Day 1: Wednesday, October 13, 2021 (12:00 PM ‐ 5:30 PM Eastern Time ET)
[NOTE: this is a rough, un-edited form of the public comment notes. Expect updates to this page over the next two weeks.]
Jenny Tucker gives some opening remarks. Acknowledges NOSB members that are finishing their service, Steve Ela, Sue Baird, and Asa Bradman. Notes that they were disturbed by disparaging public comments made in written comments and asks that no one make disparaging comments in oral comments.
Erin Healy, standards division director, does a roll call of NOP staff and the NOSB. All NOSB members are present at the beginning of the call. For a list of current NOSB members and their bios, go here. [Note that the scientist seat is still vacant.]
Steve Ela, Board chair, facilitates the public comment.
Tim Stemwedel—California Organic Fertilizers, Inc. (Crops)
President and owner. Biologist and agronomist. Against prohibiting ammonia extracts (AE) made using separation stripping processes. The TR report has many flaws, the Subcommittee failed to compare environmental impact of AE with other already-allowed substances. No evidence shows difference in ammonia molecule concentrated AE and AE developed from stripping and concentrating AE includes other constituents.
Ammonia is essential; ask to vote no on this proposal.
Daren Stemwedel—California Organic Fertilizers, Inc. (Crops)
General counsel. Proposal on AE follows from inadequate TR. The policy manual requires “technical panels” but they do not use them. The person who drafted the TR is not a soil scientist or agronomist.
NOSB intercedes saying you can’t disparage and speaker notes it’s their first amendment right and as a member of the public they can speak freely especially when litigation is at stake.
Commenter notes that the author of the TR failed to find readily available reports and did not reach out to companies and experts in the field. Concerns of impartiality, especially concerning the OTA.
[Chair interrupts testimony due to perceived disparaging remarks. Speaker was muted.]
Deborah Stemwedel—California Organic Fertilizers, Inc. (Crops)
There have been repeated violations of free speech during these meetings. Prohibiting AE has been completely corrupted by personal bias. The rush to bring this petition to vote is a concern. Placing a natural substance on the NL should be taken with care.
CS meeting states that more information is needed and TR had some problem, but then there is a draft proposal suggested without any further discussion [available to the public]. The six criteria for substance evaluation have not been followed.
Encourage members to start this process over; re-focus on a fair impartial and fact-based review of AE.
Lynn Coody—Organic Produce Wholesalers Coalition (Crops)
Seven businesses that distribute produce.
Bio-based mulch film proposal: OPW support proposed language change (80% bio-based). Ask NOSB to document that greater than 80% be required when commercially available.
Sodium nitrate: encourage NOP to implement NOSB’s previous recommendation. There is confusion about its regulation status.
AE: Non-synthetic AE is not compatible with organic. Motion #3 should be de-coupled with exclusion clause (with intent that the two motions would be sandwiched together as an option for the subcommittee). There should be differentiation between AE that has been approved already and synthetic AE that has not. Discusses OPWC’s “exclusion clause” that would help prevent unintended consequences.
Brian Caldwell: Do you have specific examples on ammonia discussion where #3 captures things it does not mean to?
Coody: Sandwich these two motions together with an exclusion clause added on; so this would eliminate from the definition from AE things that are just filtered/had water removed (like fish emulsion, manure slurry, compost tea, etc.).
Allen Philo—BioStar Renewables (Crops)
[Note: This commenter provided their comments in full to Cornucopia, and are reproduced in full here.]
We at BioStar Renewables are not in opposition to the proposed motions, but certainly concerns that they: (i) lack adequate definitions, (ii) are ill defined in their scope, and (iii) may be unenforceable. Consequently, we believe that the motions need to go back to the subcommittee to be reworked before voted on by the full NOSB. We at BioStar would prefer to be a regulated part of the organic industry with a defined place, subsequently the following comments are for the improvement of the proposed motions to further the goal of the NOSB without creating unintended consequences or unenforceable motions that potentially would not be acted on by the NOP. I will cover the motion regarding the stripping technologies and my colleague Dan Hazen will cover the other motions.
The broadness of the stripping motion creates concerns that it would encompass all organic fertilizer materials and that subjective interpretation of the named “stripping technologies” will lead to arguments about new manufacturing processes and whether existing processes are what is described in the motion. In order to avoid these issues, we suggest the following changes be made to the motion.
- The motion needs to include the word “liquid” in it to limit the ban to liquid fertilizers only. At the moment it could be read to encompass any dry fertilizer with an ammoniacal nitrogen content.
- The motion needs to define ‘stripping”, in unambiguous language, and preferably with a quantitative methodology.
An unambiguous definition would be:
Stripping technologies are those technologies that remove ammonium at higher concentrations from an organic substrate acceptable for field application as per present organic standards resulting in liquids with higher concentrations of ammonium in them then the starting materials. This does not include simple liquid solid separation techniques such as screw pressing, filtering, or centrifuging which remove all dissolved solids as the same rate as ammonium from said parent materials.
As a definition tied to a quantitative methodology, we suggest the following definition:
A product is deemed to have been made by a stripping technology if the ratio of ammonium as a percentage of dissolved solids is higher than it was in the parent organic substrate at any point in the manufacturing process being used to create the liquid fertilizer. Organic substrate that would be acceptable for field application as per present organic standards are acceptable for testing for the original dissolved solids ratio, (e.g.) lagoon water, digestate effluent, particulate scrubbings, etc.
It should be noted that in our manufacturing process of concentration we lose ammonium and the ratio of ammonium to dissolved solids decreases, as opposed to the stripping technologies in question where it increases, and testing this ratio therefore provides an easily testable quantitative definition. This methodology would not capture any unintended materials of which we are presently aware. This proposed definition and methodology is able to distinguish a fertilizer made with stripping technologies regardless of the total percent nitrogen in the final product, including products testing as low as 1% total nitrogen. Again, we advance these definitions as solutions to avoid the above-identified issues with the present motion and are neither in favor or opposed to the banning of stripping technologies.
Steve Ela: Should be addressed only to liquids and not solids; can’t you make liquid into a solid (ammonia salt?)
Philo: question comes down to synthetic/non-synthetic decision tree. Once it’s an ammonia salt it has physically changed and would already be considered synthetic, therefore these rules should only be made to apply to liquids.
Daniel Hazen—Company Name; Perfect Blend, LLC (Crops, ammonia extracts)
President of Perfect Blend. [Note: This commenter provided their comments in full to Cornucopia, and are reproduced in full here.]
We at Perfect Blend would like to echo the position laid out by BioStar. Due to brevity of time I will now comment on motions 3 and 4.
There are several issues with these motions, regarding what the board is trying to accomplish with the motions, and pertaining to the enforceability of the proposed motions. Also the motions create unintended consequences on the oversight of fertilizer manufacturing.
- The intent of the motions appears to be to limit the total amount of ammonium entering the soil at one time. However, these motion does not limit this in any way. Considered together if a fertilizer is less than 50% Ammoniacal N, and has a 3:1 C:N ratio there is no limit to the amount of fertilizer that can be applied at one time, or in total.
- There are no regulations requiring that nitrogen forms or carbon contents be listed on fertilizer labels. The enforcement of these motions would require testing of individual materials during organic inspection. We believe this places too high of a burden on inspectors and certification agencies.
- Presently, if a manufacturer wishes to have a liquid fertilizer with a N total of more than four percent OMRI listed the manufacture is subject to one scheduled inspection per year as well as one surprise inspection as a fraud prevention measure. The CDFA has the same protocol. If the maximum amount of ammoniacal N allowed in these products is capped at three percent, the fertilizers in question no longer fall under the high nitrogen fertilizer provision and are no longer subject to this oversight. As the board has indicated worries regarding fraud it would seem that this lack of oversight would be of concern to the board.
In order to remedy these problems our proposed solution to these issues is the following:
- The issues that are being raised with ammonium are applicable to all high nitrogen liquid fertilizers (HNLFs) at present. There is already a statue in place governing high nitrogen liquid fertilizers, and this statue could be used as a basis for a more enforceable regulation of HNLFs. A list of HNLFs could be maintained and supplied to all certifiers. Inspectors enforcing proposed regulation would therefore not be forced to assess each fertilizer individually to see if it falls inside the regulations.
- The cut off for HNLF nitrogen content, regardless of the form of the nitrogen in the HNFL, would be capped at six percent. There is already precedent for this as this is the CDFA’s cut off point for allowance.
- The total cumulative use of HNLFs would be capped at twenty percent of crop needs for any given crop. This avoids issues with stacking.
- All HNFLs, in order to be on the HNLF list and therefore allowable for use would need to have a C:N ratio of 3:1.
This set of proposed rules would (i) keep the burden of enforcement with the MROs and allow for continued oversight of fertilizer manufacturing facilities. (ii) Limit the total amount of nitrogen in liquid form that could be used cumulatively, a stronger regulation more in line with the spirit of organics than any of the present rule proposals. (iii) Would also capture liquefied forms of Sodium Nitrate, and any other new forms of HNLF that would be developed in the future, regardless of the form of nitrogen in the product.
Logan Petrey: Perfect Blend has an AE on the market? Are farmers changing fertilizer practices and not using things with manure due to these products?
Hazen: Yes, for 3 years. What we see in the industry they are only using it for liquid program—in fall they use large dry program, then they follow up in spring and summer with liquid to continue to push whole biological system. This is not displacing dry products; it’s just replacing things like liquid fish.
Amy Bruch: When you extract AE from manure, what is done with leftover manure product?
Hazen: We are concentrating the product we are using a centrifuge to get out particulate that wouldn’t allow product to flow to drip (C: N is 3:1 or higher). It’s a zero waste system and the ammonia is in the water (1.5-2% total N in water and 95% is anomical). The particulate is like a traditional 4:4:2 product in solid form, so there is some ammonia still remaining in solid form.
Amy Bruch: How are they applying this liquid? Is there volatility with the product when not applied with water?
Hazen: The product is designed where it can go through any system, drip basis, pivot, etc. No volatility, it’s stabilized (proprietary process).
Amalie Lipstreu—Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) (General Comment/Other)
Policy director. Organic management and climate comment that we hope will inform communications with Sec. Vilsack. Rare that we acknowledge that organic systems have stacked practices that help with climate, resilience, etc. Organic management is holistic not focused on one environmental outcome and is system based. Organic should be supported as a key piece of agriculture climate; promoting and market organic management should be part of any climate plan.
Thank you for writing a letter to Sec. Vilsack about the lack of organic in the 90-day progress support.
Steve Ela: Continuous improvement in organics; how should we tie in how organics are beneficial to climate change? How would we document that?
Lipstreu: Talking about the benefits of organic systems for climate change: it’s important we don’t get reductionist. The benefit of organic is holistic/synergistic nature in the suite of practices being used (water holding capacity, other issues around carbon, etc.). There are a lot of questions around sequestration but there is more that organic offers; we need to hold up organic as a model that needs to be promoted.
Jane Sooby—CCOF (Crops and Handling)
COOF is in alignment with the NOP plan to tackle list 3 interts and a parallel process for list 4 inerts. Concern about certifier inconsistencies around fish oil annotation. NOSB & NOP should determine which laws they would like to use for fish oil and then use generic language to reference those laws so that certifiers have a clear guide.
Asa Bradman: 3rd party certification the fish oil—that would be a new way for use to go. But we don’t have the resources to oversee and regulate the use of those materials.
Sooby: We saw that invocation of other federal codes in the OLPP as well. At a minimum it would be helpful to have guidance on what resources to use and how to use them to verify those certifications.
Julia Barton—Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (General Comment/Other)
Field and greenhouse container production: hydroponics and container are not a settled issue. We don’t think they should be part of organic based on a full reading of PFPA. The container issue: submitted letter to NOSB and hope that this returns to the NOSB work agenda.
Racial equity: Support NOC’s racial equity comments. Reorganize NOSB subcommittees to include an equity subcommittee (DEI subcommittee). Add fairness standards to NOSB work agenda; IFOAM’s fairness standards are a good starting point.
Timing and format of meetings: breaking the NOSB into 4 meetings is a good discussion. The spring meeting schedule is impossible for many farmers.
Asa Bradman: How would you envision fairness standards?
Barton: We have a lot of opportunity for that growth, happy to discuss.
Robert Long Braga—Fresh Family Farms (Crops)
Farming organic vegetables, some of the largest organic growers in CA counties. Ammonia extracts (AE) are a short term fix that is not in the spirit of the organic message. A successful organic system cannot push a crop to a desired outcome, and the use of AE is a step backward from the principles of organic. Consumers are aware of efforts farmers take and we need to maintain consumer trust. Support farmers who are doing the hard work to build healthy soils and prohibit AE.
Nate Powell-Palm: Can you speak to the incentive to rotate crops and how it relates to soil health if AE was a widely available product?
Braga: The incentive to rotate crops leads to healthy farm, healthy plants and a healthy ecosystem. Even with AE you would still need to rotate with AE because it won’t help with fighting disease and pests.
Logan Petrey: Do you use fertilizer with readily available N currently?
Braga: No, only as spot treatment. Only used as crutch in problem areas.
Terry Shistar—Beyond Pesticides (general/Misc)
[Note: This commenter provided their comments in full to Cornucopia, and are reproduced in full here.] BOD of BP. [These comments are a review of BP’s written comments.]
