Nov 8, 2021
Organic Trade Association reviews action at the U.S. organic standards board
On October 19, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) kicked off its three-day biannual public meeting via live webinar.
For each NOSB meeting, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) carries out an extensive process of membership engagement to capture how proposals will impact certified organic farmers and handlers. OTA submitted detailed written comments in advance of the meeting and today issued their Fall 2021 NOSB Meeting Report, which includes detailed notes on each agenda item up for deliberation. A summary version of the report is also available.
A primary responsibility of NOSB is to determine the suitability of inputs that may be used in organic farming/handling and make recommendations for including or removing those inputs from the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. At the meeting, NOSB considered 13 proposals, three discussion documents, and over 30 sunset materials.
Key meeting outcomes
Ammonia Extract, Sodium Nitrate & Other Highly Soluble Nitrogen Sources:
NOSB voted 13-1 to prohibit “stripped ammonia” and “concentrated” ammonia, which addresses the forms of ammonia extract that are the target of the petition. Despite the complexity and controversial nature of this material, a decisive majority of the NOSB members agreed that ammonia extracts do not meet the OFPA criteria for environmental impacts, soil health, and compatibility with a system of sustainable agriculture. Discussions about the role of highly soluble nutrients in organic agriculture will likely continue to be a focus point of the Crops Subcommittee.
All Sunset Materials Renewed & No New Materials Allowed:
Of the 30 materials on the National List undergoing sunset review this year, all of them were voted to be renewed for another 5-year cycle. Nearly all of the sunset review votes were unanimous in support of renewal, indicating broad consensus that the materials currently on the National List continue to meet the criteria under OFPA for allowance in organic production and processing.
Expanding NOSB Work Agenda
Thanks to efforts spearheaded by Chair Steve Ela, NOSB will now be able to add items to its own work agenda that go beyond discussion of National List materials. Some of the bigger picture areas the Board expressed interest in include: continuous improvement, climate change, organic seed requirements, forever chemicals in packaging, integrity and enforcement, container and greenhouse standards, and excluded methods.
NOSB is a Federal Advisory Committee charged with advising the USDA Secretary of Agriculture on which substances should be allowed or prohibited in organic farming/processing and making recommendations on other aspects of the organic regulations. The advisory committee plays a critical role in maintaining the integrity of the organic standard and in keeping the organic community and public up to speed on new agricultural and processing substances. NOSB meetings also include important updates from USDA’s National Organic Program and provide an opportunity for stakeholders to give feedback on proposed recommendations and discussion items.