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by Barry Flamm

April 20, 2013
October 19, 2012
June 1, 2012
April 19, 2012
December 16, 2011
September 26, 2011
June 15, 2011
February 11, 2011
November 1, 2010
October 1, 2010
July 1, 2010
May 16, 2010
March 15, 2010
January 10, 2010
November 25, 2009
September 25, 2009
May 10, 2009
April 1, 2009
December 15, 2008
September 15, 2008
June 15, 2008
April 1, 2008

Five Years at NOSB
by Barry Flamm
April 20, 2013

Shortly after returning from a biodiversity conservation assignment in the Xian, China area in the summer of 2007, I received a call from MOA. There was a vacancy on the National Organic Standards Board and MOA wanted to nominate me for it. MOA would submit a letter of recommendation and I obtained others from Senator Tester, the former Assistant Secretary of Agriculture, Staff Director of the President’s Council on Environmental Quality and a Deputy Chief of the Forest Service. In January 2008, I was notified I had been appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture to an Environmental seat on the Board to serve a five-year term beginning in late January. Soon I was appointed Policy Vice Chair, followed by being made Policy Chair – a position I held until I was elected Board Chair in the fall of 2011, with a term that lasted through January, 2013.

At the time of my appointment, the National Organic Program’s (NOP) staff numbered seven, with a budget of $1.5 million. In November 2008, President Obama was elected and change happened. Tom Vilsack was appointed Secretary of Agriculture and Dr. Kathleen Merrigan as Deputy Secretary. Dr. Merrigan was one of the authors of the Organic Food Production Act, which guides all of organics, and she also established the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB).

Miles McEvoy, head of the Washington State organic program, was selected to head the NOP as a Deputy Administrator in the Agricultural Marketing Service. By 2010, the NOP’s budget was $6.967 million and the staff had grown to 31. The Secretary also established an Organic Coordinator for USDA with a coordinating committee consisting of reps from USDA Agencies that have a role to play in organics. Organic food production was the fastest growing sector of U.S. agriculture and it had finally gained respect in the Department.

During my tenure as Chair of the Policy Development Committee (PDC), the committee reviewed and strengthened the Policy and Procedures Manual (PPM), which guides the Board’s operations. Important proposals for changes originate from the public and all proposed changes and additions are done with their participation and voted on at the public meetings.

In my view, one of the most important changes the PDC directed was the revamping of the “Sunset” procedures being followed by the Board and ordered by the NOP. The “Organic Food Production Act of 1990” requires that any agriculture product sold or labeled as organic shall have been produced and handled without the use of synthetic chemicals except as otherwise provided in this Act. The “otherwise” is further defined as requiring the Secretary to establish a National List of approved and prohibited substances. The Act then provides stringent guidelines for determining which synthetics may be allowed and which natural substances should be prohibited. This is where the NOSB comes in, because the National List established by the Secretary is based upon a proposed list or amendments to the National List developed by the NOSB, giving the Board considerable power and lots of work.

The Act also has a “Sunset Provision” that no exemption or prohibition in the National List shall be valid unless the NOSB has reviewed them within five years of being adopted and within each five years thereafter. Many of us believed that the Act and the integrity of organics required a rigorous review of the materials up for sunset. For this reason, the PDC proposed a revision of the PPM Sunset Procedures to direct a re-review of the substances’ effect on human health, environment, biodiversity, consistency with organic farming and handling. Also to be considered were alternative practices or more suitable materials available to make the material unnecessary.

The Board is also charged with advising the Secretary on any other aspects of implementing the Act. Thus, the Board is involved in everything organic.

To show you what this means, I’ll high light some of the actions presented at Board meetings during my term.

For one Board meeting, we received and read over 3000 comments, and that did not include several comments, which had many individual comments attached. At the Board meeting itself, usually more than 100 participants presented comments, also for the record. All these were considered by the Board before arriving at its decision on the action proposed by the committee. Debate prior to the vote could be heated, especially on materials petitioned to be added to the National List and those materials scheduled to sunset.

Here are some of the topics considered at Board Meetings during my term.

Baltimore May 20-22, 2008

*Multi-site operation certification discussion doc. (Even before my first conference call,
 Doug Crabtree gave me a “heads up” on this important and controversial proposal from the CAC Committee.)
*Commercial availability guidance regarding the sourcing of organic seed
*Hydroponics discussion
*Aquatic plants
*Aquaculture: fish feed and net pens.
* Handling withdrawal of petitions.
* 28 petitioned materials and 3 sunset materials

Washington, DC, November 17-19, 2008

*Procedures for making technical corrections to published regulations and guidance, public comments at Board meetings, committee work plans and other updates to Policy and Procedures Manual.
*Multi-site operation recommendation much changed to address concerns identified by Doug and others
* Biodiversity, opportunities to strengthen core organic principal discussion document
* Voting on recommendations on the net pen and fish feed aquaculture proposals and discussion on bivalves
* Pet food recommendation
* Animal husbandry discussion
* Soil-less growing systems discussion
* List 4 Inerts discussion
* 13 petitioned materials

Washington DC,    May 4-6, 2009

  • Biodiversity guidance recommendation to strengthen core organic principles
  • Retailer certification discussion
  • Personal body care standards discussion
  • Soil less growing systems
  • List 4 inerts seeking more public comments
  • Aquaculture questions on bivalves
  • Discussion on Nanotechnology
  • 15 petitioned materials and 12 sunset materials

Washington, DC, November 3-5, 2009

  • Retailer certification guidance rec
  • Personal body care standards rec
  •  More discussion on Nanotechnology proposal
  • List 4 Inerts discussion
  • Production standards for terrestrial plants in containers and enclosures
  • Animal welfare recommendation
  • Bivalves recommendation
  • 7 petitioned materials and 11 sunset materials

Woodland, CA April 26-29, 2010

  • List 4 inerts recommendation
  • Recommendation for terrestrial plants in containers and enclosures
  • Animal health care products recommendations and discussion on stocking
  • Apiculture discussion
  • “Made with Organic” seal discussion
  • Sunset review approaches discussion
  • NOSB/NOP collaboration discussion
  • 1 petitioned material and sunset materials review

Madison, Wisconsin October 25-28, 2010

  • Corn steep liquor recommendation
  • Apiculture recommendation
  • Animal healthcare products
  • Animal handling, transit, slaughter, and stocking rates discussion
  • Nanotechnology  recommendation
  • Nutrient vitamins and minerals discussion
  • NOP/NOSB collaboration recommendation
  • Revised SUNSET review policy recommendation
  • 9 petitioned materials and 28 sunset materials

Seattle, Washington  April 26-29, 2011

*Animal handling, transit, slaughter and stocking rates recommendation
* Nutrient vitamins and mineral recommendation
* Materials classification guidance recommendation
* NOSB Membership and Leadership Transition
* 6 petitioned materials, including tetracycline (an antibiotic due to expire in 2012) and 19 Sunset 2012 materials

Savannah, Georgia November 29- December, 2 2011

  • Organic research priorities framework discussion
  • Evaluation of material review organization recommendation
  • Inspector qualifications recommendation
  • Unannounced inspections recommendation
  • Review of NOSB member conflict of interest (COI) policy
  • Animal welfare recommendations
  • 12 petitioned materials and 7 sunset materials

Albuquerque, New Mexico, May 22-25, 2012

  • As Board Chair, one of my first actions was to establish a GMO ad hoc committee to develop policy and guidance, that were not being properly addressed on this critical issue by the individual standing committees. As its first action, the committee produced a letter to Secretary Vilsack, which I signed, expressing the Board’s deep concern and requesting specific actions by the USDA.
  • Significant residues and materials classification discussion
  • Guidance for assessing welfare for bison, poultry and sheep discussion
  • Proposal on the handling of public communications outside of the formal comment period
  • 5 petitioned materials and 5 sunset materials

Providence, RI, October 15-18, 2012

  • Omnivore diets
  • GMOs and seed purity
  • Organic research priorities recommendations
  • Calculating percentage of organic ingredients in processed products
  • Implementation of Biodiversity Conservation in Organic Agriculture Systems discussion document
  • 18 petitioned materials.

It would take a book to cover all these in detail; however, if a topic is of interest to you the NOSB web site can provide detailed information on each. If asked, I would also be happy to fill in the gaps.

Organics faces many challenges. GMOs are a serious threat to organic agriculture. Maintaining high standards is vital and consumer trust is essential. Some funding for NOP, organic research and other important programs may be lost. Other labels such as “natural” will continue to try to erode “organic,” confusing consumers and cutting into the organic market. The people of MOA are a model of what organics is about.

Stay strong and continue to be an example for the rest.

It was an honor to serve you and the entire organic community on the NOSB.

Barry Flamm

Editor’s Note:  MOA cannot thank Barry enough for his years of tireless work to keep the integrity in organics, not just on an international and national level, but also right here in Montana.
Good luck with all your future endeavors, Barry.

NOSB Update
October 19, 2012

I am back from the “Ocean State” attending the Providence NOSB Meeting, my tenth and last Board meeting as my five-year term ends on January 22 2013. I passed the gavel to Mac Stone as the newly elected Board Chair. He serves in the lone Certifier seat on the Board. John Foster, who works for Earthbound Farms and is in a Handler seat, was elected Vice Chair. Calvin Walker, a Professor at Southern University and in a Consumer seat, was elected Secretary.

The meeting was held on the 17th floor in the beautiful and spacious ball room of the famous Biltmore Hotel, with great views in all directions and the best setting of any of my ten meetings.

Prior to the meeting, the Board received approximately 700 individual comments. About 80 persons presented comments at the meeting, including our own Kiki Hubbard who presented comments on the GMO issue and a special 25 minute presentation under the Crops committee agenda to speak on the Organic Seed Alliance work. Both were excellent presentations!