- My name is Terry Shistar, and I’m on the Board of Directors of Beyond Pesticides. This is the three-minute review of our comprehensive written comments.
- This year has brought us more signs of ecological collapse—wildfires, the insect apocalypse, crashing populations of marine organisms, creatures large and small entangled in plastic, more species extinct or at risk of extinction, rising global temperatures, horrific storms, and pandemics.
Our organization focuses on one of the most blatant examples of environmental abuse—the dispersal of toxic chemicals across the landscape. Organic can be a big part of the global solution only if it doesn’t stray from its core values and practices.
We are not interested in what is less harmful. We urgently want to prevent ecological disaster.
- Some issues on the agenda have been decided by the NOSB already. The NOSB must assert its statutory duty to review substances allowed and prohibited in organic production by reaffirming its positions. OFPA says the National List must be “based on” the recommendations of the NOSB. Please insist that NOP respect recommendations on:
- Sodium nitrate
- List 3 “inerts”
- Excluded methods
- NOP must implement the 2018 NOSB recommendation to protect native ecosystems through regulations and guidance.
We support the proposed letter to Secretary Vilsack encouraging organic for climate change mitigation.
- The most important barriers to organic integrity are systemic. For example, better enforcement tools can assist in returning integrity to organic dairy only if NOP and certifiers enforce access to pasture and promulgate a strong regulation on origin of livestock.
- Our comments on crop issues include: Copper sulfate is toxic to aquatic organisms (and humans) and should not be used in rice paddies, which replace natural wetlands and provide alternative habitat for animals threatened by the loss of wetlands.
We do not need another antibiotic.
We support the proposals on ammonia extracts.
Zein is synthetic if made with corn gluten meal from wet corn milling, is not essential for organic production and processing, and can be produced organically by an alternative process.
The fish oil annotation lacks the necessary transparency to determine whether it meets OFPA criteria. Bycatch must not be used for fish oil in organic food.
The NOSB needs a comprehensive examination of cleansers, sanitizers, and disinfectants to inform decisions on chlorine and other materials.
We suggest some priorities for research.
Asa Bradman: There needs to be a distinction between byproduct and bycatch in the fish oil concern.
Shistar: It should be made explicit that bycatch is not allowed.
Kiki Hubbard—Organic Seed Alliance (Materials)
Director of advocacy and communications. Supportive of work on excluded methods work. Discussion document on cell fusion and protoplast fusion—support NOP policy memo 13-1 however (method of cell fusion). There is a sense of urgency in wrapping up this work because organic seed is badly needed.
Brian Caldwell: Connection between enforce-ability between excluded methods and organic seed?
Hubbard: The importance of the organic seed as an input is progress we should work toward.
Mindy Jeffery: Value in NOSB structuring excluded methods being coupled with organic seed discussion? And plant breeding techniques are separated out with other excluded methods so work flow is paired and the work flow is more functional?
Hubbard: Urgency in wrapping up the existing TBD methods would provide necessary clarity to the community.
Jay Feldman—Beyond Pesticides (General Comment)
[Note: This commenter provided their comments in full to Cornucopia, and are reproduced in full here.] Hello: I’m Jay Feldman, exec director of Beyond Pesticides, former NOSB member.
Consumers and farmers together built organic in response to a failure of chemical-intensive agriculture to protect health and the ecosystems that nurture life. This foundation supports the organic market and must be reaffirmed every time that the NOSB leads its transparent decision-making process, subject to public scrutiny and input.
The NOSB deliberations start with the default standard in the Organic Foods Production Act that prohibits synthetics in organic production, allowing synthetics only as an exception through the National List review process.
In reaction to the low bar that allows toxic chemical use in chemical-intensive agriculture, the bar for allowance of synthetics in organic is intentionally set high. We only earn organic consumers’ trust in the Organic Label with rigorous and stringent review and oversight.
Two key principles in the law are central to the comments that Beyond Pesticides has submitted on every substance and issue before the NOSB at this meeting.
- Board decisions must protect against cradle-to-grave adverse effects, informed by Technical Reviews—independent of cost or benefit claims. (This is distinguished from chemical-intensive agriculture, where claims of benefits permit hazardous toxic chemical use.)
- Only after a determination of no adverse effects, the board must determine essentiality of the substance under review. Determining that a synthetic is necessary, given alternative practices and materials, is a precautionary standard, which acknowledges possible uncertainties and externalities.
How do these principles affect decisions at this meeting? Here are two examples:
- Unfortunately, you cannot allow bioplastic mulch and ensure protection from adverse effects, given what is known about degradation. We must be certain that microplastic particles in any amount are not being released into the very soil system that is foundational to critical microbial soil life.
- On essentiality, we can no longer allow copper sulfate in a market that has done very little, if anything, to cultivate dryland rice with intermittent irrigation –an organic farming system that was heralded for rice in the seminal National Academy of Sciences book Alternative Agriculture (1989).
As you act on the agenda for this meeting, we urge you to review Beyond Pesticides’ written comments.
With these principles, consumers and farmers have built an organic market worth tens of billions of dollars that was unthinkable 30 years ago. It will continue to grow, only if consumers trust in your decisions.
Your decisions are not solely about lists of materials that are allowed, but about systems of land management that are compatible with nature and a future that regeneratives life—taking on the challenges that confront the climate crisis, biodiversity collapse, and future pandemics of public health threats. Your decisions on organic, as instructed by the law, must be holistic, must be visionary, must be our future.
With that, I thank you for your service on the NOSB.
Asa Bradman: In my mind mistakenly allowed the use of plastic which has huge environmental impacts on many levels. Understand the problem of comparative risk assessment.
Feldman: If we allow a material that has detrimental impacts we should not allow a new listing based on that old allowance. Plastic in agriculture the concern is removal from the site and carbon sequestration. Adding micro plastics in that context does a disservice to farmers and to the larger picture as well.
Frank Austin—Clear Frontier Ag Management, LLC (CACS)
Director. Investing in organic farmland throughout USA. Comments on SOE: wonderful piece of regulation hope we can move forward. The government has fallen short to date in protecting domestic farmers. 400k metric tons of Soybean meal has ben imported from India for example. Turkey also does not have comparable organic standards or no organic standards at all—these cause market shocks at home. Organic is one of the most profitable and sustainable food production systems we have available to us today. Concern that regulations will look good on paper but that bad actors will still take advantage.
Kate Mendenhall—Organic Farmers Association (Crops & General Comment)
ED of OFA. Policy positions are created through grassroots process from organic farmers (one farm, one vote policy). Public comment process: More farmers are able to comment, more diversity, a
Adjust rules for how comment slots are assigned (farmers should get priority over companies that take up multiple slots)
Ammonia extracts: Support first two NL motions on ammonia extract.
Sodium nitrate: consistent with NOSB’s recommendation to re-list without annotation.
Wood Turner: In support of suggestions of public comment process. Are you suggesting that organic farmers are missing an opportunity to participate in this process?
Mendenhall: Yes. If farmers are on a waiting list, they usually can’t commit to staying on a 4-hour meeting for example.
Kim Huseman: Strikes a nerve that stakeholders, growers, etc. may not have an equal opportunity to speak. What else can be done.
Mendenhall: Meetings are at a busy time of year and farmers need multiple reminders. More advance warning about when comment signups will be open would also help. A section of the comment period reserved to farmers will also make it seem like it’s clear farmer voices are important.
Ramy Colfer—True Organic Products (Crops)
Research agronomist and previously with Earthbound Farm. Organic farming attempts to produce sustainable product sin a more natural way. It takes time to build up these systems. Ammonia extracts (AE) are energy intensive to produce and analogs to nitrogen fertilizers already in use. Could lead to increased leaching and runoff, nitrous oxide gas, decreasing of microbial activity, etc. (references TR). This ammonia form manure waste should be used in conventional agriculture. AE would add little to no carbon to soil. Organic innovations should focus on regenerative agriculture, reducing tillage, and inputs should focus on microbial and plant-based products. We should not embrace analogs to natural products and generally support motions by subcommittee.
Logan Petrey: Do you have the guano added to True’s products? When is your product used?
Colfer: Yes, guano is an ingredient. The amount of ammonia is quite low, <1%. None of our products have sodium nitrate. The percentage of readily available nitrogen is <1%, most of it is available in the organic nitrogen form.
Nate Powell-Palm: The chemical difference between ammonia types is very little, how would fraud affect marketplace?
Colfer: Almost impossible to check fraud using testing. Fraud has already happened in this area. Will let colleague talk to this issue?
Steve Ela: Issue of promoting vs. discouraging soil biology: concern that down the road using AE products are “robbing the bank” down the road with carbon amendments.
Colfer: Carbon additives require microbial activity to break down. Microbes need organic carbon and nitrogen or food. Adding straight N to the soil without carbon the microbes then grab carbon from the soil, and that’s a concern.
Logan Petrey: Are their buildups of salts in the soil when using products that include things that are not just nitrogen?
Colfer: As a grower you have to choose your amendments properly; like choosing plant based amendments instead of manure to avoid phosphorus buildup.
Michael Crotser—Organic Valley (Materials, Policy Dev & General)
Dir of Certification at CROPP. Relates to modernization of organic supply chain discussion document (meant to build on SOE and organic capitol issues).
Modernization of supply chain is needed; technological solutions are useful to organic certifiers and others. The SOE rule mandates certifiers share info so confidentiality is at risk. There is a concern about where the burden lies; needs a full risk-benefit analysis before implementing.
Steve Ela: In terms of verifying soil organic matter as required by OSP, wat’s the biggest difficulty in verifying that?
Crotser: One thing certifiers use is organic matter. Form perspective of our farms there is a limit to the amount of time and resources certifiers have to dig deep into soil biology and soil health. A lot of inspectors’ work is paperwork—verifying inputs, etc. The majority of our farms are dairy so we have the benefit of more organic farmers then many row crops.
Adam Seitz—Quality Assurance International (Handling)
Senior reviewer and policy specialist. Fish oil: QAI agrees that current iteration is the best proposed option. Carrageenan: does not advocate for or against; elimination of carrageenan by eliminating processed foods might be good, but caution any action to limit the type of food in organic marketplace. Encourage more research in food processing and handling topic
Asa Bradman: Interested in research around food processing and handling and what would be compatible around organic. Especially relevant with respect to colors.
Seitz: Keeping a broad topic around alternatives and essentiality would be helpful, because in food science there is not a lot of discussion around organic marketplace and products. It would be helpful to expose future food scientists to these topics.
Kyla Smith: Promote the open docket to you—please include these in the open docket.
Abby Youngblood—National Organic Coalition (CACS, Crops, Materials & General)
[Note: This commenter provided their comments in full to Cornucopia, and are reproduced in full here.] ED at the NOC.
Good afternoon. I’m Abby Youngblood, executive director at the National Organic Coalition. I’d like to start by thanking the Board for the letter you drafted to Secretary Vilsack highlighting the important role for organic agriculture in mitigating climate change. NOC is urging you to pass the three motions to prohibit ammonia extracts and to limit use of high nitrogen fertilizers. This is the most important action you can take to solidify organic’s role as a climate-friendly system that relies on soil-building rather than the conventional ‘feed the plant’ mentality.
NOC also supports the NOSB proposal to make a technical correction for the sodium nitrate listing to ensure this material is reviewed going forward. We remain frustrated that the NOP has not implemented the previous 2011 NOSB recommendation. It is another example of the lack of accountability on the part of the NOP.
Last week, NOC held our community-wide Pre-NOSB meeting with more than 100 participants, including many of you. The meeting included a robust discussion about the structural reforms NOC has proposed to advance organic at USDA.
We have put forward five recommendations to elevate the NOSB, which is the bedrock of the public-private partnership. I will highlight just two issues, which emerged at our meeting last week as the highest priorities. First, we have called on USDA to reduce barriers to NOSB service. This means providing farmers who serve with stipends to cover the cost of hiring on-farm labor during NOSB meetings. It means finding creative ways to ensure that individuals from lower-resource organizations can serve. It also means allowing NOSB members to hire assistants, who can help with research and preparation, to ease the workload associated with NOSB service.
The second issue that emerged as a top priority last week is the need for a better process going forward to ensure that the NOP acts on NOSB recommendations. We are asking that the NOP provide a written explanation within 60 days for all NOSB recommendations, including how they will implement the recommendation and the timeline. For recommendations the NOP does not plan to implement, we are asking for a clear, written, public justification.
One area where the NOP has failed to act is on excluded methods. The NOSB has done a tremendous amount of work to clarify which methods are excluded, which ones are allowed, and why. The NOP must codify these recommendations. Building off that work, NOC urges the NOSB to make determinations on the remaining ‘TBD’ methods. We support listing cell fusion and protoplast fusion within the same taxonomic family as allowed.
Thank you for your consideration of these comments.
Question: What is the crucial aspect that concerns with AE?
Youngblood: AE don’t meet OFPA criteria, are not consistent from organic principles. AE also move us further from building soils holistically by feeding the plant not the soil. There is also an issue of consumer trust and messaging around being climate friendly. Organic really needs to demonstrate it is climate friendly (and water quality and biodiversity) and using these products might
Logan: Should all fertilizers be more of a holistic approach?
Youngblood: Take it back to Nitrogen issue; the intent has always been to limit high nitrogen fertility products in organic (reference preamble of OFPA). There should be a more holistic system to address high nitrogen sources.
