstanding and misconception about sulfite use. I frequently had people tell me that they drank organic wine because they were sensitive to sulfites, at the same time they were drinking an organic wine that was made with sulfites, but maybe the lower level does have some impact. I don’t know if we played with that number if there would be a significant impact.
Kyla: comment that so grateful you were on handling subcommittee when this came up.
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS: Reference: 205.606 Nonorganic agricultural substances allowed: (g) Fructooligosaccharides (CAS #308066-66-2).
Use: Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) is on the National List at § 205.606 as a non-organically produced agricultural product allowed as an ingredient in or on products labeled as “organic”. As a non-digestible carbohydrate, this substance is used as a soluble prebiotic fiber ingredient in food products. While FOS is included in food products as a source of energy for probiotic bacteria residing in the gut of humans, it is not used as a nutrient source directly for humans. FOS is incorporated into milk products, cakes, biscuits, cookies, crackers, yogurt, ice cream, soup, and hard candy, among other foods.
Discussion: During the last Sunset review, FOS remained at § 205.606 by a vote of 14 to 1. Most stakeholder comments were in support of the continued listing of FOS. Further, there appear to be no new sources of organic FOS coming out of the last review session. Given that the strongest opposition to keeping FOS on the National List centers around the availability of organic supply, the Handling Subcommittee will focus on this aspect.
Questions to our Stakeholders: What is the current availability of suitable organic supply for the manufacture of FOS?
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Jerry: (Summarizes the material information.) No known issues of environmental contamination. There are no ancillary substances intentionally included in FOS. Commenters: yielded not much. 8 respondents (does not minimize value). 5 supported re-listing, and two opposed re-listing. The other organization saying it is not an agricultural product. One organization did not take a position.
Lecithin – de-oiled
INFORMATION FROM PUBLISHED MATERIALS: Reference: 205.606 Nonorganic agricultural substances allowed: (l) Lecithin – de-oiled.
Use: The major uses for lecithin include as an emulsifier in margarine, chocolates, instantizing powders, release sprays, and baked goods. It is used as a natural surfactant between oil and water systems, as with margarine products. Lecithin also helps modify chocolates for better enrobing and reduces the crystallization of cocoa fat. With baked goods and dough, lecithin improves water absorption, increasing volume and shelf life, as well as improving uniformity. In addition, lecithin is used in pharmaceuticals for a wide range of purposes, including as a dietary supplement and an emulsifying agent for intravenous injections.
Manufacture: Lecithin is extracted from soybeans and other plants. For example, soybeans are dried and flaked, and crude soybean oil is extracted almost exclusively with the use of hexane. Some expeller-pressed oil is processed further. The crude oil is filtered, hydrated, centrifuged, dried, and cooked. Standardized lecithin is the fraction that is centrifuged. Some commercial lecithins are bleached with hydrogen peroxide or benzoyl peroxide to improve color.
Discussion: During the last Sunset review, the NOSB voted 12 to 3 to keep lecithin-de-oiled on the National List. Stakeholder comments tended to center around the availability of suitable and sufficient supply of organic raw material (mostly soybeans or corn). Five years ago, it was felt that there was not sufficient organic supply.
The question of suitable and sufficient supply of organic raw material was addressed by the 2022 limited scope TR which was received in early February 2023. While there appears to be some products that are both organic and readily available, it was noted that these alternatives do not result in the same quality of finished product.
Question to our Stakeholders: Are other organic oil seed commodities (e.g., canola) used to produce de-oiled lecithin?
NOSB MEETING DISCUSSION:
Jerry: summarized material. Not much in environmental issues. But hexane – FDA has looked at it. It is used to extract crude oils and separated from soybean oils. Increased use in environmental concerns. FDA included no evidence hazard to public at current levels. Ancillary substances – none required for use of lecithin. 12-3 last vote to keep it. Comments around suitable materials – 5 years ago felt not sufficient supply. 2022 TR – noted alternatives do not result in the same quality of finished product. TR was limited scope and asked one specific question and looked into organic alternatives. Some products appeared to be readily available but rendered questionable b/c of quality of finished product. Current stakeholder comments: 16 total. Half in favor of relisting. 3 commentors noted there may already be adequate and suitable supply. Several were adamant not suitable supply. Focusing on suitable, adequate supply.
