Sep 27, 2023
USDA asks organic board to continue work on biodegradable bio-based mulch film
The USDA’s National Organic Program is asking the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to continue its consideration of bringing the topic of biodegradable bio-based mulch film in organic crop production for public discussion.
The mulch film, known as BBMF, is allowed as a synthetic material in organic crop production. No known BBMF products, however, meet the current regulatory requirements making BBMF allowed but not useable. There are also no BBMF products that meet the requirements outlined in the 2021 NOSB recommendation on this topic.
Because the NOSB recommendation would not provide additional options to farmers, NOP has determined that it will not implement the NOSB’s 2021 recommendation. The National Organic Program is instead requesting that the board continue work on the topic of BBMF and submit a revised recommendation that:
• Identifies ways to overcome the challenges outlined in the memo.
• Reflects BBMF products or other alternatives that could be commercially available now or in the near future.
• Meets the goal of reducing plastic waste.
• Is consistent with the Organic Foods Production Act.
According to the USDA’s memo, BBMF was added to the USDA organic regulations in 2014 in response to a petition and NOSB recommendation. When BBMF was added, the National Organic Program explained in the preamble to the final rule that 100% of feedstocks used to make BBMF products must be derived from renewable materials (biobased), not fossil-fuels. Because no products actually aligned with the rule listing, in 2019, the NOP asked the board to work further on this topic and develop a recommendation for next steps. Public comments submitted to the board reported that 20-50% was a more feasible biobased content percentage for BBMF.
As with plastic film, the BBMF serves as a barrier to weeds. Unlike plastic mulch barriers, the BBMF material is left in the field to degrade.