Fifteen petitioned substances were considered by the Board for listing on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. The Boards’ subject committees, with the aid of technical reports and public comment, carefully review each petitioned substance before bringing their recommendation to the full  Board for approval. After listening to the public comments and with much Board debate, three of the fifteen substances were recommended to be listed: biodegradable mulch film (section 205.601) to be allowed in organic crop production with restrictions; L- Methionine (section 205. 605b) to allow in infant formula made with soy based protein; and to add Rotenone to the National List of Prohibited Substances in crop production effective January 1, 2016. The Board learned during public comment that banana growers in Central and South America were relying on Rotenone for pest control. The extra time was given to allow them to develop alternatives.

On a very important topic, the Board recommended a procedure for reviewing the EPA List 4 and 3 so called “INERTS.” The Board has been struggling with this problem the entire time I have been on the Board. I am pleased that progress will finally be made in examining  these chemicals, which have been secret to user and consumer alike.

The Board also adopted top research priorities for organic agriculture.

The Board received comments on discussion documents which may lead to future recommendations. They were: omnimore diets for poultry; other ingredients contained within handling materials on the National List; verification of the percentage of organic content in multi-ingredient organic products; biodiversity conservation progress in implementing 2009 recommendations and other needs and approaches; and GMO seed purity issue.

All in all, I think the meeting went very well.

For those of you that like to think ahead, the spring 2013 Board meeting will be held in Portland, Oregon. The hot button issue will be the continued use of antibiotics in crop production, especially apples and pears.

Editor’s Note: Since Barry Flamm’s term on the Board expired, Secretary Vilsak appointed environmentalist and farmer Francis Thicke, Ph.D., to serve in his place. Vilsak thanked Dr. Flamm for his expertise and service to the organic community.

NOSB Update
June 1, 2012

The National Organic Standards Meeting May 22-25, held in Albuquerque, NM had good
attendance with 75 participants giving oral comments, adding to the approximately 1700 written comments received prior to the meeting. The new format seemed to improve the quality of topic discussion and efficiency in Board decision making. I received positive feed back from the participants and Board members, however I have initiated a post meeting evaluation to learn how we can further improve.

In my view, the most important outcome at the meeting was the strong public support for the GMO letter to Secretary Vilsack, which the Board approved by a vote of 15 yes to 0 no. As Chair of NOSB, it gave me great pleasure to sign this letter that hopefully will stimulate needed action on this most critical issue. The GMO ad hoc committee I established at the beginning of my term as Chair, presented and received approval for an ambitious work plan that involves their committee and makes suggestion for GMO issues to be addressed by the six standing committees. This work plan along with the standing committees plans for the fall Board meeting should be posted soon.

In response to public comments and concerns, a number of committee recommendations were withdrawn prior to a vote. Probably the most notable withdrawal was the recommendation to allow GMO vaccine for livestock use in a declared emergency.

The recommendation by the Handling committee to relist carrageenan 0n 205. 605(a) drew the most discussion.  New information received by the Board raised health and environmental concerns for carrageenan, which is extracted from various seaweed species. The extraction process makes the product synthetic. It is used as an additive in many processed foods as a bulking agent, emulsifier, gelling agent, stabilizer or thickener.  In an attempt to address some of these concerns the Handling committee proposed an annotation, which limited carrageenan use to three seaweed species, each identified by separate CAS numbers and prohibiting its use in organic infant formulas. Still some Board members opposed the relisting. However, the relisting, with the annotation, passed 11 yes to 4 no. You can read the Technical report and public comments pro and con and decide for yourself and then make your choice at your market. There are alternatives.

If you are interested in more details, go to the NOSB site to read the complete agenda and all the actions taken in Albuquerque.

The next Board meeting will be October 16-19 in Providence, RI. This my last year on the Board and I expect the vacancy announcement will appear soon. If anyone is interested, I would be pleased to answer your questions about what is involved.

NOSB Update
April 19, 2012

Most NOSB work is done by the standing committees: Certification, Accreditation and Compliance Committee, Crops Committee, Handling Committee, Livestock Committee, Materials Committee, and the Policy Development Committee. In the fall 2010, the Policy and Procedures Manual was amended to allow the Board Chair to establish an Ad Hoc Committee of Board Members to develop policy and guidance on specific issues that involve multiple standing committee’s jurisdictions, or for issues or tasks that are very large and require additional resources to complete. Probably nothing fits this description better than GE/ GMOs problem as illustrated by the numerous public requests this past year for the Board to take collective action. I think it is correct to say all Board Members are concerned for the effects of GMO on organics, there was not agreement on the approach the Board should take. Therefore upon being elected Chair, I decided to establish a GMO ad hoc committee with representatives from each of the standing committees nominated by standing committee chair and I added a member at large for a committee of seven - representing the diverse interests and expertise of the Board.
Zea Sonnabend was appointed Chair of the GMO Ad Hoc Committee and was given short term and long term goals, the elaboration of which will be discussed at the Spring Board Meeting.

The Spring Board Meeting will be held in Albuquerque, New Mexico May 22-25. To improve decision making and overall meeting efficiency, the Board’s Executive Committee agreed to a revision in the typical NOSB meeting format. The major change is that presentations of public comments will be grouped by subject areas: all persons wishing to comment must sign up in advance per instructions in the Federal Register notice signing up for one comment period to address one committee’s proposal or proposals, or if they have comments pertaining to more than one committee or comments on subjects not on the agenda, they should sign up for the open public comment period on the first day.

An example of how this is planned: on Wednesday AM the Compliance, Accreditation and Certification Committee (CACC) will present committee proposals and summarize written public comments that were received during the comment period. This will be followed by oral comments from the public that have signed up to comment on CACC proposals. The committee modifies their proposal as necessary.  If more time is needed for consideration, further action can be postponed until Friday morning. If additional time is not needed, the Board will vote on the proposal. Recent Board Meeting agendas had Committee proposals being presented on the second day, public comments rather randomly presented on the first and third day and voting on the fourth and last day. This arrangement often made it difficult to remember and weigh the pro and con arguments for a given proposal. We hope the new approach will make for the best possible decisions in a more efficient way.

The meeting agenda topics can be seen on the NOSB website at I believe of special interest to MOA members will be proposals on GMO by the Ad hoc and Livestock committees, Materials Committee research priorities framework, CACC proposals on review criteria for Material Review Organizations, and Crops Committee recommendation on handling list 3 inerts.

A reminder: this is my last year on the NOSB and my position as one of the three Environmental/Resource Conservation Members is the only vacancy for 2013. Please give it some thought!

NOSB Update
December 16, 2011
The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) held its fall meeting November 29-December 2 in Savannah, Georgia. The purpose of this and all the meetings is to receive public comment on committee proposals and other matters of interest to the organic community. On the final day, the full Board votes on recommendations and conducts other Board business including voting on officers for the next term.
Prior to this meeting during the written comment period, we received 1013 comments. At Savannah, we heard from over 100 members of the public specifically on the committee recommendations and discussion papers, plus on other issues such as concern over the impacts of GE and the need for follow up action on NOSB previous recommendations on conserving biodiversity.

The written and oral comments provide very valuable information in the formulation of Board decisions. In Savannah, persons from all over the US representing various interests and concerns attended. I was especially impressed by the passionate talks by several local farmers from SAAFON (SE African American Farmers Organic Network) describing their commitment to organics, successes and problems.

As you know, the Organic Food Production Act (OFPA) mandates that in order to be sold or labeled as an organically produced product it must have been produced and handled without the use of synthetic chemicals, EXCEPT as otherwise provided. Exceptions are dealt with in the law by requiring the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a National List of approved and prohibited substances that shall be included in the standards for organic production and handling. The National List is based on that proposed by NOSB and this task is a major undertaking of the Board. Interested parties may petition the Board to have a substance added or removed from the list. Petitions are submitted to the NOP, which after consulting with NOSB, determines the petition’s sufficiency. If the petition meets standards, it is sent to the NOSB, where it is assigned to the appropriate committee. Subsequently, technical reviews are requested to provide the committee with the needed information to develop a recommendation.

Ten petitions were considered at the Savannah meeting. You can find the details for each action on the NOSB/ NOP websites. The petition that was of particular interest, especially to one of MOA's own, was the petition to remove the limiting annotation for use of sulfur dioxide in wines. The current listing allows sulfur dioxide for use in wine labeled “made with organic grapes.” The petitioner wanted this limitation removed so that SO2 could be used in wine certified as organic. There was much public comment and debate revolving around essentiality of sulfites in wine production and its compatibility with organic principles. Andy Spoonseller, owner of Ten Spoon Vineyard and Winery, traveled from Missoula to present strong testimony against allowing sulfur dioxide (sulfites) in organic wine. The full Board went against the Handling Committee recommendation and REJECTED the petition.

OFPA requires that in order to remain valid, all substances on the National list must be reviewed by the Board within five years of being listed. This is called the Sunset Provision and involves much work by the Board. This time only nine substances were up for Sunset review. The synthetic version of Tartaric acid was voted to be removed from the list as no longer necessary, while the other eight substances were voted to continue listing. Pending are recommendations to add further restrictive annotations to the use of peracetic acid.

Few NOSB topics have received more public comments and debate than that for animal welfare. This very important and complex subject finally required compromises by Board members in order to finally adopt recommendations to NOP on strengthening animal welfare requirements. The Board passed recommendations for new regulations on physical alterations, living conditions for mammal and birds, animal handling and transit to slaughter. Stocking rates for chickens were also recommended. Other animal welfare proposals were withdrawn for further work and consideration. Please see the details of these complex recommendations on the NOSB web site.

The Board also passed recommendations:

  • for the NOP to actively regulate Material Review Organizations in order to achieve consistent and uniform material review decisions.
  • that NOP develop guidance on qualification criteria for organic inspectors.
  • that NOP develop guidance on unannounced inspections.