Wood: Can you remind me – the soybeans are conventional that it derives from, and there’s no distinction between conventional and non-GMO?
Jerry: It can go both ways, and no, I can’t go further than that.
Kim: I think there is a comment about using non-GMO beans. I have to look back and see.
Mindee: The comment on non-GMO versus conventional was about allergens.
Kim: Not only can it be produced from soybeans, but it can be produced from canola and sunflower. In the oral comments, we had a commenter talk about sunflower production. This is another revenue stream for the organic oil stream industry. I’d really like to see more comments before the fall meeting. When we talk about commercial availability, what can be done? There are crust facilities all over the US. There can be some issue of moving products from one area to another. When we talk about commercially available – is it regionally? If you tell me the barrier is that we don’t produce it, I don’t think that I believe that.
Jerry: this harkens back to few things we talked about. Default to berry industry. Problem that I read is yes it’s production, regional, and doesn’t mix well. To me it has been portrayed as logistics and batching problem.
Amy: To understand, you mentioned in the limited scope TR, there were questions of quality on the finished product if organic alternatives were used. Could you elaborate?
Jerry: There’s a list of 5 different things looked at pretty thoroughly and its in TR. TR was a tease because going on and on giving one a sense there is a path but systematically tore it apart by looking at quality of the end product.
Amy: I think seeking to understand that piece is really important. I appreciated Kim’s comments about market expansion – this is a perfect example of connecting the pieces. I actually need a home for some of my organic cops right now. I can grow organic soybeans. I have tested organic canola – I would love to produce that. Bringing that production domestically would be amazing. I have also grown sunflowers organically. We could bring them home. There was a comment that there were previous potential availability issues with sunflowers in Ukraine. If we look at the timing of the war – ports were a challenge when the war started. This year, production might be the challenge. They are saying they cannot get inputs. I think we all need to be on our toes in the organic community that when we are looking globally to source the products, we might have a lag. I think availability might be in question, and secondarily the market expansion – this dovetails in perfectly. The rotational crops that we are able to grow in this country.
Jerry: could you define market expansion in context of what you just said?
Amy: When I say “Market Expansion,” I am referencing the transition initiative. What is looked at – crops that Jenny mentioned in her opening – grains, rotational crops, and legumes. If we look at what it takes to make this product happen organically, sunflowers would be a great rotational crop – different from the demanding nitrogen crops – does not need as much as corn or wheat.
Jerry: Thank you for bringing me back in line with your thinking. The point is that there is a supply source right now that is not available in organic, but you could supply that.
Amy: I think it is the chicken and the egg. We would love to grow these crops – we need a market. The market needs to understand that we can grow these crops – especially in the Midwest. I love this program because it isn’t rocket science. We need to break these down into these simple components and we can solve these barriers that aren’t insurmountable.
Nate: want to leave record clear that nonorganic lecithin would still have the non-GMO requirement.
Brian: Good topic, interesting. Two questions. First: the lower quality. When you first said it I thought it was b/c of feedstocks being used.
Jerry: The lower quality is the root material.
Brian: I agree with Amy that we need those markets for rotational crops. Second question: hexane. In the flavors discussion, under the impression that hexane would not be able to be used. Is soybean oil allowed to be used if extracted with hexane? It’s pretty nasty stuff.
Jerry: I can’t help comparing the two. I’m going on the TR and I can’t comment.
Brian: is hexane allowed to be used as extracting agent for other approved listed materials? I thought it was automatic no.
Allison: I believe everything on 606 is subject to big 3 – No GMO, sewage sludge, or radiation. Beyond that, it’s allowed. If we were going to have organic lecithin, it would have to be produced without hexane.
Kimberly: That might actually speak to difference in quality. When you use hexane extraction, it’s a more consistent product. When you use expeller extruder process you have more variation. It is specific.
Logan: Just a reference to flavors –Non synthetics allowed – may be used when organic are not available – must be derived from…
Franklin: Same question about hexane. Same concerns about hexane. I guess is there may be cost implications.
Carolyn: Follow up on Amy’s comment – willing and able to grow organic canola if you had a market. Specifically, what would you need to actually grow sunflowers or canola? Can you operationalize what that would look like? Could some of this market development money be used in a way that is helpful for producers?
Jerry: Perhaps you notice me retreating from the question that you are asking now – the answer that I got is one that I understand from the grower – there is a current market that is being supplied by current growers. Market development to me means that we need a lot more lecithin, not that we replace the current supply.