Nate Powell-Palm: Can you speak to consumer perception and confidence (especially from environmental health view)? Overarching theme in organic is fertilizers don’t pollute (recycling greater ecosystem).
Youngblood: Expectation among some consumers that organic will use crop rotations, compost, etc. and having to the greatest extent possible having a holistic system. There is a growing awareness of how our food choices impact climate and consumers expect that organic means the highest standards when it comes to protecting the environment and having fertility systems that don’t pollute would be part of that.
Robert Rankin—International Food Additives Council Handling (HS)
ED of IFAC. Represent manufacturers of food ingredients. Supports relisting of agar, carrageenan, silicon dioxide, etc. Carrageenan is one of the most unique and valuable food ingredients and provides plant based alternative to animal products and does not have an organic alternative. 160 new products with carrageenan were recently launched in the past 5 years. IFAC reiterates how seaweed farming is environmentally sustainable and compatible with organic. Research does not show that carrageenan is carcinogenic.
Mindee Jeffery: is this list the essential-essential listing or could they actually use something else if forced to?
Rankin: The list of functionality and uses of essentiality is in our written comments but the product listings are not. Some replacements in some cases exist, but there is not an exact 1-to-1 replacement in all cases.
Amy Bruch: Can you expand on the health merits (being a carcinogen)? What about intestinal ulcers and IBS?
Rankin: There is research that was debunked. A lot of research did not use carrageenan as it’s test sample. Everybody is different with intestinal microbiome; can’t pin particular outcome down to one ingredient. No proven data that carrageenan causes negative outcomes.
Wood Turner: There seems to be a decline of carrageenan in the marketplace, but you are saying that it’s being more used now? Is it being used more?
Rankin: Don’t have data on products that have removed carrageenan; but companies are still launching products that contain carrageenan. Gluten free, dairy and meat alternatives. Consumers don’t need to purchase those products if they don’t want to.
Jerry D’Amore: You refer to the data: but why? Initial health concerns and there is a drop-off in the use of carrageenan—are consumers refusing to eat it because of fears/risk?
Rankin: Consumers are providing input to companies and that leads to some of them to re-formulate.
Darryl Williams—Quality Assurance International (Handling and Materials)
Senior technical reviewer and policy specialty. BBMF: support efforts and if 80% bio-based is not available now we would like to know when the plan is to have that available? NOSB should ensure the level of bio-based is achievable by the industry. Sodium nitrate: if re-listed guidance should be issued. We support the virtual meetings.
Brian Caldwell: Ammonia extracts discussion: can you elaborate on difficulties of 20% requirement for high end fertilizers in ammonia proposal? The ammonia extract points in proposal—would they require more testing on-farm or at manufacture level for these products.
Jaydee Hanson—Center for Food Safety (Livestock, Materials and General)
Since 2016, CFS has been requesting each meeting of the NOSB to push NOP to complete its research on BPA and related phthalates so that they could be excluded from organic products. In 2018, we were told by NOP staff that the Secretary’s office has directed that they were not to research this.
Synthetic chemicals such as BPA, BPS,PFAS and other organo-florines and orthophthalates are found in hundreds of products. In organic production they primarily get into foods as they are widely used in food contact substances on packaging, in can liners, bottle cap liners, tubing in dairies, teet cups in dairies, and in plastic mulches. And other sources.
I choose today to focus on orthophthalates because I believe that it is increasingly urgent that organic foods not contain phthalates. A very disturbing study was published this Tuesday in the journal, Environmental Pollution. The study of adults 55 to 64 years of age found that phthalates may be contributing to some 90 to 110 thousand premature deaths each year in that age group. Thus, a portion of our population is dying at a rate that were this caused by a virus, we would call it a pandemic. The study estimates that deaths from phthalates could cost the US up to $47 billion a year.
The study measured phthalate concentrations in urine of more than 5000 adults between 55 and 64, and compared those levels to the risk of early death from other sources. The excess deaths come after controlling for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, poor diets, low physical activity, body mass and levels of other hormone disruptors like BPA.
Phthalates cause damage by interfering with hormone production by the endocrine system and have been linked with developmental, reproductive, brain, immune system and other problems. The HUGE problem with these chemicals is that EXTREMELY small amounts of phthalates cause hormonal disruptions that cause profound biological effects.
As a part of the Toxic Free Food Coalition, we have tested both organic and conventional foods focusing on cheeses and other fatty foods and on beverages. We have found that both organic and conventional foods contain high levels of phthalates. When we have approached organic companies asking them to keep phthalates out of their food by keeping it out of all products that are used to process and package organic foods. Only Annies, now owned by General Mills, agreed to make changes to its production and packaging practices to keep phthalates out of their products. The changes are easy to make for most companies. We don’t want to go company to company to get each company to follow the example of Annies. We don’t want to boycott companies that produce phthalate laden foods. We don’t want to publish a list of “good” organic companies and another list of slow to act organic companies. Instead, we would like the National Organic Program to prohibit the presence of phthalates in organic food.
Thank you for your time,
 Leonardo Trasande, Environmental Pollution, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2021.118021
[Note: This commenter provided their comments in full to Cornucopia, and are reproduced in full here.]
Amy: Referenced the study that was released—can you share this study with us?
Hanson: Yes, we can share it (Journal of Environmental Pollution). Some companies have removed it.
Wood: Is the research priority we published not sufficient?
We are still waiting on the research in this application, and in the meantime other researchers have been working on this issue. Especially food contact surfaces.
Asa Bradman: We should be thinking about food contact with processing/handling and packaging. One of the issues under OFPA where do we have the authority to regulate food contact, especially packaging?
Hanson: I am a scientist and policy person. The ideal is that this is in NO food. If we can’t find a way in OFPA to keep it out of organics then there will be a list of good and not so good organic companies. We don’t want that. We have to find a way to keep it out of organic food or it will further complicate organic label.
Marie Burcham—The Cornucopia Institute (General Comment, carrageenan)
See Marie’s full comments here.
Question: Can you elaborate on he use of carrageenan as a protective film.
Burcham: See our written comments for the research. It is being used to prevent spoiling in certain soft bodied fruits, tomatoes, etc. by limiting product respiration and gas exchange. But again, it is unlisted and undeclared. It’s a real concern.
Alice Runde National Organic Coalition General Comment
[Note: This commenter provided their comments in full to Cornucopia, and are reproduced in full here.] Good afternoon, my name is Alice Runde, I am the coalition manager for the National Organic Coalition. My comments today pertain to several topics.
On Racial Equity: NOC has previously presented data and context to both the USDA and NOP regarding the persistent structural racism in our agricultural system, which has excluded many Black, Indigenous, and other farmers of color from land ownership, farming, and participation in the organic movement over time.
In our written comments, we turn to our own system and reflect how the NOSB and the US organic community can keep the tenets of fairness and inclusivity at the forefront of our work.
Our full recommendations are outlined in our written comments, but I will highlight two of them:
- First: To make sure this topic receives the time and attention it deserves, we ask the NOSB to establish a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Subcommittee to lead this work on the part of the Board. The subcommittee’s future recommendations should include changes that would make the certification process more accessible to producers of color, make organic food more affordable and available, and ensure that organic farming pays living wages for farm workers and farmers.
The NOSB should work with the NOP to establish a structure that invites and compensates stakeholders to offer guidance and feedback to the DEI subcommittee.
- Second: NOC recommends that the NOSB engage in a public consultation process to develop fairness & social justice standards for the NOP. The NOSB should add this topic as a work agenda item.
On Oversight improvements to deter fraud: NOC appreciates the CACS working to identify gaps that require further action to address enforcement challenges. While we appreciate the importance of the technological aspects of this work, the most challenging barriers to organic integrity continue to be systemic within the USDA and NOP.
While we think that the SOE rule is important, there is more work to be done. I refer you to our full comments, where we provide additional details.
On Carrageenan: During the spring 2021 meeting, several NOSB members expressed their concern that the current NOSB is discussing something that a former Board made a solid, significant decision on. They further noted that unless there is significant new material to be addressed, the fall 2016 NOSB recommendation to delist should be respected. We could not agree more. Why are we asking the NOSB and organic stakeholders to spend time and energy on developing new recommendations that circumvent the USDA’s responsibility to advance long-standing NOSB recommendations?
On Oral & Written Comments: We agree that there is disproportionate access to the NOSB, much of which takes place behind the scenes. We are grateful for the integrity of those NOSB members who refuse to take part in such backdoor dealings. Transparency is a core tenet of how we work.
Due to differences in access to the in-person meetings, we are in favor of multiple ways for stakeholders to engage in this process. Virtual, in-person, and written comments should all be weighed and considered equally.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment today and the time you all spend on these important and complex issues.
Christie Badger National Organic Coalition General Comment
[Note: This commenter provided their comments in full to Cornucopia, and are reproduced in full here.]
Good afternoon. I’m Christie Badger, and I’m a consultant with the National Organic Coalition. Thank you for your time and service on the Board.
Biochar from manure burning
We wholeheartedly support the comment of a NOC member who stated, “Manure is one of the best soil amendments and to waste it by turning it into ash is nonsensical.” Manure on its own will build the soil, feed the soil, and aid in sequestering carbon. Turning it into ash from manure burning does not enhance these qualities.
The NOP has provided a definitive statement that pyrolysis is burning. This is one area where we have guidance from the NOP already.
[In as far as biochar from manure burning support the business of CAFOs, organic is not the garbage recycling facility for the nation’s poor agricultural practices. The April 2016 NOSB Recommendation says it best:
April 2016 NOSB Recommendation:
“Burning removes carbon and nitrogen from the final ash product and lessens its soil-building value. Utilizing burning as a method to recycle millions of pounds of excess poultry manure inadvertently supports the business of CAFOs by creating an organic industry demand for ash. Utilizing ash from manure burning in order to assist CAFOs in their reduction of environmental and human health contamination is not a compelling argument for consideration for addition to the National List. The annotation amendment fails the OFPA criteria and should not be added to the National List.” [https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/CS%20Ash%20from%20Manure%20Burning%20NOP.pdf]
Use of antibiotics in organic production – haven’t we been down this road before?
- Antibiotics in organic production are contrary to consumer expectations.
- Organic livestock producers are prohibited from using antibiotics.
- Antibiotic resistance poses serious threats to human health – using antibiotics in agriculture contributes to that threat.
- Kasugamycin is incompatible with organic practices.
The NOSB must vote no.
Biodegradable Biobased Mulch
Continuous improvement is a cornerstone of organic production. Should this annotation change be made, continuous improvement must be addressed within the statutory language. We suggest that an appropriate wording would be: When greater than 80% biobased biodegradable plastic films become commercially available, producers are required to use them, given that they are of the appropriate quality, quantity, and form.
This is terminology that is known to certifiers, inspectors, and producers of organic operations, applies the commercial availability statement, and allows for variances based on functionality.
[Commercial availability. The ability to obtain a production input in an appropriate form, quality, and quantity to fulfill an essential function in a system of organic production or handling, as determined by the certifying agent in the course of reviewing the organic plan.]
[“Appropriate quality” would refer to the biodegradability issue, “quantity” refers to being able to purchase the amount needed, and “form” refers to the ability of the new material to perform the function of the old.]
- As per the published materials, there are no stakeholders in favor of listing Zein on the NL.
- [Even the petitioner may no longer be interested based on the limited use recommendation that is being made.]
- Zein does not fill a unique functionality that is not already filled by currently allows substances.
- [While we appreciate that the subcommittee again tried to identify a unique functionality of zein that is not already filled by currently allowed substances, hydrophobic properties are covered by carnauba wax. We have found nothing to indicate that zein is superior to carnauba wax for this functionality other than the “preference” noted in the subcommittee’s materials.]
- Zein can be manufactured organically.
- If, against the recommendation of stakeholders, zein is listed, the NOSB must explicitly prohibit use for nano-encapsulation.
We strongly recommend that this petition be denied.
Copper Sulfate for use in aquatic rice systems
Upon further investigation into this listing, we are left with more questions and concerns.
- Is the practice of “skirting” the regulations by claiming the disease control use in aquatic rice systems a common practice? If so, are certifiers aware of this practice, and what are they doing to address it?
- Drainage practices need to be better understood, with clearly defined parameters of what is/is not allowed in organic production.
- In the interest of continuous improvement, we strongly support the CS recommendation for a “comprehensive review of copper sulfate” as a Research Priority.
- We strongly urge efforts to find an alternative method or material that would limit or end the use of copper sulfate in organic rice production.
Thank you for consideration of these comments.
Steve Ela: issue of AE being used to recycle water product form factory farms. Issue of AE being different than burning manures for bio char?
Badger: The NOP has already been clear on this, perolosis is the same as burning.
Harry Rice Trade association ‐ Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega‐3s (GOED) (Handling)
Represent EPA and DHA marketplace, comment on fish oil. Agrees with the subcommittee discussion on fish oil. The annotation is an acceptable solution to the concerns about fish oil concerns. GOED supports fish oil annotation with August 13 discussion document. Source from fishing industry byproduct only with other certification.
Asa Bradman: Do you have a definition of byproduct and bycatch? How is byproduct used to produce the fish oil? Byproduct is derived from the catch that is secondary to the purpose of the catch?
