DAY 1: April 18, 2023
Deputy Administer, Dr. Jennifer Tucker calls the meeting to order. Welcomes NOSB members and audience. Welcomes w new board members: Lewis and Quarcoo – just recently joined the board. To public commenters – thanks for participation. When the NOSB reconvenes in Atlanta, GA next week there will be a live-stream. Transcripts will be posted once completed.
Michele Arsenault take a roll call of National Organic Standards Board: all members are present except for Javier Zamora.
For more information about the NOSB members, check out the NOSB’s biographies.
NOSB Chair, Nate Powell-Palm, runs the webinar comment session.
Ellie Hudson – Accredited Certifiers Association (CACS; General)
Hello NOSB members, NOP, and members of the organic community. I’m Ellie Hudson, Executive Director of the Accredited Certifiers Association or ACA. I work remotely from Traverse City, Michigan, which occupies illegally taken ancestral Lands of the Anishinaabeg – Three Fires Confederacy of Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi peoples.
ACA is a non-profit that exists to benefit the accredited organic certifier community and the organic industry. We envision a world in which the USDA Organic label is always trusted and valued. Our mission is to ensure consistent implementation of the Regulation through collaboration and education.
Today, I’d like to share some of ACA’s strategic priorities in our mission of service. Broadly, we look to develop certifier resources that can alleviate the pressure often germane to a regulatory environment, and we proactively seek ways to add, improve, and innovate the value of ACA membership.
Currently, a lot of discussion is about the Strengthening Organic Enforcement Final Rule, or “SOE.” With funding from a Cooperative Agreement between NOP and ACA, we are aiming to quickly create many avenues for collaboration, discussion, and alignment around SOE. We are generating new resources and best practices through several working groups. One early focus will be personnel training and qualification, or Section H of the rule. A needs assessment will inform which resources are most valuable for implementing the requirements, while minimizing administrative responsibilities for certifiers and their teams.
Also funded through our Cooperative Agreement, we are partnering with the International Organic Inspectors Association or IOIA, around mentorship of aspiring organic inspectors. A 2023 mentor cohort will be formed through a request for proposals from qualified inspectors. Mentors will be compensated for tracking activity toward developing a mentor Job-Task Analysis. The data collected will assist us in creating new resources. We may be able to adapt this pilot program into a long-term solution for addressing the persistent shortage of available mentorships.
The ACA Board also identified a strategic need to better understand our Supportive Membership category, available for those who are not accredited certifiers, but have an interest in supporting ACA’s mission. We are committed to continuous improvement of member benefits for this and all categories.
These initiatives will all be delivered and assessed against a backdrop of envisioning an environment where barriers and implicit bias have been eliminated, and where everyone has the resources they need to live up to their full potential.
In closing, I thank the NOSB for the opportunity to offer this comment. Going first today means I can be the first to thank you for giving your expertise, time, and more; of which we all benefit. Thank you.
Amy Bruch: On certifiers located abroad – how is outreach happening for them on SOE? Want to ensure consistent application globally.
Ellie Hudson: We have placed strategic priority on international outreach. The members of ACA receive a lot of communications from us. There are some internal and external barriers. Through NOP we make sure communications to all certifiers go through.
Marni Karlin – Accredited Certifiers Association (CACS; General)
Hello, and thank you for the opportunity to comment today. My name is Marni Karlin, and I am here today on behalf of the ACA. I am pleased to share with NOSB members, the NOP, and the organic community as a whole a bit more about the work ACA is doing in service of consistency and collaboration in organic certification.
First, our new “Lunch & Learn” series. Launched last month, we are hosting a series of one-hour sessions on topics of critical importance to the entire inspection and certification community. In March, over 200 certification and inspection professionals participated in a deep dive into SOE – identifying areas of the rule where they had questions or saw value in collaboration on best practices or other work products. The appetite for this conversation was huge – and the responses generated have given us a roadmap for our SOE work – more to come on that.
Our next “Lunch & Learn” will present the newly-developed Livestock Directive Cross-Check Template for certifiers. This template will ensure that certifiers’ cross-check requests to each other are consistent, efficient, clear, and reflect the NOP Livestock Directive requirements.
Later, we’ll offer a Lunch & Learn diving into the personnel training and qualifications requirements found in SOE, as Ellie discussed briefly a minute ago.
We are planning more Lunch & Learns – this year, we’re focusing primarily on providing value to certifiers and inspectors surrounding SOE implementation. We’ll host a deep dive into Section A Interpretation questions related to certification and exemptions, and intend to launch additional efforts on meeting supply chain traceability requirements, and understanding the nitty gritty of certificate generation in the Organic Integrity Database.
Of course, it’s not all SOE all the time. Related to some of the transition efforts, we are working to identify – and then address – the barriers organic and transitioning producers face in accessing non-NOP USDA resources. It can be challenging for organic and transitioning producers to access resources at USDA that live outside of NOP – they face duplicative paperwork requirements, staff who sometimes don’t understand organic, no centralized resource hub, and a bureaucracy that at times makes it easier for producers to give up than to pursue the crop insurance, conservation, or FSA supports for which they qualify. Our group is working to develop solutions to ease those barriers – and look forward to reporting back soon.
In closing, I want to thank you again for the opportunity to comment today. And I’d also like to thank each of the NOSB members for choosing to serve our organic community. I am sure at times your service feels under-appreciated – and I would like to be certain to say, “thank you”.
Kim: Can you tell me what you would say about initial high level, glaring transition barriers for farmers helping to bridge.
Marni: Engaging with producers, USDA, and frame in context of hearing what folks say. One of things hearing that are barriers for existing and transitioning is around duplicative paperwork requirements and if could just write down once, it would make it easier. Another piece is around how tough it can be for producers to navigate living in different places – phone numbers, people to talk to, etc. — we can think about centralized resource hub where folks can find things; wants to hear more from those on the ground.
Logan: Are you giving producers or certifiers or inspectors about transitioning?
Marni: working group w/ certifiers and inspectors and looking at how to engage producers.
Logan: What are barriers?
Marni: first meeting was open-ended and now taking what has been given to us
Carolyn: Need to find right producers to talk to and how to identify those who want to transition and having made steps forward?
Marni: thinking about not only in context of transitioning producers but also existing. Thought is to engage w/ regional leads who have closer handle on what’s happening in regions and how to get to those folks w/ mentoring. Rather than recreate wheel that would be a good resource.
Amy: barrier to transition and continuity of producers to stay in. Do you have access to info that shows how many acres not getting renewed into organic and why not?
Marni: how figure out who ought to be getting more support and navigating that path; is it access to other USDA programs or not or why do people opt out. Going to look into it.
Allison: As someone who has seen interworking of USDA, would like to hear how NOSB can be most useful. Where should Board focus?
Marni: thinks NOSB plays such a critical role in advancing organic policy and opportunity to find solutions and if bumps in road, maybe a letter or discussion in meeting to say what’s important; maybe that’s the kind of thing that would loosen the spots where things are sticky whether at USDA or Congress. Hopeful we can find solutions that don’t require Congress to act outside of farm bill and legislative processes. As identify solutions we will identify stakeholders who can help if so desire.
Michael Crotser – CROPP Coopertive/Organic Valley (Handling (HS))
I’m Mike Crotser the Certification Director at CROPP Cooperative. We appreciate the work of the NOSB and the NOP to support organic agriculture. Thank you for the opportunity to speak.
It’s spring. Grass is growing and the daffodils have already bloomed. As we enter a new age of enforcement, it also feels like a new season for the Organic Industry.
First, we want to thank the Board’s attentiveness to address human capital management, oversight improvements to deter fraud, climate smart agriculture, sunset review, and being the industries primary voice to the NOP. We also want to mention the importance of the NOP Organic Livestock Compliance Initiative to ensure ruminant animal operations met the requirements for grazing, feed, living conditions, health practices and origin of livestock. From our perspective, it appears this endeavor has expanded to assure slaughter eligibility. Supply chains, from farm to packaging, are being looked at to prevent misuse of the organic seal. This eligibility should be traced and balanced to origin of livestock records, livestock lists and health records. Purchasers of live animal should have certifier approved Fraud Prevention measures to keep non-organic meat from entering the supply chain. We support enforcement to determine that livestock are under continuous organic management from the last third of gestation. The organic beef industry, including our subsidiary the Organic Meat Company, will see direct benefits from enforcement.
It’s also the one-year mark since the implementation of Origin of Livestock rulemaking, which clearly aligns with public opinion. Being said, we have further work to swiftly implement a final Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards rule, specifically addressing, living conditions, healthcare, humane animal treatment, and outdoor access. This is what the public expects, and what consumers look for.
We want to compliment the agency on the publishing of SOE and its goal to reduce fraud, improve operational compliance, and address the increasing complexity of our supply chain. From our perspective, we have concerns how farmers will adapt to the new rule. Regulatory support and guidance will be needed for farmers to develop robust Fraud Prevention Plans and certifier paperwork will be critical to achieve these goals. Additionally, increased focus on tracebacks and mass balances may take farmers by surprise. We look to accredited certifiers to work cooperatively to develop consistent, sound, and sensible templates for these plans.
I want to thank the NOSB, the NOP, and the organic industry for the time to speak and I am happy to address any questions.
Heather Spalding – Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (General)
Good afternoon chairman Powell-Palm and members of the NOSB. I’m Heather Spalding, deputy director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA).
Thank you so much for the opportunity to speak and for your service.
As this is a Farm Bill re-authorization year, we’re supporting several important marker bills related to your work:
- Opportunities in Organic, which will restore and improve the organic cost share program, and establish a suite of flexible, easy-to-access tools to reduce barriers to organic agriculture, prioritizing support for BIPOC and historically disadvantaged communities;
- Continuous Improvement, which will fund the NOP to promptly address the backlog of NOSB proposals;
- Emergency and long-term support for the organic dairy market, similar to what conventional dairy has received for many years;
- Expanding Organic Research, which will ensure that research funding keeps keep pace with the growing organic sector and ensuring that organic farmers have the tools they need to address production, marketing, and environmental challenges;
- Agriculture Resilience Act, which addresses climate change issues related to agriculture and elevates organic management practices;
- Seeds and Breeds for the Future, which will fund development of regionally adapted cultivars and livestock;
- Various marker bills to strengthen USDA’s conservation programs for organic farmers;
- The Free To Grow Act, which reforms harmful, inherently racist laws relating to hemp production; and last but definitely not least,
- Relief for Farmers Hit with PFAS, which will help farmers address PFAS contamination through testing, income replacement, remediation strategies and research.Additionally, MOFGA strongly supports federal action to:
- protect organic farms from pesticide and genetic drift;
- prohibit genetic engineering in organic agriculture; and
- prohibit hydroponic farming under the organic label.Regarding your own workplan, MOFGA urges you to:
- Collaborate with certifiers to develop consistent templates and guidance for interpretation of new rules;
- Restore in-person oral comments for future NOSB meetings – and keep this online opportunity as well;
- Promote racial equity and access to NOSB initiatives and consider the impact of NOSB recommendations on historically disadvantaged communities;
- Initiate discussions on reducing plastic in organic production;
- Develop standards addressing humane treatment of swine;
- Address the use of excluded methods in fermentation;
- Publish an annual list of annotation suggestions and set priorities for the work agenda;
- Clearly document minority opinions in published materials;
- Identify where US standards differ from other major certification bodies and strive for global consistency.MOFGA supports the proposal on organic and climate-smart agriculture though we have concerns about the push for a universal Organic Systems Plan (OSP), which may become too simple lacking opportunity for detailed explanations about management practices.MOFGA supports consistent location identification so that inspectors and others can easily locate a producer. We would not want this to be a burden on farmers and we would like clarity on the expected precision of location – center of farm or specific crops/fields, the latter of which could be complicated for diversified operations.
MOFGA has concerns about using newspaper and other recycled paper as weed barriers, mulch or compost. We are not opposing the recommendation but we urge ongoing scrutiny to ensure that paper used for these purposes is free of plastic, PFAS, and other toxic, persistent and bio-accumulative chemicals.
Similarly, we have ongoing concerns about the use of plastic mulch. Microplastics in our environment is a serious problem and recovery of plastic mulch is a challenge. Though we support relisting plastic mulch and covers, it is clear that the broader organic community must develop a plan to find ecologically friendly alternatives.
MOFGA supports relisting liquid fish products with the limitation that they are sourced only from fish waste, bycatch, or invasive species.
Finally, we urge you to learn about the impacts of PFAS on our food and agriculture system, and to encourage coordinated action at the federal level so that farmers have the support they need to navigate this crisis. Each of you could take an individual action and reach out to your members of Congress, requesting their support for the Relief for Farmers Hit with PFAS Act.
Thank you so much for your time and commitment.
Amy: Are you seeing on lands contaminated with PFAS also contaminated with heavy metals?
Heather: no clear answer; focus has been on testing for PFAS on soil and water and body burdens of farmers; heavy metals have been used in sludge or found in sludge and have been found in materials used on farmlands; very important but focus has been on PFAS
Nate: Could you elevate one thing Maine farmers to keep farmers on the land so more organic farmers get on land.
Heather: Several crises facing; challenge with labor and training next generation. Labor workforce and addressing farm labor laws – working on. Access to land is important. Access to labor and support for dealing with climate change and challenges from shifting weather patterns, drought, and we have a good relationship w/ public service providers with NRCs and USDA offices and maybe we aren’t in same boat as other farmers across the country. We definitely need more support and technical assistance and access to capital and infrastructure. Invested heavily in Maine to help farms scale up infrastructure. Integrity of organic standards most important thing.
Amalie Lipstreu – OEFFA Certification (General)
Good afternoon, my name is Amalie Lipstreu, and I am the Policy Director for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.
As an organization that is a certifier as well as an educator and policy shop, we benefit from input along many areas of the organic “supply chain” from supporting transitioning producers to utilizing USDA programming, understanding roadblocks and opportunities and often, larger the existential threats to the viability of the National Organic Program.
You are going to hear from a number of OEFFA farmer members this week sharing important reflections they have as practitioners. They are engaged for two reasons. The first is that this is their livelihood, for our farmers to have a living into the future, the integrity of organic is paramount. The second reason our members are engaged is that OEFFA has staff dedicated to pulling folks together, providing background materials and fostering discussion. This takes time and is work that we invest in to help to inform the board and the NOP.
To foster broader feedback with additional farmers, please consider the suggestions presented by my colleague Julia Barton who will be speaking next.
Thank you for keeping organic as climate-smart front and center on the board agenda. It will be incumbent upon all organic growers and advocates to illustrate how the holistic suites of synergistic practices that is organic agriculture provides more than the sum of its parts. USDA likely will not come easily as industrial agriculture, which has been more of a contributing factor than a solution to climate change, is still well-entrenched at the agency. But you are already lifting up the voluntary and solutions nature of organic. We thank you for leading the way and encourage your persistence.
And remember, advocating for organic to be considered climate-smart cannot be done effectively or with moral authority unless organic agriculture remains a soil-based standard. There are likely even fewer studies on the full life-cycle energy impacts of hydroponic growing systems than there are studying the climate benefits of organic farming and ranching. Hydroponic growing systems have a place but not in organic or climate friendly production.
Jerry: In terms of hydro not having a place – is there any thought that one should argue hydro in places where you just cannot grow, such as in the desert. We have a very narrow band around the world where conventional ag actually works. Outside of that, doesn’t hydro have a home?
A: I think hydro has a place. I think the problem comes if we try to apply the organic certification moniker on it. If we are trying to apply climate smart…then organic…I do not think that hydro has those practices, per se.
Jerry: I would say that it’s a big world out there, and to say categorically that it does not have a place is perhaps limiting…
A: To be clear, I said that it didn’t have a place in organic or climate smart, not that it didn’t have a place.
Jerry: I will correct myself and say that perhaps it does have a place in those two places, as well, if we get creative in how we are looking at it.
Julia Barton – Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (General)
Hello! My name is Julia Barton with the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association. We appreciate the opportunity to participate in this important public process. We think this process is so important, that we want to make sure as many organic farmer stakeholders have the opportunity to participate as possible.
OEFFA’s comments are informed by several work groups- an organic work group, a crop insurance work group, and the Ohio Organic Farmer Researcher Network, which we co-facilitate along with our partners at Central State University and the Ohio State University. In the past, you’ve heard from several OEFFA members, and you’ll hear from them- some returning, some new, this week.
Thank you for holding virtual comment opportunities, let’s hold them at the in-person meeting too. Comments, whether shared in person, or online, should all be treated the same, and the opportunity for engagement with the board should be open in both venues.
We also have a few ideas to help increase access to farmers and community members:
We ask you to consider the following suggestions:
- We wonder if the open docket could be put to greater use to keep the lines of communication open in between the spring and fall meetings, with questions for the community in areas where the board needs more information, especially at times when farmers are more likely to be able to participate.
We request a structured opportunity for interaction with the board in the winter. One OEFFA farmer suggested a winter listening session. Such a session could be timed to help inform NOSB meeting materials for the fall meeting.
- We need detailed and swiftly published subcommittee notes- these would help us to follow along with the thinking of the board and take time to discuss ideas among our work groups while you are discussing them in committee
We need access to the meeting materials for a longer period of time ahead of comment submission. We are wondering- could there be a “soft publishing” of the discussion documents and proposals ahead of the federal register notice? We can anticipate the materials that will be on the agenda and reference previous information in this regard, but we cannot anticipate your ideas when it comes to discussion documents and proposals. We want to put in the time to provide you with substantive feedback—and we need more time with full information in order to do so. As you know- robust group process and thoughtful discussion takes time.
An additional arena in which we need to increase access has to do with racial equity. We support NOC’s racial equity comments and have two specific asks.
First, please conduct anti-racism and cultural sensitivity training for NOSB members, and
Secondly, please add Racial Equity as a work agenda item under the CACS committee. This agenda item is needed to help ensure that racial equity is a thread woven through the many efforts of the NOSB with a goal of challenging, rather than repeating patterns of structural racism in USDA programs.
We appreciate your efforts and your attention to making this important process increasingly accessible to stakeholders, and we appreciate your service to our community.
Nate: CACS racial equity committee – what’s the thinking behind having this committee?
Floated previously as agenda topic for whole BOD and we heard it would be a better fit for CACS. Our experience for working groups is that when we sit together we figure out a lot of the barriers.
Alison: Curious if you could speak more to connections of NOSB focusing on racial equity and continuing to strengthen organic community.,
Organic movement based in indigenous cultures and practices that are the foundation. White supremacy is biased towards practices written down. Good reminder to connect ourselves to the foundation of the movement. The connection couldn’t be any closer and we owe it to ourselves to work on this to make it more accessible to all people including those on whose back i9t was built.
Amy: Standardizing location information: comments about members who do not have access to tech. For example how are address being collected from individuals. Is a legal address system still being used? Legal address is the township parcel: a different method to communicate parcels. How accessors identify locations for things like property tax. Used by FSA and RMA as well.
Colleague will be speaking to this issue. In our work groups the people working with FSA note that USDA programs sho9uld collaborate with FSA. USDA should be able to pull this information from FSA database. Right now OEFFA primarily uses addresses and maps. We will have some plain clothes folks also commenting on difficulty.
Mindy: Were you suggesting that there be a winter listening session for farmers to resolve the problems with meeting timings?
Julia: We thought it was a creative idea. We appreciate Michelle’s efforts into the timing of the meetings. If the NOSB was able to work that into your schedule that would be wonderful. Looking for a web of access.
Jay Feldman – Beyond Pesticides (General)
[Full comments pending.]
Nate: Given earlier comments, if looked for existential threats from USDA, what would be strongest and fastest way to drive organic demand. How do we talk about organic?
Jay: Sense fair amount of frustration about what we can do as individuals to affect existential crises. Organic intersects with mitigation of these crises so when talking about standards you review, you’re looking at health and biodiversity impacts. Looking at soil systems and microbiomes and to extent we can message as community that this is a solution then we have a huge opportunity to get public behind it. Issue of integrity is critical. Label has to be viewed with trust.
Brian: receptive to issues raised about plastics. Entrenched and difficult issue and how to start to address it and suggests BP and other groups MOFGA, and other groups start to look at path forward for this. Can’t see it personally myself
Jay: Going to have to be collaborative and holistic approach and organic systems approach looking at production practices and packaging and have opportunity to start in every area to question alternatives. WE could piece it apart and take venues we engage in through production, packaging, handling, and look at all those points along that continuum utilizing plastic. Continuous improvement is part of our ethics.
Abby Youngblood – National Organic Coalition (CACS; Materials (MS); General)
Good afternoon. I’m Abby Youngblood, executive director at the National Organic Coalition or NOC.
Today, I’d like to address three topics – in-person oral comments, additions to the NOSB work agenda, and NOC’s farm bill advocacy.
I applaud the National Organic Program for expanding the opportunities for stakeholders to participate virtually – first by creating oral comment webinars several years ago and more recently by providing the NOSB meeting livestream.
These virtual opportunities increase public participation but are not a substitute for in-person connection. I urge the Board to return to the hybrid approach that was used before the pandemic. Please give public stakeholders a choice – either webinar oral comments or in-person comments.
In-person comments are the only participatory part of the NOSB meeting, and they give attendees, and farmers in particular, a reason to come. Both last fall and this spring, we had significant farmer interest in NOSB participation, and in the farmer scholarships NOC provides. Farmers who take time away from their operations to attend the NOSB meeting, should have the chance to speak directly to the Board, the National Organic Program, and the community about the issues they care about during in-person meetings.
Second – I would like to address several topics for inclusion on the NOSB work agenda. The Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards (OLPS) rule will be finalized soon, we hope. But the rule does not fully address humane management of organic swine. This topic should be added to the NOSB work agenda to give all stakeholders the chance to participate in the development of standards.
Next – NOC is concerned about the lack of standards for greenhouse and container production. The NOSB must begin work on this topic to ensure consistency across certifiers and should address topics such as the disposal of effluents from containers, how certifiers treat land converted to container production, and the use of greenhouses where a prohibited material was applied to a previous crop.
Another area of concern is the use of plastics in organic. Organics should be out in front of the movement to reduce environmental contamination caused by plastics. We recognize that we can’t remove all plastic use overnight, but we would like to see the organic community make some progress. For example, we could research where microplastics have gone on farms and start with the most problematic sources. The Materials Subcommittee should identify what research is needed to begin phasing out some plastics in organic production.
Finally, NOC is hard at work advancing organic in the 2023 Farm Bill. We will be discussing that in some depth during the Atlanta Pre-NOSB meeting on April 24. We welcome questions about our work in this area.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment.
Allison: thank you for your comments and grace in handling that interruption. If you had any additional comments, I would welcome that. I appreciated NOC’s comments on racial equity. Could you take a moment to speak to the outreach you’re doing… what you’re hearing from producers of color regarding organic access, participation, etc.
Abby: Thanks for the question. I want to start by recognizing the work of NOC’s racial equity committee, role of NOSB, and putting together comments. NOC is part of a group of many orgs in organic community exploring how to build partnership with orgs that serve Black farmers, indigenous farmer, farmers of color. There is a lot of interest in using organic practices- above 90% using regen or sustainable practices, but less than 30%. A lot of interest among diverse farmers. Part of the gap is what Julia was referring to—lack of acknowledgment of where our movement comes from and lack of connection to some of those practices. We are committed to having more cconversationsabout this topic. The next one is in Atlanta on 4/24 in the Pre-NOSB meeting—we’ll be hearing from farmers in the SE region. Theme of that farmer panel is helping more farmers going organic. Talking with farmers using organic practices and thinking about how to help more farmers of diverse backgrounds pursue organic certifications.
Jerry: I appreciate the way NOC left your comments open for discussion on containers.
Abby: Looking forward to leadership- more discussion.
Carolyn: If, say, we can have greenhouse and container standards that go through the typical process and are made into rulemaking- would that help settle some of the divisions because of the hydro situation?
Abby: The National Organic Coalition does not believe hydroponic systems should be certified as organic. We do have to think about which kinds of production systems are soil based and which are not. Figuring out where we draw that line is a challenge. The board can play a role in figuring that out. IT’s time for the board to work on the issue again. There is a need for more clarity on those situations where there is inconsistency- pretty egregious for us to ignore. We have to talk about and work on these issue and find a path forward.
Jerry: I think part of the problem is that we’ve failed to segregate under CEA, climate control, a structure, and a delivery system for nutrients, etc. Lot of room for good discussion.
Terry Shistar – Beyond Pesticides (All)
[NOTE: These comments correspond with PP slides.]
My name is Terry Shistar, and I’m on the board of directors of Beyond Pesticides. I will address four topics today.