In addition, the Board passed recommendations from the Policy Development Committee to increase Committees’ transparency by posting committee minutes and other material and to clarify transition procedures for officers, committee chairs and new members.

Savannah was the last Board meeting for Steve DeMuri, Tina Ellor, Katrina Heinze, and Tracy Miedema. New members’ five-year terms begins 1/24/12 and include Harold Austin (Handler), Carmela Beck  (Producer), Tracy Favre ( Environmentalist), Jean Richarson (Consumer) and Zea Sonnabend (Scientist).

The final business of the Board was to discuss committee work plans and to conduct election of officers. I was elected Board Chair, Mac Stone as Vice Chair and Wendy Fulwider as Secretary.

The Spring Board meeting will be May 21-24 in Old Town Albuquerque, NM. The NOSB fall meeting will be October 16-19, 2012 at the Providence Biltmore, Providence, RI. 

Finally, I wish to congratulate MOA on another outstanding annual conference. A terrific job by the Conference planning committee chaired by Lou Ann Crowley and by the entire MOA Board. For me, no gathering is better than one with MOA folks!

NOSB Update
September 26, 2011

The next National Organic Standards Board Meeting will be November 29- December 2, 2011, at the Hilton Savannah DeSota Hotel in Savannah, Georgia. The formal announcement and agenda is published in the Federal Register. Written public comments and requests to speak at the meeting must be received by midnight ET on November 13.

On the opening day, Board procedural matters will be addressed followed by what is always a National Organic Program Report by Deputy Administrator Miles McEvoy. The remainder of the first day the Board will receive public comments, as well as on the third day.

On the second day, Board committees will present their proposals. We can expect the following: The Compliance, Accreditation and Certification Committee (CACC) presented at the Spring meeting a discussion document on “Evaluation of Material Review Organizations.” Excellent public comments were received that were considered by CACC in developing a recommendation, which will be considered by the full Board. Also, CACC will present recommendations on “Unannounced Inspections” and “Inspector Qualifications.” The Policy Committee will present recommendations which are of special public interest. Indeed, one recommendation, “...strengthening conflict of interest procedures,” originated from the public at the Spring Board meeting. Other recommendations involve committee transparency, public comment procedures and NOSB membership and leadership transition. The Livestock committee will present a series of important recommendations on animal welfare and stocking rates. The Crops and Handling committees will be primarily presenting their recommendations on petitioned materials and for materials due to “sunset” in 2013.

The Spring 2012 meeting has been set for May 21-24, 2012, Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town, Albuquerque, NM.

I have now served nearly four years on the Board, next year being the last. I was appointed to one of the three environmental positions in a year of no other appointments. In fact, there was no appointment made the following year. My point is that there will be only one scheduled vacancy for the next two years! If you are interested, it is not to early to get prepared to submit your application next year. Bob Quinn was on the first NOSB Board at a very formative time for the organic program, doing an excellent job and starting a “Montana legacy,” which I would like to see continued. I would be pleased to answer any questions you have about serving on the board.

I hope you had a good organic season and I look forward to seeing you at the MOA Annual Conference on December 9-10 in Billings.

NOSB Update
June 15, 2011

The Seattle Board meeting, April 26-29, had an exceptional number of difficult and sensitive issues, producing about 4000 written public comments prior to the meeting and nearly 200 oral comments on location.

Here are a few highlights by committee: Crops had two new petitioned materials, 18 materials sunsetting in 2012 and a decision on whether corn steep liquour was non-synthetic or synthetic. Tetracycline is an antibiotic listed only for fire blight control only until October 21, 2012. However the NOP/ NOSB received a petition to continue its use. Antibiotics in organics is very controversial, primarily due to possible human health consequences. It is not allowed in much of the organic world and is not allowed in US organic animal production. Consumer and health groups in the US strongly oppose antibiotic use in organic production. The other antibiotic, streptomycin, listed for fire blight control in apples and pears only, was scheduled to sunset in 2012. These materials were hotly debated with various compromises and alternatives proposed. Fruit growing interests in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Vermont agreed the use of antibiotics should be discontinued, but asked for more time. They also proposed measures to “force” growers to begin adopting less susceptible varieties and alternative control measures. Pacific states were particularly adamant that they needed antibiotics, especially tetracycline, as the overuse of streptomycin has caused resistance and nearly ceased its effectiveness in the Northwest. The problem has gotten worse over the last few years as Washington growers have planted very fire blight susceptible varieties such as Gala and Fuji, plus grafting to susceptible root stocks. The compromise approved by the Board was to extend both materials until 2014. The danger is that pro-antibiotic use interests will count on getting future time extensions and will not make serious efforts toward eliminating the need for the antibiotics. Maybe now the wonderful Montana Mac will appear again on grocery shelves along with other terrific apples that are not so susceptible to this and other diseases.

Nickel was petitioned as a micronutrient, primarily for pecans. Although nickel is found in most soils in sufficient amounts, its availability to the tree may be limited, due in part to the application of other micronutrients. Improper soil management and stewardship was believed by the committee to cause the need, thus, use of the material would be inconsistent with organic agriculture. Additionally, an overriding concern was that nickel is a known carcinogen. The method of applying the material to tall trees could produce serious health risks. The petition was denied by the full Board.

Sodium nitrate, mined in Chile, is on the list of non-synthetic substances prohibited for use in organic crop production (some others on the list include arsenic, lead salts and strychnine). However, it has an annotation: “…unless use is restricted to no more than 20% of the crop’s total nitrogen requirement.” The Board voted to remove this annotation and keep sodium nitrate on the list. Thus, any use of this material will no longer be allowed in organic production.

Last year, the NOP requested the NOSB Crops Committee to determine if Corn Seep Liquor was non-synthetic or synthetic. This turned into a highly contentious issue, with different vote outcomes in the crop’s committee, as the make up of the committee changed. Passage of the motion that it was non- synthetic required a 2/3 vote of those voting. It failed. No motion was made to declare it synthetic, as it was obvious there was not 2/3 support. NOP interpretation was that since the motion failed, the status quo prevails (CSL can continue to be used as an additive in fertilizers for organic crop production).

The Livestock Committee recommendations on stocking rates and welfare received a large volume of written comments, plus substantial comments at the Board Meeting. The Committee made attempts to revise the recommendations during the meeting. However the task was too much and they withdrew the recommendations to be revised and presented at the Fall Board Meeting.

The Handling Committee’s Nutrient Vitamins and Minerals Recommendation received the most public response at around 2000 comments! The Committee pulled the recommendation for further consideration and presentation at the Fall meeting. For procedural reason, the NOP urged the actual listing in 205.605(b) be continued. This was agreed to by the Board, but will also be re-examined at the Fall meeting.

The Materials Committee majority’s attempt to define "significant levels" was opposed by a strong minority opinion within the committee. The recommendation failed to receive sufficient votes, as enough other Board members agreed with the minority. You may read both positions on the NOSB web site. The Committee plans to come back in the Fall with a revised proposal.

And finally, the Policy Development Committee, which I Chair, two recommendations to revise the Policy and Procedures Manual passed with full Board support.

A matter of grave importance, not on the meeting agenda, was raised by a significant number of public comments. The comments addressed extreme concern for the impact that continued approvals of GE crops has on our community of organic farmers, consumers and handlers. A draft letter to the Secretary of Agriculture was circulated to Board Members, but tabled for Board action at the next Executive Committee meeting. At that meeting, the task was assigned to the Compliance, Accreditation, & Certification Committee to propose the action to be taken by the Board. I’m on that committee and hope we can move forward with strong recommendations on this complicated and very serious problem.

Committees are now busily working on action items for the November 29- December 2 Board Meeting in Savannah, Georgia, which includes actions not completed in Seattle, plus new agenda topics. The formal announcement and final agenda will be published in the Federal Register on October 14, with instructions for submitting written comments and signing up to present comments at the meeting. I cannot emphasize strongly enough how important these comments are. Board decisions are much affected by the public comments and I hope you will continue to submit yours. I will post new information on the meeting and other NOSB news on the MOA website.

My best wishes to all MOA members.

NOSB Update
February 11, 2011

As promised earlier, here is a look at the NOSB Meeting in Seattle April 26-29, 2011.
The plans are that the Meeting will be available to be watched live via the internet, with a one day delay. More information on this will be forthcoming.

Formal Federal Register notice of the meeting is scheduled for publication on March 11.
The Notice will provide instructions on filing comments and  procedures to follow for sign up to make presentations at the meeting. The public comment period closes on April 10.

The morning of the first day will consist of opening formalities, Deputy Administrator Miles McEvoy’s National Organic Program report and opening welcome from Dan Newhouse, Director Washington State Department of Agriculture. The remainder of the day will be devoted to public comments.

On Wednesday April 27, the Committees will present their work developed since the last Board Meeting.
Crops Committee will present its recommendations on:

  1. Three petitioned materials: Tetracycline, nickel and propane, odorized
  2. 2012 sunset materials on Section 205.601( without an affirmative vote from NOSB, these materials will be dropped from the National List): chlorine materials, copper materials, alcohols, newspapers or other recycled paper(w/o glossy or colored inks), plastic mulch, pheromones, sulfur dioxide, Vitamin D3, Streptomycin, lignin sulfonate, magnesium sulfate, ethlylene gas and sodium silicate.
  3. Sunset materials on Section 205.602 ( nonsynthetic substances prohibited for use in organic crop production): Sodium nitrate
  4. Corn steep liquor on synthetic- non synthetic

Livestock Committee will present its recommendations on:

  1. Poultry diet
  2. Stocking rates
  3. Animal handling transit and slaughter

Handling Committee will present their recommendations on six petitioned materials and five materials for sunset 2012 used in organic food processing. Additionally they will present a recommendation on vitamins and minerals.