Rice: There is a formal definition of byproduct but I don’t recall it right now; what is not caught for the primary purpose of consumption while bycatch is incidental catch. The industry does not catch anything just for the purposes of fish oil.
Steve Ela: Thinking about fish emulsions on corps side. Byproduct is the leftovers after processing for human consumption. But it sounds like for handling it’s a different definition. Important distinction.
Rice: Yes, it is a different definition [in different context].
Aimee Simpson—PCC Community Markets (General Comment)
Hello, my name is Aimee Simpson and I am the Director of Advocacy and Product Sustainability for PCC Community Markets based in Seattle, Washington.
As a certified organic retailer, it is our mission to ensure that good food nourishes the communities we serve while cultivating vibrant, local, organic food systems. An integral part of this mission is to ensure that the organic food systems we support are recognized for the benefits they provide to our communities and the environment, especially in the face of climate change.
We want to thank the NOSB for drafting its letter to Secretary Vilsack concerning opportunities for advancing organic as a climate change solution. In addition to the recommendations highlighted by the NOSB, we would also support the development of clear soil fertility standards as required under OFPA (6513) and an accompanying strengthening of the organic systems plan requirements to reflect those soil fertility standards. We would also support the enforcement of existing organic standards and other climate-friendly practices required under OFPA, such as the pasture rule.
Beyond these steps, we must continue to eliminate gaps in organic, strengthen the integrity of the organic label and evaluate all aspects of organic production with a lens of eliminating practices or inputs that are inconsistent with overarching organic principles and our growing understanding of climate-smart agriculture. This includes finalizing origin of livestock, organic livestock and poultry practices, and strengthening organic enforcement rules. This also includes, however, applying additional “whole system” scrutiny to the inputs and practices currently allowed in organic.
For example, non-synthetic ammonia extracts—we are supportive of their exclusion. As one of our organic producers stated when asked if it was a necessary tool, “Heck no—that stuff will mess up your soil!” Similarly, we know that antibiotic use, such as Kasugamycin, in crops have far reaching impacts on biodiversity and the health and safety of all and do not support its inclusion in organic.
We also must continue to look beyond the soil and assess the impacts of our food production and inputs on our connected marine and aquatic ecosystems. To this end we continue to support the NOSB’s efforts to delve into the complex category of sustainable fishery management and harvest standards and support the proposal to limit fish oil sourcing to by-product meeting a third-party sustainability certification. Ideally, we would like to see organic develop its own aquaculture and wild fish sustainability standards to ensure strong alignment with organic principles, but in the interim we understand the necessity of identifying an external reference point. We would, however, encourage continued scrutiny of the proposed GSSI and ISEAL certifications as appropriate reference points that meet the expectation of the organic community and consumer.
Finally, we must expand access and inclusivity in organic so that the understanding and practice of organic as a climate change solution becomes more widespread. Barriers to organic engagement and certification are barriers to true climate solutions and we support a continued effort to study and identify ways to remove those barriers, especially for our BIPOC communities and producers.
Caldwell: What kind of soil fertility standards would be applicable in the wide regions?
Simpson: A lot of inconsistency and there are no guidelines apart from general guidance like crop rotations. Increased awareness of climate change, etc. We need to capitalize on that knowledge and develop individual plans. It may need to be individualized and that effort would be worth it.
Steve Ela: What would be the consequence of consumers finding out about the use of sodium nitrate in organics?
Simpson: The response of “absolutely not” was our organic farmers/partners. In the consumer perspective, it gets complicated fast for consumers. On the whole it disturbs soil fertility and soil health and consumers do not want anything that will disrupt climate/environmental concerns (it’s one of the top concerns of consumers in PCC research).
Mindee Jeffery: Can you provide prospective of consumers with organic labeling claims? Do they expect it to mean the same thing across personal care, supplements, produce, etc.?
Simpson: Absolutely. Consumers see a label and want to have condolence it means the same standards when they see it. Even as a retailer we try and educate about that, but it’s hard to communicate that.
Greg Rawlings—Jacobs Farm / Del Cabo Inc. (Crops)
Crop farmer, culinary herbs, squash and tomato. Does not support allowing ammonia extract into organic. Breaks symbiotic relationship between soil microorganisms and plants. Organic is meant to support these relationships rather than just feeding the plant.
Amy Bruch: What do you do on-farm for fertility?
Rawlings: We use cover crops with nitrogen fixing legumes; great source of nitrogen and is a great source of nitrogen. Don’t get much rain during grazing season (in California).
Rick Greenwood: We can’t rotate our trees. It’s important to recognize for all of us that soil standards that there are so many regional differences. I can’t even put cover crops under my trees because it’s all shaded. We are a national organization and there are a lot of regional differences.
Asa Bradman: AE has brought up a lot of discussion about nitrogen. When we sue conventional manure we are recycling conventional nitrogen because synthetic fertilizers are being used on feed for conventional livestock.
Rawlings: feedstock of our fertility bad compost is cow manure and green-waste. But compost is a bacterial and fungal product so it’s changed from what feeds the final product. We take soil samples before we fertilize at all.
Nate Powell-Palm: Does the blood meal and other things you mentioned—do they contribute to building of your soil? Are the cover crops the real nitrogen workhouse? The biota would not come into effect in AE?
Rawlings: It depends on the window of the crop. The most insoluble/hardest to break down nitrogen for each of the crops. The real workhorse for nitration is the soil biota, so compost.
Jill Smith—Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (Handling)
Concern about the continued consolidation of organic dairy, actively losing family farmers. Growing feeling of not being heard or seen with dairy producers not seeing their opinions not being heard. Especially with origin of livestock rulemaking.
Jerry Hatfield—general public, agricultural scientist (Crops)
Comment on ammonia extracts (AE). Science-based perspective for AE has not been a comprehensive review of the issue on ammonia extracts. If “more research is needed” how can you come up with definitive conclusions you do in the report? Nitrogen and the form of nitrogen is not the only factor in soil health and crop health. The whole approach should include a meta-analysis. The scientific basis needs to be looked at more throughout (the TR is deficient).
Brian Caldwell: the only positive effects I could see from strong ammonia fertilizers was strong plant growth. Are there any direct product benefits from AE?
Hatfield: If you want to feed biology of soil increasing plant growth does that (in plant exodates, more plant exodates in roots). It’s a very complex process, depending on soil, water, tillage, and many factors. It’s a series of many interactions not one factor influencing soil biological system. How we till the soil is more of a factor in soil carbon then fertilizer.
Amy Bruch: Another comment stated that no matter how the product was synthesized, how the ground and soil processes develop are the same or similar.
Hatfield: It is very complex below the soil surface. If you block O2 to the soil, that changes dynamic of soil biology for example. More research is needed.
Logan Petrey: Can you point to any negative effects from AE?
Hatfield: There is not a negative effect, but it changes soil biology quickly. You are not applying AE only in real-world context.
Sue Baird: Appreciate the comments. Advocating we go back to get further clarification on this issue?
Hatfield: You can cherry-pick literature but what’s the aggregate set of literature show.
Nate Powell-Palm: can you speak to the difference between AE effect on soil and anhydrous ammonia effect on soil. We should be watching for similar effects that we know
I believe there is. There is a negative effect of anhydrous ammonia that is more well researched. But we need that research before moving forward. Note that there is intensive tillage often happening with the use of these products which could be the actual cause of these effects.
Mark Kastel—Organic Eye (General Comment)
Director of Organic Eye. Why should organic be different than any other regulated and corrupted industry? Should oil and gas industry have more control over their industry then the public? They are the same kind of business interests as the OTA. Their job is to support industrial interests, not the public. Whose definition of organic will you accept? OTA advocated for organic hydroponics. Almost all public interest group disagreed with OTA. CCOF certifies the largest organic hydroponic berry producers.
This is a public meeting you cannot censor information just because you don’t like it.
[Chair interrupts testimony due to perceived disparaging remarks. Speaker was muted.]
Powell-Palm: How do we address concerns of consolidation in agriculture? What some
Kastel: When you have certifiers accepting money outside of certification fee outside of who they certify, including business lobbies (that give money to politicians). There are ethical issues. Farmers should be pleading with the NOSB and the NOSB should be listening to true public interest groups
Waldo Moraga—Eco2mIx, Inc, President (Crops)
Excited to see safer and more sustainable way to treat PH in organics (carbonic acid). Sulfur burners are the same as using sulfuric acid, very problematic for climate. Using synthetic CO2 to treat water stimulates the soil. Farmers who use water treated with carbonic acid their plants are healthier and more resistant to disease. Carbonic acid mimics nature to adjust water PH [and support it inclusion in organics].
Nicole Dehne—Vermont Organic Farmers LLC (certification body) (General Comment)
Tried to establish consistency with container operations. Sprouts, microgreens, transplants, mushrooms, and fodder have historically been allowed and are the only crops that should be allowed to grow in containers. NOSB should activate agenda item of field and greenhouse production. This should be tackled with the goal of transparency.
Biodegradable mulch: our industry is too reliant on plastic mulch, and this bio-based mulch work is important. Agree about concerns with microplastics and research should continue, and include examining the use of plastics in general. This proposal is still aspirational with the 80% goal.
Nate Powell-Palm: The 80% bio-based is a concern with the 20% synthetic being used by a crop farmer using it on thousands of acres instead of addressing weeds with typical organic methods.
Dehne: This does not solve all our problems; it’s more likely to be used in vegetable. Might be concerns of it replacing tillage. No perfect solution.
Amy Bruch: Appreciated the articles in written comments about decades of plastics contribute to problems with plant growth.
Kyla Smith: Perspective on relisting sodium-nitrate?
Dehne: We never had an issue enforcing the 20% requirement so we could go back in that direction. This issue does live in limbo and can be problematic when eh regulations don’t match our internal policy. Our producers only historically sue sodium nitrate when there is unusual cold wet weather to increase growth to compete with veggie production from other regions. We have not seen its use abused in Vermont.
Steve Ela: How would you determine what a level of non-compliance of not having enough soil-building practices would be?
Dehne: We are designing a training for inspectors on verifying soil health. We are putting forward an agenda of red flags, for example. A checklist to make sure would be helpful. I’ll get back to you on that once we finish this training because we are grappling with.
John Foster—Wolf & Associates (General Comment)
[Notes that they are not speaking for no particular client.] Previous NOSB member. The National list is a toolbox not a soapbox (not making a point about others, it should be about that material); NOSB needs/deserves expert support from USDA. Help aggregating the comments for the NOSB. Triage for priorities that are key. Applying more broadly commercial availability to 205.605. There should be more incentivizing for operators to search for and create a market for more organic options which is possible with new tech coming out.
Wood Turner: Notes irritation at comments not being made in good faith. A better connection to the NOP and USDA would be beneficial, but curious how that would work?
Foster: Can be done to help consolidate the public comment and allow NOSB to do less of the accounting part of it.
Kim Huseman: When speaking about commercial availability, who is responsible for that? Is it the producer, consumer, etc?
Foster: Operator and certifier have the responsibility. You have to demonstrate to certifier that you’ve done your best effort to find organic alternatives.
Jo Ann Baumgartner—Wild Farm Alliance (General Comment)
I’m Jo Ann Baumgartner, Executive Director of Wild Farm Alliance.
SLIDE 1 We and many organic farmers, farm and conservation organizations and consumers urge the NOP to immediately implement the 2018 NOSB recommendation to protect native ecosystems, thereby ending the current perverse regulation that incentivizes the destruction of native ecosystems and conversion to organic production as a cheaper and faster option than transitioning existing conventional farmland over a three-year period.
SLIDE 2 OFPA mandates environmental protection and it sets a precedent for going back in time. It does not attempt or need to address every issue. Rather OFPA provides a foundation for organic regulations and gives the NOP broad authority to write them. The NOP can implement an NOSB recommendation, and the only thing stopping them is if the will of the people doesn’t support it. But it does.
SLIDE 3 We have the power of the organic community behind us, as seen with the recent submission of letters and almost 3,000 petition signatures. Previous to the 2018 vote, close to a thousand supportive comments were received by the NOSB.
SLIDE 4 The NOP should not delay implementation. Our planet is on fire. While USDA is planning to integrate climate adaptation into its mission and all its programs, the NOP’s continued incentive to destroy native ecosystems goes against these efforts, making the agency look bad, when they have the tools and support to conserve these carbon-rich ecosystems.
SLIDE 5 We have been hosting meetings with organic certifiers, getting their input and preparing them for this much-needed regulation.
SLIDE 6 Using WFA’s toolkit, we go over examples of how to efficiently and effectively determine whether land has or had been a native ecosystem.
SLIDE 7 We also discuss how WFA’s Draft Native Ecosystem Guidance written for the NOP to use as a starting point for this regulation.
SLIDE 8 The 2018 NOSB has made its recommendation, and we stand behind it. We do not support any efforts for the current NOSB to re-analyze their suggestion; it would only slow down or stop the process.
SLIDE 9 The NOP should act now to implement the proposed rule by capturing the NOSB’s intent, if not the exact wording.
SLIDE 10 Let’s get this done – the organic community and the planet cannot afford to wait.
Wood Turner: What is the scale of Native Ecosystem destruction that is happening?
Baumgartner: We have asked the USDA to conduct a survey don’t we don’t know exact numbers. But speaking to certifiers and others it’s probably 5% of the organic farm parcels that are coming into new certification are destroying native ecosystems. When there are native ecosystems we have to protect them, not just for consumer perception but due to climate change.