Climate change is an emergency that deserves to be met with a sense of urgency that we do not see from NOP. For organic to be climate smart, NOP and certifiers must hold organic producers to the letter and spirit of OFPA, which requires that organic production be soil-based, incorporate diversity, and protect the environment. Operations based on hydroponics or confined animal facilities, and those that replace native ecosystems with organic farms do not meet those requirements. The NOSB has made its position clear on these issues and must insist that NOP and certifiers consistently enforce the law—for the sake of reducing climate change, biodiversity loss, and human health impacts, as well as fairness. It is critical that NOP ask, “What more should USDA be doing to advance organic?”
Because ion exchange creates chemical change, all organic ingredients processed in this manner must be subject to review by the NOSB. See our written comments for application of the materials classification guidance to ion exchange. Chemicals in the ion exchange resins may leak into the food product. The Handling Subcommittee proposal to allow any and all resins without review or disclosure to consumers is unacceptable. To maintain the integrity of the organic label, resins must be subject to full National List review, rather than establishing a blanket allowance in organic processing. Only resins approved for this use should be allowed in organic food processing, and only when they and the treated ingredients are approved and listed on §605(b). Chemicals added during the ion exchange process must be listed on the label.
Plastic mulch is part of a larger issue relating to the use of plastic in organic production and handling. Awareness is growing about the impacts of plastic—and the microplastic particles resulting from its use—on human health and the environment. Plastics manufacture requires transportation of hazardous chemicals, such as those involved in the recent derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. Plastic mulch should not be relisted. The NOSB should initiate a strategy to eliminate all uses of plastic in organic production and packaging.
Phase out materials on §606. Ingredients on §606 are produced using chemical pesticides and fertilizers, with their attendant dangers to people, the environment, and the climate. Materials should not remain on §606 if they can be supplied organically. The NOSB should ask:
- What are the barriers to providing an organic form of this ingredient?
Could the need be met if the organic form is required?”
Allison: Wrestling with same issues around ion exchange – convinced by comments in fall that resins are inert and are intended to not interact with materials that pass through (if functioning properly). Curious where we think we can draw the line: we’d like to see a phase-out of plastics and materials that we know can have chemical interactions. I am mostly comfortable with saying the resins are not perfect but to make a decision based on best knowledge we have and intended use of these products. To keep the organic industry moving forward while moving these issues forward in future.
Terri: With plastics and ion exchange – these are pre-existing problems. We are discovering there are bigger issues with these products than we ever thought there were. When I was younger a lot of things we now use plastics for we did not before. There is a real possibility we can do without plastic. There are things where it’s “imbedded” like PVC piping delivering our water. Ion exchange is another thing that has crept into organic and was not aware it was an issue. We’re not aware that fruit juice sweeteners and organic sugar was going through ion exchange. When I was young we didn’t have processed additives in organic food. If we want to get to the point of using a resin we need to test them. We shouldn’t approve things just because it’s always been done.
Allison: Are you aware of testing that we could do? We need to have a sense of what we are looking for to give us some assurance and comfort.
Terri: OMRI and the TR raised some issues on what may be coming through with the resins.
Franklin: In cases where there are organic alternatives, is efficacy part of the consideration in how well much an alternative perform in order for it to be considered a viable alternative.
Terri: Efficacy is a consideration in the review of essentiality. There is a line where something may be effective and then we have to make a judgement in how needed it is.
Nate Powell-Palm: Plastics: should we be testing all plastics that come into contact with organic food? Given your stance on resins.
Terri: Yes, that’s a good place to start in determining some kind of priority system in figuring out what to remove from organics first. If something is leaching chemicals it should be a higher priority.
Nate Powell-Palm: Should we be as pure as possible and limit growth, or be pragmatic and balanced?
Terri: As much as we remain pure it will encourage growth. So, I don’t think that’s a good dichotomy.
Brian: Quick clarification – testing – are you referring to testing every organic operation and every farm, or researchers should start testing and determining if this is an issue or not.
Terri: Mostly, the latter. That’s why I say we should be listing resins individually on the NL based on the testing that we see for what leakage and what might be coming through – same with plastics. There is a lot of research out there about what is getting into food, such as BPA, or plastic liners of cans or something. I think there is a lot of room for testing as far as research. I am not talking about testing every farm.
Pryor Garnett – Organic Farmers Association (General)
Thank you, NOSB members and NOP staff, for your service to organic agriculture and for the opportunity to speak before you today. My name is Pryor Garnett. I chair the Organic Farmers Association’s Policy Committee, and I farm in western Oregon. Today I’ll be addressing three issues: Organic and Climate-Smart Agriculture, Greenhouse and Container Production Standards, and Crop Insurance. Organic and Climate-Smart Agriculture OFA members agree with the Board that certified organic production should be automatically considered “climate-smart” and therefore eligible for all funding and support through climaterelated USDA programs. Organic agriculture has tremendous potential to address climate change, but only if the USDA effectively protects the integrity of the USDA certified organic label. That integrity is essential to maintain the label’s standing and preference with consumers, to ensure a level playing field for organic farmers in the broader agricultural sector, and to make sure that organic methods provide the maximum benefit in addressing the climate crisis. Enforcing the Organic Livestock Standards is important to climate-smart agriculture because pasturing and real outdoor access help enrich the soil biology and soil structure, as well as enriching the animals’ welfare. And soil health is a foundational principle of organic agriculture. The NOP’s decision to allow hydroponic (soil-less) operations to be certified organic, as well as inconsistent interpretation of the NOP’s guidance for how container operations transition to organic, has caused both farmers and consumers to question organic as a regenerative agricultural system leading the production model for long term carbon sequestration. The NOP must clarify that organic farming occurs only in the soil, and ensure that all organic certifiers consistently apply this requirement. For organic agriculture to maximize its potential as climate-friendly agriculture – both as more resilient than conventional practice, and as sequestering carbon in the earth – soil must be recognized as the cornerstone of organic production. The NOP should return this topic to the NOSB agenda so that organic as a climate-smart leader is clear and consistent. Second – Greenhouse and Container Production Standards OFA urges the NOSB to resume work on the agenda item “Field and Greenhouse Container Production.” We support organic certification of crop production where typical terrestrial plants are grown to maturity in the ground with no barriers between the topsoil, subsoil, and bedrock. Current standards for the organic production of crops in containers in and outside of greenhouses are very limited, which has led to widespread certifier inconsistency in this area. As these production methods proliferate, strong standards are urgently needed to create a level playing field for organic producers and ensure that all certified organic production is climate-smart. The NOSB needs to resume work on Container Production. Third and Finally – Crop Insurance OFA appreciates the board’s work on this important topic. Our farmer-members have a wide range of experiences with crop insurance. There is broad frustration with the difficulties of trying to get organic to fit into existing crop insurance – especially the daunting paperwork required for Whole Farm Revenue insurance. New farms have it the hardest, by far, but even established farmers struggle with this program. And we need to educate insurance agents on organics, because they rarely understand organic systems and methods. Crop insurance needs to be fair and functional for all farmers. In our written testimony, OFA outlines a number of improvements to crop insurance programs, and we also point to the comments submitted by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association. Their crop insurance work group has provided a list of suggested solutions developed by farmers struggling to make these programs support the needs of their farms. Finally, in addition to needed improvements to crop insurance, OFA supports 2 other policy improvements that will help manage risk for organic farmers: 1. Increase of organic certification cost-share to up to $1500 per scope and 100% reimbursement. 2. Creation of a safety-net program specifically for organic dairy, based on organic – specific milk and input cost data. Thank you very much.
Amy: About crop insurance – didn’t see discussion about T yields and idea that T yields. Very specific question so will hold off another representative since it gets in the weed. Thank you for your time. Will hold question.
Dilip: can you tell a bit about greenhouse and indoor planting and planting in the ground?
Pryor: foundation principle of OFA is that most organic production should have roots in direct contact with soil and down to bedrock. There are a few exceptions if plants being sold as starts who will then plant in their container – but in for example, a high tunnel and is shelter over soil, we think that is certainly appropriate for certification but on other hand in open field where blueberries grown in containers and drip irrigation, that is not appropriate for organic certification.
Dilip: thank you. That helps
Nate: Thanks for bringing crop insurance to the table. Wants to talk about good farming handbook. Anything included in OSP considered good farming practice and can have compliant system plan – can you identify elements in OSP – tension between Good Farming Practices manual and OSP
Pryor: Clearly believe certifiers that review and approve OSP established plan as a whole is a good farming practice. A second review is unnecessary. No analog to OSP in conventional agriculture. Where we have independent review of OSP, think it’s unnecessary.
Nate: Sees role Board could play in communicating how OSP and GFP manual overlap.
Kate Mendenhall – OFA (All)
Thank you, NOSB members, for the opportunity to speak before you today. My name is Kate Mendenhall, I am the Executive Director of the Organic Farmers Association. OFA represents a strong national voice for domestic certified organic farmers.
Today I will be addressing Oversight to Deter Fraud, Phosphoric Acid, and Organic Swine Management.
Preventing Organic Fraud has consistently been a top priority for U.S. organic farmers, and we appreciate the Board’s work on this important topic. While we see value in adding GIS data to farm and field locations in the Organic Integrity Database, we want to acknowledge that adding GPS coordinates would be an additional tracking to what is currently being done on most farms and requires access to technology. All farmers do not have the technological expertise to provide this information to certifiers, or in some cases, as in the Plain Community, they may be opposed to using the technology. Assistance for farmers with limited access to and experience with technology must be a part of the recommendations. Perhaps provisions could be taken to require more technological GIS data for farms that pose a greater risk that may manage more than one or two farm locations, to minimize burden on small farms.
Regarding 2025 Livestock Sunset Review, OFA requests that Phosphoric Acid be relisted as a synthetic sanitizer/disinfectant. It is used to remove deposits on milk lines and bulk tanks that cannot be removed with other detergents and acids. This buildup creates conditions where bacteria can rapidly multiply and degrade milk safety and quality. OFA dairy farmer members report more compatible substances are not available, and without the use of phosphoric acid they would need to leave organic production. We do acknowledge the 2018 concerns raised by the National Organic Coalition (NOC) about consistency as to whether certifiers were or were not requiring a rinse after use, and we understand this is still a current issue. Our request is to relist Phosphoric Acid as a sanitizer/disinfectant with an annotation that requires a rinse after use. Both the livestock and handling annotations should align in this way.
We urge NOSB to prioritize a comprehensive review of sanitizers, disinfectants and cleaners to inform decision making when a new material is petitioned or a material is reviewed at sunset.
Finally, OFA requests that NOSB prioritize adding Organic Swine Management to a future agenda item. In review of the OLPS, it was evident that guidance on organic swine management is behind animal welfare and other national organic standards. In order to reduce the burden of duplicative certifications and assure consumer confidence in organic swine management, we request that the NOP and NOSB place swine management on the NOSB work agenda.
Thank you for consideration of our comments.
Dan Langager – Northwest Horticultural Council (CACS); Crops (CS); Handling (HS)
I’m with the Northwest Horticultural Council. We represent growers, packers, shippers of berries in PNW. Direct you to our written comments for the PNW tree fruit industry’s perspective. Highlight some materials under crops of importance:
Ethanol/alcohols- decontaminate irrigation systems. if not decontaminated, emitters can become clogged causing damage to system and unequal supply of nutrition
Used to clean pruners for fire blight so as to not spread.
Plastic mulch and covers- bird nets, wind screens, shade cloths, deterrent in cherry orchards for leaf hoppers. can transmit middle cherry disease-epidemic in Washington state. ground covers reflect light into canopy to reflect light, heat, and support maturity
Damage leaf tissue leading to less fruit or fewer …
Elemental sulfur, used to adjust soil ph- nutrient uptake, etc.
Lime sulfur, used by most- CA, sulfur, controls blight mildew, scab. Dormancy through bloom- to control insects or pathogens that overwintered.
Thank you for the opportunity.
Brian: Thanks, Dan. I know fruit growing is different in different regions. Curious about hydrated lime. IN the east, would just be used in Bordeaux mix. are there other pesticide formulations that use hydrated lime. with Bordeaux mix- other copper products are safer, why are people still using Bordeaux mix.
Dan- Yes, I believe there are other formulations that growers can use. I will defer to my colleague, Harold Austin who will know those better than I.
Amy: Dan, thank you for your time. Question about potassium sorbate. It was noted in your comments that the growers in your group decided that it would be beneficial to preventing disease. We’ve heard there are concerns with that substance and the use in this petitioned fashion. Questions on efficacy of trials listed in the petition. Wondering what pushes your growers to want this to be accepted. There is limited information used as petitioned.
Dan- the subcommittee talked about the need for more research. We’d like to see that as well. To see how it’s working and in what circumstances, climates, growing regions. We are fortunate with climate and soils in PNW. Helps in controlling post-harvest diseases. Very big issues. I would also say it fits into the tools in the toolbox our growers and packers have. If efficacious, we’d like to see it in the toolbox.
Jaydee Hanson – Center for Food Safety (General)
Organic is Climate Smart
The USDA and the National Organic Program have not adequately promoted the fact that organic producers already actively employ multiple climate smart practices. Organic producers deserve to be rewarded and acknowledged for consistently implementing these practices in their production models. We need adequate research and data to quantify how much NOP regulations impact an organic crops’ carbon footprint. Certified organic farmers should automatically qualify and be endorsed for any “climate smart” label when the term is codified by USDA and other applicable USDA programs.
Water Based Growing Methods like hydroponics should not be called “climate smart.”
By allowing water-based production systems to be considered “climate smart”, even if some certifiers allow them to be “organic,” the USDA is undermining the argument that organic systems are “climate -smart.”
We Need a Universal Organic Standards Recognizing Organic as Climate Smart
Farmers need less reporting, not more. There is currently no climate-smart plan across all organic certifiers. This impedes farmers seeking access to USDA Climate-Smart funding. They should not have to apply twice to be considered Climate Smart. All organic certifications should require annual reporting of key climate-related data such as: soil organic matter, nitrogen levels, phosphorous levels, and potassium in the soil just to name a few.
Excluded Methods Discussion Document: The Materials Subcommittee has identified some of the last methods from the 2016 listing of excluded methods for review at this meeting. THE USDA MUST IMPLIMENT ALL OF THE EXCLUDED MEtHODS INCLUDING This meeting’s updates.
Related to TILLING is ecotype TILLING (ECO TILLING) which is used to identify natural genetic variation in genes of interest related to useful agronomic traits in diverse crop germplasm. Thus, ECO-TILLING identifies natural genetic variation in a population while TILLING identifies primarily induced mutations.
Bottom line we think ECO TILLING is not an excluded method as well as TILLING where the “mutagen” is environmental stresses. TILLING where chemicals or irradiation are used as the mutagenic compound should then be considered an excluded method.
Double Haploid (DH): If any of the inputs used in the in-vitro double haploid system are produced using modern biotechnology, then those inputs would constitute would make the system an excluded technology. If the synthetic phytohormones or colchicine are not produced using modern biotechnology, then those synthetic chemicals would have to be permitted to be used in organic production before this in-vitro technology could be considered not an excluded method.
We should watch for Double Haploid being combined with gene-editing. As researchers are using gene-editing techniques with Double Haploids.
Induced mutagenesis: Induced mutagenesis where the mutagen is a chemical or irradiation should join in vitro nucleic acid techniques as an excluded method. If the mutagen is an environmental stressor or UV light, then those would not be considered an excluded method.
Transposons or Transposable Eléments (TE): In sum, TEs, where their movement is the result of a chemical or irradiation would join in vitro nucleic acid techniques as an excluded method. If the TE movement is the result an environmental stressor, then those should not be considered an excluded method.
 Ren J, Wu P, Trampe B, Tian X, Lübberstedt T, Chen S. Novel technologies in doubled haploid line development. Plant Biotechnol J. 2017 Nov;15(11):1361-1370. doi: 10.1111/pbi.12805. Epub 2017 Sep 11. PMID: 28796421; PMCID: PMC5633766.
 Comai L, Young K, Till BJ, Reynolds SH et al. 2004. Efficient discovery of DNA polymorphisms in natural populations by Ecotilling. Plant Journal 37: 778-786. At: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/j.0960-7412.2003.01999.x
Mindy: Given all the work of the NOSB recommendations and the work on TBD list – do you have perspective of the horizon and what issues should we be looking at?
The big issue is “gene editing” — even with the procedures looked at this meeting, several of them can be combined with gene editing. So, you will need to have a couple things excluded at the same time. You can’t just say “this is allowed” where it could be done with gene editing.
There are RNRI pesticides and fertilizers that are applying for experimental use permits with the EPA. The EPA hasn’t approved this yet but because of the small scall it will be hard to track if the companies that are doing this move ahead. It’s some of the same tech that companies have been using for drugs, now they just want to use it on landscape.
Allison: Curious to dig into comment about climate smart ag and the role of soil-based systems, especially as an organization focused on pesticides.
Jaydee: Often talking about how much carbon is getting into atmosphere. CFS is agggressively opposed to pesticides, but if we eliminated all pesticides there would still be significant contributions to the climate from methane, etc. We have to deal with the chemicals that cause most of the change in the atmosphere.
Dilip: Appreciate gene editing comments. Product should not be allowed in one place and restricted another.
Jaydee: interesting argument between FDA and USDA and how you regulate that – NOSB need to pay attention to this.
Michael Sligh – Former NOSB member (General)
Good afternoon, my name is Michael Sligh, I am a member of the founding NOSB from 1992 – 1997, we were responsible for the original recommendations that established the NOP.
I rise today to strongly urge the re-instatement of “in-person” NOSB comments re-starting with this Fall’s meeting. While I strongly support the continued remote testimony opportunities and new video meeting streaming, for the many who cannot attend in -person — these are very positive additions and should be continued, as well.
However, in-person public testimony at the beginning of each NOSB meeting, is not a random tradition, but one which we established on purpose, at the very beginning to anchor, shape and ensure that this vital program participatory and is guided by the stakeholders who chose to adhere to these voluntary rules. In fact, in-person testimony is actually one of the reasons that this program receives such strong and robust public support. You are not NOSB member solely for your own opinions and experience, but because each of you are representing one of the legislated stakeholder categories and your public engagement with them is essential.
Having in-person stakeholders set the tone, present critical concerns and recommendations demonstrates transparency, ensures accountability and provides for more consistent outcomes. These three pillars are essential to the on-going and future of NOSB/NOP credibility and public support. You cannot know what you do not know and hearing directly from the organic community at the beginning of each meeting, ensures that strategic issues are raised, acknowledged and hopefully addressed in timely manner.
Please re-instate “in-person NOSB public comment”.
Brian: I understand what you are saying in terms of in-person meetings, but the concern that I have is that basically it costs about $2,000 for just a normal person to attend a meeting. Doesn’t that skew the input and the close interpersonal contact to funded organizations and gotten away from a farmer who might not have $2,000 to spend on that.
M: I do not think it’s an either/or. In the beginning, we didn’t have the internet, so we had people show up. We moved the meeting around the country to allow different people to come. In this environment, where we not have the ability of zoom and livestreaming, I think that helps balance that issue. If it was only for those who could afford to come to the meeting, yes, it could skew. I do not think that we want to lose the personal part entirely. We are a hyper-participatory community, and I think that being able to engage in person really helps us be in tune to what is the pulse of the people. If they put in the effort to show up, that is telling you a lot.
Brian: A balancing act. I know that NOC gives some scholarships for attending, and maybe somehow that could be part of the bigger picture. Appreciate your input.
Nate: What do you see as the difference between in person comments and virtual comments?
M: Zoom has been a blessing in many ways during the pandemic and has helped expand participation, but I think we do not live in a virtual world, and having the personal contact, being able to talk to someone in the hall, being able to say, “Hey, I know you…” It is essential that this work not become isolated or only virtual. Cannot lose the human touch. Very unique. I have served on many USDA advisory boards, and this one is unique on purpose.
Nate: I worry that we are conflating two things – you can still come to the meeting, take us to lunch, without giving in-person comments.
M: Sitting there for hours and hours without saying anything is very frustrating. And you might be the only person there who knows the answer to a question that was raised during the opening comments…
Nate: Curious about finding the right balance. I know that nothing beats in-person – we have been reminded of that through the pandemic. I am also heartened by the leveling of the playing field that zoom gives. Finding the right balance is the key. What inspired my question is your comment on being able to take a drive – perhaps as we move around, the in-person comments are limited to those who are local.
M: I hear that. I do not think that we discussed that, but I would encourage the groups that I work with to take that topic up. I do not think we want to lose the in-person. I think you would also know the “hot mic” a little quicker in person. (Haha.)
Harold Austin – Former NOSB member, organic tree fruit industry (Crops (CS); Handling (HS); General)
Former member of NOSB and lifelong member of tree fruit. Thanks, new members. Refers to written comments for details. For crops, supports continued listing of 2 alcohols, Ethelyne, elemental suffer,
Burn 99% pure elemental suffer which high ph water passes through which reduces high ph water and brings it to more neutral balance and reduce mineral content. Allows us to take marginal soils and w/ compost and mulch turns marginal soils into productive organic farmland. Process also protects fruit – use overhead cooling to prevent sunburning. Calcium carbonate can make fruit nopackable.
Lime sulfur is important for fire blight. As we move into new varieties that are consumer driven they are highly susceptible to blight. If blight enters through blossom, fight it entire season
Phosphoric acid – supports – helps remove carbonate in packing facilities. Also supports modified in-person presentations. Can’t say enough about the benefit.
Brian: Sulphur burning – just to treat irrigation water?
Harold: correct. In part we are changing ph of soil b/c taking neutral based ph water rather than ph of 8.3 -8.6. we are helping reduce it b/c adding less ph water to it.
Brian: bring ph down of whole field?
Harold: Not bringing it up b/c of water that we’re applying. Calcification – by having more neutral water lending itself for better penetration of water.
Brian: Hydrated lime? Trying to get handle on how much use there is for it? Old fashioned material that has been superseded but previous speaker thought its used in other materials
Harold: As far as approved listing, it’s really Bordeaux mix and in colder wetter climate areas. Areas in CA still use it – NY, Michigan. We use other forms of copper in Pacific NW.
Nate: Sulphur burners – biggest expansion of blueberries in WA. How important suphyr burners been?
Harold: Sulphuryls acid is fundamentally important to expanding. We’re hot. While use isn’t elevating ph, not contributing to it. Blueberries want to be grown in 5.2 or 5.5 or slightly lower than that. If gets hot have to run overhead water so having Sulphur burners and getting ph balance and getting mineral products out allows clean water source and other tree fruit crops and new types of apples.
Nate: fire blight? How going?
Harold: Based off year and location, some areas better than others. One of challenges – planting more resistant root stocks but top of tree might not be resistant. Older trees can cut, but newer trees if cut 18 inches then decimating blocks. A lot of newer varieties are highly susceptible to blight. It’s working, but under right conditions. Under certain conditions can be devastating so need more tools in toolbox. Key is to not let it get started in the tree.
Jerry: Sulphuryls acid- by and large, not much opposition, but struck me one group said is negated by what you said. They are worried it masks poor soils and soils not being taken care of. You are regenerating soil best way can, and sulphuryls controls ph
Harold: Dealing with helping us reduce ph of water. Also helping us reduce calcium carbonate so not dealing with soil that’s going to get compacted and create drainage issues. Dealing with impurities and ph levels of the water. By giving us a balanced ph, it’s a process, not a mask. It’s part of an organic systems process and plan that we firmly support and believe in.
Amy: Sulphuryls acid – comment by a group and interest internationally using water, air, and electricity instead to alter the pH. Those types of technologies – are they beneficial since reliance on Sulphur burners?
Harold: I am never going to say never to anything that can help us improve what we are doing on our farms organically. We have looked at a lot of different things in lieu of what we can do with the sulfur burner, but there is nothing that we have looked at yet that replaces this particular function. If we would lose this, we would take out a couple hundred acres of apples, blueberries, and cherries, because there is no alternative to it. I do not think what you are talking about is a replacement for what we do with the sulfur burner, but it might be something beneficial that we could incorporate into our organic production.
Logan: We had carbon dioxide petitioned and passed as a ph water regulator. Do you see that as something to use?
Harold: I have been following that, as well. As a ph, it is one thing. I think the other thing is the water conditioning factor, that we are getting the impurities. Calcium carbonate plugs…also, the fruit finish. In the Columbia basin area, the water is heavy with calcium carbonate in the water. You cannot get it out of the bruit, and you end up with high culling. Calcium carbonate is one of the primary reasons that we use it, along with making sure that we are getting water that is down in that ph neutral area. I think it would help us with the ph part of it, but do not think it would give us the benefits we are looking at as far as calcium carbonate goes.
Mark Kastel – OrganicEye (General)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
- Over $60 billion per annum.
Flattening growth in recent years.
- Unit sales of fresh produce and dairy products currently down.
Maybe if cash is still flowing to your business enterprise, ACA (accredited certification agent), or nonprofit, things still look rosy.
But if you are getting your hands dirty and cracking a sweat to produce organic food meeting the definition that consumers hold dear, not the working definition endorsed by the corporate lobbyists and USDA, things might not look so good.