Amy: Appreciate the question. From my perspective, i need a commitment on the market. These are crops that I really have investigated the ability to bring the production back home. I do study what is happening behind the scenes of organic commodities and note that I could reduce the carbon footprint if I could grow these products on my fields – I’d be closer to where they are being consumed. A lot of organic canola is grown in Argentina and processed in NC. I could bring them closer to home if I had the seed, the market commitment, and the commitment from our risk management agency that they will put a safety net in place to be able to farm the following year. Market component – risk management component – and the rest us farmers can take care of.
Nate: Just to add that 606 does have commercial availability requirement. Goes back to discussion on seed, to give certifier more teeth in pushing commercial availability. Reminds of structure of 606.
Franklin: Realized after last comment may have miscommunicated something. Was defining organic solvent from perspective of chemistry and I’m talking synthetic. I’m sure it will be an issue of solvency and costs and other things that may make them. Still concerned about hexane.
NPP: Noted for the record.
Kyla: Wanted to read from the TR, “Though the hexane and acetone extractions both involve the use of chemicals, the removal of these solvents through evaporation meets…described by NOP classification of materials.”
Amy: Said it does qualify for the removal. Would trace hexane be noticed in the finished product with testing?
Kyla: Do not know. Good question.
Amy: I’d like to have that answered by industry, please. Thank you.
No further questions.
NOSB work agendas / Materials update
Link to work agendas will be posted on the NOP website.
Other business & closing remarks
NPP: Request from a few advocacy groups that may not have heard us in the fall for why we meet when we meet. We heard from farmers that spring is a frustrated time to meet, I agree. I am not planting my fields right now, I’m here. So, for those farmers that are frustrated about giving 3 minutes of comments and then rushing back to your fields, I envy you. If you look at the slide, you will see that we bring new people on in January, so if we had a meeting before April, they would be kind of weird. Also, we would be competing with other events that many of you like to go to. We need to have a six month period between each meeting – if the January wouldn’t work for some reason, such as weather, then the fall meeting wouldn’t work. We looked at July, but that’s a big travel month for people. As you look at this slide, there were solid reasons why the other months of the year were just less feasible. I had a lot of hope that we could meet in January and July, but there were lots of reasons why that couldn’t work. We really tried to figure out for our communities for when the best time to meet – and we ended with April and October.
Jerry: Good rendition for what we came up with. I would like to give a shoutout to Mindee and Michelle – the thing that what was so obvious was that we would talk and figure out something that would really work, but if you looked at 6 months from that time, it just wouldn’t work. As someone who didn’t do any heavy lifting, I watched a whole lot of heavy lifting, and if anyone does not believe that this was given as good as a shot as we could have, I will give you my phone number.
Kyla: Just wanted to say that we also are listening and heard suggestions offered that might get at continued desire for access. Suggestion for winter listening session. Keep those solutions coming. Just because can’t make different timing for meeting work doesn’t mean we don’t want to hear from stakeholders. If there are other suggestions, please send me an email.
Jerry: Anecdotally, if you want to have a visual that we are confronted with, I think that for most of this session this morning, we outnumbered the audience. When we look over there, we know that we have a problem. We are listening to and seeking potential solutions.
NPP: Shout out to groups who have invited us to meet with them. Keep bringing them to us.
NPP: Coming out the pandemic, we have learned some lessons. For me, I noticed a really pleasant result of the virtual experience was that folks got time to process what everyone was saying in public comments. There was space between hearing everything and when they had to vote. I always almost feel like I have a hangover coming out of public comment. The hardships and pains are very felt. I think that getting some space between the comments and voting has really helped. We have continued with that because it has worked – nice adjustment – learning from the pandemic, this was one good thing to come out of it. The way that we have done it in the past is not always the best way. Equity – how do we give everyone a really fair shot to have their voice heard. And being able to then say there is a cutoff – just like in public comments for federal rulemaking.
Alison: I reflect on my position as comment receiver and given in other contexts. Learn from both. As receiver, there is only so much my brain can take in in a given day. Like return to in-person meeting that doesn’t feel rushed or overwhelming. Feel present and like I can think through issues. Worry about trying to cram more in. As comment giver, had access to DC from CA and I see as return to in-person this disappearing. This makes me happy with rhythm settled into the last 2 meetings. Grateful to those who made it through. I do think value to coming together as a community and not on timer on a screen. My verdict is out but those are my reflections at this point.