Shelly Connor—Wild Farm Alliance (General Comment)
I’m Shelly Connor, Assistant Director of Wild Farm Alliance.
SLIDE 1 Protecting native ecosystems gives organic farmers many reasons to feel good. Doing so is good for people, good for the planet, and good for the farmers themselves.
SLIDE 2 Good for People: While most of us eat a fairly limited mix of plants, worldwide people eat thousands of wild plants, which are typically higher in micronutrients and vitamins and are better adapted to local conditions than cultivated crops.
SLIDE 3 Western medicine derives 40 percent of drugs from plants, and more are yet to be discovered.
SLIDE 4 By conserving the wild areas where these species reside, and taking care not to overexploit wild species, the world could expand its diet and medicine chest, which is especially important as climate change disrupts crop production.
SLIDE 5 Good for the Planet: Native ecosystems store carbon in woody plants, in the soil’s duff layer and its deeper horizons.
SLIDE 6 But every day more native ecosystems are eradicated, putting us deeper in peril. Destruction is happening on an international scale – critical ecosystems that store carbon and much of our biological heritage are crumbling under the plow. Carbon stored in prairies, forests and many other precious habitats is being off-gassed, more than converted farmland could ever hope to recover.
SLIDE 7 Our native ecosystems and the species they support are dwindling at an alarming rate. Insects, which are the basis of the food web are declining, and with them many other species who rely on this food resource. In the last 50 years, we’ve lost an enormous part of our wild animal populations in the world, and 3 billion birds in North America.
SLIDE 8 Good for Farmers: Growers see direct benefits when they use native ecosystems for production gains while conserving the integrity and function of the land for the future.
SLIDE 9 Farms next to natural areas have a greater diversity of native bees, beneficial insects and birds and increased pollination and pest control services.
SLIDE 10 The NOP should implement the proposed recommendation now. Organic agriculture will then become part of the solution to the climate and biodiversity crises, helping to store carbon and slow down the mass extinction, which will protect organic integrity, and give everyone reasons to feel good about.
Julia Ranney—Center for Food Safety (General Comment)
Address the use of kasugamycin. Antibiotics should not be approved because it would confuse and mislead consumers. The role of drugs in world health eliminating their use is important for human health; especially relevant now that we see what a pandemic looks like. Multi-drug resistant infections are a concern. Kasugamycin is critical for human and livestock health. Every other antibiotic used for fireblight has led to antibiotic resistant versions of fireblight. There are other more effective fireblight mitigation techniques. Kasugamycin does not meet OFPA criteria.
Brian Caldwell: Do we need a vernal definition of “antibiotic” because there are new anti-microbial products coming up all the time? How to tell the difference between antibiotics and other bacterial-cides? The word itself provokes a strong response.
Ranney: Will the over-use of the product would lead to adverse effects in other applications then there is cause for concern
Patty Lovera—Organic Farmers Association (Crops and General Comment)
Happy about conversation concerning deterring fraud and traceability. It’s important to ensure new traceability requirements don’t create new burdens on farmers (like specific software or tech or require things beyond certification). Paper-based always needs to be allowed. Need to access whether buyers will require traceability. Technical assistance will be needed. Need to improve on: need SOE finalized; NOP should continue with other parts of USDA and CBP; trigger investigative procedures with certain import data. Also hope that there is more intentionality with trade/organic partners (ex: follow their enforcement actions).
Nate Powell-Palm: Hoping to get ideas for what does work for farmers. Could OFA do a survey or provide more of that info.
Jake Evans—True Organic Products, Inc. Crops (CS)
Petitioner for the ammonia extracts prohibition.
Fully support motion #1 & 2. Ammonia based fertilizers exploded in early 2000s which cut off organic innovation. Consumer gets what they paid for when farmers feed the soil not the plant. Do consumers really want their food grown with ammonia? If these motions fail, we are not adhering to organic principles. We have not heard one farmer say they will be out of businesses without AE.
Logan Petrey: Is there a difference between sodium nitrate and AE? Is one more detrimental? What is the expected release time of your fertilizers?
Evans: With sodium nitrate the farmer has to pay more attention because too much sodium will kill your soil, where ammonia is no different than dumping nitrogen. Ammonia is different because you can keep putting it out; you can’t save a crop with fish. Problem with restrictions on AE how do you figure that out—is it what the plant needs? The specific crop?
Nate Powell-palm: With fraud in organics; what is the presence and concern of fraud with allowing AE in organic?
Evans: blending of synthetic with organic is a potential for fraud. There is no way you could tell and the cost difference with synthetic and non-synthetic is huge and would incentivize fraud.
Meredith Stevenson—Center for Food Safety General Comment
Associate attorney. Support the NOSB recommendation that hydroponics cannot be organic; not supported by rules and regulations to allow hydroponics. Revoke hydro existing certification. Ongoing certification of ongoing certification diminishes value of organic label. Should initiate rulemaking with clear language for certifiers to disallow hydroponics.
Adele Durfey—Clear Frontier Ag. Management (CACS and Policy Dev)
Director of sustainability. Support better fraud tracing and traceability. There are large quantities of imports that adhere to suspect standards and lacking proof of clear organic tracking. There are huge economic repercussions on organic producer and is a deterrent to those wanting to transition. Organic ag is very beneficial to climate, the environment, and society and any deterrent should be considered serious. It’s not fair to bring in products under same label when they have not actually met the same standards. Eastern Europe does not have limited access to chemical farming tools. Hopefully the organic link system is just the beginning.
Nate Powell-Palm: Certain production areas of the world (“poorer”) being considered organic by default—can you speak more to that?
Durfey: A lot of people still think some areas don’t have access to technology but that is not the case. Internally they are not set up with those regulations and rules and yet when it crosses the border it becomes organic.
Justin Bruch—Clear Frontier Ag. Management General Comment
Investor and also an organic operator in NW Iowa. The fraud issue: spent 7 years farming in Ukraine—never saw one organic farm. And yet now there is supposedly huge organic farms there popping up overnight. The manure source and technology there, and there are a lot of things done illegally there. Looking at commodity price effecting the US farmer it’s a concern. Comes back to transparency with consumer. There is no “organic by default” and these countries have more things available to them than even conventional agriculture.
Nate Powell-Palm: Would requiring registering these farms through transition help with these farms popping up overnight?
Bruch: Yes, that would help curb the issue.
Bryce Irlbeck—AgriSecure and B&B Irlbeck Farms (Crops, Ammonia Extracts)
Organic row crop producers and co-founder with AgriSecure. Against ammonia extract being used the way it is. Trialed using AE this year (as a starter). As a product to replace other nitrogen it would be impossible at price point. It’s not going to be effective for Midwest producer. Nearly impossible to use it due to the ammonia causing health reactions. When purchasing manure for row crops, there is not an abundant supply of manure. Manure is a limiting resource.
Nate Powell-Palm: Can you speak to human health effects to the ammonia used as starter? Sounds like you don’t need it even if it’s widely available?
Irlbeck: Ammonia probably does not have long term health effects but it’s noxious. It was our final straw on the product. We produce a lot of our nitrogen with a 3-year alfalfa rotation.
Steve Ela: Many references in written comments from NE farmers…do you feel like you’re not getting the yields you should growing corn?
Irlbeck: our yields have more to do with rotation then ammonia. It won’t solve answer of yields.
Asa Bradmen: Interested in nitrogen cycling. We are exceeding boundary of Earth in nitrogen cycling. Cycling conventional N into organic—which isn’t a bad thing. Mention manure being a limiting factor. Can you minimize conventional-originated sources of N in your production?
Irlbeck: Alfalfa is nitrogen producing and weed suppressing. Already replace 50-60% of nitrogen with alfalfa.
Jennie Landry—DSM Nutritional Products (Handling, fish oil)
Manufactured EPA and DHA products form fish oil. The subcommittee annotation proposal is fully supported by DSM. Sourced from fishing industry byproduct only is an efficient use of the product. Certifiers will ensure practices are in place to ensure sustainability in supply chain. The requirement of 3rd party certification is supported. Clear, enforceable, and protective.
Steve Sinkula—AgriSecure (CACS, Supply chain traceability)
Co-founder and CEO. Help farmers in Midwest transition to and succeed in row-crop production. Support supply chain discussion document. The SOE proposed rule is a first step but only first step; more importantly needed to maintain trust and integrity in organic seal. Now is the time to implement system of electronic traceability, with supply chain being a great place to start. Used to work for Cargill and know this is worthwhile. US farmers are at a disadvantage and market prices are set based on least common denominator. Asks for NOSB to think about values of supply chain.
Kris Klockenga—Klokkenga Corporation (Crops, Ammonia Extracts)
President. Organic row crop farming in IL. Against the use of AE. Currently work in area that is hard to get chicken litter; hard to get right now. If AE is allowed concern that the price of chicken litter would increase. Applying manure to land you have the ability to build organic matter. AE are too expensive to use in row crop operations. Worked in West Africa previously working for ADM. Allowing AE it makes it more expensive to make a livelihood from organic farming.
Nate Powell-Palm: Expense of fertilizers. Speak to how organics is different when the value of the commodities?
Klokkenga: When I say it’s expensive it just costs me more to bring in the product; using AE would raise price. I want to do what’s best for the land and crops rotations is primary strategy. I also farm conventionally.
Logan Petrey: Do you think AE being allowed would make manure limited? Or is it just that AE is expensive.
Klokkenga: Suffering from availability of chicken litter—limited supply. If AE are approved, then that manure might go to AE.
Aaron Zimmerman—Zimmerman, Inc. (Crops, Ammonia Extracts)
Farm in NE Nebraska. New organic farmer. Does not support ammonia extracts (AE). Concern about supply availability. Limited access to nitrogen sources (like manure) and AE will be too expensive for a row crop farmer meaning it would make them leave the organic program. In order to grow they needs access to nitrogen sources. Think farmers should do things the old-fashioned way and extracting one part of the manure it turns into piecemeal which does not fit with mantra of organic.
Wood Turner: Is this manure shortage issue unique to Midwest? Was not aware of manure shortage issue.
Zimmerman: Conventional inputs have become more expensive so they are looking for alternative sources so conventional farmers are now suddenly competing for chicken litter. Has created scarcity issue for us. We use cover crops/nitrogen fixing crops as well but you can only grow so much nitrogen.
Logan Petrey: What % N do you get out of a legume?
Zimmerman: We do 2 years of alfalfa, about half to a little over half of nitrogen need for yield goal.
Day 2: Thursday, October 14, 2021 (12:00 PM ‐ 5:30 PM ET)
Jenny Tucker reconvenes the public meeting. Reiterates mutual respect and trust is necessary, if oral comments move into personal comments or disparaging remarks NOSB members can intervene.
Erin Healy, standards division director, does a roll call of NOP staff and the NOSB. All NOSB members are present at the beginning of the call. For a list of current NOSB members and their bios, go here. [Note that the scientist seat is still vacant.]
Steve Ela, Board chair, facilitates the public comment. Reiterates that “personal attacks” are not allowed against people or companies.
Eugenio Giraldo—NuOrganics LLC (Crops)
[Note: This speaker had slides.] Unintended consequences of stripped ammonia proposal: the intent of the motion was to target ammonia distillates or ammonia stripped with steam from liquid. But the language extends this narrow reading, meaning final products that are currently used in organic agriculture (compost tea, fish hydrolysate, feather meal, etc.) could fall under this definition of stripped ammonia AE. This would have a negative impact on the market if this becomes a rule.
Logan Petrey: References written comments. How do you think if we had stripped AE would it expand organic agriculture?
Giraldo: These products allow you to more precisely apply manure, if some ammonia is pulled out it can be put to better use. The majority of ammonia when people apply manure is wasted and goes into the manure. The dry material left after ammonia is a more standard 4:4:3 product.
Amy Bruch: Your suggestion would be to allow this and have it be approved for 30% of crop needs? But it sounds like this could be a direct replacement of other products being used?
Giraldo: A lot of these products (see table) do not have a limit in terms of application (i.e. fish hydrolysate) so if you put a limit on ammonia it would only be used as needed and no0t overused. The TR was very limited in the analysis of how to use ammonia properly and other soluble substrates. Ammonia can be used as a replacement for sodium nitrate or other liquid products.
Sue Baird: Hatfield’s comment yesterday said this product should be used with other organic methods like crop rotations. Do you agree?
Giraldo: Yes. Due to the diversity of climate and crops in some areas you might not need this at all and in others you do.
Gina Colfer—Wilbur Ellis Co. (Crops)
Pest control and crop advisor, works in nitrogen management. Speaking to ammonia extract (AE) issue. AE is a concentrated ammonia captured from manure or other sources, it is not meant to be main source of nitrogen. It can be part of system approach to increase soil health. No till does more to increase soil health. Grasses are the best plants to sequester carbon but they also require a lot of nitrogen. AE allows precise, thoughtful application. Give organic growers tools to grow profitable crops to feed the world.
Barbara Wingler—NuOrganics‐LLC (Crops)
Organic agriculture is environmentally friendly. 40-50% of consumers purchase organic because they are better for the environment (performed by Earthbound farm). Some studies show that organic products are less environmentally friendly (land use issues). Processed manure products and environmentally friendly if used within OFPA mandate.