Based on data from the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), in 2019 just nine giant dairies in Texas (note that I do not call them “farms”) produced 1.5 times more organic milk than 530 dairy farms in Wisconsin (each milking as many ranging as large as 600 cows, clearly not all small).
Nine Texas dairies producing 1.5 times more milk than 530 Wisconsin dairy farms! What’s wrong with this picture?
Those CAFOs, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, do not meet the spirit or the letter of the law. If you have any questions about that, don’t ask the USDA. Ask me. I’ve been there. I have the evidence.
Flash forward to 2021, the most recent NASS data: there are now 13 dairies in Texas certified as organic. They are currently producing 2.8 times more milk than the 407 remaining family farms in Wisconsin. Almost 3 times more milk than those 400 family farms. Just 13 livestock factories blessed by only a handful of agribusiness-friendly certifiers.
During that two-year interval, 123 family farms have gone out of business in Wisconsin and hundreds more in states like New York, Vermont, Pennsylvania, New York, and elsewhere. These folks have lost their livelihoods, sometimes their homes and farms, and consumers are losing access to authentic organic milk.
Just as importantly, over the last few years, literally, thousands of conventional family-scale dairy farms have gone out of business around the country. Why? During that period of time there was no market for farm milk. No handler was taking on new shippers. The CAFOs flooded the market.
As in Farm Crisis of the 1980s, these conventional and organic dairy families have lost their livelihoods, their futures, and some, due to suicide, their lives.
Family farm? CAFO? What’s the difference?
CROPP/Organic Valley, a major player that markets milk from family farms, has over 1,800 farm members with an average herd size of 80 cows. These 13 Texas CAFOs are each milking thousands, some 10,000 cows are more. One organic CAFO is regulated by the state of Colorado to manage 22,000 head. I wish I was making this up!
When I polled organic dairy farmers, and got impressive 30% response rate, they were moving their cattle in and out of pasture and milking them twice a day, averaging one cow per acre.
How does the certification of those giant organic dairy CAFOs work?
Well, in terms of USDA certification, it’s all a secret. Everything that happens on farms is considered, by the regulatory agency, confidential business information. Really? Dairy farming entirely made up of proprietary trade secrets? Authentic organic farmers are transparent and proud of their practices and commonly share knowledge with their peers.
However, CAFOs must file manure or nutrient management plans with the respective states where they are located. I have accessed most of those through freedom of information requests.
One cow per acre?
Try 5-10 cows per acre, many times in desert-like conditions in Texas, New Mexico, and Idaho, and elsewhere in California and the Southwest.
In technical terms, at OrganicEye, we call that an awful stretch.
However, stay tuned, the story gets better.
Those nutrient management plans specify how each field and pasture is managed. On most of these dairies, stored feed is cut from what is called “pasture.” We don’t know what percentage of that feed is harvested for winter use, but let’s pretend it’s 50%.
That would equate to an effective stocking level of … 10-20 cows per acre.
In technical terms, we call that an awful joke.
And the joke gets even better. It’s challenging enough moving herds of dozens of cows, twice a day, into a milking facility and then back to pasture. These mega dairies are pretending they are moving thousands of cows and milking them three times a day, sometimes the high producing animals get milked four times a day. All that works well for the certifiers … on paper.
Legitimate organic dairy producers get the joke. How come the professionals at select certifiers and the USDA have such a poor sense of humor?
If you attend these meetings and participate in the organic regulatory theater staged since the NOSB has been stripped of their power to make a difference, without speaking up about the injustices that real farmers are facing and the betrayal of consumers who built this values-based industry believing in true organic agriculture, you are nothing but an enabler. Enabling injustice and marketplace fraud.
Questions from the board? I’m happy to answer them. Questions from the organic community stakeholders? If you’d like your questions and concerns to be held in confidence, please contact me directly.
Angela Wartes‐Kahl – Organic Integrity Cooperative Guild (General)
[Full comments pending.]
Kyla: Based on your experience inspecting operations who use ion exchange, am I correct that through that verification of the OSP and other federal state authorities regulating food safety, that there’s a lot of oversight?
Angela: Absolutely- monitoring with any QA plant operation- molasses filtration- huge- not small home based systems- industrial process.
Allison: I’m trying to understand how resins fit into the scheme of materials that come into contact with organic products analogous to plastic- risk of leaching. Understanding that a properly functioning resin is not intended to have contact. Could you speak to that risk and how we might provide further assurance or monitoring to keep tabs on that risk.
Angela: Not familiar with testing that would test…. there’s more that happens in terms of filtration after ion exchange. If it was free and floating in the organic product it would be caught past the ion exchange. It’s not like there’s going to be a plastic bead in it.
Allison: Not a piece that could be filtered, but a chemical leaching?
Angela: Their action is to grab and pull out the impurities. They themselves have to be recharged. The plastic is highly stable. The likelihood to find in an organic product is so small. Haven’t seen a test for that. Mostly about if the recharge unit is properly functioning. That you can test. There is information out there around water treatment facilities and how they test their systems we could adopt. Seems far reaching and expensive.
Brian: I must say that I’m not as up on this literature… these beads- are they pure resin or like other plastics- composites in addition to the resin.
Angela: They are a poly-blend. Will send it in the chat.
Nate: If you can send it to Michelle, that would be great. She will send it to the board.
Brian: We get focused on the active ingredient, but there may be other things going on too.
Emily Moyer – International Fresh Produce Association (Crops (CS))
VP Regulatory Compliance and Global Food Safety. Thank you for the work you all do outside of your day jobs. We represent every segment of the global fresh produce supply chain. I will be touching on a few inputs under sunset consideration; please see our written comments on other comments.
Methanol and isopropanol – Support maintaining on the NL. Outbreaks have a highly negative impact on the food industry as a whole. Critical that we have access to a variety of inputs to sanitize and help protect cross contamination and protect public health. Important to maintain this list of options so that operations can rotate their use, as needed.
Plastic mulch – Support for use as weed barriers and moisture retention. Used widely across our industry. In the absence of equally effective tools, loss would be very damaging.
Also support maintaining newspaper for these options, as well.
Later today and on Thursday, you will be hearing from IFPA members on other materials.
Franklin: Interested in finding out view on biodegradable plastic mulch. Heard different things from farmers.
Emily: Something that we commented on last year – in general we were supportive of maintaining BBMF as another option/alternative, noting that the existing plastic mulch is a lot of plastic in the environment. If BBMF was available people would use them. We want BBMF to be on the list to incentivize development in that area.
Wood: With your grower-members: what have you heard about plastic that are breaking down and left behind? And the need to have solutions to recover that materials? What’s the level of engagement for your organization to think about these needs.
Part of the conversation – but growers are in a tough position. There are not those alternative available. From financial standpoint it’s not viable for producers to make the yields they need without the use of plastic mulch. Our committee members can speak more to plastic breakdown in soils. We continue to engage with providers as to what’s new, what’s efficacy, etc. For alternatives.
Wood: I think conversation about “end of life” for plastics needs to be more robust.
Adam Seitz – Quality Assurance International (Handling (HS))
Good afternoon. Adam Seitz here calling in from State College, PA. I’m a senior technical reviewer for Quality Assurance International, a leading provider of organic certification services worldwide. My comment focuses on the Handling subcommittee’s current ion exchange resin recommendation, which QAI supports based on the extensive comments we’ve submitted on the topic. Examining comments that oppose the recommendation, there is a perspective that ion exchange resins are functionally different than other food contact substances and that they are designed to facilitate chemical changes in organic foods. I disagree. There is a change in the makeup of product processed via ion exchange filtration. However, the only substance added to product during ion exchange filtration is coming from recharge materials. This is why the recharge materials do need to be on the National List. Ultimately, resins are regulated by the FDA as food contact substances, they do not qualify as ingredients or processing aids, and as such are outside the NOP’s regulatory authority. Additionally, Ion exchange filtration is commonly used in the purification of several non-organic National List substances, including those classified as non-synthetic and agricultural. Ion exchange filtration is referenced in several of the TERs NOSB uses to classify materials, including for citric acid a non-synthetic and for agricultural forms of glycerin. The assertion that organic food processed with ion exchange filtration is synthetic is not consistent with previous NOSB or NOP classification determinations or official guidance. Per NOP Guidance 5033 Section 4.4 – Classification guidance does not determine the eligibility of a substance for organic certification. Organic food processed with ion exchange filtration is….organic food. Just like organic maple sap processed via reverse osmosis filtration through semi-permeable membranes made up of thin film polyamide composite with a polysulfone porous over-layer makes for delicious, organic maple syrup. In contrast to concerns about the hypothetical contamination of organic product by properly maintained ion exchange systems, ion exchange filtration can be and is often used to remove contaminants from substances. The EPA Drinking Water Treatability Database notes that though typically used for water softening, ion exchange filtration is more frequently being used for the removal of contaminants such as arsenic, chlortetracycline, chromium, cobalt, cyanide, fluoride, mercury, nitrates, PFAS, perchlorate, perfluorooctane sulfonate, radium, and other environmental contaminants. To be clear the question at hand is not just about ion exchange resins, it’s also about the 5000+ other food contact substances that are approved by the FDA as such. Does FCN No 2074 consisting of a tungsten carbide alloy used in food equipment wear parts (meaning it breaks down) require national list inclusion. How about FCN No 2226, a complex polymer used in the manufacture of coatings for repeated use food contact articles? These, like ion exchange resins, like pneumatic ingredient batching systems, like the referenced maple sap RO membrane, like other food processing equipment and food contact substances, are outside the NOPs scope of regulatory authority since they are neither ingredients nor processing aids. Thank you NOSB and NOP for your efforts and for the opportunity to comment.
Brian: Still trying to understand resin issues. You said there is not a chemical change – implying that the recharge materials might be added to the product and that’s why they had to be approved. Isn’t it true that the re-charge products only go into the product as ions? Not sure how you can say there is no chemical change.
Adam: Most forms of food processing results in chemical changes. Mixing anything. The ion may be coming from the recharge material – chemistry is going on in all aspects of food processing. Heating denatures proteins.
Brian: Our criterion for deciding whether something is synthetic or not (chemical change). Just trying to sort it out.
Adam: Classification for substances mentioned does not apply to accessing a product as to whether or not I can be certified.
Kyla: Based on written comments: QAI does follow process as outlined in process. Accurate to say resins QAI currently allows are not a mystery – publicly listed on FDAs inventory? Second, as part of a review of OSP and evaluation of adherence during on-site inspection – do operations incorporate good food operating practices? Is there lots of oversight occurring here?
Adam: Yes, to both of those. Specifically, at QAI, our operations document resins within their OSP. We ask people to list out all sorts of materials they are using, their equipment, what is being used in their maintenance, including their recharge materials. We get spec sheets. Adherence to the OSP gets verified at the inspection. Traceback audits are good for organic control point verification. That would include verifying that the resins used and the recharge materials are documented in the records, and those things should be physically observed on site. Verifying proper maintenance largely falls under federal, state, and local inspections for food safety. Ensuring compliance with 205.272 is part of this. This is verified during every inspection – baked into most checklists. We also verify if there are outstanding compliance issues in any of the food safety inspections. Our inspectors take a look to ensure that equipment is well maintained, but that largely falls under federal, state, local food safety inspection. As far as testing of the resins themselves, that has come up a lot. To be fair, outside of the pesticide residue testing, we do not test for resins, specifically for packaging and such, but these are largely federal food safety concerns. This morning, at the mention of the testing of the resins, I did a bit of a search, and I guess I would recommend that the Board take a look at………. Goes through what they would like to see for these safety testing… These things are looked at and assessed by the FDA as they are approving these food contact substances.
Nate Lewis: Back to classification of ion exchange columns and whether something would be synthetic/non — the reason its still considered non-syn is because of 4.6: at the end of the extraction process there hasn’t been a chemical strain. Anything being used to isolate it isn’t changed from final form. Is that your understanding?
Adam: Yes, those are the criteria we are looking at. Classification is not perfect. There are discrepancies backed into the standards (for example, pectin). It’s just guidance we use to make classifications.
Orzi Dezsi – Executive Director of OMRI
Called upon NOP to make a formal recommendation for materials review organizations.
Crucial link missing from chain of oversight is accreditation of MROs. Nearly 3 decades ago OMRI – today certifiers depend on this for compliance with NOP compliance. Accreditation is vital to provide legal protection for MROs and provide NOP legal authority over MROs. MRO accreditation sends the message that all aspects of organic sector are under NOP oversight. Materials cannot be left out of integrity discussion. Affirms 2011 recommendation that MROs be directly accredited. Time has come for NOP to accredit MROs.
Amy: Interesting comment about accreditation for MROs. How about international cross-collaboration? Agencies for MROs like ACAs for certifiers that are cross-collaborative?
Orzi: There isn’t a formal forum for MROS but we participate in global initiatives and discussions. We’ve attended IFOAM and Biofach and it’s something that gets discussed but nothing specific for MROs.
Mollie Morrissette – Consumer advocate and government regulatory advisor for pet food and animal feed (CACS))
Hi, a regulatory advisor and consumer advisor for safe pet food. $2B pet food market; $18.7B organic pet food market in 2021. Still no standards today! In 2008, the NOSB approved a recommendation for standards specific to pet food, but 14 years later we still need them for consistency. According to OFCO, pet foods must meet human food regs, but I learned that organic pet food certification and agents follow organic regs for organic livestock production, handling, and processing. Found a patchwork of conflicting information. Some ACAs are certifying pet food under a combo of human and livestock rule. were oblivious to human pet food law. Because no guidance, certifiers decide whether for human, livestock, or both. State feed control folks need regs. To preserve NOP integrity, NOP must clarify this so certifiers follow the same rules and consumers can be confident the pet food is made of human food and not animal feed rules.
Nate: Want to make sure you’re tracking that NOSB has made recs on petfood in the past. NOP has promised a rule for some time. We are waiting with baited breath and agree with you.
Mollie: It’s particularly important because the market keeps increasing. Unless we have clear definitions, consumers are at a loss as to what they are getting. What people don’t know, when you’re manufacturing pet food, has to be made in a human plant. Pet food is made in pet plants with different regulations.
Kim: I really appreciate your comments. When we define “pets,” are we speaking specifically to cats and dogs, or are their others?
Mollie: Great question. I only had 3 minutes, so I narrowed my focus to pet food. The law has to include “animal feed” for livestock. It is not just cats and dogs, but other “small animals” such as gerbils and whatnot.
Chiung fang Peng – Taiwan Academy of Ecological Hazard &Health Management (CACS))
Alice Runde – National Organic Coalition (CACS; General)
Good afternoon, my name is Alice Runde, I am the coalition manager for the National Organic Coalition. My comments today pertain to 3 topics: racial equity, participation in the NOSB process, and publication of notes and TRs.
In our comments, we emphasized two things the NOSB could immediately prioritize:
First, anti-racism and cultural sensitivity training for NOSB members:
NOSB members should have a good understanding of the history of racism and oppression that has led to today’s landscape, who has access to land, resources, USDA programs, and organic certification. This training would allow NOSB members to build a critical lens when advising the NOP.
These trainings would also help NOSB members build self-awareness and a culture of support and inclusion on the NOSB.
NOC recommends that the NOP resource the NOSB appropriately for the training, and that this be an intentional, deliberate process rather than just “checking the box” for equity training.
Second, including racial equity as a work agenda item of the CACS Committee
We understand the cumbersome effort of establishing a fully independent subcommittee within the NOSB: we recommend that racial equity be included as a work agenda item in the CACS Committee.
This work agenda item is needed to ensure, amongst other things:
that equity is being discussed and addressed at the NOSB level;
- that barriers to organic certification continue to be identified, understood, and dismantled for BIPOC producers and handlers.
We want to clarify that NOC recognizes other systems of oppression are very much at work in our communities, including discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation. As a coalition, we have deliberately focused our equity work on racial equity because of the demonstrated need for the organic community to acknowledge the history of oppression and discrimination in the institutions we work closely with. This does not mean other systems of oppression are less important and we look forward to focusing on additional equity issues in the future.
Participation in the NOSB process.
NOC recognizes that the Board has put effort into whether meeting dates could be changed to facilitate farmer participation and that it would be very difficult to do so. If the meeting timing cannot be changed, we need to continue to brainstorm ideas to involve farmers that have difficulties making comments during their busiest times.
At a minimum, we ask that some form of communication be set up whereby questions the Board is deliberating on could be publicized in between meetings. Farmer work groups could chew on those questions and give feedback even if they are not able to do so during the formal NOSB meeting schedule.
This issue should be put on the PDS agenda.
Publication of Notes and Technical Reports
The NOSB and stakeholders need to think creatively as to how to transparently share information with all so that stakeholders can give their best input to the NOSB.
Likewise, technical reports that the Board references in documents should be available to the public when those documents are published. We ask that if a TR is not yet publicly published, by the time a NOSB proposal is released, that agenda item should be carried over to the next meeting.
Thank you for taking the time to listen to our comments this week.
Allison: I am excited and interested in the proposal to provide equity training to the Board. I also recognize that it’s a new idea for people who haven’t gone through something like that. Can you give an example or a take-away that NOC has gained from that type of training and what it could look like?
Alice: I’d love to give a more formal answer to the Board. We have hosted a couple of trainings financed by the Human Capital Project by the NOP. Very well received. Followed up with some in-depth training for certifiers and inspectors for self-reflection on how that impacts their work. I know that the NOP is supporting some of these trainings through TOPP. Looking forward to sharing more with the Board on this.
Nate: When you speak about equity and talk about in-person public comments, I am still having a hard time reconciling how a $2,000 expense does not elevate some people’s comments above others? How do we move toward change, recognizing that maybe it is good change.
Alice: Great question. I think that is something I’d like to go back to our coalition with. I think we’ve talked about having 2 modes of comments – these virtual comments, as well as personal connections to happen in relationship in the same physical space.
Nate: It seems that those who show up in person are still going to have an advantage and giving those with the $2,000 and able to attend the meeting an unfair advantage. How does that match with equity?
Alice: I see your point. I will ask others within the Coalition to follow up on that.
Oren Holle – OFARM (General)
I am Oren Holle, I operate a small Certified organic field crops farm in Northeast Kansas. As President of the Organic Farmers Agency for Relationship Marketing, more commonly known as OFARM, I offer comments today on behalf of our field crop producing membership. The majority of our membership consists of smaller operations which fall in the category of what is being referred to as underserved. Our primary emphasis is Cooperative Marketing for our membership. We are pleased to have been accepted as a partner in the recently awarded Climate Smart Ag and Forestry grant. We will also be partnering with the Transitioning to Organic Partnership Program in two regions. These will give us opportunity to showcase the climate smart practices of organic farming and provide opportunity to educate and assist transitioning producers and serve them in the marketing arena as well.
It is ironic to us, that after more than two decades of the National Organic Program being an arm of the USDA that we still need to defend our Climate Smart status. Surely all the production elements of the Organic Foods Production Act should make that issue clear.
As we did in our written comments, we want to commend the NOSB on a well drafted document defending Organic as Climate Smart. It is our hope that this proposal will heighten the recognition within USDA.
Another issue that has become apparent is this. The same companies that dominate the non-organic food market continue their inroads into the organic market. Market fairness will likely become a more prominent issue and the NOSB might do well to place it firmly on their radar screen.
We appreciate the Climate Induced Farming Risk and Crop Insurance Discussion Document. While many elements still beg further consideration this serves as a platform to consider further discussion and action to revise for maximum benefit for organic producers. We see that some of our producers recognize the risk mitigation RMA can provide.
We also see the attention the Certification, Accreditation, Compliance Subcommittee is providing regarding Oversight Improvements to Deter Fraud in the Consistent Location Identification Discussion Document. With The Standard for Organic Enforcement, now having become reality, this certainly provides many opportunities to provide much greater surveillance.
While this document doesn’t directly reference the issue of Import Certificates it still appears that there remains a shortfall in requirements to assure that pending import shipments are identified as organic prior to arrival. This is a concern as our producers are constantly affected by, oftentimes huge, shipments of organic feedstuffs. We believe the NOSB Compliance Subcommittee might do well to stay engaged in the application of the many SOE elements. The testing of incoming shipments protocols begs particular attention.
As we consider the many Research Priorities that are being championed by various organizations representing a diverse complement of producers, we would like to point to a particular emphasis needed for the benefits of cover crops in in a wide variety of organic production applications. They remain a fundamental rotation process for successful organic production.
When GMO contamination is being considered, we remind the NOSB, that our membership of organic field crop producers remains fully committed to our position of disallowance of any forms of GMOs in organic production. In addition, we also that stand firm in our position that the patent holders of these technologies should be responsible in doing their fair share in risk mitigation and should be held responsible for contamination consequences.
Our field crop producers are also obligated to provide an Organic Systems Plan that clearly demonstrates soil building as a fundamental requirement. Given that requirement, they simply cannot understand how any form of soil-less production can possibly meet organic certification. Somehow, it seems. we have varied from the application of commonsense when hydroponics are being discussed.
It is our understanding that the NOSB is obligated to evaluate issues based on interpretation of the Organic Foods Production Act. It appears that there may be a need to apply that principle in a more fundamental procedure.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment today.
Amy: Saw in written comments that you requested NOSB work on resolution to tighten timing requirements for import requirements.
Oren: Indication from Glasgow (at the NOP) that there was still opportunity for shipments to be unloaded and enter commerce before import certificate catches up. We should see an import certificate before the load arrives.
John Foster – Wolf & Associates ‐ The Organic Specialists (General)
Provided comments for review. Consulting firm that specializes in organic. A big priority is supporting more organic acreage and getting organic food to as many people as possible. On the board years ago and helpful to remember “essentiality.” It’s contextual and not universal. Always in context of a practice standard. It’s the certifiers job to make sure used in right context. Need by a few for a material ought to be enough if it meets the remaining criteria. Need of few is just as important to those few. Idea of registry of commercially available materials. My hope is registry that includes all allowances by certifiers – whether ingredient, seed, or others – would be compiled in one spot. We need a single source of truth –observation is a lot of inconsistency and a single registry would do the trick. Organic seed use would be a great place to start where current system hasn’t done justice. This is regulatory matter. Sounds radical at first, but it’s just half step from familiar. Would create incentives for organic ingredients to replace non-organic. Citric acid is an example – organic should be used instead of nonorganic.
Kyla: Related to the 606 registry (and seeds) — who do you envision is the overseer for said database. There was at some point a 606 database and that fizzled out. Who best to be the keeper of said registry?
There is resistance to it, but the NOP is the best place, using the backbone of OID. It would need to be a neutral party: something organized at that level because everyone has service agreement with their certifiers to not reveal business info. It’s a compliance issue. As an extension of OID because there is no private entity that will get all the information from every entity.
Wood: Your points about essentiality: anything specific you are referring to? Are there materials where there is a different approach to essentiality?
John: What I hear often is a lot of comment that pre-supposes that operators need a material to justify its use. My observation is that there is an underlying assumption that most people should need the material for it to be allowed. Just because some people can go without a material, does not go to essentiality. Especially when we think about application of NOP standards being applied globally. Any one thing, one solution, pre-supposes that that one thing is available to every operator. I don’t want the national list to be a tool for exclusivity, it should be an inclusive list that drive availability and not as a tool to keep people out.
Amy: Commercial availability question: can you share the items that are on your radar that have organic products available?
John: Yes, I can share. Citric acid, collagen, etc. Some of these there is no regulatory incentive to drive people to these organic products.
Kim: Any parallels with essentiality and commercial availability form perspective that commercial avail could then negate essentiality of a product that someone might say is essential in non-organic farm (based on where they live) versus availability to the masses?
John: I don’t think it’s parallel but inter-dependency. It could be local, state, or regional: if an item is available in one area and not others then the functional commercial availability is different.
Kim: I do think having a resource for people to show they have a resource in organic form is a good idea.
Nate Lewis: You touched on something important about organic seeds – partial avail of seeds. Thoughts on how the current interactions of the regulations & guidance, and certifiers, may be contributing to the problem of having farmers not use more organic seed.
John: Kiki Hubbard provided a status of organic seed. Concern is that we are 20+ years into regulation and there are tons of organic seed because they are not used bc the current system does not provide that information in a single place. We don’t know what is available or what is needed. If I was a seed breeder and could go to my CFO saying there is a need/market for a certain seed, it would be helpful data. Need data to incentivize production. Current system hasn’t worked: because if someone waits long enough to order organic seed there is a good chance they know the right time to make that request and they have sold out. Intentional avoidance at best. But things like this are quite common. It takes a long time to breed organic seed that is good for processing specs. For example Earthbound Farm: required a contract to grow a lot of seed and no one wanted to promise first. Seed companies have a lot of risk not wanting to invest a lot of money without a guaranteed sale. The suggested database would allow growers to know how much seed is needed and then there would be a higher bar for producers saying the seed is not commercially available. But seed registries have not survived; I think because they have been in non-regulatory environment.