Brian: I am open to having comments the week before and a targeted sessions within our in-person meeting. The point was made for me that it is a powerful image to have a lot of people in this room to convey the participation and interest of our stakeholders. If we go more years and we have fewer and fewer people in our live group here, that’s not going to be as strong of a statement as we might like. That’s important. I would love it if we did not have repetitive comments – have the same group with multiple comments in all of those groups – I would like to avoid that.
Nate: Both those comments resonate with me. Generally favorable of in-person comment session, but also acknowledge not have rushed meeting on extra days makes for more robust discussion. Issues of equity and access to the Board – need to incorporate some of best practices in manual so we don’t give more weight to in-person comments.
Dilip: Started last year, and first in –person in Sacramento and do see a big difference. Lot of things said I echo, mentioned the benefits. Face to face makes a big difference while talking to stakeholders and even networking time and taking to them. First day we went to the field and some couldn’t make it. Next time want to see how we can attend field day. I would support in-person.
Jerry: I am trying to go through my own mind on how to answer this – first, this question seems pretty innocent, but it’s highly personal in terms of personal preferences. I get more out of stakeholder comments, both oral and written, than anything else I do. I cherish them. Then, another comment that has impressed me in the last two weeks – our oral session gave me great hope that we can really engage, really talk to each other, and not be obnoxious with each other. I’m winding down into my fourth year here. Some of my oral virtual world, I didn’t enjoy. But this time around, people talked, had opposing views, and I didn’t notice one thing that was out of order in terms of behavior. Third, with talking with someone in this room, it really resonated with me. So, you have the zoom, the interactive zoom virtual oral, and then you have what we have here. I am so bummed that for three nights I wasn’t out there with you, and the ability to get face-to-face to talk with people is precious to me. I had one person look at me and we had this conversation – this is what you need to do. I was complaining about the population on the other side of the room there – and this person said if you want to rectify that, make this more interactive on an annual basis.
NPP: Question for Dilip: the idea of meeting in person is always on the table. Were you in favor of in-person meeting or in-person comments?
Dilip: In person meeting.
Kyla: I just want to say “ditto.” I think everyone has reflected what I am thinking about. I have been on the audience side of the table pre-pandemic, but I do not think anyone here has experienced in-person comments as a Board member. It is interesting that we are all bringing our experience of only have ever had virtual comments. So, the equity piece is compelling to me. I do like that it is equal opportunity for everyone. I agree with the mental health aspects as a Board member to give myself time to soak in the fast amounts of comments – written and oral – that we hear the week before. To reach out to fellow Board members and commenters. Gives me that space to reflect – in particular with resins – where I was feeling like I wasn’t quite understanding one commenters comment – and I had this space where I could reflect on it. Nothing is preventing people from showing up and sitting in the audience and engaging with us in other ways. That’s a choice that you all made that are here today. I do understand that it is more compelling to tack the trip on to an in-person comment, but I would argue that I have better connections and learn more from you all in the hallway and at the reception and things like that than I do in the three minute comment space. I am not opposed because I have not experienced in-person comments as a Board member. For all of the reasons that I have mentioned, I think I lean a bit toward keeping it as it is.
Amy: Glad we’re able to do this. This is really important to community. As a farmer, we use multiple modes of action. If we define “equity” with “accessibility,” then we will address this in a different way. Farmers respond to things in different ways – phone, internet, mail. Maybe access needs to defined for clarity. I have really marinated on this topic, as well, and have tried to take my own personal views out of the equation. My third point is that we are stronger together as a community. I think we need compromise. We have a lot of challenges ahead of us and we need to be able to tackle them together.
NPP: It appears sparse, but a few stats on this week – we had 92 people on zoom the first day, and have averaged 73 people across the three days. That’s 92 flights that weren’t taken.
Mindee: tend to interview things before. Went to NOSB meeting to see if capable of living in this context. Public comments for several of the participants – interpersonal energy violence – it was extreme example, but when I chose to do this I grappled with what I was going to put myself through. I’m comfortable with process I’m in as a board member. I don’t live in this process everyday. I love the time to study and email someone and get clear about it within myself so I can be great with my job. My personal preference is way we are doing it now. Do think we need people in this room to show power of democracy to people. For me I’m willing to compromise toward in-person public comments if we are capable of grappling with that as a group. If we can add that extra level of intensity then I will advocate for compromise toward in-person comments. Thank for causing us to continue to grapple with this. And will continue to advocate for a compromise.