The Compliance, Accreditation and Certification Committee will present a discussion document on the evaluation of organizations that review materials for organic production and handling ( organizations such as OMRI & WSDA). The Committee is seeking response from the organic community to a series of questions and scenarios to guide the development of a recommendation to be presented at the fall Board meeting. The NOP requested the NOSB to develop this recommendation.

The Policy Development Committee (PDC) will make three recommendations to improve  and clarify Board Procedures:

  1. Clarify roles of Vice Chair and the PDC regarding the Policy Manual.
  2. Clarification of Committee Purview
  3. Address in the Policy Manual, NOSB member and leadership transition.

April 28 will again be devoted to public comments. The last day, April 29, the Board will vote on Committee recommendations and discuss work planned for the fall Board Meeting.

The fall Board meeting is scheduled for November 29- December 2 at the Hilton Savannah Hotel, Savannah, Georgia.

NOSB Update
November 1, 2010

The Madison, Wisconsin Board meeting got off to a good start with a pre meeting farm tour Sunday evening, October 24 to the Miller organic dairy farm, a member of the Organic Valley coop system. It was a pleasure to see the operation and visit with local farmers before having to sit in meeting room for the next 4 days. The organic food and drinks were also great!

The  NOSB board meeting began Monday morning with the opening formalities, followed by Deputy Administrator Miles McEvoy’s NOP report: “Organic Integrity from farm to table consumers trust the organic label”. He emphasized that we are still in the “age of enforcement.” He then identified top NOP priorities some of which are:

  • uphold and enforce standards
  • training and accountability of certifiers
  • increased oversight over foreign operations
  • implement NOSB recommendations

Miles reported that the NOP budget has increased from 1.6 million dollars in 2002 to 6.97 million in 2010 with staff increase from 6 to 31. The President’s 2011 budget recommends a further increase to 10.1 million. This increase in funds and staffing will better able NOP to manage their complex responsibilities and address the many challenges.

The NOP organization is currently comprised of 3 divisions:
Standards Division- Melissa Bailey Director
(Responsibilities are: rulemaking, National List (materials), NOP Program Handbook, and interpretations)
Accreditation and International Activities Division- Rui hong Guo Director
(Responsibilities are ACAs, audits of ACAs, State Organic Programs, and Recognition and Equivalency Agreements)
Compliance and Enforcement Division- Mark Bradley Director
(Responsibilities are complaint handling, enforcement and civil penalty procedures)
Eight civil penalties have been assessed in 2010.

USDA now has an Organic Coordinator, Mark Lipson, who just recently joined the Department from the Organic Farming Research Foundation. Mark explained his job  to work beyond NOP with other USDA Agencies in order to strengthen organic research, to address crop insurance issues, upgrade NRCS organic performance, improve  the EQIP organic initiative and to work with Agencies beyond USDA such as EPA and FDA. A USDA organic working group has been formed to improve information sharing on organic matters. Very importantly, USDA is developing a strategy to create an increase of certified organic by 25% from 2009 to 2013.

Prior to the meeting in Madison, the Board received 429 public comments pertaining to meeting agenda items. This was followed by nearly two days of public comments at the meeting itself. Receiving and listening to public comments is the most important reason for the twice yearly Board meetings.

Many of the comments pertained to a petition for the removal of hops from Section 205.606 of the National Materials List. This is a list of non-organically produced agriculture products allowed as ingredients in or on processed products labeled as organic. These ingredients can only be used when the product is NOT commercially available in organic form. As beer drinkers know, hops are a vital ingredient contributing bitterness, aroma and flavor to the beverage. Supporters of the petition to remove hops from the 606 list argued that organic beer should be made with organic hops and that organic hops were sufficiently available in organic form. Additionally, the continued 606 listing posed a serious deterrent to organic hop growers. The NOSB Handling committee posted their initial recommendation to keep hops on 606. However, after receiving strong support from the public, organic brewers and growers, and other Board members for removal from 606, the Handling Committee revised their recommendation. Hops are to be removed from the National List on January 1, 2013, thus allowing 2 growing seasons for the conversion to all organic hops in certified organic beer. Brian Smith of Helena’s Blackfoot River Brewery provided strong comments supporting the delisting of hops.

During the past year, much of the work of the Board committees involved reviewing materials due to sunset in 2012. OFPA states that no exemptions or prohibitions contained in the National List shall be valid unless the NOSB has reviewed within 5 years and the Secretary has renewed.  The Board sunset review re examines the health, environmental and biodiversity impacts of the listed material and the availability of alternatives. The list of 2012 materials is lengthy, thus I will refer you to the NOP/NOSB web sites for the list and recommendation for each individual material.
There has been Board dissatisfaction with some parts of the Sunset Review Process. The Policy Development Committee, which I Chair, under took to review and propose a revision to the process. The proposed revision strengthens and clarifies the process and provides the opportunity to annotate during sunset. The recommendation passed the Board with all yeses.

Perhaps, the most important agenda item was the Nanotechnology Guidance Document.
There is overwhelming agreement within the organic community to prohibit nanotechnology in organic production and processing. However, the Board was divided on whether to out right ban nanotech or leave the door open for possible future uses through the petition process. Except for the nanotechnology industry itself, almost all public comment supported a ban. There was also strong support within the Board for prohibition of nanomaterials in organic production and handling. At the Board meeting, the Materials Committee recommendation was revised to lead off with the following statement: “The NOSB proposes that Engineered Nanomaterials be prohibited from certified organic products as quickly as possible. We respectfully request NOP take immediate action to implement this document.” The recommendation with this addition passed the full Board.

The Livestock Committee recommended apiculture standards to the organic regulations providing terms defined and an apiculture practice standard. The bee forage zone is defined as within a 1.8 mile radius of the edge of the apiary which provides bees with water, nectar, honeydew, pollen and propolis. The forage zone must be managed as certified organic. Beyond the forage zone is the surveillance zone (2.2 mile radius beyond the forage zone) which may not contain high risk activities. The Organic System Plan must demonstrate the crops in the surveillance zone offer minimal risk to organic integrity. The recommendation passed the full Board.

The Livestock Committee also proposed a change to the Livestock Health Care language in Section 205.238 to allow preventives and pain relief medications. This also passed.

Many comments were received on the Animal Welfare Discussion Document. Stocking density and outdoor areas for poultry drew the most comments from producers and consumer interests. The animal welfare document is scheduled to be a voting recommendation for the next Board meeting.

There were many other items on the agenda. If interested, you may read the full agenda and the meeting transcript on the NOSB web site.

Dan Giacomini, Jeff Moyer, Kevin Engelbert, Jennifer Hall and Joe Smillie terms expire in January and are being replaced by Colehour Bondera (Hawaii), Nicholas Maravell  (Maryland), Robert MacStone (Kentucky), Jennifer Taylor (Florida) and Reuben Walker

The NOSB’s next public meeting will be in Seattle, April 26-29 2011 at the Red Lion Hotel. The Federal Register Notice and Meeting Agenda will be posted in mid
 March.  However, I will let you know the important agenda items in advance.
This meeting likely will be the closest one to Montana that will occur for sometime. I urge as many MOA members as possible to attend and present comments. If you can’t attend, please submit written comments on recommendations that you have knowledge of and are important to you.

NOSB Update
October 1, 2010

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) was created by the Organic Food Production Act of 1990 (OFPA), which most importantly established standards for organic products. Under the Law, the Board’s duties are to assist in the development of standards for substances to be used in organic production and to advise the Secretary of Agriculture on any other aspects of the implementation of the Law. The Board is composed of 15 members selected from categories: 4 organic farmers (producers), 2 organic handlers, 1 organic retailer, 3 environmental protection and resource conservationist, 3 representing public interest or consumer interest groups, 1 with expertise in toxicology, ecology, or biochemistry and 1 certifying agent. I was appointed for one of the environmental positions. The Board’s appointment is for 5 years and I am serving in my third year.

The Board does most of its work in committees, through frequent conference calls and electronically. Twice a year, the full Board meets to receive public comments, discuss and vote on committee proposals and handle Board administrative matters. The new National Organic Program (NOP) leader, Miles McEvoy, has distributed the meetings around the country and more time is being allowed for public comment.

The next National Organic Standards Board Meeting will be October 25-28 in Madison, Wisconsin, and the Spring 2011 meeting has already been scheduled for Seattle, Washington, April 26-29. I hope that some MOA folks can make one of these important meetings, as they are likely to be the closest to home that we will see for some time.

NOSB committees submitted, by September 3, all work plan action items for posting in the Federal Register, which are scheduled to be published in the FR on Friday, September 10. The public (that means you!) has until Tuesday, October 12 to submit written comments. Also, requests to submit oral comments at the meeting must be made by October 12. If you can’t attend, you may have a proxy submit your comments orally at the meeting. You must also make this request by October 12.

The Madison meeting opens with the usual formalities, followed by an NOP report by Miles McEvoy. Miles gave a very informative presentation at the Spring meeting and I expect the same this time. It is well worth reading and can be found on the NOP website or in the meeting transcript.

Secretary Vilsack has established an Organic Coordinator for USDA to work across the board with all the agencies that have a role or interest in organics. Mark Lipson, formerly with the Organic Farming Research Institute, has been appointed to the coordinator position. Following Miles’ comments, he will explain to the Board and public in attendance his assignment and goals for the position. The rest of Monday will be devoted to listening to public comments. On Tuesday, October 26, Committees will present their action items’ recommendations followed by discussions.

Crops, Livestock and Handling Committees each will make their recommendations on materials due to “Sunset” in 2012. The Act requires the NOSB to review every 5 years each material on the “National List of Approved or Prohibited Substances for Organic Production and Handling.” Without an NOSB affirmative decision, the material will be removed from the list. In addition to the sunset recommendations, following are the main recommendations to be discussed:

Crops Committee: Petitioned materials recommendations for Ethylene Glycol, Ethylene DDS, Tall oils, and TetraMethyl-decyne-diol; and recommendation regarding classification of corn steep liquor as a synthetic material.