Jane Sooby – CCOF (CACS)
Good afternoon. I’m Jane Sooby with CCOF. Thank you NOSB members and NOP staff for your hard work to maintain organic integrity and for this opportunity to comment. I will focus on the importance of organic research and the research priorities put forth by the Materials Subcommittee.
First I’d like to thank the subcommittee for compiling and sharing organic research priorities. Publicly funded agricultural research is something that conventional producers can take for granted, while historically the percentage of USDA research dollars invested into organic research has been lower than the percentage of organic market share.
But over the years we’ve accumulated a strong body of basic organic research, and this is why we can state with confidence that organic agriculture is playing a key role in mitigating climate change. Organic farming builds healthy soils that store carbon and does not rely on fossil fuel-derived fertilizers and pesticides, which reduces energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.
Because research clarifies the benefits of organic and provides the basis for Extension outreach advising growers on how to optimize crop and livestock production, CCOF joins with other partner organizations to advocate for increased organic research funding in the Farm Bill. The Subcommittee’s list of research priorities is a valuable resource in guiding scientists toward doing work that will address organic producer’s needs.
This year, policymakers and legislators are working on a new Farm Bill. Some of you may be surprised to learn that the Research Title of the Farm Bill is where organic has made the most strides in terms of funding. The 2018 Farm Bill included the first-ever baseline funding for an organic program, the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI). Baseline funding is mandatory and not subject to annual appropriations. In addition, programs with baseline funding are automatically carried over into the next Farm Bill. It’s important to protect this gain.
The Subcommittee prioritized key research areas, all of which are needed. Additional priority research areas include:
• organic pastured poultry production;
• expanding sources of domestic livestock and poultry feed;
• optimizing soil nutrient cycling and recycling;
• as noted by the committee, studying the nutritional composition of organic compared with conventional foods and publicizing the results;
• economic analyses of the projected effect on organic prices by widespread entry of new farmers into organic through USDA’s Organic Transition Initiative; and
• Documenting the contribution to state and national economies by the organic sector.
I encourage organic stakeholders to use the Materials Subcommittee’s Research Priorities Discussion Document and other resources to advocate for organic research in the Farm Bill.
Franklin: I am interested as a researcher myself. Grants in research is a problem- waiting for the next source of funds. I want to go into it a little more about the need for more funding for research, but also these breaks in between funding cycles- where do these researchers find money to keep research going during these breaks? In organic agriculture, our problems, we don’t have quick fixes. We need the data long before the problem arises. Not just the funds available, but the continuity for researchers to keep doing what they do.
Jane: Thank you for raising that concern. That has been a long-standing challenge and a dismantling of the soft funding for agricultural research in the land grant system. That was occurring decades ago- I would love for more institutionalized funds and capability through the land grant system. Unfortunately, they made a decision to move towards this competitive model. One solution is to advocate for longer-term research funding for 3+ years in order to have sufficient data to conduct your analysis and be able to publish. I don’t know what lese to say other than that organic research has been institutionalized in some states- dedicated research stations dedicated to organic research.
Franklin: One quick comment: I would like to say- the economic impact of new funding coming into the transition community- what kind of economic impact- is there a fear by existing group of farmers that that will negatively impact them? What are we looking at that with that economic impact analysis.
Jane: USDA has acknowledged that it’s important to have more organic in the country. 300 Mil OTI- CCOF is lead in our region. Farmers in our region have concern at periods of time when prices are low and producers have to sell product at conventional prices that bringing in organic producers could lower prices further or lead to increased competition. We need to look at our market development side of that equation and understand what we’re getting into in bringing new farmers in. CCOF completely supports OTI and the transition of every new acre into organic certification. We need to have our eyes wide open as we enter that phase.
Margaret Scoles – IOIA (General)
Members of the NOSB, NOP, friends, and colleagues:
IOIA is the leading worldwide training and networking organization for organic inspectors. We represent about 200 inspectors in more than a dozen countries.
We have submitted written comments on the CAC Discussion Document,
“Oversight Improvements to Deter Fraud: Consistent Location Identification”.
I will speak to two things.
First, IOIA is heartened to see how much has happened within our community since the NOSB prioritized Human Capital and the NOP followed with the funding initiative. And it isn’t all NOP funding or initiatives. The entire community has really stepped up to address the human capital problem.
IOIA’s current human capital priority is developing and supporting apprenticeship for organic professionals. About two years ago, Organic Valley agreed in principle to help us launch an industry-supported apprenticeship program for inspectors. You probably heard that announcement at an NOSB meeting. Livestock was identified as a key area where apprenticeship was sorely needed. I’m proud to say that with a Farmers Advocating for Organic grant, IOIA and FAFO will be cosponsoring a livestock apprenticeship intensive the last week of July in Wisconsin – the first of what we hope will be many.
I serve on the board of IFOAM North America. The reason our president, Jennifer Taylor, is not commenting this round is because she is so busy organizing workshops on BIPOC farms in Virginia this coming weekend with IFOAM North America projects funded by Southern SARE and OFRF. We see much positive collaboration!
Second, IOIA is pleased to have developed a Policy Comment Process and Decision Tree for choosing how and when we comment. We prioritize those issues of direct concern or impact for inspectors. We have a highly engaged and knowledgeable group of inspectors on our Policy Comment Committee. If necessary, we survey our members when consensus cannot be reached among our committee. The committee’s draft policy is sent to our Board of Directors for review. In 2022, we added a Policy Comment Committee Facilitator to assist their work. We feel we are well organized to provide meaningful input to the NOSB process. However, when we are given less than one month to prepare our comments, it is quite challenging. There was no time to conduct a survey, and the board received the committee comments for review about 2 days before the submission deadline. Very little time for meaningful discussion. We ask that you set a goal to provide the NOSB meeting documents farther in advance.
Nate: Were you able to read, or are you part of the drafting process of the IOIA comments?
Margaret: I read it three times today, and I did read it. I realize my signature is on the bottom.
Nate: In the CACS, we have a geolocating issue. There is a concern that certifiers does not have a consistent way to locate fields or even know where to find all fields of a producer. Do you think it is fair to say that the tech wouldn’t be that much of a big deal with we were able to get all of the geolocations of a field given that most inspectors have a smartphone?
Margaret: The simple answer is that yes, we think that is probably the best.
Bill Wolf – Wolf & Associates, Inc. and Second Star Farm (Misc)
[Full comments pending.]
Nathiel: In looking at last slide, screaming out our message, how do we think about continuous improvement and not throwing baby out with bath water – how do we have hard discussion internally but not have it become publicly facing story that we aren’t good enough.
Bill: Recommending organic marketing order back on table and making it initiative of organic community and that processing industry would handle bulk of cost of it. Marketing agreement could shout out consistently benefit of organic. Board could create a task force to look into or make it an agenda item. All points I’ve tried to make are something board can take up. We’re in midst of farm bill debate, and Board has huge ability to talk directly to secretary and not just giving organic a passing look but all the things we’ve been talking about. It is a powerhouse for climate change. Organic farming methods can collect more carbon by its very nature of structural dynamic by how we farm. Board has huge agenda, but many things can be doing. Reason we talk internally about public and written comments w/ advisors group, the two big issues – not having huge voting issues this meeting; considering them well in advance which is awesome, but we decided let’s start talking about bigger strategic issues and can board somehow allocate time to that.
Nathaniel: Thanks for succinct bullet points.
Carolyn: How do you see balancing risk mitigation and insuring viability of existing organic farms and bringing new farms on board.
Bill: Would bringing more on board adversely affect current farms?
Carolyn: How about stabilized market and economic viability for existing farms while at same time expanding acreage?
Bill: good question. A lot of things to protect current organic farmers – OSP should be automatic go-to to qualify for crop insurance. Numerous places current farmers should get a free pass. One is marketing of chain of custody of local foods into processed foods. Need to encourage more domestic purchasing and starting to happen with how USDA allocating money. Money for research is embarrassingly low. Why isn’t USDA putting money into where the growth is. We started saying this to USDA 15 years ago. Organic Marketing Order would also help current farmers b/c would have seat at table about how money spent.
Carolyn: organic farmers don’t feel USDA hears or understands them. How does this fit in? More USDA money to help transition – how do you have change coming from small to mid scale – asking them to jump on board with farm programs.
Bill: touched on one my pet peeves of OFPA. Small farmers should have been given option to use term “organic” and should have been able to use this if selling person to person. Should open OFPA to that and small farmers would respect organic again.
Jo Ann Baumgartner – Wild Farm Alliance (General)
Wild Farm Alliance has been advocating for the NOP to implement the NOSB’s Native Ecosystem protections since 2018 when the recommendation was made. I want to dispel any misconceptions that we are a consumer organization that does not work with many farmers with the same concerns.
Our main constituents are farmers. A recent hedgerow video we made had over 10,000 views. We work to help farmers support and benefit from wild nature. Our mission states that we promote a healthy, viable agriculture.
I bring this up because organic growers need native ecosystems for their farms to function well. Many farmers we work with recognize that they shouldn’t cut off their nose to spite their face.
Destroying existing native habitat and ecosystems nationally and internationally to quickly produce certified organic crops threatens the integrity of organic farming practices, weakens the environment that farmers rely on for pollinators and natural enemies and removes valuable habitat for many kinds of wildlife.
There are 4,000 native bee species in the US, and while some can be supported on organic farms, we need to conserve a diversity of native ecosystems to provide habitat for the overwhelming majority of them.
The same is true for beneficial insects and birds. Ladybug beetles will overwinter in native deergrass and other native plants, and conserving native ecosystems means farmers can count on these beneficials to still be around when they need them.
A pair of Barn Owls and four young will eat up to 3,400 rodents in a year, but they spend only 1/3rd of their time on the farm, and require grasslands, woodlands and riparian areas – all native ecosystems – for the rest of their sustenance.
Native species have nowhere to go when their habitat is destroyed. Niches are almost always filled, meaning that there is no room if they try to make a living elsewhere. They inevitably compete with residents and the strongest wins out. But the world loses as our biodiversity dwindles.
Most organic farmers that had to transition their land for three years do not think it is fair for others to be certified quickly after destroying a native ecosystem. The transitional farmers had to forfeit organic premiums while they increase the environmental quality of their land. Meanwhile the farmers destroying ecosystems make more money while they significantly decrease the environmental value. The NOP needs to eliminate the incentive to destroy native ecosystems, making a more level playing field for farmers, and conserving the biodiversity necessary for pollinator and natural enemy health on functioning organic farms.
Dana Perls – Friends of the Earth (Materials (MS); General)
Food & Technology Manager.
Excluded Methods – Appreciates the NOSB’s careful examination of emerging technologies. Concerned with induced mutagenesis and ask the NOP to include this in the list of prohibited techniques. We are concerned about what happens if the mutagen is UV light, etc. We believe that if the mutagen is a chemical or irradiation, should be considered an excluded method. There may be types of mutagenesis that might not be included, such as environmental stressors, which are naturally occurring and should be considered an allowed method. If induced mutagenesis is caused by something that is not natural, then it should be listed as an excluded method. We encourage the NOSB to distinguish between the two.
Mindee: Thank you for watching biotech industry. Worry about developing tech entering the food system. Would love to avoid back-track process looking at technologies. It would be helpful to give us a heads up about new and emerging GE products that could impact organic. Like insects and bacteria.
Dana: Concern about GE soil microbes. Agree we need to have a basis for testing and regulation to ensure organic does not get impacted by the emerging technologies.
Mindee: Who tracks these?
Dana: rRNA pesticides is EPA and the soil microbes are likely EPA, but it depends on what the use is. There are questions around GE animals, which would be FDA. There are a lot of comments to all these agencies about the confusion which pesticides and technologies are handled by which agencies.
Mindee: Harmonization order for biotechnology: will this help achieve more inter-agency cooperation?
Dana: Some of the heads of agencies including USDA are pushing for de-regulation, which is a serious threat. Pushing for consistency for definitions across agencies and international organizations. The executive order could help adopting uniform definitions. But de-regulation is going to be a big problem. Things will be flying under the label under GRAS.
Brian: Induced mutagenesis and UV radiation – what about really high levels of UV radiation that would be way beyond what we would get in sunlight – is that something that we would not consider excluded?
Dana: There is a concern about what happens with those higher levels of UV light. Particularly, whether or not this would alter the gnome. In that case, particularly if it isn’t a natural level of UV light, I think that is a bit tricky and we should address it. I would love to give you more information. I may have to follow up because it gets into nitty gritty details. I think we need to make clear distinctions about what would be allowed and what wouldn’t. I would like to follow up on what that level of distinction would be.
Brian: Please send a note to Michelle. If you would have some great ideas on how to address some of these new decisions on EM that are going to be coming in all of the germ plasm that is already out there. We do not have time for that now, but I’d love to hear your comments on that, too.
Nate: Want to remind folks that excluded methods are already prohibited in the regulations now. Enjoying hearing these in-the-weeds discussions, but we already have a blanketed prohibition.
Malaika Elias – Friends of the Earth (Materials (MS); General)
Food and tech campaigner. Comment on two issues (1) organic is climate smart (2) chemicals in packaging. Allocating funding for climate smart agriculture – organic is a climate solution. Organic farming systems can mitigate climate change. Research has found that organic soils sequester more carbon. Healthy soils conserve water. Organic agriculture reduces energy use and eliminates synthetic fertilizer that come from oil and fossil fuels. Some organic systems use 70 percent less energy. Industrial meat and dairy are major culprits in climate crisis. Pasture based systems can help sequester carbon. USDA must increase funding to organic as climate solution.
Chemicals used in food packaging – PFAS are toxic and should be prohibited from organic. Found through packaging in production and cause endocrine disruption. Appreciate NOSB recommendation that this is a research priority.
Wood: Could you restate point about energy intensity of conventional versus organic farms and what difference is attributable to?
Malaika: Want to get clarification and data from team. Will follow up via chat or email.
David Meyer – CP Kelco (Materials (MS))
Manufacturers of hydrocolloids. Xanthan & High Acyl Gellan.
Xanthan is produced by fermentation. (Kind of like brewing beer.) Currently allowed under 205.605 – allowed synthetics. Provides thickening, suspension, cling. It is cold soluble – useful for beverages. Excellent syneresis control – such as when you open a personal yogurt and the whey protein squeezes out the extra liquid. Works on wide range of ph / temperatures/ enzyme stability. It is used in all sorts of products – both food and consumer products.
Gellan gum – produced via fermentation – 205.605(a) – nonsynthetics allowed. Really good at suspension. Used in a lot of beverages. Vitamins, minerals, cocoa, particles. Used in food and personal care products.
Please refer to our written comments for further information.
Dave Chapman – non profit organization (General)
Hello. I am Dave Chapman. I’m a farmer and co-director of the Real Organic Project. Real Organic was created as a response to the failures of the National Organic Program. As most of you know, we are an add-on label to the USDA organic program. We certify over a thousand US farms. And we have a joint venture with the German-based certifier Naturland. Naturland, (also an add-on,) certifies over 140,000 farms around the world. Our standards are simple, affirming what has been laid out in the Organic Food Production Act.
I am here today to call on the NOSB to push for the end of hydroponics being certified as organic. This is not a settled issue, and it never will be until the USDA organic rejoins the world organic movement.
In the last year, the USDA has given billions of dollars to support so-called “climate-smart” agriculture. Only a tiny amount of that money went to organic production. All the rest went to what is now being called Regenerative Agriculture.
Regenerative is rapidly coming to be defined by the largest food and ag companies on the planet. These are the same companies that have caused so much of the environmental and climate destruction. They are the same companies that organic is meant to be an alternative to.
And they are now insisting that our movement is not “regenerative” because NOP’s organic certification is no longer based on soil health or pasture raised livestock.
And they are right…
You can be running a certified organic hydro operation with no regard to the complex interactions between plants and living soil. Such hydro producers are no longer small outliers. Such companies are now the biggest players in certified organic berries and tomatoes. Peppers and greens are coming fast.
Three years ago the director of marketing for a very large conventional hydroponic tomato company stood in front of you in the Pittsburgh meeting and mocked my earlier comments on “the magic of soil” and “the soul of organic,” calling them “bits of marketing fluff.”
Soil is a bit of marketing fluff? Really? Where is our outrage?
The NOP has a wound that won’t heal. The hydroponic issue is not going away, but the public trust in USDA Organic WILL go away. It was laboriously built up over many years. Please don’t let that happen. Let us acknowledge that a mistake has been made. The Organic brand is too precious to squander. Our movement is too important. Please dig in and fight for what is right.
Brian: Thanks, Dave. I am feeling like you guys might be a source of information = scientific studies of energy use or carbon impact from conventional vs. Operations, or hydro vs. Organic… much less likely there would be research on that. If you have any of that and can forward that to us, it would be great to look at that.
Dave: I’ve seen such a study from Cornell on vertical greens. There must be something on hydro, but I’ve not seen it. If I find it, I will send it to you.
Nate PP: Conventional regen folks are coming for organic because we have hydro: I’ve never heard that. I’ve only ever heard that our tillage is bringing that. Hydro would be the opposite of that. Who is saying this?
Dave: The nastiest voice is Syngenta.
Nate PP interrupts- because of organic?
Dave: no because they think the world will starve. You’re saying we’re losing the culture?
Dave: It’s not only hydroponic. It’s very hard in a public hydroponic in such a group to say organic is all about soil health. it’s just not for USDA organic. in hydroponic, there’s no soil involved.
Nate PP: Do you have data on economic harm because of hydroponic? So many $$ left soil farms… there’s a crisis. we want to be clear about source data?
Dave: I can tell you my thoughts- the nature of this conversation, and I’ve been in it since the beginning. It’s impossible to say what the impact is, because the major hydroponic producers publicly insist they are not hydroponic. The biggest producers say they are not growing hydro, they’re growing in containers. That immediately becomes a difficult conversation for someone who doesn’t know about this. Where would you get the numbers?
Nate PP: I would think folks would report their loss of market share?
Dave: There’s a growers’ cooperative in Vermont called Deep Root. They reported to me that they lost a half million dollar tomato contract with Whole Foods. Given 2 weeks noticed, and switched to hydroponic. That was a definite example of significant shift in the market place.
Nate Lewis: Not sure if you were following that my wife and I got ROP certified on our farm. It does seemingly hinge on the traceability and transparency elements that NOP provides. My question is on the crops you identified. Tomatoes and berries—others that were not far behind.
Dave: What I said was that coming fast – growing rapidly – greens and peppers. I do know there are fairly large-scale greens operations that are certified and are hydroponic. These are the kind that you float them across the pond. I think they are going to be a major market force soon. Peppers – from the beginning, we have been importing from Holland, but I’m seeing a lot come in from Mexico now, as well.
Nate: Given the outcome of the lawsuit with USDA allowing certification of hydro operations, what do you feel NOP can be doing?
Dave: It would be wonderful if you pushed the NOP act on the current recommendation, the 2010 recommendation, which says that hydro cannot be certified as organic. If you urged them to action on that, it would be marvelous and meaningful.
Nate: With the outcome of the lawsuit, hydro will be certified. To work with the clay we are given, is there a certain avenue for writing standards for container and greenhouse production – can we think bigger than just standards to protect markets? Is there something that has a bigger lever of…
Dave: Point of clarification – the outcome of the lawsuit did not rule that hydro is qualified for certification or that they clearly met the rules of the OFPA. It was published in a way to show that they are clearly not setting a precedent. It said that it would not go against USDA’s decision, so if USDA changed its minds, the courts would not oppose that. In terms of trade, it will be interesting when the EU puts out their new regulations. Mexico is a big question.
Franklin: How do you compare Hydro to conventional agriculture in terms of the impact it has on the environment, energy footprint, etc. Do you think that hydroponics is a viable option, just that we don’t want it labeled as organic? One that contributes to agriculture? Do you have issues with just organic?
Dave: I think that hydroponic that is unsprayed is better than hydro that is sprayed. Hydro is a viable way of producing food. I would rather see organic production in the ground. Hydro works financially in this world. It can be reasonable about avoiding pesticides. It does not do well in terms of energy compared to field production. I am not trying to shut down hydroponics- some of my best friends are hydro producers. I have common friends with jerry on the board. Not trying to get rid of hydro- that’s like trying to get rid of beer. But it should not be called organic, and only in America is it certified organic- not anywhere else. I believe it seriously undermines the ability of organic to go from 1% to 30% because it’s hard to build a movement standing on a shaky foundation.
Jerry: I find that I really do not have a question – I have a strong desire to debate, which generates the question – will you be in Atlanta?
Dave: I am not planning to come, but would love to come and have a conversation with you.
Jerry: The only thing that prompted me to raise my hand was the statement that you said you couldn’t find a lot of information on hydroponic production, and I was going to volunteer to help you.
Dave: That’s good. Studying hydro has not been my mission in life. I agree that there must be a ton of research out there.
Matt Begley – Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (Livestock (LS); Materials (MS))
My name is Matt Begley and I am the Material Review Specialist at OEFFA. I would like to take this time to reiterate many of the concerns addressed in OEFFA’s written comments regarding the Phosphoric Acid listing at 205.603(a) and sanitizers in general.
We would like to see a broad review of sanitizers. There is some inconsistency among certifiers as to when or whether to review inactive ingredients or just active ingredients when on the NL. Some of these are addressed in TR’s (such as for hydrogen peroxide), but their inclusion, as a standard in the industry and to create effective products, can create difficulty for operations to find approved sanitizers.
We have experienced that our farmers do not always consider milk bulk tanks to be part of the “milking equipment,” and different sanitizers are used for bulk tanks and milking equipment and lines. This has led to bulk tanks often not getting rinsed even when used with products that would require one under NOP regulations. An industry sales rep informed us that chlorine materials are incompatible with bulk tank cooling plates over the long-term, and peracetic acid can taint the flavor and smell of the milk. If rinsing is not permitted for the PMO compliance of the sanitizer, then it is even more difficult for farmers to find a compliant product.
There are few options for farmers to remain in compliance with their State Dept’s of Agriculture as well as the NOP. Phosphoric acid is the preferred choice for sanitizing a bulk tank in many cases, and rinsing is potentially counteractive to the sanitizing process and may be in direct violation to the product’s labeling.
We have two EPA-registered phosphoric acid sanitizers in use by our operations that clearly indicate to let air dry before use of equipment. They contain only phosphoric acid as the active ingredients, and inactive ingredients which are not on the National List, and therefore we would require operations to rinse these products before contact with milk. We would like to see discussion around the use of phosphoric acid-based and other sanitizers that can be approved for use without a rinse based on current formulations to meet NOP and PMO compliance.
Finally, we request for the annotation at 205.603(a)(25) “Provided, That, no direct contact with organically managed livestock or land occurs” be clarified, as most or all certifiers would allow milking parlor wastewater to be applied to organic fields due to limited rural options for wastewater disposal. This usually happens indirectly via a manure lagoon or septic tank but also sometimes occurs directly in irrigation. If phosphoric acid was allowed without a rinse, then it would not wind up in wastewater and no land contact could occur.
We want to ensure that our dairy operations are able to continue producing a safe, high-quality product. We would appreciate further discussion on phosphoric acid and other sanitizers so they may be reviewed in light of industry practices and provide a path for dairy operations to meet their multiple compliance obligations.
Edward Maltby – Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (CACS; Livestock (LS); General(
Ed Maltby, executive director of the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance
The first of my comments is to thank the Board and all the USDA NOP employees for the work they do to ensure the integrity of the organic label. Thousands of producers rely on the integrity of this certification to provide a sustainable income for their family farms. The NOSB, as an independent advisory committee, is an important and invaluable part of the process that consumers and producers count on to ensure that their voice is heard, that regulations are practical and workable on the farm and that decisions made reflect the intent and law of the Organic Foods Production Act. Organic certification is soil based.
NOSB members need greater support for doing their work. NOSB membership is time consuming, and often requires producers and other limited resource Board members to hire labor to look after their farms and other jobs during their service. The Board members work throughout the year on committees plus research. To guarantee that serving on the NOSB is not effectively restricted to those with full-time salaries, and recognizing the restriction of FACA regulations, USDA need to explore any opportunity that these expenses can be reimbursed or pre-paid.
We support the comments of Jim Riddle and others that hydroponics production systems are not climate smart and should not be certified organic. In allowing the “organic” certification of hydroponic operations, USDA NOP is undermining the ability of organic producers to ethically claim that all organic production systems are “climate-smart.” Organic dairy is suffering catastrophic economic conditions with a consistently low pay price and ever-increasing cost of inputs. These farm families need every marketing opportunity and all the integrity of organic certification to verify to consumers that their soil based production systems are revitalizing their farms, their soil and the environment. Eventually they might boost their net income.
NODPA supports the relisting of the following Sunset materials:
Alcohols: Ethanol and Isopropanol which are essential and standard for health care procedures in livestock.
Aspirin: Common conditions in which farmers employ aspirin include mastitis, soft tissue injuries, arthritis, pain control when cows have foot rot, and fever.
