Fall 2016 NOSB Update

Greetings from the Fall 2016 National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meetings, held in St. Louis, Missouri! As is the case every time it meets, the Board considers a number of standards issues important to the organic sector, and hears public testimony on those issues.

A few highlights from the week:

  • Five Board members will reach the end of their terms at the end of the year, and served their final meeting this week. The organic community owes gratitude to Tracy Favre, Jean Richardson, Zea Sonnebend, Carmela Beck, and Harold Austin – each of whom devoted tireless hours of volunteer service to continued development of strong organic standards.
  • The new NOSB members whose term will begin in January were announced. They are Joelle Mosso (Olam International), Sue Baird (Missouri Organic Association), Asa Bradman (University of California at Berkeley), Steve Ela (Ela Family Farms), and David Mortensen (Pennsylvania State University). We look forward to working with each of them!
  • The Board elected its officers for the next term. Congratulations to Tom Chapman (Chair), Ashley Swaffar (Vice Chair), and Jesse Buie (Secretary).
  • Deputy Administrator of the National Organic Program (NOP) Miles McEvoy gave an update on the work of the NOP and what we can hope to see from the Program in the remaining weeks of the Obama Administration.
    • The rules on Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices and Organic Aquaculture are both in clearance at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and are expected to be finalized before the end of the administration.
    • The proposed rules on Organic Apiculture and Organic Pet Food have been written and are in clearance.
    • Other rules in progress include rules on Origin of Livestock, Sodium Nitrate, and Compost.
    • The Program is continuing its work on improving oversight and control of organic trade, import requirements, classification of materials, and calculation of organic materials.
  • The Board heard public comments from approximately 150 stakeholders in person in St. Louis. Most of the comments focused on three main topics – the use of carrageenan in organic products; the use of certain materials in poultry production; and whether hydroponic, aquaponic, or container production can continue to be certified organic.
  • The Missouri Organic Association, in conjunction with the Organic Trade Association, hosted an evening reception with organic snacks and wines. In attendance were representatives from the Missouri Department of Agriculture, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt’s office, and U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill’s office.

The results of the Board’s deliberations on the proposals and petitions before it are as follows:

  • Changes to the National List:
    • Carrageenan and ivermectin were removed from the National List.
    • The remaining substances set to sunset were retained on the National List.
    • No petitions for additions to the National List were successful.
    • Sodium chlorite and tocopherols were referred back to the Handling Subcommittee for further work.
  • Proposals/Reports:
    • The Board adopted the Materials Subcommittee’s proposal on NOSB Research Priorities.
    • The Board adopted the Materials Subcommittee’s proposal on excluded methods, after removing the reference to Dupont seed technology.
    • The Board accepted the Materials Subcommittee’s report to the Secretary of Agriculture on progress to prevent incursion of GMOs into organic.
    • The Board referred the proposal on hydroponics, bioponics and aquaponics back to the Crops Subcommittee for further work. (Work will also continue on the question of standards for container production in organic, which was reviewed as a discussion document, rather than a full proposal to be voted on.)
    • The Board adopted a resolution stating that it intends to continue to consider innovations in agriculture that may or may not be compatible with organic production; and the current Board’s intention would be to prohibit systems that have an entirely water-based substrate.
    • The Board passed the Policy Development Subcommittee’s revisions to the Policy and Procedures Manual and reorganization of sunset review.

We can look forward to a full docket, including continued work on standards for innovative organic agricultural practices, at the April 2017 meeting, which is scheduled to be held April 19-21 in Denver, Colorado.

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