Livestock Committee: Petitioned material recommendation for formic acid; Apiculture and Animal healthcare Products recommendations; Stocking rate and Animal handling, transit and slaughter discussions.

Handling: Petitioned material recommendations for yeast (change category), pectin, glucosamine hydrochloride and hops (remove); and discussion document on vitamins and nutrients.

Materials: A revised Nanotechnolgy recommendation will be presented. At this time, it appears the Materials Committee has backed off recommending an outright ban on nanomaterials in organic production and handling and will recommend allowing its consideration through the petition process. I expect a rigorous debate at the Board meeting.

Compliance, Accreditation and Certification Committee:
The committee has 2 recommendations: After much public comment, the “Made With” organic claim recommendation has been revised; and recommendation to clarify and tighten the language in the Rule regarding Section 205.101(b).

Policy Development Committee (this is the committee I chair): Allow the Board Chair to establish ad hoc committees; Policy and Procedures Manual instructions to help strengthen NOP/NOSB collaboration; update and improvement in the New Member Guide; and the most important (and contentious) is the committee’s recommendation to strengthen the “sunset” review policy, especially our recommendation to allow adding restrictive annotations as part of the decision to relist a material.

Wednesday will be devoted entirely to the public presenting comments, while on Thursday, the last day, the Board will vote on committee recommendations, some of which will have been revised based on public and Members’ comments. Election of Officers also occurs as the last business at the fall meeting. Jeff Moyer, Kevin Engelbert, Joe Smillie, Jennifer Hall and Dan Giacomini’s terms are ending and we should know their replacements by the Madison meeting.

The NOSB vision is an agricultural community rooted in organic principles and values that instills trust among consumers, producers, processors, retailers and other stakeholders. Consistent and sustainable organic standards guard and advance the integrity of organic products and practices. I am trying my best to advance this vision.

I’ll give you a report on the meeting, which will be posted on MOA’s website. Have a wonderful fall season.

NOSB Update
July 1, 2010
In May, the NOSB welcomed Lisa Ahramjian as our new Executive Director, replacing Valerie Francis who was assigned to the important NOP Handbook project. We miss Valerie, but Lisa has jumped right in and is doing a great job. Lisa was most recently with the National Institute of Health Consensus Development Program and has a background in animal science and medical biotechnology.

It seems the Board’s workload grows like weeds and the time between meetings to get it done is shorter! Already, the next NOSB official public meeting will be October 25- 28. Thankfully, an extra day has been added in order to receive all public comments without running into the wee hours as has been happening at recent meetings. This has certainly not been fair to those that have spent time and money to attend, only to present their views to a half-empty room and a comatose Board.

Due to scheduling and booking problems, the meeting location has shifted several times, but it now appears that Madison, Wisconsin, has gotten the nod. The meeting agenda and the NOSB committee recommendations will be posted in the Federal Register on September 10. The information will also be posted on the NOSB website. The written public comment period closes on October 11. The sign-up to present comments at the meeting also closes on October 11. I encourage you, if at all possible, to attend the Board meeting and/or submit comments on agenda topics or other organic issues of concern to you.

The most important items on the Fall agenda so far are:

• Materials that will sunset (go off the National List) in 2012, involving recommendations from the crops, livestock and handling committees to delist or keep.

• Continued discussion on livestock stocking rates and discussion standards for animal handling, transit, and slaughter.

• A revised recommendation on nanotechnology in organics.

• Sunset review procedures and policy revision recommendation.

There may be other topics of more interest or concern to you, so please review the agenda and phone 406-883-2858 or email me at for more information.

NOP is very busy on many fronts, making, in my opinion, very positive progress. For details, the NOP is posting an informative monthly report on their website. In June, NOP further strengthened staffing as Melisa Bailey joined the team as Director of the Standards Division.

NOP continues work on a draft Strategic Plan for 2010-2012. The Plan offers a Vision and Mission Statement, describes key organizational success factors and five strategic goals. The strategic goals and objectives reflect the importance of both fulfilling current and future mission-critical needs, while developing the future capability and capacity of the organization so it continues to grow and develop. The NOP’s proposed new vision statement is catchy: “Organic Integrity from Farm to Table, Consumers Trust the Organic Label.”

NOSB Update

May 16, 2010
I am back from the Spring Board meeting held at the Heidrick History Center in Woodland, California. There was an excellent turn out and vibrant participation, including quite a few California organic farmers. Many of the regulars that I have seen at the previous DC meetings were also in attendance.

The meeting opened on the afternoon of April 26. After the opening formalities, Deputy Administrator Miles McEvoy gave a very informative presentation on the National Organic Program (NOP) accomplishments the past year and the priorities for the upcoming months. The priorities are: upholding and enforcing standards, implementing and enforcing  the recently released “Access to Pasture” final rule, implementing NOSB recommendations, developing a strategic plan, certifier training, refining the NOP handbook, improve the NOP website and organic data base. Miles also discussed the critical Office of Inspector General (OIG) audit of the NOP and the corrective actions to be taken. The audit was for the period prior to Miles taking over NOP. The audit’s key findings were: need for timely enforcement, failure to implement residue testing as required by law, improve quality management and audits of foreign certifiers. Miles reported on organizational changes introducing some of the new staff of NOP’s  now 32 people. He also divulged USDA plans to get many Department Agencies involved in organics, including creating a Department’s organic coordinator. Miles presented the NOP Strategic Planning update. The Plans review and rollout is scheduled for June and July. He also gave in writing NOP responses to several NOSB recommendations on materials, nutrient vitamins and minerals in organic food, and organic certification of cosmetics & personal care products. Any one that is interested can contact me for more information.

The second day was devoted exclusively to public comments, which ran well into the evening. One of the most hotly debated items was the addition of synthetic methionine to poultry feed. A number of egg producers as well as the Methionine Task Force and certifiers argued they needed synthetic methionine because alternate natural sources were not available in sufficient quantities. Other commenters disagreed stating other alternatives did exist and that access to pasture would reduce the need. On the final /voting day, the majority of the Board voted to continue the use, but at a stepped down rate.  Stocking rates for the Animal Welfare recommendation also received many comments on the second day.

Day three was Committee presentations and Board member questioning. Materials due for “Sunset” in 2012 took up much time.  Topics of special interest were: handling of the list 4 inerts in pesticides, alternative procedures for handling Sunset, Production Standards for plants grown in containers and enclosures (greenhouses), classification of materials definitions, nanotechnology and “Made with Organic” seal discussion.

After reviewing the written and oral comments, the Crops Committee revised the Inerts recommendation to request NOP to enter into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with EPA to arrive at a solution to the inerts problem and suggesting a Task force might be a tool in resolving the complex issues. This was approved by the Board on the final day.
The Policy Development Committee, working with the other committees will develop a revised Board Sunset policy and procedures recommendation for the fall meeting. The “Greenhouse” recommendation passed with out substantive change. Classification of materials remains a mystery. Unfortunately, the vote prohibiting nanotechnology in organic production and handling was postponed while the Materials Committee develops or obtains a definition that satisfies their needs. Public dislike for the “ Made with Organic” seal has the CACC looking other ways to give attention and credit to the made with organic category, which will be presented at the fall meeting.

If you are interested the complete Meeting transcript will be on the NOSB web site.

All the Committees are already busy working on action items for the Fall Meeting, location unknown, but some where east of the Mississippi. I urge you to indulge your expertise and comment on the recommendations and discussion paper.
I am here to answer your questions or at least find the answer.           

I wish you a great organic summer!

NOSB Update
March 15, 2010

Finally, we have a change of venue for the next NOSB Board meeting. It will be in Woodland, California at the Hendrick Ag History Center (near Sacramento) April 26-29 .I encourage you to look at the agenda as all the topics are important. Following are some topics that I believe are of the most interest, but don’t overlook the petioned and sunset materials:

Crops Committee- List 4 inerts in pesticides and Production standards for terrestial plants in containers and enclosures  (green houses).
Livestock Committee- Methionine petition recommendation, which is of interest to poultry producers, Animal welfare discussion on stocking rates, and Apiculture;
Materials Committee update on the nanotechnology recommendation;
Policy Development Committee discussion of Sunset materials review approaches, a very hot and timely topic.

Requests to make oral presentations and written comments must be received by the NOP by the close of business April 12. Instructions for filing comments can be found by going to the NOSB website, then NOSB meetings, then date April 26-29, 2010, then Federal register notices. At this juncture you may also click on Meeting Agenda to obtain details about the meeting.

Previously, I received excellent comments from the MOA Board and Members, which I presented to the subject committees and urged strong consideration. It is important that, if still germaine, comments be submitted formally for the record, according to the procedures noted above. In particular, the Chair of the Livestock committee requested that the excellent comments from John Walkup (Mission Mountain Organic Egg Farm) regarding Animal Welfare stocking rates, be submitted formally for the record.

Let me know if any one needs help navigating the procedures for filing comments.
I’d also appreciate knowing if any MOA members plan to attend the California meeting and I’ll give you an update when I get back, hopefully more interesting than all this procedural stuff!

Wishing all a great “organic” spring and summer!

NOSB Update
January 10, 2010

Folks, do you realize that 2010 is the 20th anniversary of OFPA (Organic Food Production Act), which is the present foundation of our organic programs? Organics progress has been a struggle, which many of you bear scars from, but also the pride of some mighty achievements.

The NOSB members and the National Organic Program Staff will be meeting the second week in February to address critical issues and develop strategic plans. This is particularly important event with new Program Director Miles McEvoy, expanding staff and budget and five new NOSB members.

The regular spring NOSB Board meeting will be held April 26-29 in Davis, California, where public comments will be received on Committee recommendations and the full Board votes to approve. The Committee recommendations are to be posted on the NOSB website and on March 1.