Biologics -Vaccines: Provided that, vaccines produced through excluded methods may only be used when an equivalent vaccine not produced through excluded methods is not commercially available.
Electrolytes: Electrolytes are basic to proper care for animals in various conditions arising from many different causes.
Glycerin- allowed as a livestock teat dip,
Phosphoric acid: It is used to remove deposits on milking equipment, so its use is slightly different from other “sanitizers.” This is something that we need to keep in our tool chest.
We would benefit from a comprehensive review of sanitizers, disinfectants and cleaners to inform decision making when a new material is petitioned, or a material is reviewed at sunset.
Lime, Hydrated: It is only for use as a topical treatment, external parasiticide or local anesthetic and that it be used with the restriction that other methods have been tried prior to use (i.e. proper management of herds). It is not used “regularly” to control parasites in animal herds. Producers only use hydrated lime for parasitic control when other methods have been tried prior to use. Proper management of herds should ensure that conditions for parasite development are reduced or prevented.
Mineral oil: For topical use and as a lubricant.
No meeting that I’ve ever gone to has cost me $2,000. There are cheaper places to stay, and you can always go to a Subway to get a sandwich. In addition, we must note that internet access is not universal. Further, I can tell you that at my age, I would much rather look someone in the eye as I talked to them rather than look at a camera hanging off a screen on my computer.
Nate: On organic dairy, it seems that we have put a lot of eggs in the basket of standards. Grazing Rule, OOL…will fix the oversupply problem. At what point do we start looking bigger? If 30 years ago we had looked at small dairy land, we would see that dairy is prone to oversupply, without something like a quota, such as CA has. When do we start looking at driving demand and how do we get it so that organic milk makes up half of purchases, or that 10% of all school milk is organic?
Ed: This committee meeting has been going on for longer than anticipated, I can talk for 4-5 hours about this. Conventional dairy is heavily subsidized, that’s why we’re putting forth a safety net program for a fair organic price. When you look at the pasture rule, then OOL, the OOL and the intent within the original rule was that it would take 3 years to transition. that 1 year transition could have been phased out. You had massive growth in 2015 because OOL was not implemented equally. SOE does address some of that enforcement, but I would challenge any of the certifiers as to if they have qualified inspectors to inspect a 10,000 cow dairy and get a good picture of what’s going on. What’s happened….
Nate PP interrupts: How do we increase demand?
Ed: highlighting the qualities of organic milk. It’s going to cost more, because it costs more to produce. Doesn’t mean that producer is going to get more. We should also look at regionality of milk – rather than carting milk so far – look at carbon footprint. Need to look at integrity of organic milk without allowing someone to undermine the market, as they have in the past.
Mike Dill – Organic Produce Wholesalers Coalition (CACS; General)
[Full comments pending.]
Amy: Potassium sorbate – potentially shows some promise; I did read the article you included from Cornell. Is there any other research you can point to that there is promise here?
Mike: For other resources, no. Want to clarify some speculative statements in there. There are a lot of “shoulds” and “coulds” in there and the fact that it contains urea. We want more time with this and we spent bulk of our time with 2002 TR and wasn’t until we presented comment to whole coalition that we looked back and saw new petition so didn’t have a chance to review it. Want to give fair trial and not dismiss it given new information. Knowing potential this could work against powdery mildew, it’s worth looking into if compatible with organic systems and meets requirements then should consider it.
Nathiel: Reference to member voting with heart – describe how you would like us to orate with him we spoke before we vote.
Mike: It is a heavy question. I think what I have seen as being missing from the last several NOSB meetings – before your time – is that we do not hear a lot about the groups that the chairs represent. When we are talking about climate smart ag proposal, I would like to hear a lot from the environmental groups and consumer interest groups on what they are hearing. It seems like hearing Jerry, for instance, he read all of the comments and this is what he feels is the consensus among this group or that group to really get a sense that this vote resents the group that you present by your seat on the Board. I apologize for using that exact quote, but I think it helped illustrate the point and could have been an opportunity to say, “My heart is here, but this is what the group that I represent thinks…” To set that vote solely on this is my heart, even though I’ve read 1,000s of pages from stakeholders, I’d like to see a little more of “the handlers feel this,” “the crop producers feel this,” “the … feel this.”
Brian: A follow-up to that – do you think the consumer is by far the biggest group of stakeholders?
Mike: By #, I would say yes, but they are not the ones that are all responding here. That’s an interesting question.
Brian: I represent that group, and there are a lot of responses in our written comments.
Mike: I’m not trying to say that one outweighs the other – the Board represents huge industry and millions of consumers – it is a balance. We’d like to see a bit more on where each Board member focused when they were considering their vote, “These are the comments that stuck out to me from consumers…” Each person reads the same comments, but summarizes from their constituent groups – that would be helpful to us. We try to read as many comments as we can, but we cannot get through them all.
Mindee: There was a section of your comments that I need to re-read – were you suggesting that a TR template should be developed solely for the excluded methods work?
Mike: Not specific to EM, but it would be included into the regular TR.
Jackie DeMinter – MOSA Certified Organic (Misc)
Good afternoon, my name is Jackie DeMinter. I am the Certification Policy Manager at MOSA. Thank you for the opportunity to comment. MOSA certifies almost 1,900 organic operations throughout the United States, including over 700 crop/livestock, 875 crop, and 325 handling operations. I’m commenting today primarily on the discussion document for technical reports.
We use Technical Reports to gain a deeper understanding of materials on the National List and to review why some materials didn’t make the cut. The current format is easily followed and we find all information sections very helpful to understand the material. We also use TRs to support our decision-making on materials and think they are especially helpful when the decision is tricky to make.
We regularly reference the petitioned substances database. Being able to follow a material through the process is a very helpful understanding to have and the consolidation of the petition, Technical Reports, all the NOSB work, and the final decision in one place for each material and scope considered is extremely useful. We appreciate this easily accessible resource.
A similar approach to review of excluded methods would seem as if it could work and also be very helpful information to have available. We would appreciate the resource. Thank you for the work you have put into developing and maintaining the Excluded Methods chart. We include the chart on our Excluded Methods form and use it as a reference in MOSA decision-making. In one circumstance, a client indicated they used an induced mutagenesis process and assumed that it was prohibited, however after a more careful review of the chart’s exclusions for Induced Mutagenesis, additional follow-up with the manufacturer, and discussion with OMRI, we determined that the type of induced mutagenesis used was chemical, and therefore not currently prohibited. Thank you again for maintaining this very helpful resource. We support using a technical report approach to gather additional information on excluded methods when deemed appropriate.
We also submitted a letter on sunset materials including Information about materials our clients’ use and answers to the stakeholder questions relevant to our work as a certification agency.
Finally, we want to be a voice of support for continuing all public comments virtually. The elimination of public comments at the in person meeting has not seemed to reduce the effectiveness of the overall meeting proceedings. We appreciate that the NOSB has the same period of time to consider all public comments before discussion begins.
Thank you again for all the work you do and for the opportunity to comment. Please let us know if you have any questions.
Mindee: Wondering about induced mutagenesis: what’s your perspective?
Jackie: NOP including those exclusions right in the chart was very helpful. Because on face value it seemed like it was prohibited.
Nate Powell-Palm: You represent a big group of farmers. Equity question: giving everyone the same amount of time from when we hear the comment and when the NOSB votes. I like you bringing this up about keeping online public comments open.
Sal Pinkham – OEFFA Certification (CACS; General)
Hi, my name is Sal Pinkham. I’m the Certification Program Manager at OEFFA Certification and I’ll comment on two topics today.
First, Consistent Location Identification. We appreciate the committee’s continued efforts at fraud prevention, but this proposal raises logistical and equity concerns. OEFFA OSPs require maps and locations for all organic and transitioning fields and locations for all conventional fields. Usually, locations are street addresses.
OEFFA farmers in our organic work group do not mind sharing GPS coordinates, noting they already provide this information to Farm Service Agency. We encourage inter-departmental collaboration at USDA so that they are not required to double-report data. However, we also certify hundreds of Plain Community farmers who engage less frequently with FSA and utilize technology selectively in accordance with their religious beliefs and culture. It would be a heavy lift for us to collect GPS coordinates for farms in this community.
It’s common to have 20 or more fields in an OSP, and taking time during inspection to locate the exact center to verify or provide GPS coordinates would greatly increase time spent inspecting. Field boundaries would be more useful for fraud prevention, especially for large fields or fields with pollinator habitat or other buffers, but walking all boundaries of every field would be even more time consuming. OEFFA does require inspectors to visit each certified or requested field every year, but specifically seeking the center of the field would distract from important tasks like assessing buffer adequacy, crop management, and soil health.
OEFFA contracts with several inspectors who are themselves in the Plain Community, who add unique qualities and perspectives to our inspector pool. However, Plain inspectors do not typically use GPS technology; it would be exclusionary to require GPS use at inspection. Certifiers who work with Plain inspectors would face an extra logistical burden to avoid assigning them new operations or operations with new fields. If Previous Land Use Affidavits must include GPS coordinates, operators in the Plain Community face a greater barrier, particularly if they acquire land from others in the Plain Community who also do not use GPS technology. Our written comments include additional logistical and practical concerns.
Second, we again urge NOSB to activate the latent agenda item “Field and Greenhouse Container Production”. Because aeroponic, hydroponic, and crops grown to maturity in containers do not comply with OFPA and because there is significant inconsistency in the way these forms of production are being handled by organic certifiers, we urge the board to call for a moratorium on the certification of new hydroponic and aeroponic operations, and crops grown to maturity in containers, until we can utilize our existing NOSB and rulemaking process to move forward with greater consistency. The future of organic integrity depends on how we handle this topic, not to mention our assertion that organic is climate-smart.
Thank you, NOSB members, for your service, your efforts to protect organic integrity, and the opportunity to offer comments today.
Nate Powell-Palm: As previous organic inspector I like the note that we visit every field every year. We are proposing that we don’t always know which fields is where – there is not consistent data to show where all these fields are and consistency in how we track them. Perfect being the enemy of the good: if we have a few plain-clothes inspectors, should we base our policy on those inspectors?
Sal: Addressing equity: like essentiality with materials, just having a few people wanting the material does not mean we shouldn’t reject that material. We just need to consider the impact of the proposal. OEFFA’S just has some concerns about collecting GPS coordinates in part due to plain-clothes inspectors. OEFFA does require an address, if possible, for every field, including instructions on how to get to it. If we run into an issue, we do require more information. Sometimes hand drawn maps are more useful than not. I think we should continue to accept hand drawn maps, etc.
Nate: Not saying we shouldn’t accept hand-drawn maps, but saying we need to have GPS as well. Can OEFFA tell me exactly where every field is?
Sal: We have the ability to find every field. It’s true if there is a spray event (like spraying for EEE) we did get in touch with all the farms in that area. We are open to changing that if we can be convinced it’s worthwhile.
Jerry: There have been 12 mentions of hydroponic growing in containers today. No one is yelling at anyone. Specific question: were you to get info that the low-profile NFT hydroponic that has been existing for 40-50 years; definitive study that for each acre of that production you could give back 25 acres of field production, would it take away some of the sting of soil? Vertical farming can be taken to some mathematical extremes. Would it give a different take to impact on soil?
Sal: I do not personally or OEFFA as a certifier or organization have an issue with hydro. Under OFPA soil is a mandatory component, and it’s written into the regulations at several points. It’s impossible to hold people to a consistent standard when some are growing in soil and some are not. Currently they do not allow for it. Leads to a great deal of inconsistency; that’s why we need standards or something to address this issue.
Jerry: The NL is part of that same document, and it is a list that gives tools founded on exceptions. Did that go stagnant 20 years ago? Are we no longer willing to say that this has value, and we’re going to give you the tools through the NL to engage? You can read things differently, and I’m not going to tell you that I read things better than you have – regarding OFPA – but having a mind that is open enough to say that organic is founded on a system that allows us to have exceptions, can’t we be that generous going forward, as well?
Sal: Appreciate where you are coming from. Very important. Speaking with certifier hat: I cannot in wording in law certify a hydro operation. Because it’s simply not supported. We could have an open-minded conversation as an industry about it. But as the laws currently exist it’s very clear that hydro is not supported. Until that changes, I don’t think it’s an open conversation about including it under the organic umbrella.
Colehour Bondera – Kanalani Ohana Farm (General)
Aloha, my name is Colehour Bondera, a former NOSB member, and a long-time small-scale diversified Real Organic certified organic farmer, on Kanalani Ohana Farm in Kona, Hawaii.
Today I will provide some thoughts about overall organic integrity, and specifically Handling Subcommittee procedures and Crops Subcommittees’ consideration of plastic mulches.
Organic farmers are looking out for the whole systems that they live in, and more-so the whole eco-systems where located. That is not only my thought, but what OFPA requires.
The USDA via NOP via NOSB-reviewed system has cycles, in our context it is called a, “sunset”, since everything permitted for use in organics must be fully reviewed every five years. Do we agree, at a serious level to allow things to remain on the NOL, or we must seek, “constant improvement”. Everything cannot and should not be “organic” without oversight.
Our responsibility is to ensure that the activities remain as healthy to the eco-system, to the farm, to ourselves, to soil microbes, to consumers, etc. as possible. Therefore, we must monitor and limit and be careful with all inputs which are permitted.
Within the Handling Subcommittee there are two items that deserve attention. First is that in 205.606 it states that up to 5% non-organic processing ingredients can be used if organic is not available. Since these ingredients are available in organic form, we must update the needs at hand and close that loophole; do not permit these un-needed exceptions.
Second is that since the chemicals and chemical changes via ion exchange resins may affect food products, these resins must each be carefully reviewed, to be included in organic products, and not permitted via a blanket allowance of ion exchange in organic processing.
Keep organic what it is meant to be, and do not permit synthetic ingredients which result from chemical change via their inclusion. Each item must be reviewed, and not put under a blanket or simply because allowed by FDA approval. This is similar to, “inert ingredients” in pesticide formulations, which are often not inert. Though permitted by EPA, the full formulation is important…
Next is that the Crops Subcommittee will again be dealing with the topic of plastic mulch. This has gone on for much too long. When our family moved to the already certified organic farm over 21 years ago, I was disturbed to see that the previous farmers had been using plastic mulch. Upon review I found that it was still permitted. As is common, full clean-up was not done, which is why we found remnants of plastic sheets on our farm. Why?
Frankly, this type of experience was a strong motivation to serve on the NOSB. Why could or would people who care about Pele, Hawaiis’ earth goddess, (think mother earth), even consider to use and leave plastic mulch? I do not comprehend. While on the NOSB, I was surprised in 2011 and 2015 when re-listings of plastic mulches were passed by the NOSB votes, because of continued dependency.
Decades pass, and there seems to be an overall disregard for improvement. Improvement is foundationally essential, and my strong suggestion is that plastic mulch NOT be re-listed…. Farmers have options, but when dependency is fostered by endless reaffirmation, we find that organic is understood as a misnomer where plastic mulch is relied upon as necessary to have organic, which is not the truth.
All produce was grown organically less than 100 years ago, and no one used plastic mulch for anything. Tried and not needed. Does not meet review requirements. The dependency has been built upon for no reason except to avoid constant improvement. We can improve at this time, by NOT renewing the listing for plastic mulch. Please uphold the integrity of organic and vote to let plastic mulch leave organic with the setting sun…
Kristen Adams – Certification agency ‐ MOSA (CACS, PDS)
Affiliated with MOSA. Certifies 1930 producers. 40 employees. Thoughts are candid and have been listening and wants to respond. Wants to thank Jenny and staff for work on SOE. It is a foundation for MOSA to start interpreting the rule. All of that work has been done and now we can move into implementation periods and work with ACA groups. A couple notes: asking for harmonized paperwork. Think it was Carolyn who asked about producer confidence in USDA. First major obstacle is paperwork. If recognize time and resources put in paperwork let’s make this applicable across systems and reduce need for redundant paperwork. Let’s give it increased value – one stop shopping. A number of initiatives that have rolled out that could be competing unintentionally. Increase organic acreage and bring folks into transitional world need to be harmonized from one agency to another. Cannot believe I’m saying this out loud. A couple of months ago I was against it, but I’m starting to see the value.
Jerry: What’s your hydroponic comment?
Kristen: MOSA does certify in a way we believe is in compliance with the standards and believe we need creative flexible solutions. We need all of the elements so one of ways for us to start having full conversations is to invite hydroponics formally to the organic table.
Nathaniel: Does MOSA, when you say “harmonize documents,” are you saying universal OSP?
Kristen: Yes. Either harmonized OSP or some form of addendums that work together and reduce redundancies. It also probably looks like cross training and collaboration across agencies. Understanding the silos and how they all work together.
Nate: Who do you think should make this universal OSP and how should it be stewarded?
Kristen: I have been involved recently in conversations about this – one group might be ACA. We are asking who else besides ACA needs to be part of these conversations.
Nate: Good starting point.
Emily Musgrave – Driscoll’s Inc. (Crops (CS))
Organic regulatory manager. Comments focus on plastic mulch and covers. Support relisting of sulfurs, liquid fish, etc. Member of fresh produce organic committee – we support their comments. We support the re-listing of plastic covers as they are essential for weed control and disease. They also help prevent N loss from beds during hot season. During cooler months they also help keep soil warmer (the color of the mulch is important). Another benefit of mulch is it keeps berries from having direct contact with soil, preventing rot and damage. The mulch is not recyclable, but we are working on programs to recycle plastic in the horizon. Groups are working to make it recyclable on a greater scale. We anticipate industry coalitions will form to push the recycling issue forward to become an industry wide plastic. The loss of plastic mulch as a tool would be catastrophic for the organic berry market.
Wood: Why is it years away that we will be able to recover plastic mulch? Feels like it’s too long. For a big grower like you, what is the role and push your organization is doing to drive this? Is it dirty plastics? What’s the issue.
Emily: A few things. I said years, but we’re thinking less – maybe like 3-4 years for the recycling of plastic mulch to be industry wide. Even 2 years ago, we talked to 50 companies about recycling and they wouldn’t take it because it was too dirty. I commented this to the Board. What we have seen in just the past 2 years, recycling companies are now making it into low-grade materials – twist ties – things are coming through where they are able to do something to recycle the plastic mulch. It is getting there. We are piloting with some recycling companies, and it was successful this year. We are making progress and actually recycling some of the plastic mulch in CA and Baja that was previously not getting recycled at all. We are hoping to push that pilot program upward. Industry wide, we are hoping the next 3-5 years.
Wood: Great update. We need you guys muscling this.
Emily: We are on it.
Jerry: I would like to follow on what Wood just started and share with you that I and others on the Board have had a frustration with the knowledge that no matter how hard we work if we would get something done in the organic world, what would we have accomplished? We would get rid of 3% of the plastic. Can we assume that would have a conventional component, too?
Emily: No growers – conventional or organic – wants to be seen with plastic mulch going to the landfill, and I think that we can possibly get both conventional and organic growers recycling.
Brian: I know Driscolls has a lot of container berry operations and acres – do you have any life cycle analysis of the energy or carbon balances over the life cycle of these systems that would compare to in-the-ground growing? If you could possibly look for that and forward it to Michelle, that would be great.
Emily: I believe we do. I can get in touch with the right folks and forward information.
Bradley McNeil – Rocking Z Acres (CACS)
Two things I’d like to address – both concern federal crop insurance.
Trendline yield used in crop insurance- trendline yield allows a producer who has grown a crop within a 4 year period get the t-yield on that crop. Corn management increases, which increases yield, so take a t-yield bump in that county. As an organic producer with rotations up to 6 years, we cannot take advantage of that t-yield for corn like some of our counterparts might who plant corn-corn-corn. That’s a negative affect on organic producers.
We can see here that crop insurance recognizes organic as a different practice, books, buffer zones, etc. This slide shows data my insurance agent helped me get out of RMA’s book to show how t-yield is used.
The second issue is organic management not being recognized in an enterprise unit situation. If I’m a producer an di have an organic crop growing in a section of ground or unit. Once I harvest those bushels, I am not allowed to view them as separate. They are in a pile and I cannot separate organic from conventional bushels. I don’t understand this… RMA allows you to recognize winter and spring wheat separately- dry beans (pinto, black), sunflowers…. but as you can see…. you can also see where they allow you to separate management practice of irrigated vs. Non-irrigated. I don’t’ understand why we can’t insure organic and non organic practices separately.
Nate: Thank you- actionable questions.
Kim: Hi BJ, one quick question: with the understanding of how t-yields are determined in the conventional space, and the rotation in organic, how should we design them for the organic farmer.
BJ: That’s a great question- complicated- if they give you a t-yield due to management practices… bump in coverage for more years. Same argument for conventional, but we do longer rotations. 4 years alfalfa to corn. I’m going to have a more sustainable corn crop than the neighbor who had organic corn on corn the last 2 years. But I am penalized. That’s not how it is in organic. Unfair advantage. I could give you several examples in my field this year. We lost 18 bushels of coverage because I haven’t had corn in that unit for 4 years. 150s. 168. Seems like an unfair advantage.
Kim: What’s the solve? Good luck on planting.
Nate: Crop Insurance is complicated. Everyone has different experiences. Your opinion around the issue being a policy or structure at RMA, or ignorance/naiveté for the adjuster in your region. They both require different solutions.
BJ: My experience is it’s been more RMA. I can teach or show my adjuster… they’re normally in my corner. Great agent- never had a problem with the adjusters. No problem with RMA- just don’t understand the thoughts behind the rules. Feels like Big AG wants us to plant corn, so we have these policies that favor corn. Are we going to pull that out of the system? NO. But there’s an exclusion in that t-yield in organic because it’s a different practice and a different system. We need a few tweaks to the rules. That’s a big one.
James Riddle – Former chair, NOSB; Founding president, IOIA; Co‐owner, Blue Fruit Farm (CACS)
My name is Jim Riddle, former NOSB member and chair. I currently serve on the Policy Committee of NOFA-NH. I understand that serving on the NOSB is much more than an honor – it’s a lot of work! Thank you for your service to our country, and to our earth.
I offer comments on the CAC Subcommittee’s proposal, “Organic Is Climate-Smart Agriculture.”
The proposal states, “While all certified organic production is climate-smart, not all “climate-smart” production is certified organic.”
The NOSB should revise that sentence to read, “While all soil-based certified organic crop production is climate-smart, not all “climate-smart” production is certified organic.”
The term “soil-based” was officially used by the NOP last fall when they announced a new online course, “Organic Field Crop Practices.” The NOP stated the following:
“The National Organic Program (NOP) today launched a new course on Organic Field Crop Practices in the Organic Integrity Learning Center.
Soil is a critical resource, and the USDA organic regulations emphasize the need to maintain or improve the natural resources of the operation, including soil and water quality. For soil-based operations, this includes cultivation practices that maintain or improve the physical, chemical, and biological condition of soil and minimize soil erosion, as well as managing crop nutrients and soil fertility through rotations, cover crops, and the application of plant and animal materials.” (end quote)
Soil-based operations comply with all provisions of the Organic Foods Production Act, including 6513(b)(1), which states, “An organic plan shall contain provisions designed to foster soil fertility, primarily through the management of the organic content of the soil through proper tillage, crop rotation, and manuring.”
Water-based operations, including hydroponic and container systems, do not grow plants in soil. They deliver highly soluble nutrients through aqueous solutions to produce crops such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, greens and berries.
OFPA contains no language that allows for organic crop production plans which do not foster soil fertility. There is no language in OFPA or 7 CFR 205 that supports organic certification of water-based operations. The NOP has issued no rules or regulations, or even online courses, to guide the organic certification of water-based operations.
As you know, water-based systems are totally dependent on external inputs. They do not foster soil fertility, use crop rotations, sequester carbon, protect natural resources, or “foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity” as required by the definition of “organic production.” They are not “climate-smart.”
I call on the NOSB to investigate how much of the US organic market is comprised of products from water-based crop production systems, and how much of that production is based outside of the United States, in countries where the products could not be sold as “organic.”
I encourage consumers who suspect that products offered for sale as “organic” do not comply with the soil building requirements of OFPA to submit complaints to the NOP using the NOP’s official complaint system. Submit detailed information on the products, including brands, lot numbers, name of certifier, photos, dates and locations offered for sale.
Finally, I call on Congress to prohibit designated organic Federal funds, including Farm Bill programs such as organic certification cost share, organic crop insurance, and transition assistance, as well as OREI, ORG and SARE funds, from going to operations that do not comply with OFPA 6513(b)(1).
Jim Riddle, 6 Emerald Drive, Hillsborough, NH 03244, 507-429-7959
Jim: Use the NOP’s official complaint system if it’s not meeting the regulations.
Nate: What is the difference between a conspiracy and an anecdote if we are not talking in data?
