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National Organic Standards Board Fall 2019 Meeting Report

November 26, 2019 | Categories: Organic, Industry Updates

Harriet Behar, NOSB Chairperson, opens day two of the NOSB meeting with public comments, which is essential to the development of NOSB recommendations and subsequent NOP rulemaking.

QAI participates in the biannual National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meetings, where proposals related to materials and organic practices are discussed and voted on or sent back to subcommittees for further development. The Fall 2019 NOSB meeting took place in October in Pittsburgh. The National Organic Program (NOP) provided a comprehensive update on proposed rules, final rules and soon-to-be released proposed rules, as well as a brief on NOP goals, priorities and enforcement actions. The NOSB conducted the sunset review process for more than 50 materials. This process is a periodic review of materials currently on the National List to evaluate their continued eligibility for the National List as established by the criteria in the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). Additionally, several petitions, proposals and discussion documents were considered during this meeting.

NOSB recommended changes to the National List and organic requirements are summarized below. This is not a comprehensive report of the work conducted by the NOSB during this meeting, but if you are an Organic Trade Association member, you can access the full report or contact your certification project manager for more information.

It is important to note that recommendations from the NOSB are not enforceable by certifiers. The NOP must accept the recommendations and then publish a proposed rule that reflects those recommendations. When the proposed rule is published, there is an additional opportunity for public comment before NOP finalizes and publishes the rule.

National Organic Program (NOP) Update

  • The USDA published a proposed rule to amend the National List based on the October 2018 NOSB recommendations. This proposed rule would:
    • Allow blood meal made with sodium citrate to be used as a soil amendment
    • Prohibit the use of the preservative natamycin in organic crop production
    • Allow tamarind seed gum to be used as a nonorganic ingredient in organic handling when an organic form is not commercially available

    Comments on the proposed amendments are being accepted until 12/17/19. Find more information on the proposed rule and how to comment on the regulations.gov website.

  • The USDA published a final rule to amend the National List based on April 2018 NOSB recommendations. This final rule:
    • Allows elemental sulfur to be used as a slug or snail bait to reduce crop losses
    • Allows polyoxin D zinc salt for plant disease control
    • Reclassifies magnesium chloride from a synthetic to a nonsynthetic substance

    This final rule became effective November 22, 2019.

  • The Origin of Livestock Proposed Rule comment period has reopened. This proposed rule was originally published 4/28/15, and comments on proposed amendments are being accepted until 12/2/19. Find more information on the proposed rule at the USDA website.
  • The NOP expects a Strengthening Organic Enforcement Proposed Rule to be published in late 2019. Based on preliminary information from the NOP, this proposed rule will likely:
    • Permit fewer exemptions and exclusions from organic certification and will result in an increased number of handlers requiring certification
    • Require electronic import certificates for all organic imports
    • Strengthen accreditation and certification oversight through the codification of unannounced inspections, inspector training requirements, traceback and mass balance audit requirements, and the ability of certifiers to share information pertaining to investigations

Once this proposed rule is published, the comment period is currently planned for 60 days, but it might be extended. The NOP strongly encourages impacted businesses to submit comments. In commenting, the NOP notes it is a best practice is to describe concerns/impacts and offer alternative solutions.

2021 Sunset Substances Review

All of the handling, crops and livestock substances up for 2021 sunset review were recommended for relisting on the National List by the NOSB, except for:

  • Dairy cultures: Recommended for removal from §205.605(a) of the National List. However, dairy cultures will still be permitted for use under the microorganisms listing at §205.605(a). The NOSB voted to remove dairy cultures simply due to the redundancy of the listing since they qualify under the microorganisms listing.
  • Alginic acid: Recommended for removal from §205.605(b) of the National List.

Recommended Additions to the National List

The following materials were recommended for addition to the National List by the NOSB:

  • Fatty alcohol (C6, C8, C10, C12 naturally derived): For sucker control on organic tobacco crops. If accepted by the NOP, fatty alcohol (C6, C8, C10, C12 naturally derived) will be added to §205.601.
  • Potassium hypochlorite: For use as an irrigation system cleaner only. If accepted by the NOP, potassium hypochlorite will be added to §205.601(a).

NOSB Votes on Proposals

The following proposals were all passed by the NOSB:

  • Use of Excluded Method Vaccines in Organic Livestock Production: Passed a proposal to amend 205.105(e) to read:
    • (e) Excluded methods, except for vaccines: Provided that vaccines produced through excluded methods may be used when an equivalent vaccine not produced through excluded methods is not commercially available.
    • This proposed regulation change will formally permit the use of vaccines produced through excluded methods, but only if an equivalent vaccine not produced through excluded methods is not commercially available.
  • Excluded Methods Determinations: Passed a proposal to update NOP guidance to qualify the following as excluded methods:
    • Induced mutagenesis developed through in vitro nucleic acid techniques
    • Embryo transfer, or embryo rescue, in animals. Use of hormones not allowed in recipient animals.
  • Genetic Integrity Transparency of Seed Grown on Organic Land Instruction to Certifiers: Passed a proposal to recommend the NOP issue an “instruction to certifiers” on this subject.
  • NOSB Research Priorities 2019: Passed a proposal to adopt planned NOSB research priorities.

Other Materials, Petitions and Updates

The following discussion documents were considered and will be further discussed/developed in applicable subcommittees for likely future rulemaking proposals.

  • Marine Materials in Organic Crop Production Discussion Document
  • Paper (Plant Pots and Other Crop Production Aids) Petitioned Material Discussion Document
  • Fenbendazole Petitioned Material Discussion Document: Details a petition requesting a revision to the annotation for fenbendazole to expand the use to poultry