Nicolas Giraldo—Wingler Farm Nutrients (Crops)
Chemical engineer and technical service manager at Clarion Nutrient Recovery Facility. [Describes their nutrient recovery process, capturing ammonia that would otherwise end up in the environment.] Allows timely application of NPK. In Clarion, 60-70% of NH3 losses recovered because they are collecting fresh manure, drying it, and then collecting ammonia it is being captured. Allows avoidance of public cascade of public health and environmental impacts. Rules require foster cycling of nutrients and this recovery process fulfils this requirement.
Wood Turner: If this kind of ammonia recovery were not occurring what would be the consequences?
Giraldo: Manure presents large potential for contamination and is generally over-applied. Concern of too much phosphorus. Having this product helps.
Rick Greenwood: In your process you note clean water is one result of your capture process. Are you self-sufficient?
Giraldo: Use reverse osmosis process to concentrate the product, concentrating it up to 4-6%. The clean water comes from the first stage of the reverse osmosis process. The water is all used internally in our scrubber, cooling towers, etc. Not 100% self-sufficient in terms of water that we supplement some well water. RO is energy intensive but less so then evaporation.
Nate Powell-Palm: Acute and real environmental costs all seem to be conventional ammonia usage? Is organic supposed to clean up for conventional pollution, noting that it’s ammonia not manure causing all these issues? Why switch to more environmentally harmful fertilizer that costs more for farmers? Isn’t over applying ammonia extracts scarier than over-applying ammonia?
Giraldo: When manure is used to provide entirety of requirements for agriculture, tends to be over-applied. Ammonia is scary when over-applied, but that is unlikely to happen with organic farms. Manure contains pathogens so it’s more limited when it can be applied. This product is less susceptible to over-application and could be used with manure.
Steve Ela: Concern about the byproduct; wouldn’t the environmental costs be the same anyway?
We contract with egg barns and get the litter right away.
Alan Lewis—Natural Grocers (General Comment)
[Note: This commenter provided their comments in full to Cornucopia, and are reproduced in full here.] Good day and thank you. Alan Lewis here. Natural Grocers now operates over 160 health food stores across 20 states west of the Mississippi. We only sell organic produce and our stores are all certified as organic handlers. We focus on the niche of nutrition deserts, where people in need of special dietary support and counseling have few options beyond the dollar store, wall mart, or the conventional supermarket.
Today I want to check in with Natural Grocers’s shoppers, who are core buyers of organic products. How do shoppers currently understand organic practices and the organic seal? Here are three reminders.
1. FIRST, Organic production systems are a personal health and public health imperative.
The soil biome and the gut biome are one and the same. We can’t conceive, have healthy babies or ensure thriving new generations unless we remove toxic contaminants, including pharmaceutical residues, synthetic materials, and pesticides, from our air, water, soil and food.
2. SECOND What we now refer to as :Organic” production systems are most valued by shoppers when they are just, equitable, and inclusive.
Our price premium depends on upholding and communicating true social cost accounting. Lowering costs by avoiding social standards will kill the seal.
3. THIRD What we call organic cropping is an ancient and indigenous practice.
It’s `not owned by anyone and never depended on government sanction and oversight — until larger scale trading forced its codification. It has always been inseparable from each community culture and thus mutual beneficial exchange of effort and resources.
And yet, we have boxed ourselves into an organic standard that circumvents the discussion of public health, stumbles and fumbles through frameworks of inclusivity and justice, and to this day often acts as if it has been ordained to impose organic practices on the communities who have most fervently developed and protected them long before the OFPA was passed. Consider many of the debates over materials and practices under way at this meeting. I can assure you they sound parochial and self-serving to the average shopper, who must decide what food and fiber to buy and how much to pay for it.
Let’s not forget this consumer context. We need to be better and broader if we want to stay relevant and valued.
Nate Powell-Palm: The idea of growing organic market in equitable way—what do you see as viable way to grow the market? We miss opportunities to get organic food in everyone’s bellies instead of just those that can afford the premium?
Lewis: COVID has highlighted the crisis. Customers clearly understand they can’t poison themselves and remain healthy. The problem is we are having trouble meeting demand when they want more than clean food.
Sarah Pinkham—OEFFA / OEFFA Certification (General Comment)
Certification assistant manager. OEFFA supports all three motions under ammonia extracts discussion. Kasugamycin is incompatible with organic agriculture. Supportive of software development to reach out fraud, but any burden for data should not fall on farmers or certifiers. Support more inspections and enforcement for high risk entities.
Nate Powell-Palm: Can OEFFA bring up specific suggestions on how to do the traceability right, especially with your experience with plain-clothes communities.
Steve Ela: You don’t see the certification burdens of the ammonia motions as insurmountable?
Pinkham: No, it’s like the pasture rule. We or the NOP can develop tools to determine compliance. You could get a ballpark for nitrogen requirements for each crop and could calculate form there taking into account regional differences.
[NOTE: At this time ASA BRADMAN has dropped off, but will return.]
Doug Crabtree—Vilnius Farms (organic farmer) (Crops and Materials)
[Note: This commenter provided their comments in full to Cornucopia, and are reproduced in full here.] My name is Doug Crabtree. My wife Anna and I own and operate Vilicus Farms, a dryland organic crop operation in north-central MT near the Canadian border. We also manage an apprentice training program, mentoring and incubating new organic farmers. Our farm currently encompasses approximately 12,000 acres. Before starting the farm, in 2009, I managed the organic certification program at the Montana Department of Agriculture for 11 years. This background informs my knowledge of OFPA and the NOP standards.
We grow a diverse mix of 20+ grain, pulse, broadleaf and oilseed crops in a seven-year rotation. Our soil building system includes integrated cattle grazing with our cropping system, green manure crops in the rotation and application of compost and manure once per rotation cycle where soil tests indicate low or declining phosphorus availability. We strive to develop a self-sustaining system. Our diverse crop rotation is the basis of the soil building system. Nitrogen is not a limiting factor, as it is easily supplied by pulse and legume crops and their symbiotic relationship with soil-born bacteria. The only off-farm inputs into our system are legume inoculants, seed and the aforementioned beef manure. We aspire to reduce and eventually replace all of these.
I want to comment specifically on the motions, prepared by the NOSB Crops Subcommittee, to:
(1) Prohibit Stripped Ammonia;
(2) Prohibit Concentrated Ammonia; and
(3) Limit, by annotation, the use of all nitrogen fertilizer substances with C:N ratio of less than 3:1 to no more than 20% of crop (nitrogen) needs. I am in support of all three of these motions.
My understanding of organic crop production and (NOP) certification standards are that:
- The basis of an organic system is to “feed the soil,” which will provide nutrients for healthy and productive crops;
- All aspects of the production system must “maintain or improve the soil, including its organic matter content, and the surrounding natural resources; and
- Off-farm inputs, particularly fertility substances may ONLY be tertiary (‘mays’) to supplement- when necessary- the PRIMARY components- crop rotation, cover crops and “plant and animal materials.”
Pertinent references include:
7 CFR 205.200 …Production practices … must maintain or improve the natural resources of the operation, including soil and water quality.
7CFR 205.203 (b) … The producer must manage crop nutrients and soil fertility through rotations, cover crops, and the application of plant and animal materials. (in order of preference);
7 CFR 205.203 © The producer must manage plant and animal materials to maintain or improve soil organic matter content …
7 CFR 205.203 (d) A producer may manage crop nutrients and soil fertility to maintain or improve soil organic matter content …by applying:
(1) A crop nutrient or soil amendment included on the National List of synthetic substances allowed for use in organic crop production;
(2) A mined substance of low solubility;
(3) A mined substance of high solubility: Provided, That, the substance is used in compliance with the conditions established on the National List of nonsynthetic materials prohibited for crop production.
I believe that both “stripped” and concentrated ammonia products (AE’s)are incompatible with these standards.
AE’s can NOT maintain or improve natural resources, as they are a direct and likely contaminant of water quality. They are, by definition, highly soluble and thus likely to move into and with water.
The use of AE’s can NOT maintain or improve soil organic matter. Indeed, the only justification for use of highly soluble N fertilizers is when the crop rotation and green manures are inadequate to (naturally) replentish soil nitrogen.
AE’s are not provided for in the standards. IF they were to be used, there must be a well-crafted annotation to prevent the likely over-reliance and resultant damage to soil and water resources and short-cutting of required crop (rotation) diversity that should form the basis of any organic crop production system.
AE’s present a clear threat to organic integrity and enforcement. As ammonia substances, they are (practically) indistinguishable from synthetic ammonia fertilizers, which are prohibited. There is no reasonable way that certifiers or inspectors could determine if a product was a “natural” AE or a synthetic ammonia fertilizer.
While I do not agree with the categorization of AE’s as “non-synthetic,” I accept that legal determination. As such, the petition and subsequent motion to prohibit their use is based on OFPA criteria:
OFPA identifies seven criteria that NOSB must consider in its evaluation of substances. According to §6518(m), the NOSB shall consider:
- the effects of the substance on biological and chemical interactions in the agroecosystem, including the physiological effects of the substance on soil organisms (including the salt index
and solubility of the soil), crops and livestock
- the alternatives to using the substance in terms of practices or other available materials; and
- its compatibility with a system of sustainable agriculture
AE’s fail to meet criteria 5, 6 and 7. They are likely, due to their highly soluble and readily (plant) available nature, to negatively impact soil biology. There are clearly ample “alternatives to using…” AE’s, as evidenced by many thousands of organic farms and farming systems growing crops without them. Readily-available and highly soluble nitrogen substances are NOT compatible with a system of sustainable agriculture.
In short, AE’s are more likely to do harm than good; they are absolutely unneeded; and they are a clear threat to organic integrity.
Nate Powell-Palm: Can you speak more to how you come up with N needs due to crop rotation?
Crabtree: We have 20+ individual crops. Adding fertility form N is unnecessary because of the natural fixation.
Sue Baird: Corn is high N. How would you address that?
Crabtree: Small grains; are not as needful for nitrogen. My experience is that places able to grow corn are able to grow more volume of legume crops, morso than our legumes. If you design an adequately diverse system. Diversity is the answer.
Logan Petrey: You say only manure provided where P is low?
Crabtree: Yes, use soil testing once per rotation to figure out where to apply manure. We want to limit off farm inputs. We don’t put legume crops less than 3 years apart. Green manures, livestock integration in between.
Hamsa Shadaksharappa—ReNewTrient I LLC (Crops)
Produces organic realizers. The rushed definition of AE as drafted is unclear, unfair. This definition will create confusion in the market; consider fixing the definition collaboratively. The definition will cover unintended products and may be eliminated. It’s confusing to lump in processes as part of stripping (like heat). Defining the production method is impracticable; some fertilizers have the same exact action in the soil, same end product with similar characteristics. There should be prudent application limits as the most objective and quantifiable solution. NOSB should not rush to ban these products.
Steve Ela: Can you elaborate on concerns.
Shadaksharappa: When you go into specific definition of manufacturing process people will get around that. Focusing on the definition then creates loopholes. Suggestion to stick with application amounts. The petitioner tried to get exclusive rights to our product,
Erika Rohr Luke—Marrone Bio Innovations (Crops)
Develops microbial and plant extract products for pest management, most approved for organic use. EPA list 3 inerts. Request that NOSB does not recommend sun-setting list 3 & 4 but ask NOP to maintain the lists, and have replacements in place first. Work with EPA to update current list of NOP-complaint inerts. EPA seems most equipped for review. Does not support sun-setting the inerts lists, urge any updated references be in place ahead of sun-setting in order to limit any negative impact to manufacturers and users.
Amy Bruch: Any thoughts on algaecides for rice production?
Luke: I’ll follow up.
Steve Ela: Are you going to submit a concrete plan on how to navigate this difficult process with the NOP?
Luke: Yes, we would be available to provide any support we are able to.
Stephen Walker—MOSA Certified Organic (CACS, Materials, & Policy Dev)
Our certification agency was built on sound enforcement and practicality. Ever-increasing regulatory burden exists with organic link system; we are wary of its scope. Suggest comparing data upload requirements to risk. We will need a system like NOLS for certifiers to track these issues. Yes, technology must play a role as organic moves forward. But technology can also be a barrier to accessibility. The system must be adaptable and useful while protecting confidential business info. If multiple systems are used, they must be able to interface. Data cannot by itself be the basis for certification. If we overstate or over promise organic capabilities that’s not being transparent.
Brian Caldwell: Are there was that record keeping could be targeted where we see the most fraud? For example, produce is not a big source of fraud but imports are?
Walker: Targeting is imbedded in the standards for recordkeeping. The standards are scale neutral but enforcement can be scale critical and should be adapted. Short answer: yes.
Amy Bruch: This is a discussion document so I appreciate the ideas. Is there enough info exchanged to do risk assessments in an equitable way?
Walker: It’s a work in progress. There was an ACA working group on risk assessment. That’s a method.
Emily Musgrave—Driscoll’s Inc. (CACS and Crops)
Organic regulatory manager. The ammonia extract and sodium nitrate and other sunset materials. Two of the three motions are concerning with AE. There has not been enough time for the NOSB to do a thorough lit review on this subject; plant and soil scientists have said that the review is rushed and factually inaccurate. We support motion 1, but do not support #2-3. We support further research on this subject. Support more clarity in sodium nitrate listing. Supports listing of paracetic acid, very important for berry growers. Supports continued listing of four chlorine materials; important to meet food safety regulations.