Jim: that’s why I’m calling on you to find the data. The certifiers know this. They know which ones are soil and which ones are water based. We have certified organic Blue Fruit farm and consumers said we always buy organic but never had such flavorful – need to look at nutrient density comparisons. When you grow things in healthy biological soil they are going to have more bio flavonoids – these go up in healthy soil. Go flat when on a conventional type path. Need to compare soil and water based organic.
DAY 2 Public Comment: April 20, 2023
Deputy Administer, Dr. Jennifer Tucker calls the meeting to order. Welcomes NOSB members and audience.
Michele Arsenault take a roll call of National Organic Standards Board: all members are present except for Javier Zamora.
Garth Kahl – Organic Integrity Cooperative Guild (Misc)
Hello. Thanks Board for service. Represents Organic Integrity Cooperative Guild. Cooperative of organic inspectors, reviewers, and consultants. Promote dynamic growing and trustworthy marketplace. CACS – we need clear and distinct locations of fields for performing unannounced inspections. Shows slide requiring GPS coordinates and township and range. With township and range, then anybody can use a document to convert to GPS coordinates. Outstanding CB can then go directly to dairy, operation in questions and if problem can locate where am and describe where the issue is. Includes shape of fields and area. Shows slide of what can do with free software – draw a map, describe to certifier exactly issue. Next slide – ion exchange. Do not need to be listed. This is kind of document we see at every inspection. Refers to Adam’s from QAI comments. Last slide – climate smart and sunset – lets push climate smart to organic twinkies.
Amy: I appreciate your information; we all refer o organic as gold standards. Interesting in written comments about Mexican organic standards: how they receive and verify tracking. Can you speak more to how MX tracks across their country?
Garth: MX is a good example of why GPS tracking is necessary. Addresses in MX are more loose, and this was needed to verify parcels. You have to as a certifier show how you are tracking field information – and it appears of certificates as well. The same way we would track the name or products certified. They call them geo-codes. It’s simple, it works, it works in MX. Anyone with a cheap smart phone can track this information. Works well even with impoverished communities, most people have a smart phone.
Amy: Thank you for elaborating how you lay out fields with geo-codes into GIS.
Nate Powell-Palm: Is there consistency among certifiers you’ve worked with in how they track internally where their fields are? In a consistent format? What if we just recommended consistency.
Garth: There is not consistency. Some certifiers have everything tied to farm address. Some have rough address which could be a mile away. And some certifiers track this very closely. This does not need to be public facing as long as someone is tracking it. Plain clothes can get township information.
Nate Powell-Palm: How do we explode the demand for organic foods?
Garth: By bringing organic foods to everywhere the consumer is. Not just farmers markets and specialty grocers: Walmart, convenience stores, Target. That’s where people shop in food deserts. We need a stable regulatory climate. Pushing the climate benefits of organic. The carbon footprint of synthetic N is vastly lower in organic. Even taking into account global supply chains.
Sam Welsch – OneCert, Inc. (CACS; PDS, General)
My name is Sam Welsch with OneCert. Consistency is important.
As you deliberate, it is important to remember the purposes of OFPA:
It is the purpose of this chapter—
(1) to establish national standards governing the marketing of certain agricultural
products as organically produced products;
(2) to assure consumers that organically produced products meet a consistent
(3) to facilitate interstate commerce in fresh and processed food that is organically
Unfortunately, the assurance that organic products meet a consistent standard is not being
achieved. Inconsistent implementation of the USDA organic regulations by certification agencies
has two main causes:
1. Lack of specific regulations. This includes the absence of regulations the USDA said it
would publish by October 2002 such as apiculture, greenhouse, pet food, mushrooms. It
also includes the absence of regulations for the certification of yeast and flavors, which
are listed in the regulations as nonagricultural (nonorganic) substances..
2. Ambiguous or vague requirements and unclear definitions.
Inconsistent enforcement by the USDA also contributes to the lack of consistency.
OFPA 7 U.S. Code § 6517(b) requires that each substance be listed: “The list established under
subsection (a) shall contain an itemization, by specific use or application, of each synthetic
substance permitted under subsection (c)(1) or each natural substance prohibited under
subsection (c)(2).” The word each as it is used here means that each substance must be
identified and listed separately. Ion exchange resins should not be listed as a collection of
Ion exchange is a process that chemically changes the product that is being processed. The ion
exchange resins and recharge chemicals used in the process are not simple food contact
substances. They are intended to change the organic product. As others have pointed out, actual
food contact substances are intended to have no effect on the food.
Certification of Nonagricultural Substances
There are many nonagricultural substances that are not on the national list that are being used
as ingredients in organic products. The value of organic certification is based on the premise
that organic products are distinct from non organic products. When non agricultural substances
are being certified organic, it diminishes the value of organic certification. According to OFPA
and the regulations, only agricultural products are eligible for certification. Certification of non
agricultural substances is outside the scope of USDA jurisdiction.
Examples of substances that have been certified organic:
Coconut Sucrose Esters,
Distilled Coconut Fatty Acids,
Fatty Acids/Mixed Glycerides.
Allison: Still trying to tease out ionic exchange issue. Drawing distinction b/w recharge and resin that hold it in place?
Sam: Yes, it’s my understanding the resin is what captures the ions in the products being processed. The recharge materials wash those captured ions out so the resins can capture more ions in the next round of processing.
Allison: So the resin, by pulling something out, is having an interaction. But it’s not that the resin is putting something in.
Sam: It’s creating a chemical reaction. We’re chemically altering the products in there. Sometimes it’s ions in solution, other times they are altering the chemistry of the products being processed. The ion process substances used in ion exchange also degrade over time so they result in quantities over time to be included in the product they’re processing. They don’t last forever like a stainless steel contact surface. These substances degrade in use.
Kyla: Juice that goes through an ion exchange process when it comes out the other side is still chemically juice?
Sam: Its juice, but it’s not the same juice it went in there.
Kyla: The resin could not function without the recharge material. The recharge…
Sam: the thing to look at is- is ion exchange necessary for organic processing? There are other filtering aids on the list that are doing the same thing the ion exchange process does. We’ve had operations using these to filter and clarify that is cheaper than with ion exchange but without risking recharge products.
Kyla: the mandate the NOP tasked us with was to ask if ion exchange or the components thereof needed to be on the national list.
Amy: You mentioned consistency – love that word; it’s important. Wanted to ask you from certifier background: do we want to be clear in our recommendations on the prescriptive nature, or maybe we want to be less? How much prescriptive nature do we need for consistency?
Sam: There are sometimes more than one way to get to a destination. If definitions are clear, it helps. GPS is clear, township information, etc. Are always useful to identify parcels. Different certifiers may use different documents to achieve parcel identification. Internationally we use GPS more because township maps do not exist in other countries. Some people are trying to certify as a single farm fields that are hundred miles apart. We try and look at this as fine-grained as possible to clearly know what’s being certified.
Kyla: Back to resins. You were talking about degradation. I wanted to know if you have any data that supports that the resin degrades. We’ve seen no such data.
Sam: I’m not the scientist, but I have spoken with them. These degrade and get replaced. That’s a good indication it’s not maintaining its integrity.
Nate PP: Do you see organic as the gold standard for clean food? If we can have something in the toolbox that when a mom in the grocery store is looking for the right baby food because there’s all the tool in the toolbox like ion exchange? OR do we want to set a limit to that toolbox.
Sam: I was an organic consumer for decades before organic certification was a thing. It’s important to me to have as much organic, preferably local food as possible. The value in organic certification is that people want pure food- something that’s wholesome and healthy. When you include processes and substances that are the same as conventional- like the substances with ion exchange, you diminsh the value of organic. If we try to change the regs so that every product that can be made conventionally can be made organic, it loses value. I look for whole foods.
Nate PP: DO you think this is a debate for what organic should be? Rather than the actual science? Are we going to see degradation? Is this a higher debate that we’re couching into this discussion.
Sam: No I think there’s a genuine concern that these do degrade. Like plastics in packaging. WE’ve found out that some plastics do contribute substances to the foods. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with organic taking a pure approach. When I started keeping bees 50 years ago, we wanted pure honey. It should be pure food- not adulterated with the systems used to process it.
Laura Holm – Organic Trade Association (CACS)
Legislative and farm policy associate. OTA is membership based. Leading voice for protecting organic trade in US. Organic is the original climate smart agriculture. Rooted in indigenous cultivation practices. USDA should fully recognize impact of organic and that it is climate smart. Organic producers should automatically be recognized as climate smart. Organic farmers are federally required to maintain natural resources and soil and water quality and must implement tillage and cultivation practices that improve soil and minimize erosions. Organic farmers must rotate and use cover crops and must maintain and improve soil organic matter. These requirements are in organic regulations. NRCS requirements mirror organic regulations. Optimistic that USDA will increase support of organic farming. On behalf of members, OTA thanks NOSB for furthering organic agriculture.
Gwendolyn Wyard – Organic Trade Association (Handling (HS))
Vice President of regulatory and technical affairs. Natural flavors and ion exchange resins. Support continued listing of natural flavors — want to fuel successful growth of organic natural flavors. OTA was the petitioner to require the use of organic flavors when available. The listing is challenging because it covers a lot of different sources both agricultural and non0agricultural. Our written comments show a road map. It’s important to keep the listing as-is because it’s too challenging to list every flavor. The availability of organic flavors is good, but not enough across all the flavors available. We need robust and well documented commercial availability work. We have developed guidance for sourcing and checking for compliance for flavors. These documents would be furthered is NOP formally adopted them.
OTA strongly supports NOSB’s recommendation for ion exchange resins. You have an obligation o complete your recommendation, it is needed to provide greater certainty.
Kyla: Question is related to ion resin composition.
Gwen: Resin composition – there is a lot we know. Heard reference that don’t know much, but we actually do. There are different variations, but 90 percent are copolymer or ? Means this resin, about 90 percent is a styrene that gets crosslinked that dy? Enzene. Made tough little beads to make insoluble. Functional site is where exchange occurs. Its is charged. That’s 90 percent of resins that are out there. How they start to differ is at the functional site. Whether positive or negative charge that trying to take out of product being treated. Replacing ion that goes into juice is the one that needs to be on national list.
Logan: Hi, thank you for the information on flavors. You said there was some progress and that you’d have an updated survey on the progress?
Gwen: Yes, we put the petition together in 2014, went through 2018, effective 2019. We worked with the ACAs and used the database and all the informatino we had to look at all the flavors across the board. To get an idea how we are progressing with the growth since the requirement to use organic went into place.
Logan: Do you think we’ll be able to see there’s more business available- more reliance on organic vs. The natural flavor.
Gwen: There’s the growth in availability, then there’s the use. Certifiers can say we have x clients using x %. We’ll have to see what we looked at in 2014 to compare. Kyla? We’re going to try to do that.
Logan: The flavor isolates are not going to be organically produced- would you recommend those being petitioned as organic sources?
Gwen: Would like to see us reconvene the task force- give it another go- truly ag flavors, extracts, essential oils, but then when it gets ot these isolates, we’re not there yet, but we can separate them out as non-ag and should be on .605. Some of these other isolates are coming from an agricultural source. I’d like us to do a categorization at some point to say these low hanging fruit, you have to use organic- and we’re still working on these others.
Logan: Do you see any questions we missed on the sunset to gather?
Gwen: THose are the right questions. I’d like to see industry getting out there with more info about organic flavors that are available.
Alison: I’m convinced the resin is not intended to have a chemical interact with the handled product. I do worry there’s some potential to use a better material for the resin and if we could incentivize that. Curious if you have muhc knowledte about resins and if there are merits to some over others- food safety, risk? to some plastic materials where there is a leaching or breakdown over time in an unintended way.
Gwen: They are, most of them are the same. The differences comes down to cross-linking which determinse how porous the resins are- water, syrup. THere’s not a lot of choice when it comes to the basic structure- tough, insoluble. THat gets to the maintenance. HOw these are taken care of in storage, handlign, and in processing. THat’s where we move to the recommendation. This si something that’s part of the inspection and is looking at contamination prevention. MOving away from whether or not it should be on the list to leaching. WE want to continue to do a better job of avoiding plastics and materials that are going to get into our food system and impact our health. Maintenance is critical NObody wants that. The minute the resins degrade they become ineffective- expensive process! The last thing anybody wants to do is introduce a new impurity. The health of the resin is critical… when they start to degrade…. they start losing their effectiveness. That doesn’t happen. The process for applying to get an approved food contact substance goes through a rigorous review. FDA asks for testing data to ask what you are asking about. what the potential migration could be, might be, has been>… they have to meet various parameters to ensure these thing aren’t going to migrate into the product. In every case, each resin says there’s no expectation that the resins get into the food product. they are looking at how to get the impurities out, but the levels would be non-detectable. To tolerance? or what would those be? Non-detect is typical. We have to look to FDA and 120 day approval process with their panel of experts to determine the safety of resins.
Brian: thanks so much. If there are 90% of the resins are based on one type of material, and there’s a few more in that last 10%- not that many. WHy not put them right throug the sunset review process? WHy not?
Gwen: Many variations in terms of the cross linking and charge groups—cation or anion. YOu might have 20 different cation forms and another 20… the primary structure doesn’t vary that much, but then you have lots of variations.
Brian: I thought the variation would be the recharge materials, not the background structure? They have the anions and cations?
Gwen: The functional group is a charge and will have different types of charges to attract what they’re after. Maybe they’ll use an ion oxide functional group to attract arsenic. If a positive charge— an ion like sodium chloride will exchange with the arsenic coming out. Design resins to attract the impurity. The resin has a charge and the ion comes iwht it and you have to recharge that material- after a while it’s all gone. The functional site and the charge…. lots of types of charges. We wouldn’t want to put them on the National List. We’ve done a thorough review. When we look at the definition of a resin, how it functions, the language in OFPA, I would disagree with Sam Welsch- an ingredient or processing aid goes on the national list. Then we’re setting up a precedent to put food contact substances in general on the national list. We want to be clear about putting it on and what those implications would be. We’re doing a thorough review- but these little buggers don’t need to be on the National List according to the law.
Brian: So the resins, besides the structural backbone material, they have other chemicals added to them that are added to help them exchange the anions and cations—quite a few more of them.
Gwen: Correct. They are covalently bonded.
Brian: So if we give a blanket approval by not reviewing them… couldn’t there be questionable other materials that are added to the backbone materials that we might not want in there?
Gwen: Approved through food contact surface substances. THen in the OSP. Look to food contact substance approval- FDA has looked at all of the components of the resin and have don their testing based on safety. It’s not that the door is wide open. It has to be approvved by the certifier which is based on the FDA food contact surface approval. If you look at the FDA guidance… it’s extensive. It could be improved. We should look for improvement. This system we are looking at with the same approval process will be in good shape.
Kyla: Circle back around to flavors: wanted to clarify a question. Based all the different types of flavors on the 101 you submitted. Is there a functional way to move forward with annotations? To narrow current list of flavors?
When NOSB first started grappling with this they thought having a task force toi separate alol the different types. OTA had a task force and recommended to keep all theflavors on 605. I think it’s good to look at something again, espcially if there are flavor categories where the organic availability is there. We shoul find a way to capture that on the NL, to be able to pull of the flavors we know for sure have gotten over the finish line.
Angela Schriver – Schriver Organics (General)
Kim Bayer – Slow Farm (General)
Nate Lewis: I work in space of farmland preservation and access. Appreciate difference of opinion about hydro given inequitable access to land. Want to make organic inclusive and making land access a requirement – difficulty squaring these two off.
Kim: Can see how those things come together in way seem against each other. But these are separate issues and need to be solved separately. In terms of land access – that is a universal problem among beginning and farmers of color who have had land systemically taken from them. Don’t want to see these problems conflated, but approached separately for the unique issues to both of them. Really support what Angela had to say.
Scott Myers – Woodlyn Acres Farm (General)
Brian: Bigger picture question is how can we get more field crop and grain farmers into organic.
Scott: our farm as example, 7th year certified organic. Conventional before. In local community we have a lot of support. Local dairies needs feed. Key that I found for switching is to have a good mentor. Fortunate to have seed salesman has been a mentor to many different people in area. Organic farmer since 80s beside us – I go across road and ask questions. Once you have a good organic farmer in the area, it kind of grows.
Brian: seen same thing.
Amy: thanks for your work on crop insurance. 2 questions: 1) you’re a grain farmer but mentioned diversified operations – why revenue protection doesn’t work for diversified producers.
Scott: Had multi-peril crop insurance. Biggest problems is when switch basically became a new farmer when switched to organic. Learned a lot more about t-yields but not very up to date. It doesn’t offer much help. That’s why we look at whole farm b/c it’s revenue based and allows us to guarantee that doesn’t matter what crops raise and allows us to operate another year. Revenue is what is expected and look at 5 year revenue then can insure 85% of it and live to work another year. Crop insurance is not about trying to profit and not what should be.
Amy: In your county specifically certain crops want to rotate to, not able to get insured?
Scott: Yes. Other than corn, beans, wheat, we are unable to use federal crop insurance to insure. We raise 10 crops- sunflowers for 4 years. We could get a written agreement but it’s very hard to get and complicated for the farmer. We raise canola, barley. PRF has worked very well for hay. We’ve been in hay for 20 years. Used to use NAP, but PRF has worked better than I expected.
Amy: You mentioned you met with RMA the other day. Talked about T Yields. Do you have an idea about how to share informationa bout how T Yields can be modified.
Scott: RMA said T yeilds are off the table because they have data. They’re flawed. One thing we need to do with t-yields. All farmers need to return the question sheets from NASS. Now that I see the value of those… that’s where they get their information. I wish they would use more information than that. Use that, but also use crop insuranc info for the county, info at FSA. WE have to report yields… wish they would use more options there. I wish there was a way we could use our conventional T yield going in. I don’t expect to have 170 bu my first year, but I also don’t expect to have a 100 bushel. Then the whole transition issue.
Our 7 or 10 year rotation. APH takes 5 years of yields on a crop unit to get your APH off the t yield part. It could take me 35 years to get my APH correct and get rid of my t-yields. THat’s a whole other issue.
Kim: Appreciate you growing other crops outside the norm. Greatly appreciated as these products are needed. Good luck to you!
Carolyn: Thank you Scott for your information on Crop Insurance. Especially interested in WFRP and if you can speculate why the usage decreases year after year.
Scott: I’ve had this discussion with my agent. We are still going through the paperwork process. One issue is the agents don’t push it because it takes a lot of time on their part and they make more money sending multi-peril. I love accounting and stats, you almost need an accounting degree. It’s a paperwork thing. I’m fortunate I have access to this. Even though they got rid of the expense requirement, they are still allowed to ask for those… when they want expense on that many different crops it can get really daunting at times.
Carolyn: So what do you see as a reasonable way to reduce that barrier? If the insurance agents wanted to elarn about it,they would be able to do it.
Scott: ONe way is… WE have loans with farm credit. At the end of the year I provide balance sheet, production, information. That’s what they should use for whole farm. NOw instead of using it… if I can secure myfarm loans and my bank is comfortable, it should be allowed for WFRP. That would make it a lot easier.
Another would be to look at the paperwork reduction they did to microfarm. That’s a lot less paperwork those applicants have to do. A lot of the agents don’t realize that difference yet. RMA roadshow…. I didn’t even know about that. My agent hadn’t heard about that. Education—it’s not perfect… preaching to the choir and not getting to the people.
Carolyn: Scott, maybe this is academic- could we get rid of crop insurance and use WFRP for everyone?
Scott: I’m all for that. Somebody with 10-50 crops- the chances of paying out are so slim they should be getting it for almost nothing. If they have a total disaster they could live to fight another year.
AMy: When you are implementing whole farm- were you expanding during that time.
Scott: We had whole farm six or 7 years ago, which is why we quit it then. That’s another issue if you’re taking on higher value crops, that’s an issue.
Corey Struck – Flying S Farms (General)
Good afternoon. My name is Corey Struck from Flying S Farms located in Broadlands, IL. I am currently beginning my second year of transition. I am an OEFFA member and a member of the crop insurance and research work groups. I work together with my family to grow crops on 450 acres. I’m here today to comment on three topics: crop insurance, farmer access to NOSB, and geotagging.
Scaled based on acres- larger safety net for larger farmers
-add small grain/out of normal season crop for government subsidy/fallow w cover crop
35+ % reduction from conventional county t-yields- yield gap between organic and conventional is closing.
Incentivizes shorter cropping cycles with less cash crops
APH rules less effective due to longer crop rotations- need to find a way to speed up APH building
Farmer Access to NOSB meetings:
NOSB meeting timing is the busiest time for farmers, who are the base of the system
Smaller operations that can less afford time away during planting and harvest
Extra winter listening session if it’s too cumbersome to move them.
FSA maps are already geotagged. Don’t put that on the farmer to go do that.
Mandatory for all imports
Thank you for your time and your service to the organic community.
Dilip: A lot of good recommendations. You’re in 2nd year of transition. I’m more on production side. Can you tell me one or two challenges you face and bing a transitional grower can you make recommendation to NOSB to have transitional growers. Looking into funding.
Corey: only piece of pie has access to is toga – is 10% of what could do. My state has program where you get $5 per acre if you plant cover crops. Fertility and weed management – $5 is substantially more than what would be eligble for under toga. Picking practice that gets me where I want to go gets me further than toga funds. These $300 million toga funds didn’t have action plan and actually how to get into people’s hands.
Nate Lewis: are some folks who transition with cash crops. Should be subject to 65% discount?
Corey: Have not engaged with anyone from RMA for these points. Organic system gets better over time. My first year of transition, nutrient plan low in nitrogen, my yields were still where expected to be which is pretty amazing especially going through D1 drought. Correlating percentage of t yield and making that moveable to what seeing in data, would be more helpful.
Russell Hamlin – International Fresh Produce Association Organics Committee (General)
Vice President of farming for Grimway and chair of IFPA organic committee. Climate smart ag and sunset items. Climate smart: IFPA believes organic producers sould auto be avail for climate –smart funding. All the current materials should continue to be allowed. Plastic mulch, liquid fish, aqueous potassium sulfate, etc. Should all be allowed. Plastic covers are necessary for weed control; needed especially for transition. If we take away plastic mulch many people will go out of biz. Potassium chloride is a necessary fertilizer; essential for oxygen creation in plants. Other things are necessary for disease control, including sulfurs. Elemental is of particular importance because it can help lower soil PH, and create sulfurous acid to lower water PH. Liquid fish products: important for organic fertility plans, especially those that use drip irrigation.
Wood: Tell me about IFPA’s and companies engagement in solutions for plastic mulch recovery; how it’s functioning in a live environment and what kind of path you’re seeing for recovery of the material?
Grimway perspective: you see more equipment that is being used to retrieve material. The equipment is more developed and better success getting it out if you use better equipment.
Franklin: Said some farmers would go out of biz with removal of plastics. Do you have an ideal situation and what the future should look like regarding plastics?
Russell: Some people would go out of biz without plastics, due to tremendous costs of weed control. Plastic mulch covers need to continue to be used. Leaving plastic behind does need to be worked on. Not sure what the future could be for biodegradable mulches; seen them in conventional. Having something as effective as plastic mulch but can biodegrade would be good.
Nate Lewis: How often are you hearing from producers using LFP and seaweed products in a drip irrigation? Where is the potassium coming from?
Russell: We don’t use a lot of drip irrigation at Grimmway. A lot of people put potassium down before the plastic, you can also melt potassium chloride a little to run it down lines. LFP are not a good source of potassium as you alluded to.
Steve Ela – National Organic Coalition (Misc)
My name is Steve Ela and I am both a grower and a representative of the National Organic Coalition. My position with NOC is to work directly with the NOSB on behalf of our members. NOC is a consensus organization and our comments to you are the results of a 14 member process of shared ideas. Today I want to cover three topics – ion exchange filtration, the range of topics that are presented by stakeholders to the NOSB, and organic as climate smart and the related discussion on a universal OSP.
Food contact materials are inherently designed to be “inert” with regards to their interaction with an organic food. On the contrary, ion exchange resins are fundamentally designed to work in conjunction with recharge materials to alter the chemical makeup of the product being filtered. They are ionic charged and not inert.
Without significant testing, the organic community has no idea whether there is chemical leakage from resins into a product or not. Many resins might be fine, but we do not know that. We continue to find that even minute quantities of certain materials can be detrimental to human health. The recent EPA limitations on PFAS chemicals in drinking water is a case in point. And, according to the TR, perfluorinated compounds are used in some resins. [lines 225-227; 646-649]
The categorical allowance of resins, without review, leaves the barn door wide open for any resin to be used, without knowledge of the organic community. Without a requirement for disclosure of resins being used in organic systems, there is no way for stakeholders to independently evaluate whether a particular resin is appropriate for organic use.
