By Harriet Behar
At the first meeting of 2008 in Baltimore, Maryland, the National Organic Standards Board opened up the floor once again to discuss a few hot topics and update the organic community on some important issues. Some of the highlights from the meeting included:
Spring Restructuring. Barbara Robinson of the Agricultural Marketing Service gave the National Organic Program report, expressing gratitude for the 100 percent increase in the NOP budget, bringing the Fiscal Year 2008 to 2.6 million in program funding. With this new funding, the NOP was able to expand to three branches: standards review and development managed by Richard Matthews, accreditation and training managed by Mark Bradley, and compliance and enforcement which does not yet have a manager. There is a call for applications for this position and they hope to add around 15 more NOP staff members soon. The NOP also has a new website, which follows the same format as the USDA homepage with many items put on the web to create the transparency desired by both the department and the public. This is still a work in progress and the NOP welcomes comments on their website.
Sorting Out the Issues. During numerous hours of public comment, the main issues included the need to have access to pasture and origin of livestock regulation published, the proposed aquaculture recommendation, materials to be voted upon for the National List and the definitions of agricultural and synthetic. One of the main points of discussion was concerning the use of outside Technical Advisory Panels, with the NOP staff stating that the NOSB could perform their own review of all materials, without outside technical advice. For the past year, TAP reviews were not done by an outside entity for items requested for 205.606 (agricultural items not commercially available as organic), but in this meeting for the first time, this had been expanded to items that are petitioned for all sections of the National List. The nonuse of external TAP reviews was tied to lack of NOP budget funds, but this budget shortfall should be less of a problem with increased funding. It is unclear if the NOSB will be accepting the added burden of doing their own TAP reviews, or if they will ask the NOP for outside TAP reviews. It is also unclear if the OFPA (Organic Food Production Act) specifically requires outside TAP reviews, or if the NOSB could do their own reviews as well as voting on the information provided by their fellow NOSB members.
The NOSB recommendation for “multi-site” or “grower-group” certification was also discussed at length. The vast majority of the public commented that they did not feel that growers and retailers should be included in the same recommendation, with some feeling there should not be any group certification allowed at all for retailers and others feeling that there could be, but the criteria should be different from grower groups. The NOSB recommendation for organic seed search put an additional paperwork burden on both growers and certifiers, and the NOSB is reviewing how best to avoid this in a subsequent proposal. Both of these recommendations were not voted upon at this meeting, with new proposals to be put forward at the next NOSB meeting in the fall. In addition, the aquaculture recommendation was also sent back to committee for further work, focusing specifically on whether the feeding of non USDA organic fish oil and fish meal to NOP certified organic fish could be allowed.
Additions to the National List. As with all items, no materials can be used until they are both approved by the NOSB and published in the Federal Register by the NOP. The following were approved for addition to the National List by the NOSB, but have not yet been published.
On the Crops List 205.601
• Cheesewax as a production aid in log grown mushroom culture made without either ethylene-propylene co-polymer or synthetic colors.
In addition several sunset items were voted to be relisted for another 5 years.
On the Livestock List 205.603
• Fenbendazole (Parasiticide), with very strict limitations
• Methionine (for use only in organic poultry production until October 1, 2010)
On the Processed Products List 205.605 a and b
• 205.605a Tartaric acid (made from grape wine)
• 205.605b Tartaric acid (made from Malic Acid)
• Sunset materials voted to be relisted for another 5 years: Agar-Agar, Animal Enzymes, Calcium Sulfate, Carrageenan, Glucono Delta Lactone, Cellulose.
On the Processed Products List 205.606 (agricultural items not commercially available as organic)
• Alcohol cooking wine (Marsala and Sherry)
• Pacific Kombu Seaweed (laminaria three species)
• Tragacanth Gum (water extracted)
Harriet Behar is the outreach coordinator for the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) (www.mosesorganic.org), where she promotes and works to expand organic agriculture through training and networking with farmers, educators and others interested in organic agriculture. MOSES offers several publications and a toll-free infomation line to producers with organic certification and production issues.