April 12 is the closing date for submitting comments, which will be posted for all to see, but later comments are not necessarily ignored. The best option is to attend the meeting.  Another option is to have a proxy present your comments. The NOSB website and outline the commenting procedures, but I would be happy to help in decoding the stuff.

At the last Board meeting, the Livestock Committee recommendation on Animal Welfare, with some modifications based on public comments, was approved. Most notably, the numbers in the stocking table were removed entirely. The committee is in the process of developing new numbers and I fervently hope that Montana poultry and livestock producers will contribute their knowledge as to what would be acceptable. As with all the approved Board recommendations, you may find Livestock Welfare by going to the NOSB website and clicking on “recommendations. “

The “greenhouse” proposal at the last meeting was a discussion paper to obtain public opinion before presenting a formal recommendation to the full Board. The Crops Committee intends to present a recommendation at the April meeting. I have made sure that MOA’s comments have come to the attention of the committee and I will work to insure its full consideration. It would also be a good idea to submit formal comments on the posted recommendation.

There will be revised proposals for handling inerts and nano technology, plus a long list of materials due to sunset in 2012 plus recommendations on newly petitioned materials.

The future of organics looks bright. Organic food is more nutritious, is safer, free of harmful chemicals, better for the environment and can reduce the level of CO2 in the atmosphere, say many and backed by studies.  So I say thanks to all of you!

NOSB Update
November 25, 2009

First, Congratulations on a great 7th Annual Conference and special thanks to the Conference Committee, Chaired by Tara Blyth, for a job well done!

The week prior to the MOA Conference, I was at the NOSB Board meeting in Washington DC. At the MOA Conference, I briefly reported on the Board meeting, so some of this is repetitious for you that were in attendance.

On the first day of the Board Meeting the new Administrator of the Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS), Rayne Pegg , was introduced. AMS is the organizational home of NOP in USDA. On the second day, Undersecretary Edward Avilos also spoke Both expressed strong support for organics. And of course, Kathleen Merigan (check MOA website for details on her) is the number two person in USDA. What a difference!
The NOP has been moved up a notch so that the Program’s head (Deputy Administrator) now reports directly to the AMS Administrator. The really good news is that this person as of October 1, is Miles McEvoy, former WSDA Organic Director. Some of you will remember that Miles helped Montana set up our State organic certification program.
Miles gave an excellent presentation on the first day outlining NOP values, goals, priorities and budget and staffing changes. You may see his presentation by going to the NOSB November meeting agenda day one. Some of the highlights of his talk were:

Founding (NOP) principles and values are: collaborative, clear & consistent, transparent, strict & sensible and organic- biological, interconnected, true to organic principles.

Priorities: publish the pasture rule (it is now in OMB for clearance, develop a strategic plan, hire staff, train staff and ACAs, implement NOSB recommendations and uphold and enforce standards.

Miles declared the “Age of Enforcement:” risk-based inspections, unannounced inspections, residue sampling to enhance integrity and market surveillance.

The USDA FY 2010 budget for NOP was signed by President Obama in late October for a hefty increase to $ 6.967 million and a staff of 31.  In 2002, the budget was $1.6 million and a staff of 6.

Miles ended his talk with a quote from Wendell Berry: “An organic farm, properly speaking, is not one that uses certain methods and substances and avoids others; it is a farm whose structure is formed in imitation of the structure of a natural system that has the integrity, the independence and the benign dependence of an organism.”

The term of Board Members is 5 years, with 5 completing their terms this year (effective 1/22/10).  They are Rigo Delgado, Gerry Davis, Bea James, Julie Weisman and Hue Karreman, who spoke at the 2007 MOA conference. They are being replaced by Joe Dickson, Whole Foods, Austin, Texas; Jay Feldman, Beyond Pesticides, Washington, DC; John Foster, Earth Bound Farms, Oregon; Wendy Fulwider, farmer, Wisconsin; and Annette Riherd, fruit and vegetable farmer, Oklahoma. Dan Giacomini was elected Board Chair, replacing Jeff  Moyer. Tracy Miedema was elected Vice Chair and Tina Ellor as Board Secretary.

The next Board Meeting is tentatively scheduled for April 26-29 in California, probably the Davis area. At least it is closer to Montana and maybe some one besides me from MOA can attend.

At this past Board meeting, hundreds of written and oral comments were received from a diverse group of interested people and organizations, the comments being primarily on recommendations made by the various Board Committees. These comments were considered and modifications were made to the proposed recommendations, which were then voted on the last day of the meeting. The complete final results will be posted on the NOSB website around December 5.

At this time, I will only touch on a few of the action items. The animal welfare recommendation passed after being modified in response to a great deal of public comments. Because of comments, numbers were withdrawn from the stocking tables, to be added later after more consideration. I hope that MOA members will provide input for these tables and not just have input come from the large corporate interests. This should be done soon as the Livestock committee is working on the numbers.

The vaccine recommendation allowing GM passed after modification, which limited use to only when alternatives did not exist. This was a very controversial recommendation with heated debate.

The very complex recommendation on the clarification of the definition of materials passed with consequences I can’t fully foresee.

The personal body care recommendation was a “planting the flag” to force a decision from USDA to accept the challenge of regulating organic body care product claims. It passed.

In a similar vein, the retail certification recommendation’s purpose was to urge the NOP to provide marketing guidance to voluntary retail certification in order to maintain consistent use of the USDA seal. It also passed.

In spite of overall strong support for the nanotechnology recommendation banning its use in organic production and handling, the minority opinion resulted in it being withdrawn for further consideration.

The Crops committee presented a discussion document proposing how to handle the List 4 Inerts issue. The comments were largely unfavorable, but neither did a solution emerge. The problem must be dealt with and soon.

The Crops committee also presented a discussion document on production standards for terrestrial plants in containers and enclosures (aka greenhouses) with the intention to have a final recommendation for the Spring Board Meeting. Work on this recommendation has already begun. The MOA Board provided valuable comments on this topic and I will insure that they receive careful consideration.

There were many other topics covered at the meeting as a review of the agenda will reveal. I expect to cover later some of those, plus more detail on the above items.

I wish to give tribute to MOA Chair, Ole Norgaard, and the entire MOA Board for providing valuable comments on many of the NOSB proposals. It is very important that your knowledge, experiences, values and concerns be incorporated into the deliberations.
I will continue to try my best to reflect these, but your continued direct involvement is needed.

NOSB Update
September 25, 2009

I never thought I would hear this, but recently at a Board Executive Committee call, a
USDA official told us, “organics is the most important program in USDA right now!” This recognition is way over due, but is most welcomed. Top Department officials are paying attention.

As reported previously, NOP’s stature is being improved by moving it up on the organizational chart, reporting directly to the AMS Administrator, Rayne Pegg. On September 17, Secretary Vilsack announced Miles McEvoy to serve as Deputy Administrator of the National Organic Program. Miles McEvoy is the Washington State Organic Program Manager and a long time leader in organics. The five new NOSB members were announced on September 24: Joe Dickson, an organic retailer from Austin, Texas, who is currently Certification Director of Whole Foods; Jay Feldman, an environmentalist from Washington, D.C., currently Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides, with nearly 30 years experience in environmental issues; John Foster, an organic handler from McMinnville, Ore., who works for Earthbound Farms and also has a strong farming background and experience as an organic inspector; Wendy Fulwider, an organic farmer from Viroqua, Wis., who has worked to develop animal standards for the organic industry; and Annette Riherd, an organic fruit and vegetable farmer from Oologah, Okla., who is also an advocate for buy fresh/buy local and organic and direct marketing.

The next NOSB Board meeting will be November 3-5 in Washington, DC at the Washington Plaza Hotel. On day 1, we will have the Deputy Secretary, AMS Administrator and other top officials present, as there will be a “changing of the guard” as Miles McEvoy is introduced and NOP’s  new direction elaborated.

The meeting agenda is very full. Let me outline some items that I think are of interest to MOA members. The complete agenda with the proposed committee recommendations has been posted on the NOSB meeting website.

The Compliance, Accreditation, & Certification Committee has two recommendations:

  1. Clarification of Marketing for Voluntary Retail Certification.

First, I want to assure you, if you are worried, this DOES NOT recommend group certification for retailers. What it does do is attempt to set in motion clarification of guidance so retailers know exactly what is expected of them and consumers understand what they are purchasing.

  1. Solving the Problem of Mislabeled Organic Personal Care Products.

As some you are no doubt aware, there is great confusion in the market place with the various labels and claims of organic with personal care products. In addition, there has been disagreement which agency in government should be regulating these organic claims. The CACC recommends that organic personal care products be recognized explicitly by the NOP to ensure consumers and businesses alike that the products have an unquestioned home in the USDA/NOP.

The Crops Committee has recommendations on petitions to add materials to the National List: peracetic acid, manganese sulfate monohydrate, hydrogen chloride, ferric phosphate and a discussion on handling list 4 inerts. In addition the committee is recommending improved guidance for green houses and terrestrial plants grown in containers.

The Materials Committee has a real humdinger of a topic, nanotechnology. The recommendation document has a clear definition of nanotechnology and contains explanatory back ground information, which will be posted for the meeting. The Committee recommends that the NOP implement a rule change that all nanotechnology is excluded from all organic production, processing and packaging, except as required by law.

The Livestock Committee will make recommendations on petitioned materials and material annotations: eprinomectin, vaccines, excipients, chlorhexidine, and xylazine. Plus recommendations on animal welfare and bivalves.  At this time I have not seen any of these recommendations, except that for vaccines, which recommends a change in the Regs 205.105 (e) to  “Excluded methods, except for vaccines.”

A Joint Materials & Handling Committee will, after many hours of work by many, recommend new definitions for synthetic/non synthetic determinations. I expect this will illicit much debate.

And finally, the Handling committee has recommendations for materials up for sunset in 2011.