Reference only, not to read:
Sidwell, J.A. and Willoughby, B.G., 2006. Examination of styrene-divinylbenzene ion-exchange resins, used in contact with food, for potential migrants. Food additives and contaminants, 23(7), pp.726-737. This study finds that residues of manufacture of resins is the largest source of leachable organic impurities, decreasing over time, and is outside the control of process operators. The authors note, “With only a few exceptions, the extractable species from the ion exchange resins tested have not been given specific migration limits or allowable daily intakes by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). There is also limited information available on their toxicity.”
In reference to stakeholder comments to the NOSB, NOC believes it is important for the NOSB to be a venue for stakeholder engagement with both the NOSB and the NOP. It is not unusual for stakeholders to comment on issues that are not directly before the NOSB. These comments range from informational background that gives Board members information about the broader organic landscape, to suggestions for future work agenda items, to references to past decisions that have not been acted upon. While these issues may “be outside the immediate topics of discussion” before the NOSB, they have relevance to past and future NOSB work. We hope that members will note suggestions for future work, recognize that the NOSB is the only public forum for organic stakeholders to give input to the NOP and USDA, and utilize stakeholder knowledge of past NOSB actions and decisions. You are an important conduit for this wonderful community to help shape our own future!
As has already been noted, NOC concurs with others that the proposal that organic is climate smart references soil grown systems. Soil is the carbon storage mechanism within organic agriculture. We ask that the call for a universal OSP be separated from the climate smart discussion. While we can see value in a common framework for the OSP, it is important to make sure that all OSP’s get to the heart of why a producer is doing something, not just what they are doing. An OSP must be rich with knowledge and information and justifications for practices, not a check the box type of form. Furthermore, we strongly believe that all certifiers should not have to certify all aspects of organic. There are plenty of certification options for growers to choose a certifier that fits their needs. However, any single certifier should be well within their rights to only certify what they are comfortable with and capable of doing. A universal OSP could work to force certifiers to operate outside their comfort zone.
While I don’t have time I would also like to provide further insight on the issues of equity and in-person comments. I would like to finish with a NOC NOC joke.
I and others don’t want you to exchange the transparency of everyone knowing the materials used in organic processes for the filtration of only certifiers and handlers having that information. Let stakeholders be able to evaluate materials themselves.
Amy: Two questions: potassium sorbate – curious NOC’s position that limited efficacy data and some of industry standards were not necessarily what NOC claimed were general industry standards – couple active ingredients wettable sulphur and potassium silicate. What other materials?
Steve: technical report wasn’t actually publicly released when met so didn’t have chance to evaluate it. In petition itself, one of those products is not one I would use on my farm anyway, not one I would choose to use because of efficacy issues. Want to see more efficacy data to show essential. Are some other biologicals that are useful. Sulphur is a big one for powdery mildew.
Amy: Consistent location infrormation that we’re trying to get some additional opinions on. NOC mentioned that for 10 years they’ve run into issues geolocating fields (dairdy perspective) Diary farmers add or change to fields frequently and it’s hard to track. On my OSP, I have to be able to articulate where leased land is. Are there challenges alo from a certifer view.
Steve: That was in the Plain Community where the use of technology is low. The previous field history… technology use for GPS coordinates was hard. The NOC comments- the problem we had was, to geolocate a field if it’s larger, that’s not so bad. WHen we get to smaller plots, it gets really hard to micro manage that. We’re asking for some scale and risk issues. In general we need to know where they are, but let’s not get too down in the weeds. OEFFA brought up the inspectors in the plain community. We’re not completely against it but there is some devil in the details- farm vs. Per crop vs. Per variety and how far down you go.
Amy: geo location should never move of that farm.
Steve: We wanted clarification that wasn’t going to be onerous for certifier and grower.
Allison: First- on ion exchange: I’m grappling with a concern about these resins- don’t want to scrutinize every substance that comes into contact if no functional effect. NOC is drawing a distinction with the resins because there is a charge to them. Are you familiar with other materials where there might be a similar situation.
Steve: For me, we’re a handler, NOC members too. A food contact substance is supposed to be inert. An ion exchange resin is supposed to have contact so ions can be exchanged. This is where we disagree with some of Gwen’s comments, respectfully, and we put this in our comments last fall. Review at a …. there should be more transparency. There are a lot of stakeholders out there that are good chemists and should be able to take a look at this. to say we can use any resin – 15, 30, 50- but we don’t know which are going into organic products. Nobody thought BPA was going to be a problem. That was approved by FDA. Organic has been more restrictive.
Allison: Alice mentioned you may be able to speak more- virtual and cost of travel. Disparate access and privilege.
Steve: One of NOC’s goals is to create access in any way possible for people to participate as a board. Webinar, in person- many different venues. I heard on Tuesday, 2000 attendance for meetings. Not necessarily true. NOC offers scholarships. One person asked for $90 to attend the meeting. Some people- there’s a real difference between giving comments in person or by webinar. It’s like voting- you can vote in person or by mail. When you’re in front of the board and giving comments. We’ve seen people get hooked and it keeps them involved in the future. That’s important. You don’t know what you don’t know. This board has not done in person comments. Give it a try for a couple times and see. I have faith in you and you’re all smart people The undue influence. You have the ability to sift comments. The richness of the in person experience is really powerful.
Nate: I want to hone in on the ion exchange resins and their proper place in the listing. I think they are neither a processing aid nor an ingredient. I appreciate the need for transparency. I am not convinced that the National List is the best way to deliver the transparency. Curious your thought.
Steve: I mean we’ve gone round …. nebulous answer from FDA was the key. They don’t have a good classification for these. We list charcoal and other physical filtration devices. It’s not out of line. They are designed to be interactive with the product. That ion exchange surface is very different than a normal food contact surface. The 4 years of deliberations have exposed that it’s not a slam dunk. I fall on the side of transparency. the stakeholders are trying to figure out what is being used. We’drather have it be an upfront process.
Kyla: What’s the difference on the national list of any material and whether or not it’s being used. No one knows. The certifier and inspector does. The public does not know what you’re using on your farm. They can look at the list and the FDA and see all of the things that are allowed. FDA list vs. The national list.
Steve: I can only use things on the national list on my farm if I’m going to use a synthetic. You narrow down the number of things that are possible. I’ve said why these are different than food contact substances. They are fundamentally different because they interact with the food product. The National List does narrow things down vs. Going to an FDA list that is I don’t know how many substances there are. On my OSP I have to justify why I’m going to use something. I think it’s pretty transparent.
Kyla: The same would be true of an operator using a resin. Closed list.
Steve: Trying to narrow down the number of things people need to evaluate.
Kyla: in the FDA response back they advised us to use our own definitions.
Steve: Respectfully, our members disagree with that. We’re going to fall on the side of transparency.
Kim: I’m shifting gears. We’ve heard a lot of comments. What platforms to use for public comment- what is fair and equitable. I’ve heard about scholarships. Offered.
Steve: To anybody- our organizations and affiliates. Scholarships are for local farmers. Its’ an open ended process. The NOSB is such a cool venue for organic stakeholders to have input. It’s one of the more notable boards. Having a room full of people there brings home to USDA what you’re doing. Having in person comments shows USDA it matters. Its’ a visceral demonstration of stakeholder involvement. NOC, OTA, OFA, other groups. I push back on the influence- it’s much more open and dynamic than that.
Ginny Olson – Crop insurance agent (CACS)
[Presentor has slides.]
Selling crop insurance for over 20 years. Transitioning to organic is huge financial risk, especially for new grower. Usually assigned a county T yeild. The transitional crop has lower yields and value. One of the possible colutions would be to provide producer to buy up their T-yeild; take their historic conventional yeild and take county yeild and buy it up. Issue: orgnaic claims are worked the same way conventional claims are. If there is no yeild loss, but the orgnaic buyer deems to grain as damamged, farmer will be forced to sell it as feed grade (for example). Instead of using conventional guidelines suggest creating organic claims structure. We nee enterprise units by practice type – allowing farmer to keep all of their acres on one policy rather than taking out multiple policies. NOP guidelines do not match RMA’s. Crop insurance rules do not match timing for NOP and certification either.
Kim: If I used a conventional product as opposed to organic product in regards to quality – can you explain more?
Ginny: I see a huge difference in test weight, kernel “damage”. What would be accepted as conventional is not necessarily accepted as organic.
Kim: So orgnaic has stricter requirements between feed and food quality.
Ginny: Food and feed grade is huge. We are stuck on fact that if they have the yield they can go sell it. For example conventional can go sell a crop the buyer won’t accept elsewhere (like selling corn for ethanol) but organic cannot do the same.
Nate: Organic has a gap in that insurance does not cover us in all things that can happen during the season.
Ginny: Exactly, insurance is not taking into account what happens to you when you sell it.
Kim: Let’s take aflotixin for example. From quality perspective I struggle with re-defining rules for organic, because quality can apply to conventional or organic. I see the issue as whether it would fall out of organic status, but otherwise where is the issue.
Ginny: Processors have contracts, and adjusters have to look at those. Don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but we can look to these other examples or data to guide.
Nate Powell-Palm: Does not have to just be organic, anyone would lose value if they have to sell their crop in unexpected market.
Jefferson Dean – Timberlane Organic Farms (General)
I’m Jefferson dean. Have been certified 30 years now- through OEFFA, also active with OEFFA and the grain growers chapter. I’d like to thank the board members for their service. I’m sure it’s a lot of work and not a lot of reward. I think your predecessors did you a disservice by not addressing issues early on.
They set this up a long time ago to have these meetings in the spring and fall. I should be in the tractor right now- here I am figuring out what I’m going to say and how to say it. I appreciate participating. My first time speakign to NOSB was through a NOC scholarship in Colorado a few years ago. I think the in person meetings are very important. I’d like to see some kind of a change in how farmers can participate in the meetings. I’m sure there are lots who would love to have their input. I’ve been talking about this idea for a while. I think COrey Struck’s idea for a winter listening session is a great idea. Maybe if you had more farmer intervention in the beginning, maybe we wouldn’t have this issue with hydroponics being certified. Right in the regs it says we’re supposed to have soil, crop rotations, healthy people from healthy food. And now we’re certifying hydro people. maybe we needed more farmer input then. It took 10 years to write the regs. It took a long time and they purposely made a few exceptions. They did not make any exception for hydroponics. That was on purpose.
Nathanial : consistent messaging from NOC and OFA – we have a very finite amount of time to fix a lot of problems in the world. How do we not lose forest for the trees – so when folks bringing us ideas – what is actually harming your farm? What’s your challenge and what’s causing you pain and what can we do about it? We talk constantly about how we get more farmers voices. What is our mandate?
Jefferson: Only thing we have is our integrity so when we have things certified that aren’t organic, the rest of the world points it out. That’s all we have and if that is hurt by certifying things that are not organic it hurts us. We need to uphold integrity of organic. If we can’t sell our crops with organic label then we won’t be organic farmers anymore
Nathaniel: have you lost anything to hydro? Any customers saying lost credibility b/c of hydro?
Jefferson: have had instances with consumers talking about that and other grain producers talking about intricacies like hydroponics. There is no sense in transitioning b/c look at all the stuff they allow.
Justin Raikes – Raikes Organic Farms, LLC (CACS)
Thank you to the NOSB. 5th generation grain farm on 25 acres, year 5 organic. Owe our continued existence to organic program. We want to continue to grow into organic livestock. We strongly encourge NOSB to work toward parity and enforcement on import side. Support geo-tagging. It’s an issue of integrity; can’t have issue where domestic growers go to jail for fraud when international producers have no consequences. Any and all things that can be added to the certificate to help we support. For insurance, the percent APH approach works. The crop insurance issue is a big barrier to preventing more people to continuing to come into organic. Risk management is a big deal. Basically, I have to throw 20 years of APH for example into the garbage to start organic.
Amy: Mentioned amount of diversity in your fields – are you able to get organic crop insurance for all of those rotational crops outside of corn and soybeans?
Justin: No, we are not.
Amy: On corn and soybeans, past speakers have talked about this – the yields that you have – is it the price or actual level of coverage?
Justin: I’d say coverage. The t-yield that you take is significant and you’re not able to carry forward any history. Forced restart is hard.
Alexis Dragovich – Mud Run Farm (General)
I am Alexis Dragovich from Mud Run Farm and I am a OEFFA member from NE Ohio. I am a 2nd generation organic farmer and co manage a certified organic farm with my dad. since 2007 we have been certified for vegetables, row crops, and chicken eggs and in 2020 we obtained the certified handling certificate when we started an on farm flour mill.
We sell direct to consumers via farmers markets and independent grocers.
As you can imagine this is a really busy time for us and other farmers.
and to be honest I almost bailed on presenting any comments here today it is currently 77 degrees, sunny, and dry outside.
But I decided against it because there are some things that I care about.
First of those being farmers access to these types of conversations.
Spring and Fall are less than ideal when you are competing with the weather and have short windows to get things done.
as well as frankly my passion and attention are elsewhere as I am thinking about all that needs to be accomplished.
Why not offer a Nov-March calendar which could offer more inclusivity?
The next item I would like to speak to is that crop of insurance. Now our farm does not use crop insurance.
On our farm, we instead focus on a diversity. We dont have one main cash crop which actually makes things harder. Different crops mean different planting and harvest times. Different planting and harvest equipment. It would be nice if there was crop insurance that was available for farms our size so that we too can utilize a safety net that works.
And my final comment is on that of hydroponics being certified organic.
I was recently asked to be on a panel where we discussed things that the NOP has gotten right and the things that may have been wrong and the #1 thing that was mentioned as what was right were the standards; the rules for us all to follow.
And they are the same rules no matter what you grow, or the size of the operation.
What are the standards for hydroponics?
How can they comply with citation 205.203 Soil Fertility and crop nutrient management.
How can they “Maintain or improve soil organic matter”?
On our farm soil health and land stewardship offers a great sense of pride for us and something we work at every day.
And as a consumer when I buy something with the organic label, I assume that they were grown outside and when I learn that they are grown in a container, or in a building it feels like a trick.
My dad calls this CAFO lots for plants.
To us organics is about the soil.
I think that Hydroponics has a place but I dont think that place is in organics.
Thank you for your time today and your service to this board.
Nathaniel: How does info flow to you from OEFFA? For a lot of reasons, timing of meeting, we landed on only times that work which suck for all in upper 2/3 of country. Has OFA not explained that to you? We did so much work at request of OFA farmers may have not made it back to you.
Alexis: It’s still planting season. Doesn’t work.
Nathaniel: If we had in-person in April, is it easier for you to get here on Zoom or in-person.
Alexis: Probably can’t take a week away in April
Harriet Behar – Farmer‐ Advocate‐ Educator‐ Certification (General)
[Full comments pending.]
Mindee: Do you think that updating the petition template would be the best way to address your suggestion?
Harriet: Yes, and that it be returned to the petitioner if they haven’t answered the questions.
Bryce Irlbeck – AgriSecure (Crops (CS))
I am owner of AgriSecure – data platform management – and also an organic farmer in Nebraska. Thank you for having these comments online. I do not have time to travel and make comments. I could get on board with changing times, but everyone is busy year round, and you wouldn’t make everyone happy.
SOE – I believe we are headed in the right direction. We need to move faster than we are all right now. The way that we are moving with more paper and documentation, that doesn’t seem to be working. I think there are other ways to do that. If we do not move quickly, I have a fear – I work with farmers – and we are seeing a severe reduction of organic acreage, and I think we will continue to see that if we don’t get that straightened out. One example is this morning, I had a big for non-GMO soybeans come in higher than organic soybeans.
Foreign imports and georeferencing – Geo referencing is a good thing to have an have as an organic producer and certifier and mark those fields and know where they are.
A bit facetious – I’d like to have geo reference fields – I’d like to go meet the producers who are producing for half of the cost that we can in the US.
Again, I think we look at this as a picture. 3 countries in Africa – Toga 23.8&, Gana 24.2%, Tanzania 20-something% malnutrition. We are importing from those countries that cannot feed their own people. Are we doing the right thing by importing from them?
Nate: When we talk about the ethical obligation of being a net importer of grain from countries to feed our animals, it seems that is going to fall outside the scope of standards that this Board is in charge of. How do we start to think bigger to start tackling issues as big of this?
Bryce: I think it starts with making people and farmers aware. It’s a social issue that starts from the brands on down. If people are purchasing for the right reason, and I think they are, I don’t think they would be happy to hear about what we’re doing. Brands – Consumers – Regulatory people. The people in these countries are not making more money – it is a handful of people moving products across the ocean.
Amy: Farmer retention – I know you interact with a lot of producers and you mentioned that we are losing acreage – can you quantify that better?
Bryce: Yes, I would say that it is 10-20% of the acres that we are losing. On our own farm, we have already taken out 10% of the acres – doesn’t make sense economically or socially to do it.
Franklin: In some of the countries that you mentioned, the labor is a lot cheaper. Are there other reasons that you think make the cost more competitive?
Bryce: I understand that. There are other things that are more expensive in those countries, as well, and I think it’s offset – seed, technology. It’s not clear to me why it is cheaper.
Nate; What do you see as one of the biggest opportunities to drive demand in the organic marketplace?
Bryce: Stability. When you have $40 soybeans and you go down to $20 soybeans – people do not do things that are unstable. It’s not to say that we cannot import stuff, but $20 soybeans are not profitable in the US. $25-30 works, and that’s probably where they should be. They will go back up to $40 when they shut down the routes that have popped up after they shut down India.
Kim: Is it a target $ figure that is creating the increase or decrease of acres, or is it relational to the other opportunity costs, and how can we attack that?
Bryce: It is always in relation to other opportunities cost. If I can grow non-GMO soybeans and can spend 80% less of my time doing that, then I’m going to do that. I think it’s both of those.
Kim: Would it be helpful to have more marketing tools that would be aligned at a % above conventional?
Bryce: I am not in favor of that. I am in favor of free markets. I think that if we enforce the rules that we have, it will work. I’m not saying that you cannot import, but some of them aren’t organic, and when you dump more product in the market than the market can handle…
Carolyn: Just a comment – seems like these issues you raise have been embedded in our food system for so long. Where original Farm Bill came in. Trade off between resilient food system versus responding quickly to responses in pricing. We have less resilience and a quicker response to price changes.
Nate: We encourage everyone, when you have solutions, please send them to us!
Linley Dixon – Real Organic Project, Adobe House Farm (General)
[Full comments pending.]
Allison: Touched on an issue that is important: issue of pesticide use. Very high on my list is reducing use of pesticides. What are the trade-offs: if we take away the option of being organic will hydro then use pesticides?
Linley: Allowing a cheaper form of production then ends up mandating it. Puts many farmers out of business. See this with organic poultry porches. There are lots of labels on the marketplace right now – no reason a hydro-no-spray label cant exist. It’s not compatible with organic. It’s not stability, it’s integrity and continuing to improve that are important for organic survival. These hydro operations are spraying pesticides to transition greenhouses. This is not an organic system: result of no rules or oversight around hydro systems.
Brian: I would like to hear some of the specifics about impacts of hydro producers on your operation.
Linley: We compete – wholesale cherry tomatoes – and compete for shelf space. We had a boom right after Covid hit and put in another GH, and we’ve had trouble selling that product after Covid. Our markets are tight and come and go. We heard from another farmer in Real Organic who sells 12 cherry tomato pints for $15, and she cannot let it go below that in order to make it work, and it’s not coming in below that. It is definitely impacting soil-grown operations. We can start asking our farmers for more of that data before the fall.
Nate Powell-Palm: Thinking about the next “version” of organics… realizing that standards are not going to save us (just catalyze and organize). If we look at every conventional dairy that has gone out of business – bigger market issues plaguing us. Seems intellectually dishonest for our community not to tackle those. At one point do we embrace collective action to build selling power for farmers? How do we build coalitions. It’s easy for dairies to meet the organic rule. How do we expand our tent in addition to being organic?
Linley: Guarantee if we got rid of organic CAFOs we would see more of those dairy farms in WI. Mark gave good info on organic dairies.
Nate: The big still win if there is no organizing of small. ROP hasn’t given a solution beyond the standards
Linley: ROP is kind of doing that. We put on symposia, put on educational videos.
Tim Cada – An organic farmer since 1994 (General)
Integrity is 95% of organic. Wife and I converted to 100% organic in 1994. Son Matt jumped on. 500 acres. Certified by one cert.
Crop insurance: Wind and hail insurance – (inaudible). Federal crop will cover soybeans just fine. Food grade corn – finding out. If toxin problem, corn is unsellable. Take whole farm income as well. Pricey but our insurance against our insurance. Federal crop does not help with contract pricing b/c of their conventional mentality. Federal crop for organic is not complete. Organic and conventional can both have quality problems. Conventional problems might be 1 or 2 dollars difference while organic can be 50 percent or more as price differential. Last thing, blue corn is not considered corn by USDA (inaudible).
[NOTE: VERY HARD TO HEAR.]
Mindee: Can you repeat the last thing you said was that blue corn is not considered corn by the USDA…can you tell me what you said after that?
Tim: They consider blue corn an ornamental. Red corn is corn. Blue corn shouldn’t be treated any differently.
Nate Lewis: In the blue corn insurance case – have you pursued contract price addendum.
Tim: If I have aflatoxin in my corn and the buyer won’t take it, I have few options. Will have to sell it at huge discount. Federal crop insurance won’t pay my contract price because their standards are different; they don’t care about quality only bushels per acre.
Kimberly: Want to clarify – from a quality standpoint, let’s use aflatoxin as an example, do you have the same quality standard for conventional aflatoxin as you do for organic aflatoxin corn?
Tim: I believe so. It’s a very low #.
Kimberly: I know that there is a certain amount that can be accepted. There are standards. From a quality standpoint, do you see discrepancies, you said you can lose up to 50% of the value of your grain – is that because you are selling it as conventional or because the quality scale is different for organic than conventional?
Tim: Quality scale is a little different for organic.
Meggan Hain – Organic Valley (Livestock (LS); Materials (MS))
Veterinarian at OV. Responsible for animal welfare and in capacity talking about livestock sunsets under review. Aspirin and other pain medications are essential for controlling pain and preventing suffering. Second item is vaccinations. As review, keep 2 key things in mind. Vaccinations are one of safest and best tools to prevent disease and suffering. Animals shouldn’t die from something preventable. Vaccinations allowed under organics. Many don’t know which are best for herds or whether allowed. See too many herds that lose too many animals from things that could be prevented. If put additional restrictions could see more. Concern about decreasing options available to farmers by restricting excluded methods. All vaccinations on market go through extensive testing and extensive testing that makes it difficult to change vaccine markets. Like see standard not going to change market there. Also putting certifiers in difficult position b/c they don’t necessarily know methods of vaccine making. Certifiers not in position to prescribe what’s appropriate for animal health. As NOSB reviews use and guidance to not make it more difficult for us and farmers.
Nate: You were saying that producers are confused. How can NOSB and NOP do a better job of explaining vaccines? I think the first time that I was asked about the organic status at the county fair, my friend asked if that just meant I was too lazy to vaccine. What message can we use?
Meggan: I think a lot of that falls on our side, and folks that are working in the organic industry. What I’m asking from the NOSB is that we do not make it more complicated. It gets more difficult when you have to say this is allowed, but not these methods. I think we can do the education.
Kim: More of a shout out – I think having the voice of the veterinarian community is very valuable to us on the Board, and we do not get enough of that. Appreciate you.
Joel Kurtz – organic inspector (General)
Joel Kurtz, Work as agronomist at Maysville Elevator, contract inspector in the plain community for OEFFA, vegetable farmer and CSA in the past.
Commenting on the consistent location identification discussion topic.
Although I understand the logic behind utilizing technology and using GPS data for consistency among certifiers. From my perspective requiring GPS coordinates for each individual field would create undue burden to the producer, inspector and certifier. And may be enough to encourage producers to find alternative, non-certified markets because of increased cost and labor to meet this requirement. For example, many producers change their field layouts based on crops grown each year. Many farmers may have 5-20 different fields that will change in field size/ area based on what crop is being grown each year. So, if the center point of each field would need updated each year along with acreage someone would need to step into the center of each field each year to update the changes which would create another layer of time consumption. This is information that is already provided on the updated maps sent to the certifier with renewal applications. I believe it is important to deter fraud in acreage reporting and crop data. But in my experience inspecting for OEFFA if the producer has the required maps, addresses, and field identification system integrated with crop identification for traceback to field production it would be evident if fraud had occurred. I could understand that a single geolocation for the operation may be beneficial for quick, efficient traceback to production location, but not for each individual field.
Hydroponics – In light of nutritional integrity tied to organic production, I do not believe that hydro has a place in organic. If we continue to improve plant production in soil health, this will allow…
Nate: We would be very interested in getting the language right in this discussion document. I think the word “field” might be confusing. Would it be better to say “parcel”? You might subdivide it in any given year, but you’re not going to move onto your neighbor’s property. Would “parcel” make more sense?
Joel: I think it would. The farm, from my perspective, the farm has a physical street address, so I use a GPS to find that address. The application and OSP already has a map of fields for that farm. What I understood before was that each individual farm would need coordinates to be able to be found, but I understand that change in language.