Preliminary List of Canadian Accreditors and Certifiers Now Available
Processors looking to do business in the Canadian market can view a preliminary list of accreditors on the Organic Trade Association’s (OTA) website, www.ota.com. Additional certifying bodies are currently under review and will be added to this list as they are approved by their accreditation bodies. A number of international certifiers are still under review.
Additional accreditation bodies may apply for recognition by the Canada Organic Office of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. An updated list will be circulated as the information is made available.
In order to be compliant with Canada’s Organic Products Regulations after December 14, 2008, all operators must be certified to the Canadian organic standards and meet other requirements under the regulations. All certifiers must be accredited by one of the approved accreditation bodies.
Buyorganic! to Promote Organic Products in September
September is Organic Harvest Month, and in celebration, the Organic Trade Association will once again work with Taste for Life on buyorganic! Taste for Life is the leading in-store magazine on nutrition and natural health with the highest national circulation (ABC-audited) in the industry. For seven years, OTA and Taste for Life have collaborated on this promotion that reaches a million people through distribution in the natural products stores where they shop. The publication is a part of Taste for Life magazine, and is available as a stand-alone magazine with a six-month shelf life. This year there will also be special opportunities for organic fiber products companies. Contact Taste for Life 603-924-7271 x181 for more information.
Earthbound Farm’s Will Daniels Joins OP’s Editorial Advisory Board
Organic Processing Magazine is happy to welcome Will Daniels to our Editorial Advisory Board. As the vice president of quality, food safety and organic integrity for Earthbound Farm, Daniels pioneered the testing program for raw products and finished goods. He also chairs the company’s Food Safety Advisory Panel. Daniels ran his own food service consulting company before he joined Earthbound Farm in 1999. He’s a leader in the organic industry and serves as the current chair of the board of California Certified Organic Farmers, as president of CCOF’s Processor/Handler chapter, the board of the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, and as a member of the Technical Advisory Committees of the United Fresh Produce Association.
New Website Available to List Organic NOP 205.606 Ingredients
A new website, www.606organic.com, is now available for listing organic versions of the non-organic agricultural ingredients permitted for use in the National Organic Program 205.606 section.
The Accredited Certifiers Association, Inc. (ACA), a non-profit educational association of accredited certifying agencies, is administering this site. The ACA is encouraging manufacturers of organic forms of ingredients listed on 205.606, to go to the 606organic site, complete the product information form, and attach their current organic certificate. The information will be reviewed and if appropriate will be listed on the site. There is no fee for submitting an ingredient for listing. It is the hope of the ACA that manufacturers and certifiers alike will utilize this listing as a resource in determining the commercial availability of organic ingredients. A central location for information on organic versions of the non-organic ingredients allowed for use on 205.606 will streamline this process. While the site will list available organic ingredients, this does not imply that the ingredients are “commercially available”. That determination must be made by the certifier and the product manufacturer. The National Organic Program definition of commercially available is “the ability to obtain a production input in an appropriate form, quality, or quantity to fulfill an essential function in a system of organic production or handling, as determined by the certifying agent in the course of reviewing the organic plan.
For additional information on the www.606organic.com website, contact Patricia Kane, Coordinator, Accredited Certifiers Association, Inc., by phone at 607.648.3259 or email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Partnership Developed to Boost Certified Organic Cattle Supply
North America’s largest farmer owned co-op, Organic Valley/Organic Prairie and Dakota Beef, the largest vertically integrated 100 percent organic beef producer in the United States, have partnered to expand the U.S. organic beef cattle supply in a multi-year agreement. Consumer demand for high quality organic beef has been exceptional and this partnership will ensure supply.
Dakota Beef’s CEO Scott Lively says, “Currently there is a large number of organic cattle available. However, the partnership with Organic Prairie is significant for several reasons; by combining our efforts we expand our reach in the marketplace to answer consumer demand while maintaining exceptional quality. We will ensure a strong supply of organic beef through the end of the year and all of 2009.”
“We currently see more certified organic calves on feed than ever before and that bodes well for the demand that this consumer driven product is creating,” says David Wilcox, an organic cattle finisher from Madison, South Dakota. Ranchers are happy too, Mike Olson, a 1000 head organic rancher from Utah says, “The organic cattle industry seems likes it is becoming streamlined and organized for the first time ever, which is great news for those of us who have stuck with it for so many years.”