I hope with this heads up, you will have time to prepare comments on topics of interest and concern. October 19 is the deadline for filing comments. The official meeting regulatory posting provides instructions.

NOSB Update
May 10, 2009

I just returned from a very busy week in DC at the NOSB spring Board meeting, which had vigorous participation from the public.

Board members and the public alike were excited Tuesday to have our new Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Kathleen Merrigan address the group. It is quite a boost to organics to have a person with such experience and dedication to organics in such a high position in USDA. NOP will get elevated in the USDA hiearchy and get a better shake in the budget. The NOP program manager position is now being recruited under the Senior Executive Service (non-political) system and will not now have to serve also as Deputy Administrator for Transportation and Marketing in AMS, as has been the case for Barbara Robinson. This is an important step allowing the incumbent to focus on the important work of NOP. A strong, dedicated, competant, organic person is needed for this position.

photo of nosb board may 2009
Left to right, back row: Kristine Ellor, Bea James, Barry Flamm, Kevin Engelbert, Steve DeMuri, Gerald Davis,Joe Smillie, Hubert Karreman. Middle row: Jennifer Hall, Julie Weisman, Valerie Francis( Executive Director), Tracy Miedema. Front row: Dan Giacomini, Katrina Heinze, Kathleen Merrigan ( Deputy Secretary ), Jeff Moyer. Missing board member: Rigo Delgado

At the Board meeting, Kathleen Merrigan announced $50 million for a new initiative to meet the Obama Administration's promise to encourage more organic agriculture production. Funding is being made available as part of the of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Organic producers may also apply for funding under the general EQIP. Time is very short. Applications for the new program must be received by May 29. You can visit your nearest USDA service center for information and to determine your eligibility. More information can also be gained at NRCS will administer this new initiative.

The Deputy Secretary invited the Board to her office in the AG Administration building that evening for an informal and very interesting discussion. Later, we visited the organic victory garden adjacent to the Ag building. A real nice job and great to see organics receiving such high profile exposure!

At her morning presentation, Merrigan made a very strong appeal for biodiversity conservation. It was a great lead-in for my subsequent presentation of the guidance recommendation for Implementation of Biological Conservation in Organic Agriculture Systems. During the evening visit, she told me she had read the full recommendation document. The recommendation was passed by the Board on Wednesday: 14 yes, 1 absent.

I will only touch on a few other action items. Of much interest, NOSB had received its first petition to remove a material from the National List of allowed substances. After receiving and considering hundreds of written comments plus oral presentations, the Board voted to remove Lecithin, bleached from 205.605b and the 605.606 listing to only the dry form. This because of availability concerns that still remain.

Those of you with alkaline soil problems may be interested that the Board approved the sulfurous acid petition for an on-farm manufacture for use in pH adjustment of water.

Also, livestock producers now will have vitamins and minerals injected as supplements available.

Following the Board meeting on Thursday, some of us met with AMS Science and Technology staff. S&T has been contracted by NOP to prepare technical reviews of petitioned materials. The purpose of the meeting was to achieve a better understanding among S&T of our needs so as to achieve superior work to meet our needs in reviewing and decisions making for petitioned materials. The meeting went well.

Don't forget: act now for the new EQIP funding.

Also remember there will be 5 NOSB slots next year that need filling with good people.

Until next time......

April 1, 2009

photo of yellow squash flowerGood news for organics as we are finally receiving high-level Washington attention! A very vocal supporter of organically, locally grown food is First Lady Michelle Obama. In March, she with the help of the Obama girls and others, broke ground for a White House Organic Victory Garden. According to reports, the Obama family has wisely chosen not to expose themselves to toxins and GMOs by requiring organic foods to be served at the White House.

A pleasant surprise occurred in mid-February. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack took a jackhammer to a patch of pavement outside the Agriculture Headquarters to create his own organic garden. Led by NOP staff, work began in earnest in March to transition to fully organic. This included planting cover crops and adding mulch provided by Board Member Jeff Moyer, Rodale’s farm manager.

Although these moves may be viewed as only symbolic, they send a very important message to the “troops”—that organics have arrived and will be an important part of food, nutrition and health policy.

Reinforcing that more than symbolism is involved, the Obama Administration has named Dr. Kathleen Merrigan, a long time champion of organics and sustainable agriculture, as Deputy Secretary. She is coming from renowned Tufts U. where she is Director of the Center on Agriculture, Food and Environment. She was an author of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990,which established the National Organic Program and NOSB and she has served as Administrator of USDA/ AMS. Additionally, The National Organic Program status is to be elevated from its present buried position in AMS to reporting directly to the AMS Administrator. NOP will also receive significant staff increases. All this will help NOP do a better job of implementing and overseeing the organic program.

As you know, I am presently serving in an environmental position on the Board with a term through 2013. The terms are staggered. This year, the Secretary of Agriculture is seeking nominations for 5 Board vacancies in the following positions: 2 producers, 1 environmentalist, 1 retailer and 1 handler. Written nominations, with recommendation letters and resume must be postmarked on or before July 17, 09 and should be sent to:
Katherine E. Benham
1400 Independence Ave SW
Room 4004-S Ag stop 0268
Washington, DC 20250
If you have questions, call Kathleen at (202) 205-7806.

The next NOSB full Board meeting is May 4-6 at the Washington Plaza Hotel, Washington, DC. The complete agenda along with committee recommendations and discussion documents have been posted on the NOSB website for public comment. The formal comment period closes on April 20. It would be great if MOA could be represented at the meeting. If not that, then comments on the issues of interest would be valuable in the Board’s deliberations.

As I have previously mentioned, I Chair the Policy Development Committee and serve on the Executive, Crops and the Certification/Accreditation/Compliance Committees. Thus, I was involved in all the recommendations that they produced. In particular, I put together the biodiversity conservation recommendation. I consider this quite important and would particularly welcome your comments. I also want to call your attention to three discussion documents, which begin to address very complex and controversial issues: retailer certification, personal body care standards, and soilless growing systems.

For you that have dealings with our neighbors to the north, you will be interested to know that an organic equivalency agreement with Canada will occur soon.

I wish all a great growing, handling and eating organics season!

December 15, 2008

First, I want to say what a tremendous Conference was held in Billings. Congratulations to the organizers and all that did so much to make another get together a big success. It is an honor to be part of such great organic community.

The last National Organic Standards Board ( NOSB) meeting was held November 17-19 in Washington, DC. It was a busy meeting with a large public turn out and participation.
The final approved recommendations by the Board will be posted soon on the NOSB website, probably by the time you read this.

The Compliance, Accreditation, and Certification Committee (CAAC) recommendation involving certifying operations with multiple production units (i.e., Grower groups) was approved after amendment to include the minority opinion that new growers to be added to the group were a risk factor for inspection.

The joint CAAC and Crops Committee recommended guidance on the availability and use of organic seed, with minor amendments, was approved. The document recommends:
1) NOP role in promoting use of organic seed; 2) ACA’s role in enforcing commercial availability; and 3) the Certified Growers role in increasing organic seed use requiring more diligence in the search for organic seed and better documentation of that effort.

The most hotly discussed topic on the agenda may not be of interest to Montana growers, but should be to consumers, was the Livestock Committee’s aquaculture recommendations, particularly on net pens. The concerns involve pollution and ecological effects especially to wild fisheries. Many commenters expressed concern for the Pacific salmon fishery. The LC committee recommendation was modified, but did fully address the concerns of some, and passed with dissent.

The so called “Pasture Rule” of much interest to many MOA members was not on the meeting agenda for NOSB as this is in the formal regulatory process. The ball is, in other words, in NOP’s court. NOSB had made its recommendations to NOP previously, before I was a member. At the MOA conference I learned of the many concerns of the Montana community and that these concerns would be communicated to the NOP along with request for more time to review and comment further.

The OTA (MOA is a member) prepared a comprehensive summary of the Board meeting which you can read at

The next Board meeting is scheduled for May 4-6, 2009, location yet to be determined. Final recommendations from the Board committees will be posted and Federal Register Notice published March 30. The written public comment period closes April 20.
Committees are presently finalizing their work plans for the May meeting. Among other issues of interest, CAAC will be examining the need for further guidance for Retail establishment certification.

Among other topics, I will be working on a recommendation for the Joint CAAC and Crops Committee for the “Implementation of Biodiversity Conservation in Organic Agriculture Systems.” A discussion paper of this title was posted and presented at the last meeting. It received over 60 written and oral comments. I must now prepare a draft, addressing public comments, for the Joint Committees initial review by January 12.

September 15, 2008

The next National Organic Standards Board meeting will be held November 17-19 at the Savoy Suites Hotel, Washington DC. I was hoping this meeting would be held somewhere in the west, but maybe next time.

Again the agenda is jammed full. You can read the complete agenda along with committee recommendations on the NOSB website. Here I’ll just give you an overview. The first morning will be devoted to Board business matters and a Program update. NOP, thanks in part to funding in the Farm Bill, is expanding its staff to better serve the organic community. The rest of the day will be devoted to listening to public comments on a full range of organic topics. Day 2 NOSB committees present their recommendations. I lead off as Chair of the Policy Development Committee (PDC). The “Sunset” and “Technical Review” recommendations should be of interest to you. These recommendations address the integrity of the materials review for the all important National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances.

The Compliance, Accreditation and Certification Committee (CACC) has two recommendations. The first recommendation involves certifying operations with multiple production units, sites and facilities, often referred to as group certification. This has been a controversial topic especially regarding the proposed inclusion of handlers and retailers into the process. The recommendation now addresses only producers (farmers). The second recommendation from CACC addresses issues that have arisen regarding the 100% labeling claim on organic products.

The joint CACC and Crops committee will present recommended guidance on the availability and use of organic seed, with exceptions allowed. This is of importance to many Montana organic farmers

The Joint committee will also present a discussion paper on opportunities to strengthen biodiversity conservation, a core organic principle.