Amy Bruch: On the bio-degradable bio-based mulch: has there been any work that you know of that are researching true alternatives to plastic? Through cropping or other?
Musgrave: Like something else, instead of BBMF or plastic? We are looking for alternatives within Driscoll’s (plastic clamshells, tunnels, too) because berries are guilty of using lots of plastics. We have a lot of initiatives and I can connect NOSB with the right folks to answer that.
Keith Jones—BPIA (Crops and General Comment)
ED of the Biological Products Industry Alliance. Request re-listing List 3 Inerts. For List 4 Inerts we made recommendations; we are in favor with updates to these lists before sunset to limit negative impact. BPIA has been working with the OTA to figure out viable options. The EPA seems the best equipped for review of these substances.
Brian Caldwell: Are there only four EPA-list materials we are talking about? How can we make sure that any materials we consider to be antibiotics that we don’t capture other products that are microbial/pest control if we create a definition for antibiotics?
Jones: One of our members, one company alone has 5 materials. It might be possible for list 3 to review the specific materials individually. Re: defining antibiotics I could go back to my members and follow up.
Steve Ela: Are you going to submit detail comments with a process for this issue when AMPR comes out?
Jones: Yes, we will have the start/outline of a plan. Actively working on it.
David Epstein—Northwest Horticultural Council Crops (CS); Handling (HS)
Support kasugamycin but don’t think it has the necessary support so we acknowledge that and move on. List 3 inerts is a concern because the EPA no longer maintains this list. Do not de-list the List 3 inerts as it will upend pest management, especially in apple and pear production. No current effective alternatives.
Steve Ela: Chitosan—what’s your position?
Epstein: We support adding chitosan to the list. We have some concerns that manufacturers are saying it will replace sulfur or other products.
Patrick Kerrigan—Organic Consumers Association (General Comment)
Pleading to push through final origin of livestock (OOL) rule. The Danone-Horizon organic dairy contract termination shows dairy crisis is a dairy emergency. Dairies have an unleveled playing field that needs to end. Impacts family farms and the rural economic health of communities and loss of purchasing options for consumers. The NOP needs to enact NOSB’s recommendation to protect native ecosystems for their own value and the carbon sequestration they provide. Please take immediate action in sending letter to NOP urging action in OOL like the climate crisis letter.
Amber Pool—CCOF (Crops)
Encourage continued online platform for NOSB meeting. Commenting on NOSB question of whether industry should require registration 36 months before certification. Currently CCOF requires people to register their intention to get certification. Concern about registration requirement delaying transition and being a burden. Diversity, equity and inclusion issue—a 36 land registration requirement could be burdensome, especially on those leasing land. The requirement is very burdensome due to unintended consequences.
Nate Powell-Palm: We allow immediate certification via affidavit now. But how can we do better than an affidavit because there is not that much oversight with that?
Pool: Are you concerned people are lying on the affidavit? That’s not common at all. Its helped CCOF a lot where our existing members disclose new land they just started managing organically to us right away for scheduling inspections. But farmers who work with a certifier who don’t already have this requirement. Also last-minute leases being approved is a concern.
Sue Baird: CCOF made an impassioned plea to consider not taking sunset materials off the list because different products are more or less useful depending on the area.
Rick Greenwood: I am certified by CCOF and I am transitioning one of my groves back to organic. It is a good process to register ahead of time and it’s not that onerous.
Steve Ela: How did you find fraudulent affidavits?
Pool: In CA farmers have to disclose all their pesticide use to the County so if we see a vague affidavit we contact the county and pull those records. Or during complaint and investigation. It’s not common. 99% of people don’t lie on their affidavit. Unannounced inspections and affidavits from neighbors are also helpful. We might require more information from farms we consider higher risk.
Harold Austin—Former NOSB member; Chair of the Northwest Hort Council Science Advisory Board; Chair of the NHC’s (Organic Subcommittee, Crops and General)
Generally: see written comments supporting re-listing of 4 chlorine materials. Do not support changes to current status of NOP and NOSB except for more transparency. Support paracetic acid—key listing for fireblight and other diseases in fruits. It’s the most benign. EPA list 3 interts—support the re-listing of this material until NOP, NOSB, and EPA can get together and solve this problem before sun setting. Calcium chloride: support continued re-listing, it’s more important now than when it was listed. Support the relisting of agar, carrageenan, etc. because they are still in use by organic handlers.
Logan Petrey: Calcium chloride—interesting you said it’s more important than before. Consumers reject anything but perfect produce.
Austin: On the calcium it’s important for a foliar application because it can get caught in soil. We use compost, manures, fish materials but it takes a long time for those materials to break down. Need things we can use during the grazing season. More concerned about unintentional consequences from the AE discussion, that would be biggest cautionary statement.
Rick Greenwood: Do you have comments on kasugamycin?
Austin: Fireblight is a big concern in the NW for the types of apples and pears we grow are highly susceptible. Kasugamycin is a material we could benefit from and it does not have crossover with human health concerns. There are merits for allowing it onto the national list. Don’t think having it would have an effect on the soil because it’s applied in canopy.
Amy Bruch: How are soils being managed that there is still a need for foliar feed?
Austin: We pull fruit analysis, foliar, soil samples, etc. to track what we are doing to make sure we meet what we need. In NW soils calcium is very hard to get the roots to uptake.
Brian Caldwell: Can you elaborate on carrageenan?
Austin: It’s still widely used, recognized by certifying bodies around the globe. The seaweed is actually farmed. Proven to be safe. Data when we had it before it on the NOSB before was debunked. Carrageenan is not carcinogenic. Glad the NOP choose not to adhere to recommendation.
Caleb Goossen—Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Assoc. Crops (CS)
Crop specialist. Supports Doug Crabtree’s comments. Ammonia materials are incompatible with organic and appear to be a product of a broken livestock system. Many commenters are in agreement that AE should be highly limited.
Steve Ela: If the AE discussion gets sent back what would you improve upon?
Goossen: Can’t think of what I would change immediately; it seems pretty close to what I would come up with.
Wood Turner: Do you think the AE proposal would impact compost tea, etc.
Goossen: It’s interesting and maybe that definition needs to be clarified. Compost in general some ammonia will be produced naturally, but most of the nitrogen is going to be in the organic form.
Otto Kramm—General Public (Crops)
Part of the farming arm of Earthbound Organics. The ammonia extract issue: how will the integrity of these products be verified on an ongoing basis? The end user is the best typically for certifying authenticity, but with this product it would be hard to verify in the field. For 2022: we will be operating a farm under a hybrid program, but all inputs will be organic.
Bryce Lundberg—Lundberg Family Farms, Organic Rice Farmer Crops (CS); Materials (MS)
Multi-generational rice farm in CA. We seek alternatives to copper sulfate but in the meantime we still need it. We’ve tried drill seeding and planting and then weed pressure was insurmountable. Mechanized transplanting also did not work. We manage weeds by drowning it and if shrimp appear before seedlings turn green a crop can be destroyed. When copper is used properly algae and shrimp can be controlled safety without environmental consequences.
Nate Powell-Palm: tell us about your crop rotation.
Lundberg: We have heavy clay soil over hardpan, and in our area rice is the predominant cash crop. Our rotation are oats, vetch, fava beans that we sue as green chop. We try and grow 2-3 rice crops then lay the field out when needed.
Brian Caldwell: What terminates the copper sulfate? Is there a number for copper that raises a red flag?
Lundberg: It gets diluted in the water, settles out, and adheres to the soil. The CA rice association has done a lot of testing and don’t find much of it in the water. We test our soil and don’t see a buildup of copper. Nobody knows what a toxic level of copper is. The answer is no. Have heard that grape growers in Europe have levels that are higher than ours. The cooperative extension says something like 50 PPM would be a worry (and we don’t get above 4-5 PPM). We are not the only ones that use copper. Other crops use copper for disease.
Gwendolyn Wyard—Organic Trade Association (Handling, Materials, Policy Dev)
Vice president of regulatory. Thoughts on ammonia extract (AE): this was not elevated to the OTA board level. We have an in depth conflict of interest policy and the OTA was not consulted. I would like the public record corrected. Concentrated ammonia has been in use for over a decade. We are challenged because we stand that AE both stripped and concentrated should be prohibited, we also do not want tools for farmers to be removed. We shouldn’t wait for individual petitions and believe NOP framework needs to be re-evaluated. Stripped ammonia was brought to the NOP in 2018. MROs must be brought into certification system via accreditation. This is the best way to prevent fraud.
Steve Ela: How do you structure and approach lists.
Wyard: If its natural it’s allowed; there could be a periodic review of incompatible natural substances. If we continue to stay in a mode where petitions need to be submitted to prohibit a non-synthetic, then commercial interests are always going to come up. Support pro-active review.
Johanna Mirenda—Organic Trade Association (Crops & Livestock)
Farm policy director for OTA. Continuing comments on AE. Support proposal to prohibit stripped and concentrated AE. The unrestricted allowance of ammonia will move the organic system further from soil health and fertility. The organic market is already hurt by a stagnant process. Add-on labels fragment organic market. Agree that it’s important to not affect non-target materials with any definition. Support the sodium nitrate proposal.
Wood Turner: Why wont the proposal motions affect things like compost tea, etc?
Mirenda: We do want to avoid unintended consequences. The use of the term “stripped ammonia” instead of ammonia extracts is one way to hone in on this manufacturing process. Recommend that its very clear in NOSB’s cover letter to the NOP the intent.
Steve Ela: How do you think final motion could be improved?
Mirenda: There just needs to be more time to review it, at this time we mostly focused on the first two motions which directly addressed the petition. We want to have a good understanding of what materials would be limited and the calculation method. We want to sit with it and come up with good standards for highly soluble nutrients and hope you will keep this on the work agenda.
Kyla Smith: Could you provide more context on the difference between our national list and other lists in Canada, EU, etc?
Mirenda: Each scheme has its own flavor; common theme is closed positive list. Meaning you can’t use it unless it’s explicitly listed in the regulations. Their standards have better continuous improvement and they do provide more clarity. Worth looking at as a solution in some areas.
Wanda Jurlina—IMCD US Food LLC (General Comment)
Carrageenan essentially. Carrageenan is functional and empowering ingredient for many parts of the world, it’s a huge cash crop in some regions. Areas it is essential: plant-based milks. Carrageenan is more functional than other gums like gellen, pectin, guar.
Wood turner: What is the impact you see to global production on organic?
Jurlina: The amount of seaweed demand has increased form farmed seaweed, not wild harvest.
Jessica Shade—The Organic Center (General Comment)
Director of science programs. Summarizing written comments. Encourages other research priorities; alternatives to celery powder, and helping farmers and products with contamination. Support the climate change letter but ask additional references in the letter. For ammonia extract we found that ammonia products resulting from extraction are chemically the same as synthetic products, and their environmental impacts depend on extraction factors. The majority of research has not been done in organic systems. Negative impacts of nitrogen fertilizers could be decreased if applied with other amendments.
Nate Powell-Palm: TOC what role does ammonia have on making the claim of carbon sequestration on organic farms? Is there food for microbes in manure?
Shade: Organic farms mostly get carbon through compost, manure, and feeding the soil, our recent review looked at the impacts of each of these practices and how long it took to see carbon in the soil. Soil amendments had the biggest and fastest impact. The physical addition of carbon. When you don’t rely on adding carbon to the soil then less carbon ends up in the soil. The food for microbes is complex. Straight nitrogen can do that. The more complex the food for the microbes you see a suite of benefits to the soil, it’s not just N and P. We have to think about the whole system.
Steve Ela: Climate change and the NOSB: what would you suggest to us if we were to start talking about concerning organic matter, where would we go for continuous improvement?
Shade: Being able to be flexible as new research comes up is important. Including the beneficial impacts as to why organic is better as the specific results come out. The complexity is it will be different regionally and locally.
Nate Powell-Palm: A lot of talk about tillage in organics. Relative relationship of tillage in organic vs. conventional—does organic till more than conventional?
Shade: Organic actually does not use less conservation tillage than conventional. Organic does not use more tillage from NASS data. It’s a myth. USDA/ARS looked at difference between full-till organic and no till conventional and still saw that organic sequestered more carbon.
Asa Bradman: your letter highlighting inadvertent contamination of organic products is important.
Shade: We have planning grant funded by OERI doing survey with organic producers to see how many have experienced contamination. The most recent NASS data isn’t that helpful. Organic producers are not eager to tell USDA when they have contamination event so this will help get some honest answers.
[NOTE: Asa Bradman has returned to the call.]
Thomas Buman—Precison Conservation LLC (Crops)
CEO. Spend more time on the petition to limit AEs. There is misinformation (surrounding term “ammonia extract”), collateral impacts (would affect current products organically marketed products). Organic and environmental need for novel organic nitrogen products—organic farmers need this. Prohibiting AEs because they are derived from conventional waste—then you have to apply this standard to all conventionally-derived products (blood meal, bone meal, etc.). You should convene a technical advisory panel instead of relying on TR.
Wood Turner: Why are you reading that certain products would be collateral impacts?
Buman: People wouldn’t know if they are in or out. Uncertainty.
Nate Powell-Palm: concern from farmers needing to compete with AE customers or chicken litter. What do you see that being?
Buman: All I am saying is how is it different than using conventional manure or bone/feather meal on-farm then using ammonia from those sources. All still coming from large livestock.