Nate: We can definitely update that. What the difference a word can make. Mad respect as a fellow inspector – we do not want to overburden the process. So, when we are thinking about the value of being able to find these fields – in much of the country, fields do not have addresses – houses have addresses – and most farm fields do not have houses, depending where you are in the country. If there are 40 different fields, I am reliant on the farmer to show me those fields. If we would have a drop pin for each of these parcels, does that make sense?
Joel: If those fields or parcels are not combined or conjoined to the main central from, I can understand having a pin for that location.
Amy: Glad we worked through some of those clarifications. With members that have no or low access to tech; we heard a couple commenters talk about “legal address” like township range, APN – are either of those two ideas workable.
Joel: Yes, every property has a parcel number.
Nate Powell-Palm: How do we get better at organizing folks to comment? How do we get better at speeding and improving this process up.
Joel: When someone hears someone from regulatory agency, they are always thinking of devils in details. Real-life farm examples would help. Bringing people together with actual scenarios with how this could work. Geo-location looks too complicated when I just read the information.
Jerry: Comparison between hydroponics and end product in terms of nutritional value – I want more information on that through Michelle is possible.
Joel: The real information would come from nutritional testing. You need to go to those people to get that data, I don’t have it.
Jerry: Is there somewhere that I should be calling rather than having you chase it down?
Joel: Start with Bionnutrient Food Assn.
Robert Rankin, ED International Food Additive Counsel
IFAC is an association representing manufacturers and substances in organic handling.
Support gellan gum, potassium chloride, alginates, glycerides, phosphoric acid, xanthan gum, and other gums, lecithin de-oiled. All of these materials are safe, are used in compliance with organic principles, and lack organic alternatives completely or in a volume suitable to meet demand.
James Swartzentruber – Green Field Farms (General)
Thank you. Work for Greenfield Farms, farmer-owned cooperative. Geo locations – I had some thoughts about in the past hour so changed some based on conversation. Our farmers are certified and have small acreage – 2-15 acres and like a lot of surrounding states there are conservative Mennonites and generally don’t use technology. AT co-op office, we do but on farms it isn’t used. Up until now it has been relatively easy to comply. See some issues with GPS coordinates, had discussion with Joel Kurtz. Obvious issue in plain community is that as simple as it may sound to drop the pin, how do you do it if not using the technology. Would be concerned about adding costs and time as certifiers are already busy and timely audits and certifications are important for organic community. If there was a technological requirement to maintain organic certification, a huge percentage of plain community could not certify. I agree with conversation about parcels – In Ohio every parcel has a number. What if I farm half my parcel and neighbor rents other half – becomes complicated and this happens and happens with co-op members.
Nathaniel: There is no tech requirement for certification for farmers. Worried this has been conflated. As inspector, can drop a pin on farm.
Amy: We were going to use the word “parcel,” and we thought that might be more questionable than the words we chose. I wanted to ensure that you agreed with what Joel said on the parcel…
Nathaniel: The county parcel # is easy public information in Ohio. I do not know about the rest of the country.
Amy: Thanks for the points about parcel splitting.
Kelly Skoda – CROPP Cooperative/Organic Valley (Handling (HS))
Certification specialist. Sunsets of handling substances: gellan gum, flavors, water extracted gums, lecithin gum. Gellan gum is an important ingredient. Used in seasonal eggnog, whipping cream, etc. Many of which are award winning products. Unaware of any environmental or health concerns; do not know of alternatives. For flavors, we currently use organic flavors and do not have trouble sourcing these. We support the current listing of non-organic flavors. We use guar and locust bean gums – but we use organic versions of these gums without issue. We have not decided whether to support re-listing of these. We use lecithin we purchase mostly comes from sunflowers grown in Ukraine. The price for organic is high, but availability is not a concern.
Amy: Broad-based question – the world of dairy really impacts us grain farmers – you were quantifying the dairy industry and how if gums weren’t available and it would impact your industry. Year-to-year, are we growing market share in organic dairies?
Kelly: In 2014, we had similar comments. During that time, we also had additional products that we have since discontinued. Compared to then, it is actually a little bit less. We would like to see our market share growing. Heavy whipping cream is one of our most popular retail items. It’s important to innovate, and we continue to innovate. I can get you a better answer next week.
Kim: I really appreciate you. On lecithin, have you tried to use other oil seed origins – canola or soybean – or only sunflower?
Kelly: That’s another question that I cannot give a definite answer to. I believe that we used to use soy lecithin, I think we are trying to get away from that due to soy allergies. I can get a better answer from our product development team.
Franklin: written comments noted that there is a discrepancy in how phosphoric acid is listed as a cleaning agent/sanitizer.
Kelly: We reached out to Kyla about this earlier this week. We were unaware if certifiers were reviewing these products consistently. It’s specified as a cleaner on the NL. But it should be allowed as a last-step product. Phosphoric acid has both cleaning and sanitizer properties. Is there inconsistency in review in the industry”? Question of whether it should be amended for clarity.
Jerry: During your quick rundown on lecithin, I lost my way a bit. If you take Ukraine out of your supply, are you willing today to say that there is a predictable, stable, availability of organic supply – also taking cost out of your equation. Can one expect to have a reliable source of supply?
Kelly: I’m not sure. A lot of sunflowers are from Ukraine or other parts of EU, and I’m not sure what domestic supply is like. We will look into that. We continue to assess availability. We have a team dedicated to sourcing.
Jerry: Not trying to lead the witness, but at this point, would you be willing to say that we are not robust about saying that we have a reliable source of supply.
Kelly: Probably today, yes.
Aaron Zimmerman – Zimmermans Incorporated Farms (CACS; Crops (CS); General)
Thanks for listening. Big undertaking. Don’t have too much to say. Crop insurance – 2500 acres in NE Nebraska. About 5 years into it. Been around chemicals whole life and never going back. As far as crop insurance goes, it seems strange how it’s calculated with the yield and get that it’s a different practice in organic. Don’t understand why when get certified have to start over with T-yield. Enforcement and accountability – guy Frank has neat slides. I’m just a farmer and don’t know what’s going on in world and when started seeing how grain flows across the globe, I was actually mad. How are these guys growing organic food and sending it over to us and saw firsthand what it does to our market. Last summer was $40 and now down to $20 – huge revenue fluctuation for me. Somebody was talking about consistency – wondering if I should grow soybeans b/c don’t know if there will be a market at time of harvest. Don’t know how to deal with imports. Appreciate it.
Nathiel: Thank you.
Amy: Thank you. Challenges with soybean market and crop insurance. What crop would you rotate into if don’t have soybeans and then would that have insurable attribute.
Aaron: Learning here in Nebraska if want insurance it’s corn and soybeans. They are a drop in bucket of what can grow. We’re trying to do double crop with yellow peas and take out if weather allows follow up with buckwheat. Neither of those crops are insurable.
Kim: Outside of crop insurance, what other risk management tools do you have?
Aaron: I don’t rely too heavily on crop insurance and try not to borrow money at bank. Can’t afford to take risks with other crops. It’s important to have premiums in place.
Kim: volatility in space is significant. Curious about other ways to close the gaps with price volatility. Reason asked the question. Thank you very much.
Nate: Speak to how is organic perceived in your banking community? How hard is it to explain what organic is?
Aaron: I’ve been fortunate: pushed into this sector by my banker, seeing numbers on backend. Was eating organic myself and spraying chemicals on other peoples food. Did interest-only payments only on transition years. Bankers seem to be supportive in general.
Michael Hansen – Consumer Reports (Livestock (LS); Materials (MS))
I am Michael Hansen, Senior Scientist with Consumer Reports, an independent, non-profit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier marketplace. I will speak on the excluded materials document—on the 4 techniques.
First, ECO TILLING is not an excluded method since no mutagens are used. TILLING where the “mutagen” is environmental stress is also not an excluded method since such stresses are naturally occurring. TILLING where chemicals or irradiation are used as the mutagenic compound should then be considered an excluded method, since they violate the first criteria for determining if a method should be an excluded method, since it could be argued that the chemicals and irradiation would not respect the genome as indivisible.
Second, for double haploid, there are in vivo and in vitro methods. For the in-vivo methods, particularly the use of haploid inductor or inducing lines, those could be considered not to be using an excluded method, as long as none of the ingredients used in the in-vivo methods are produced using modern biotechnology or are unapproved synthetic chemicals. For the in-vivo method that uses irradiated pollen, we consider the use of irradiation would violate the first criteria.
If any of the inputs used in the in-vitro double haploid system are produced using modern biotechnology then those inputs would make the system an excluded technology. If the synthetic phytohormones or colchicine are not produced using modern biotechnology, then those synthetic chemicals would have to be permitted to be used before this in-vitro technology could be considered not an excluded method.
Third, induced mutagenesis where the mutagen is a chemical or irradiation should join in vitro nucleic acid techniques as an excluded method. If the mutagen is an environmental stressor or UV light, then those would not be considered an excluded method.
Fourth, transposable elements (TE), where their movement is the result of a chemical or irradiation should join in vitro nucleic acid techniques as an excluded method. If the TE movement is the result an environmental stressor, then those should not be considered an excluded method. It should be pointed out TEs, once thought to be “junk DNA” are now known to play a major role in driving genome evolution. In addition to causing mutations, TEs can induce epigenetic alterations that modify gene expression which can result in phenotypic variation and adaptation to stress in rice. Recent research has shown TEs are the main source of epigenetic changes and form a substantial part of the plant genome, such as 85% in maize. As a recent review found “These TE-mediated epigenetic modifications lead to phenotypic diversity, genetic variation, and environmental stress tolerance. Thus, TE methylation is essential for plant evolution and stress adaptation.”
 Durbin MJ, Scheid OM and C Becker. 2018. Transposons: a blessing curse. Current Opinion in Plant Biology 42: 23-29. At: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1369526617301577
 Song X and X Cao. 2017. Transposon-mediated epigenetic regulation contributes to phenotypic diversity and environmental adaptation in rice. Current Opinion in Plant Biology 36: 111-118. At: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1369526616301820
 Schnable PS, Ware D, Fulton RS, Stein JC, et al. 2009. The B73 maize genome: complexity, diversity, and dynamics. Science 326(5956): 1112-1115. At: https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.1178534
 Ramakrishnan M, Satish L, Kalendar R, Narayanan M et al. 2021. The dynamism of transposon methylation for plant development and stress adaptation. Int. Journal of Molecular Sciences 22, 11387. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms222111387
Dilip: This is going to be a lot of work for the Board. What is your find on EM on using chemicals, such as colchicine – one of the chemicals used to make double haploids. If there are any chemicals involved in double haploids, are they going to be excluded methods?
Michael: No – the phytohormones and colchicine – those would need to be permitted synthetic chemicals, and there is a process for that. I was explicitly saying that because I’ve talked to some organic breeders who are interested in using these techniques. So, what I was saying was to make those synthetics allowed, and we should be good to go.
Brian: Why should colchicine be allowed as a genetic manipulator?
Michael: They have said double haploids in the past have been considered a “traditional breeding method.” So, all I’m saying is that this is what would have to be done. For some crops, you might have to use phytohormones. If organic wants to go down that road, then I’m saying that at least colchicine and phytohormones would have to be used. There were some people in the organic breeding who told me that their dream is to do this. I said that if there is enough interest in that, then it has to go through the process of it being an approved synthetic.
Brian: This might be too big, but some of these techniques have been on the TBA for a long time, and the reason they were put on there is because there are a lot of varieties in the pipeline that use them – how do we do that? How do we put them on the EM list? Do we just not allow them from this point forward?
Michael: I think this comes into play with the use of mutagenesis. Now what comes into play is the use of trans fusional elements – whole thing of epigenetics. That can have heritable effects with all of these other things. Science did not understand that, and we are just beginning to understand it. Under stress conditions, they are not only changing things, but they are making the rice more adaptable. Whoa. Previously people said that was crazy, because that would imply that there was… That means, that rather than using chemicals, it is the transposable elements that is going to be doing all of these things.
Mindee: If you’d like to send us some of that literature, please do send it to Michelle.
Michael: I can do that.
Mindee: Has Consumer Reports conducted a newer consumer survey on whether or not people understand the proliferation of biotech in the food system?
Michael: No, but every time we did them, that was an important consideration for consumers buying organic. People tend to think that it’s all genetic engineering.
Mindee: The reason I asked is that the plant-based movement was growing so much before the pandemic. I do not feel as if I’ve been able to gain perspective on consumer thoughts – are people being educated. What do consumers know and what are they really thinking about from a neutral space?
Michael – I will be encouraging CR to re-doing some of these surveys.
Dilip: Can you tell us a little bit about protoplast fusion and embryo rescue. If you have thoughts, please share, or please send literature.
Michael: Protoplast fusion – as long as below the level of plant family, that is the issue there – a lot of the cold crops. I can send you information on embryo rescue. The use of colchicine and all of those other things, that is part of the double haploid system and animal rescue.
Megan Vaith – Northbourne Organic Crop Insurance, LLC (CACS)
Work with multiple organic farmers. Crop insurance is an important risk management aspect. 2mil acres in 2022. Nearly 8.3 certified organic grain was harvested in 2022, showing there are a lot of acres not being insured. Organic farmers have higher loss ratios than conventional farmers (1.5 organic 0.8 in conventional). The crop insurance program is not true to original intent – if the loss rate is so high for organic, why are people not using crop insurance? Farmers have to start over at county transition yield (T-yield), which is set at 65% of conventional T-yield. Why is it set so low. It takes time to flush out those low T-yields. If RMA is stuck on using 65% factor, why not allow farmers to use 65% of their conventional farming history? Return on investment is a factor. Diverse crop rotations often make organic farmers ineligible for crop insurance. Suggest RMA changes for organic farmers as long as they can prove their multi-crop rotation system.
Nate: We talked about crop rotation…do you have any resources that you would point folks to where just the basic fundamental rules around crop insurance is available? Somewhere they can go to learn about it?
Megan: I do not have any now, but we are creating some with OATS – more to come this summer. The trend adjustment does not just apply to organic farmers – it applies to any farmer that is doing crop rotation.
Nate: Love that – could benefit all farmers if we moved in this direction.
Amy: You had a lot of data about how many farmers are participating in the program in the organic space – do we know where those #s are distributed – who has adopted the organic crop insurance and what type of farmer profile that is? You said they do not know it’s available to them…
Megan: There is information on the RMA website, but no good data on why they are not purchasing crop insurance. There is the data showing what crops and where crop insurance is available.
Amy: We heard from producers that they want to rotate into normal crops but they aren’t available for crop insurance – can you talk about what farmers would have to go through to get this?
Megan: Written agreements – some of the restrictions that they need in order to obtain insurance, you have to have some kind of crop history – does not need to be history on the crop that you are planting. Ex) Buckwheat – you can submit a written agreement and say that you have history to a similar crop – there is a list of similar crops. A lot of farmers think it’s too hard and that they don’t have the history, but they need to go down the route of written agreement and look at what crops they do have history with. Is it going to be good crop insurance, you don’t know until you get the information back, but if you have to go through the process to find out.
Byron Wiemer – crop insurance agent (CACS)
Crop insurance agent in eastern Nebraska. Was asked to visit with y’all. Going to piggyback off Aaron and I was toing to talk about T-yields. In York county Nebraska if conventional start out at 223 and organ trans 156. – corn price was set at 591 and talking short of 400 difference. If conventional 67 if organic transitional then 47. Price this year is 13.76 and 275 dollar difference. Like both Aaron and Megan related, when start out with transitional years, it’s 4 years. In 2 crop rotation talking 8 years – long process to where get to use own yields. As far as crops available, depends on county. Sort of limited on coverage available and stuck with yields for 4 years. For people going into it, it’s tough because taking quite a bit of risk on yourself. We need to offer better coverage for you.
Nathaniel: is it a missed opportunity to assume that good conventional farmers become good organic farmers?
Byron: yeah, if you’re farmer that takes pride in operation then you are going to do everything in power to produce a good crop. It seems like we are missing that – derobing period where techniques of getting good yields not recognized. Numbers are barrier to think good bet to jump to organic.
Amy: The data was helpful about the T yields. To clarify – if I was a 1st year conventional farmer, would I be able to get a larger coverage level than a farmer that had been farming for 15 years and switched to transition?
Byron: If you are a beginning farmer without a history, you start out at T yields. The only way you would get higher yields than that is if you are on rented ground and your landlord shares his higher yields with you.
Phil Vavracek – organic farmer (CACS)
Producer in Nebraska. Grow 2 certified crops. Went through transition period. Listened to 2 prior callers. Going to talk about T-yields: my thing with it is 150 is county average and with us our first year of corn we outproduced that by 170%. We were 255 an acre and followed up with another good yield. With 4 years to get proven history. If getting into 3 to 4 crops over 3-4 years, talking 16 years. Talk about some producers doing all can to push crop to get a better yield so if you have producer willing to do a little more than neighbor should be rewarded to that so if could use proven history of conventional and percentage to support proven yield to use for organic to reward someone with better history of yield. Our organic was just as good as conventional and better than some conventional fields. Imports of organic crops from overseas are they legitimately doing everything we are here or is it getting as looked at as hard.
Nathaniel Powell-Palm: Organic out-yielded conventional?
Phil: Yes. Came right out of alfalfa and was irrigated.
Nathaniel Powell-Palm: Great opportunity to hear on the ground data.
Doug Currier – OMRI
Ion exchange resins do not need to be added to the NL.
Nate Lewis: Comments on precedent: accurate to extrapolate that it’s your judgement at OMRI that the resins are either a processing aid or ingredient? So, there isn’t a natural place on the NL for these substances?
Yes. Making it clear what’s within the NOSB’s scope.
Amy: LFP: Talked about similar issues with solvents. Comment has seen high guarantee of phosphorus in these products (apart from what is added to get PH aligned). Are tests being done by OMRI to ensure more phosphates are not being added?
Doug: We do look at that PH requirement; ensure for formulated products that the PH test is representative of fish ingredient (making sure test happens before adding other ingredients). Do traceback audits. We are focused on PH requirement and making sure that it met as annotated; beyond that we don’t test.
Brian: I did not understand what you were talking about with fish products and the ph – you are saying that the ph is tested before phosphoric acid is added?
Doug: There are fish products that are 100% fish products, and there are fish products that are formulated with fish products. For those formulated, we are ensuring that the fish product ph level – you do not get to double adjust the ph. You do not get to do it with the fish product and then after the formulation – so that you don’t get to double dip for the acid stabilization.
Brian: The double dipping that I was thinking about is that before the final product is finished, it is acid stabilized, and then more is added after the product is formulated. But, in terms of ion exchange, it seemed as if the first part of your comments was in support of listing resins, but the second part wasn’t – did I get that right?
Doug: This has been the issue all along. Defending where our policy is right now, but at the same time adjusting our policy based on all of the conversations that have been had over the past 3 years. The first part of the comment was about talking about where we are with our current policy. These are looked at by FDA in a particular way, and that doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to look at them in the same way. Knowing there is that FDA food contact substance process where they are assessing that potential migration… Just to clarify, we do support the subcommittee recommendation that they do not need to be on the NL, but the first part of my comment was trying to address some of our current policy and connect the dots between what FDA is doing. Trying to set the level here for what the FDA is doing.
Franklin: As far as leaking and leaching – is leaching an actual issue? Does it go into the product?
Doug: There is a lot of that terms being used, and I think, hopefully, we are arriving at a point of recognizing that the makeup of the resin is not meant to interact with the foodstuff. It is there to ensure that the ion exchange technology is effective. But, there is this migration potential to have some of these materials in the resin end up in food. That is what the FDA is looking at when they look at their approval of these materials. That’s the estimated dietary intake. There has to be some kind of acknowledgement that there is the potential for the materials in these resins to migrate. It’s not just resins – it’s many other food contact substances. There are requirements in the FDA regulations, even before you start using the technology – you have to meet certain standards. Running simulations of what the actual filtration is going to be. That’s what I’m calling these calibration requirements – they are all on 21CFR, too. Gwendolyn was hitting on that. These are meant to be highly calibrated, efficient, effective technology. Yes, I think there is a potential for migration – I think that’s what the food process is all about. But, certifiers going on site every year is a bit part of ensuring that these are working the way that they should work.
Franklin: This estimated dietary intake, is it supported by data?
Doug: From what I know, yes. It is part of the assessment FDA is doing as they look at new food contact substances. There is a lot of FDA resources that are there to really outline what is required from these manufacturers. That is a calculation that they are very much looking at – what amount could reasonable – depending on how much someone is ingesting – about how much would appear in one of these food stuffs.
Kyla: Want to set the record straight on terminology. Leakage is referring to ion capacity and when the resins get at capacity, those things that are meant to be removed are going further into the product – correct?
Kyla: Regarding the first part of your comment, talking about terms, I know that Nate had asked about our terms – that was confirmation for me. I was looking back at OTAs written comments from the fall. According to those comments, since the FDA modernization act in 1997, the FDA has been processing all resins through the ?? Process, so they are all listed at 21CFR173.25. It could be these other things, managing them through the FCN process – is that your understanding?
Doug: Yes. 21CFR173.25 is very interesting. All of the components of these resins are clearly outlined, along with their use limitations and stuff like that.
Alan Lewis – Natual Grocers
Slippery slope that slides down slippery cliff. Not long ago group of families came and said they were certified as hydroponics and that it was essential – so where has slippery slope lead us. In Mexico 292 certified berry operations. Primarily certified by CCOF. Relatively strong corporations moving residents off the land, covering it with plastic, bringing in berry plants in plastic containers and using water from neighboring wells. Bringing in outside labor for $1-2 so workers end up living in slums and putting heavy stress on sanitation and public services. Berries packaged up and trucked up to US for premium price and our beloved USDA seal shows up on packaging. Day of reckoning is coming. My point is it’s a slippery slope to slippery cliff. Gene editing and manipulation taking same path. Remember essentiality and need to proceed with utmost caution.
Mindee: thank you for commentary. In Wichita and happy to be shopping at national grocer. Thinking about CA experience and how different from other areas of country. Feel like we’re in societal shift. Has Natural Grocers done any surveys and developing markets of organic. Who is the new organic consumer? Why do they show up at Natural Grocers.
Alan: I think the short answer is that no one feels well, everyone is sick, conventional healthcare is too expensive, and you cannot get well if you are poisoning yourself with dirty water and dirty food. I think that’s why cleaner food and water are much more popular post pandemic. People circled back to what they know is healthy.
Dilip: In your comments, the last sentence on gene editing caught my attention. I would ask you if you can tell briefly about those sentences you mentioned?
Alan: What we have been hearing over the last 3-4 years is individuals representing…saying gene editing is necessary and certain operations are going to need it to survive this or that – flooding, pests – that is my parallel to what caused hydro to sneak its way in. That’s my opinion. When we look at how we are going to develop seeds for organic, we are already so vulnerable to the criticism of people about the integrity of organic, if we start allowing some excluded methods for seed development, it is the same thing. I hear it among the original organic pioneers. If we do that, we have to pay attention to the consequences. Every exception becomes the rule. That’s my gentle, but forceful warning, about the process that we are into.
Nate: Going back to your Mexico example. I feel like there are so many themes in how you described corporate consolidation coming in and displacing farmers. A farmer displaced in Mexico has a lot of similarities as in the US. Are we misplacing hydro as the culprit of berry companies going in and bulldozing Mexican villages, or is it something else? We have so little time to make big changes, that if we are pointing at the wrong culprit, we aren’t going to have the chance to make changes? Wouldn’t those berry companies do that even if they were growing in the ground? Are we using hydro to take the blame? We don’t like corporate consolidation – why don’t we just call a spade a spade.
Alan: All of those 260s+ operations were certified in the last few years, half since 2019. We can take organic out of it and talk about corporate consolidation, talk about Mexican laws and corruption, but we are not immune to that in the US. We are looking at a place where that great big berry seller with the US organic logo on it is going to score so low on ethical….but we are allowing it to have our seal on it. All of us try to manage the environment, social, and governance issues to the benefits of society…I do not think the organic law captured enough of that, very much of that, or any of that in a lot of ways. We as a community need to wrap ourselves in a different set of principles.
Nate: If we are thinking that we want to engage those principles, at what point do we say let’s go work on bigger things – stronger protectionism for American producers? Behind all of this veil, this is what we are talking about. We do not want American berries to be threatened by Mexican berries – let’s just say it. Why not just say we do not want VT milk to be threatened by TX milk?
Alan: I agree.
Nate: I wasn’t looking for agreement – I was looking for a call to action.
Jerry: I firmly believe that when you take one issue and make it the boogey man for all of your concerns, you dilute the ability to address all of the concerns. That’s where I see hydro is. I think there is room for real discussion with real goals in front of it, and if we start throwing everything in one pot, we’re not going to tease it out right.
END OF SPRING 2023 NOSB PUBLIC COMMENTS.