The Crops committee will present its recommendation on several substances that have been petitioned to be added to National List. Of particular interest is the petition to add Tetracycline (oxytetracycline hydrochloride) to the list for crop use. There are presently two antibiotics on the List: Streptomycin, for fire blight control in pears and apples and Tetracycline (oxytetracycline calcium complex) for fire blight control only. Antibiotic use on crops is not allowed in Europe so use here prohibits exports to those and some other countries. There is strong opinion that it was a mistake to permit their use here. These two materials come up for Sunset in 2012. The Crops committee will also discuss “soil-less growing systems” (hydroponics).

The Livestock Committee has three recommendations on aquaculture and a discussion on animal husbandry.

The Handling Committee will present recommendations for eight nonorganic substances petitioned to be allowed in processed products. The Committee will also make recommendations for pet food standards.

There will then be opportunity for further public comment on NOSB action and discussion items.

Committees will present their recommendations on the final day, November 19, followed by Board discussion and vote on the recommendations. The meeting is concluded by officer election and discussion of work plans for the next half year.

Public comments and meeting oral presentation sign ups close on November 3. Oral and written comments will also be accepted during the meeting. In submitting your comments refer to Docket Number AMS-AMS-08-0083. To find the relevant documents, visit the NOSB website at: Click on the National Organic Program link and then the National Organic Standards Board link.

June 15, 2008

I am back from my first NOSB meeting, a three-day marathon held in Baltimore May 20-22. Back in March, I was moved from Vice Chair to Chair of the Policy Development Committee and according to colleagues was the first Board Member to serve as Chair before even attending a first Board meeting. It also means I serve on the Executive Committee, along with serving on the Crops committee and Compliance, Accreditation and Certification committee (CACC). It made the Board meeting especially interesting.

The most important purpose of the biannual meetings is for the Board to receive oral and written comments and to interact with the attendees. All full Board meetings are open to the public. Public participants have the opportunity to hear committee and task force reports presented to the full Board and later respond. These Board meetings are the only time the members physically get together to discuss issues, handle problems, work, hear committee reports, and vote on recommendations. Most of the work is done in committees by email and conference calls with advice being obtained from Task Forces and Technical Advisory Panels.

Space does not allow me to present the many subjects covered. I can only highlight a few which I think are of most interest to you. I encourage you to go to the NOSB website for the whole story.

The organic seed requirement is of special interest to many MOA members. The Organic Regulations (205.204) state that, “The producer must use organically grown seeds, annual seedlings, and planting stock except that non organically produced, untreated seeds…may be used…when an equivalent organically produced variety is not commercially available.” The exception is widely used and today only a small proportion of the seed currently used is certified organic. In the recent past, NOSB has issued recommendations on this subject, without notable effect. During this past year, the Crops and CAC committees again addressed the subject resulting in recommendations for consideration at this Board meeting. Comments were heard from organic seed producers, organic farmers, and certifiers. Although there was mostly agreement something needed to be done to increase organic seed use, there was concern that the methods proposed were unwieldy and created unfair and unequal burdens. The joint committee accepted these concerns and withdrew the recommendation for further work to address a better system for collecting, managing, and dispensing organic seed availability, and needs information and equitable sharing of the burden between seed producers, farmers, certifiers, government, and other institutions.

One of the many materials petitioned to be added to the National List of Allowed Substances was Tetracycline—oxyteracycline hydrochloride (a different formulation than now on the List)—and to extend use from fire blight control only to all disease and crops registered by EPA. The Crops committee has concern for the use of any antibiotics in organic crop production due to its potential impact on human health and the environment. The existing antibiotics on the National List (205.601) will be up for “sunset review.” Primarily for these two reasons, the Committee recommended against accepting the petition. The Petitioner in a public statement at the Meeting modified the petition to eliminate the extended uses and to agree to a sunset time which would coincide with the other crop antibiotics. Based on these proposals by the Petitioner, NOSB action was deferred until the Fall meeting. MOA may wish to comment on antibiotic use in organic crop production.

Action was taken on many other materials petitioned to add to the National List including recommended approval of Fenbendazole as prescribed by a veterinarian for emergency treatment when an organic system fails to prevent infestation. It is believed that this material is a better alternative than existing listed materials and that when Fenbendazole is listed it is the intention of the Board the others be delisted.

Besides materials, there are several other topics I believe should be of special interest to MOA members that will be worked on by committees for presentation at the Fall Board meeting. These include reworking the multisite certification discussion paper and developing an acceptable recommendation (CAAC), developing recommendations for hydroponics (Crops), Aquatic plants (Crops), and Aquaculture especially fish feed issues (Livestock).

Lynn Coody presented the Wild Farm Alliance’s fine report, “Biodiversity Conservation as part of the National Organic Program,” a topic dear to my heart. MOA’s Becky Weed serves on the Alliance’s Board. This would be good topic for a MOA conference.

I encourage you to present your ideas, concerns, and recommendations to the Board in writing and if possible in person. I welcome your comments, questions, and advice at any time. You can reach me at 406-883-2858 or email

I hope you are all having a good year growing and handling Montana’s great organic food and best wishes to the sellers of organics and the fortunate consumers. We are all better because of you!

April 1, 2008
NOSB 101

You may remember from the last Organic Matters that I was appointed to an environmental position on the National Organic Standards Board. You may even ask, “What the heck is that?” In any case I thought a little refresher course might be in order, thus the title of this first piece, which may become a regular column. This first offering is a little lengthy, but bear with me as we navigate the endless acronyms and delegations of responsibilities. Those of you who are experts on this subject can go back to your organic work.

First, I wish to thank MOA for your support for my appointment. I am very honored by this support and for the opportunity to serve organics on this important Board. You are a great group of people and the best and most dedicated working conservationists/environmentalists that I have ever had the privilege to know and work with.

Now for some history. Title XXI of the 1990 Farm Bill is known as the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). Its purpose was to establish National standards for the production and handling of foods labeled as organic. Previously there was no uniformity in standards, thus “organic” could mean different things. The Act established the National Organic Program (NOP) and was assigned to the Agricultural Marketing Service in USDA. The Act established the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), an advisory body to the NOP, but with teeth. OFPA states that only the NOSB can recommend any material to the National list of permitted or prohibited substances. The initial proposed regulations to implement OFPA came under severe criticism from the organic community, which resulted in subsequent rule changes. There were 40,774 public comments, which must be some sort of record. The final rule (regulation) was not published until 10 years after the Act passed, December 2000. The rule was then implemented over an 18 month period from February 2001 to October 2002.

The NOSB’s statutory mission is “To assist in the development of standards for substances to be used in organic production and to advise the Secretary on any other aspects of the implementation of this title” which is OFPA.

In carrying out the mission of NOSB key activities include:
1) assisting in the development and maintenance of organic standards and regulations:
2) reviewing petitioned materials for inclusion on the National list of approved and prohibited substances;
3) recommending changes in the National List:
4) communicating with the organic community;
5) supporting and coordinating with the NOP.

The Board is comprised of 15 members of which:
• four own or operate organic farms;
• two own or operate organic handling operations;
• one owns or operates a retail establishment engaged in organics
• three have expertise in areas of environmental protection and resource conservation
• three represent public interest or consumer interest groups
• one has expertise in sciences of toxicology, ecology or biochemistry
• one is a certifying agent

I am in one of the environmental positions. The term is for 5 years and it’s a volunteer job, i.e., no pay!

There are three principal officers Chair, (Rigo Delgado, producer from Texas) Vice Chair Jeff Moyer, producer from Pennsylvania) and Secretary ( Katrina Heinze, scientist from Minnesota) and along with Committee Chairs that form the Executive Committee. Much of the Board’s work is done by the standing committees which are:
• Certification, accreditation and compliance (CACC) Chair, Joe Smilie, certifier, VT
• Crops (CC) Chair, Gerald Davis, producer, CA
• Handling (HC) Chair, Julie Weisman, handler, NJ
• Livestock (LC) Chair, Hue Karreman, environmentalist, PA. You probably remember Hue from last fall’s MOA conference.
• Materials (MC) Chair, Dan Giacomini, consumer/ public interest, CA
• Policy Development (PDC), Bea James, retailer, MN

Other current members are: Steve Demuri Handler from CA, Tina Ellor environmentalist from PA, Kevin Engelbert producer from NY, Jennifer Hall consumer/ public interest from WA, and Tracy Miedema consumer/ public interest from OR.

I was appointed to the CACC, CC and PDC as vice chair. The Board meets twice a year, but through the year does business by conference calls and emails, to which I can attest, there is plenty of! The next in-person Board meeting is scheduled for May 20-22 in the Washington, DC area. A major purpose of the meeting is to receive public comments on Board proposals and on organic concerns and issues. The location and other details of the meeting will be posted on the website, which is given at the end of this article.

The Executive Director is Valerie Frances. The ED is an employee of USDA and is the operational liaison with NOP and does lots of the work for the Board. There has been a recent reorganization in NOP with Deputy Administrator, AMS Barbara Robinson as lead person. Mark Bradley will now be Chief, Audit, Accreditation and Training Branch. Richard Mathews will lead standards and review. A compliance and enforcement lead has not, to my knowledge, been named.

A new and improved public information web source has been launched, which should make it easier to access information and get answers to the complex questions facing growers, handlers and certifiers/inspectors too. The website can be found at

The topics I have especially been involved in so far are: a group certification proposal; availability of organic seed; Antibiotics, Dextrin and Cheese wax petitions for the National List; and whether Technical Advisory Panel reports to guide and assist the NOSB can be prepared by NOP.

I would welcome your comments, questions and advice at any time. Also please let me know what you would like to hear about in a future columns.

Barry Flamm
Phone: 406-883-2858

Read Barry's Bio

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