Logan Petrey: What is nitrogen crediting?
Buman: It’s how much you credit for legume, cover crop, etc. Depends on soil and rainfall that change what N is available. Ammonia makes it easy to be precise.
Heather Spalding—Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) (General Comment)
Deputy director. MOFGA turned 50 in August; started organic certification in 1972. We want USDA to prioritize: reinstate OLPP, finalize OOL, restore cost share, embrace organic as a climate change solution. Want USDA to honor and elevate NOSB role by having more transparency in appointments, clearing backlog of recommendations, and reversing sunset policy change. We ask NOSB to develop social justice standards based on IFOAM fairness standards. Adopt the ammonia proposal. Add back to work agenda the greenhouse production issue. Soil contamination is a big topic in Maine (PFAS).
Asa Bradman: thank you for raising OOL and OLPP standards again. It’s tragic.
Steve Ela: From the certifier perspective how would you interpret ammonia motions when you are out on the farm.
Spalding: We do have a well-established farmer certification division.
Jason Ellsworth—Wilbur‐Ellis Company (Crops)
PhD in soil fertility. Criteria for the selection of fertilizer for use seem to be implemented arbitrarily. We need to increase fertilizer efficiency. No one is saying soil health is not a concern. The NOSB should come up with a proposal for ammonia that will be supported by all partiers; encourage sending it back to committee.
Nate Powell-Palm: Can you address people having a lack of access to manure?
Ellsworth: People can only put down so much manure without P issues. It’s more due to competition from other farmers not ammonia.
Amy Bruch: How do you long term think out of P problem, it isn’t solved just by adding N source?
Ellsworth: P goes down over time, and with crop harvest.
Logan Petrey: We grow a lot of high N crops. Different technology is needed for each application type.
Ellsworth: Shipping raw manure includes all that water weight is causing all sorts of emissions. When you have ammonia the dry matter left is not as heavy so that’s also more efficient.
Steve Ela: If the price of manure is going up due to conventional going up wouldn’t the price of making ammonia extracts also be going up?
Ellsworth: Everything that’s used as a nutrient in agriculture is going up.
Steve McCorkle—Ag Waste Solutions (AWS) (Crops)
Founder and CEO. Produces cow manure biochar and carbon products. Supports proposed annotation from CS. Nestle is going toward carbon neutral. Dairy digesters are once piece of the puzzle to bring carbon neutrality. Biochar completes the puzzle. Organic classification of cow manure biochar opens up a valuable resource.
Brian Caldwell: One of the objections of burning manure was the loss of N that happens. What is the fate of the N that is originally in the manure in the process?
McCorkle: We have a slow process that does volatize some of the N, but retains quite a bit of the N. In our model we work alongside anaerobic digesters. Actual N content of product varies, about 1:3-4 N:P.
Mike Menes—True Organic Products, Inc (Crops, Ammonia Extract)
VP of food safety with True. Your review of AE was in depth. As the petitioner we support the 3 motions, the definitions are effective. Comments from OMRI, ACA, etc. say that the definitions for AE are clear and enforceable. There is no position for AE in organic, plants cannot differentiate between AE and synthetic ammonia.
Logan Petrey: can AE be added to a product to raise the carbon base in sodium nitrate. Guano has a very nigh nitrogen availability.
Menes: We don’t combine products. We do add guano in some of our products because it makes a great fertilizer.
Zen Honeycutt Consumer representative, Moms Across America (CACS, General Comment)
Founder and director. Todays is children’s environmental health day. Ask you to continue to keep these toxins out of organic food supply: heavy metals (supporting testing and legislation going on right now), carrageenan (there is a socio-economic issue to people finding out carrageenan is a problem), antibiotics, copper sulfate. Continue testing for glyphosate contamination. PEG contamination. People question the integrity of organic.
Zea Sonnabend—Fruitilicious Farm (Crops, Materials)
Former NOSB member, and career as organic inspectors, worked for CCOF and OMRI previously. Ammonia extracts (AE): agree with proposal to prohibit these products, as they are incompatible with the original organic intent. Seen a lot of fraud in fertilizer realm in the past, and these products are ripe for fraud. Excluded methods: recommended guidance to the NOP has not been adopted yet. It’s important this issue stays on the forefront. There should be some kind of genetic integrity task force because the NOSB does not have the expertise to know (originally wanted seed integrity task force). Having expert panels convene during NOSB meetings to discuss these issues would work too.
Mindee Jeffery: A lot of the public comments suggested we don’t develop new criteria. Most of the TBD terms deal with plant breeding. There are mRNA sprays on the horizon, CA is suggesting releasing GE mosquitos. We need more than just plant-breeding techniques.
Sonnabend: There is no need for additional criteria right now, but more specific cases may come up in the future. Most of the plant breeding issues are already handled by existing criteria.
Doug Currier—The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) (Crops, Handling)
Technical director. Comments on ammonia extract and sodium nitrate. We are confident we could use these proposed definitions to identify what would and would not be allowed for ammonia. A specific number is needed for concentrated nitrogen. We do have products that likely meet the proposed definition on OMRI list. Concern about addition to “nitrogen fertilizer” as too broad in regulations. Concern about shifting focus to ingredient level. Sodium nitrate: we support reinstating the listing to get it back on the sunset process. What affect does the prior recommendation have?
Amy Bruch: Elaborate on terminology and definition and how to test/review?
Currier: The burden on review staff increases if there would be a new requirement to look at carbon.
Kyla Smith: focus on non-target materials. How would you interpret and review those examples; do you think they would be included in annotation/definition of stripped ammonia.
Currier: If you tied up in definition of stripped ammonia, there could be some products that are borderline. But when you look at concentrated ammonia definition you would say “it’s not meetings that” … but fish and compost teas their available N is far below 5%. Comes down to looking at manufacturing process and looking at definition. Think definition is enough.
Steve Ela: OPWC looked at this too and heartened that as an MRO this is straightforward. Sodium nitrate: the NOSB recommended to prohibit and then it sun-setted, so based on procedure then it should be off the list.
Currier; The combination of the two motions makes OMRI comfortable. It would be workable on a review scale. More often phrased that sodium nitrate is an invalid listing rather than it is sun-setted? Needs to go through regulatory process. Wave never stopped restricting it.
Bill Wolf—Wolf & Associates, Inc. (General Comment)
Founder and president. Organic farmer and consultant for 50 years. NOSB needs support from experts to address growth in organic industry. Apply Commercial availability to 205.605. The national list is a toolbox not a soap box. The goal is not to make the national list smaller. Annotations should clarify not complicate. Summarizes written comments.
Sue Baird: I agree we need expert support. Can you give examples of how that would come about? In agreement that we need more national list tools.
Wolf: Someone to review all the comments that have been submitted, summarizing and organizing them all. Previous summaries from NOSB of comments or scientific data have not been accurate.
Rick Greenwood: the toolbox is a favorite of mine but it has a counterpart of continuous improvement. Being accused of kicking a can down the road like with copper sulfate.
Kim Huseman: How would you summarize comments and how can we improve the process?
Wolf: The meeting times conflict with busy farmer schedules. Maybe have virtual meeting in winter that’s focused on comments, and a longer comment period.
Jackie DeMinter—MOSA (Crops, Handling, Livestock)
Certification policy manager. Summarizes written comments. on mulch film, ammonia extract, etc. Support change of bio-based product % bio-based. If no products are found to meet the 80% bio-based, then the listing should be allowed to sunset. Sodium nitrate in blended fertilizers are no concern, we have no clients exceeding minimal requirements; okay with status quo. The 3rd motion on ammonia extracts is concerning.
Kyla Smith: You said you were not seeing abuse of sodium nitrate; in general, are you seeing non-compliances or in general if its hard to enforce soil fertility.
DeMinter: We don’t see farmers use Chilean nitrate or sodium nitrate in excess. Easier to track red flags then general compliance. We see over-use of manure more often than overuse of purchased fertilizer.
Logan Petrey: Do you expect the same management with cover crops, etc. if AE were to be allowed?
DeMinter: AE is an allowed input right now as a natural material, but only 2-3 clients that I know of use these products as part of their problem. There are always multiple inputs being used.
Nate Powell-Palm: Can you talk about your region? Your region has more livestock? Not as many cash-croppers that don’t have cattle.
DeMinter: Yes, we certify mostly livestock farms. Do your inspectors do any calculations on sodium nitrate anymore, but we do collect info on field applications.
Lawerence Carlson—Tygrus, LLC (Crops)
Here to address the three objection points that were raised. Inclusion of their product lowers pH in a manure based manure, so the product is used to stabilize (citric acid not performing well). Letter from EPA inerts branch approving it as an inert for pH control. There is no biocide quality and it has been registered with the EPA.
Mike Dill—Organic Produce Wholesalers Coalition (OPWC) (CACS, Handling)
Modernization of supply chain transparency and oral/written submission process. Do not support concept of organic link system because of burden, especially on handlers. Don’t think it would prevent fraud. Organic trade needs less focus on reactive measures against fraud. There should be commodity-specific risk assessment. Widespread adoption of a probative system would be more effective. OLS would require documenting millions of transitions but would not give the ability to react in real-time. We offered draft handling standards in written comments. Suggest need to address stress/pressure on heavy NOSB agendas. The public needs more time to develop meaningful feedback. Spread the workload across 4 meetings annually, two meetings for materials and two for other discussion.
Kyla Smith: Thank you for including proposed handling requirements.
Dill: We submitted them in response to SOE rule.
Jeremy Rowland—Bion Environmental Technologies, Inc. (Crops)
Position that non-synthetic ammonia fertilizers are compatible with organic production. The 10 non-synthetics that are prohibited are very different, and this move is un-precedent. A substance can only be added to the prohibited list if it is harmful to human health, environment, or not compatible with organic systems. The burden is on the NOSB and NOP to determine that ammonia fertilizers are harmful. Ammonia fertilizers will only be applied on n approved OSP, which would mitigate or eliminate environmental concerns.
Asa Bradman: Re: environmental and human health effects: we are talking about a soluble N similar to other nitrogen fertilizers. N leaching is a huge issue for effects on waters.
Properly applied that’s not a concern.
Amy Bruch: Every time you move litter in eh barn ammonia is released, so how many touch points are there? In organics there are not stabilizers applied with liquid components, so is there more opportunity to leach?
Rowland: The quicker you capture the manure and get into a digester the lest is lost to the environment. Otherwise depends on the species. An OSP is a more controlled environment than manure in a lagoon or barn. We are a non-synthetic process; we are not creating a conventional product. We stabilize the product with bicarbonate.
Logan Petrey: Since you create a dry product with ammonia in it and then a liquid ammonia doesn’t that indicate you are capturing ammonia that would be lost in the air otherwise?
Rowland: Yes, we are capturing a lot of what would be lost and turning it into a stable product.
John Wicks—Organic Farmer (Crops (CS)
Family farm in Montana (small grains, oilseeds), conventional till 2016. Do not support the ammonia extract in organic. Got out of conventional to get out of high input costs. Having ammonia extracts will flood market with cheap products; don’t believe chasing yield is the answer. Got into organic to help fight climate change.
Nate Powell-Palm: Idea of needing ammonia extracts. Can you describe your crop rotation?
Wicks: Use cover crops, cattle to graze down.
Russ Hamlin—Grimmway (Crops, Ammonia Extract)
General manager of farming. Largest organic producer in the USA, provide over 65 varieties in 8 different states. Use hundreds of millions of lbs. of carbon soil benefits yearly. We recognize that some growers don’t need soluble nitrogen products, but we do need these products. Foundation of need comes from perfection in appearance in organic fruit or veggies. Traditional carbon based fertilizers do not always meet needs. The limited use of ammonia extracts helps solve these problems.
Nate Powell-Palm: What is your crop rotation? Any legumes versus nitrogen user?
Hamlin: Legumes are planted in front of the longer-season crops we have like carrots. We also rotate with other cover crops. The ability to plant cover crops is also dependent on water availability in CA.
Amy Bruch: Complimentary crops seem to be used differently in different areas. Do you see the need to alter some of the crops you are growing? Questioning the longevity of your soil overtime?
Hamlin: CA has some of the best soils in the world. Grimmway has some of the best soils of any organic farm; the driver is what customers want. The other consideration is also new and better cover crops.
Sue Baird: I do a lot of inspections in CA and I know that its common to have to use sodium nitrate. When the NOSB did their vote did you stop using sodium nitrate?
Hamlin: I can’t speak to that.
Harriet Behar—Organic farmer and advocate, Sweet Springs Farm (General Comment)
Once a material is added to the national list its very difficult to remove it. Proposals must be clear and well done before moving forward. The integrity of the organic standards cannot be lowered to meet goal of having new tools. Ammonia extract: highly soluble extracts are a problem, but a small allowance in extreme conditions makes sense. The current allowance is not enough. Biodegradable mulch is not ready, it could blow into waterways and it cannot be compared to paper pot use. The NOP needs to act on the native ecosystems. The NOSB should have greenhouse and container systems added to their work agenda.
Steve Ela: Re: highly soluble fertilizers, with good crop rotations and management do you think most of the crop needs can be met where you are?
Behar: Yes, but there are times where we can have a cold July and some extreme conditions, especially with climate change, some variance to allow for its use would be okay. But I don’t want routine use.