Kim: To not repeat what I agree with on so many of my Board member comments. Additional items to consider: Kyla mentioned in last meeting that this is not the most riveting meeting. Has a different feel to sit through this from the other side, both online and audience. As a Board we have tried to redefine equity. Denver is great for me – I’d love to have it there every year. But a dairy farmer in the NE would find Denver hard to get to! Next meeting is in RI: California wine grower may not show. We got really interesting insight this time into what SE region is doing. Moving the meetings creates inclusion. Ask the community: what other ways besides public comment can we increase stakeholder involvement? How can we have more involvement and be more accessible face-to-face at the meeting. How can we interact. If public comment isn’t good interaction, what would be?
NPP: I would echo that. There are so many days of the year that we could be hearing from all of you, and we aren’t. There are so many other opportunities at these meetings that we could be spending with people, and we’re not. For example, Amy and I met with the OEFFA grain growers. There are opportunities more than two times per year – what are they?
Franklin: this is my first NOSB meeting. No basis for comparison. When look at equity issues – need virtual session, but in-person session is great b/c some communicate better that way. I don’t know if way to have both, doesn’t look like either/or situation for me. I don’t know how it works, but lets look at equity issue. If brings numbers down further, we as a Board might just do everything online. I don’t think it should be either/or.
NPP: I am always surprised to how many breakfast, lunch, and dinners Board members do not receive invitations to. That is a skill that our community should exercise. There is a lot of time other than these sessions where we could be getting together. That itself is probably a bigger opportunity than being able to stand at a microphone for three minutes.
Logan: Wood and I were looking at agenda prior to the pandemic. There were call-in a week before the meeting, and then there were in-person comments, as well. I do not think we can ever drop the virtual comments. I think we understand the value of having those people, so saying that in-person is going to be a different outcome than the call in, I think we can see through that and it’s not something we have to worry about. I think we need to try the in-person. A lot of people have said it is important, and I don’t think we should just ignore that. I think that we should try it and see. As far as accessibility – we talked about listening session in the winter, but what about the summer? I think that maybe the voice is heard more if it is right before the votes going into the fall. As far as attendance – I think the way that the population fades over the week is norm for any conference. The relationships that are built at meals – sometimes Board members have to invite themselves – I feel must more comfortable with being able to call someone from the community up and ask them questions then. If that in-person comment session opens that up, I think it’s worth it.
Carolyn: Nothing to add except like the virtual comments. Have a research assistant that takes notes. if we want to add in-person, I’ll go along with whatever the group wants.
NPP: For me, I think there is a certain amount of accounting… Whatever we are doing, it seems to be working. We have a Board that really trusts each other. There has been a lot of disfunction, looking back at past minutes. But we are on a really good basis right now. Why that is – we might have just landed with a bunch of nice folks – but I think that whatever has led to this point in the Board, we need to figure out how to keep it going, so that we are able to have a Board in 10 years that has built up this culture of trust and respect and a brilliant sense of earnest respect for the whole process, ourselves, farmers, constituents. I’m always curious as to the why – how did we get here? Does this comment period influence it? I feel like we’ve landed in a really great spot right now, and how do we keep that going?
Tucker: First want to give huge round of applause to NPP as chair. This board is remarkably special. Realized that I am one who called every single one of you to be on the board. Really nice people and special to have listened to you as individuals with such shock and surprise. Cherish that relationship and collaboration. As Nate opened meeting with, have done it under really difficult circumstances – you have another member who is not here, challenges managing workload, couple members just joined, so this board has taken on extra work. The way supported each other is deserving of applause. Give big hand. As we look to future and future nominations to the board, you listened to this group and what they are doing and what they need to be successful. Consider who you want to join this group in a way that lifts us up. Honor to listen to you today. Also honor to be able to give new members plaques. Franklin Quarcoo and Nathaniel Lewis – presentation of plaques.
With those thanks, and with the deepest appreciation to the Board and to the NOP team who worked behind the scenes all week – with that, we close the meeting.