Search form

Main Menu New

Home > Advocacy > Critical Issues > Continuous Improvement and Accountability in Organic Standards

Continuous Improvement and Accountability in Organic Standards

JUST ANNOUNCED: Consequential legislation introduced in the House!

Significant legislation impacting the future of the U.S. organic sector was introduced in the House on April 30 by Representatives Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Rodney Davis (R-IL), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Dan Newhouse (R-WA) and Ron Kind (D-WI). The Organic Trade Association worked with Congress in spearheading the initiative for this legislation and has been at the forefront in bringing together a broad coalition to work with Congress to get this consequential bill introduced. Read Representative DeFazio’s announcement.

The legislation, the Continuous Improvement and Accountability in Organic Standards Act (CIAO), represents the most significant assessment to date of USDA’s track record on advancing organic standards. The bill for the first time requires USDA to advance and implement recommendations from the organic industry in a timely manner and to ensure the continuous improvement of organic standards. It puts in place an improved federal process for the oversight of organic that will bring the government up to speed with the modern organic sector, and will enable organic’s improvement and advancement to continue to forge ahead into the future.

The legislation was endorsed by the American Sustainable Business Council, Environmental Working Group, National Farmers Union, National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association, Organic Farmers Association, and the Accredited Certifiers Association among others.

Check out the full list of farmers, businesses, consumers, and environmental organizations endorsing the bill and add your business name.

Contact us for a social kit to help spread this exciting news and thank the leaders of the House Organic Caucus that made it happen.

UPDATE: NOSB unanimously supports organic continuous improvement bill


Organic is a voluntary regulatory program for farmers and businesses who choose to meet a strict federal standard and market their products under the USDA organic seal.

In fact, the very purpose of the Organic Foods Production Act is to “establish national standards” and “assure consumers that organically produced products meet a consistent standard,” overseen by the USDA National Organic Program. However, the federal regulatory apparatus has stifled innovation and continuous improvement within the industry. In the past 10 years, industry has advanced 20 consensus recommendations for improvements to the organic standards, yet USDA has not implemented a single one of them. Learn more about each recommendation below.

We believe that Congress should work with industry to repair the public-private partnership and advance organic standards. A new framework must be set for advancing federal organic standards to keep up with the marketplace and ensure the credibility of the USDA organic seal. The Continuous Improvement and Accountability in Organic Standards Act calls on USDA to develop an action plan for clearing the backlog of NOSB recommendations and creates a system of accountability and transparency for going forward. It will also improve oversight and ensure consistent certification practices and decisions.

CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT SUMMARY  Timespan for USDA-NOP Rulemaking  H.R. 2918 Fact Sheet


BACKGROUND

Industry, environmental, scientific and public stakeholders collaborate and reach consensus on developments to organic standards through deliberation at the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). The NOSB is a federal advisory committee that meets twice a year and provides USDA with recommendations to advance the standards. 

LEARN MORE ABOUT NOSB


JOIN OUR MEMBER TASK FORCE

The Organic Trade Association task force for Continuous Improvement and Accountability in Organic Standards' mandate is to facilitate a conversation from Organic Trade Association members on repairing the public-private partnership between USDA and the organic industry and generate strategic thinking for how organic will evolve within this partnership over the next decade and beyond.

JOIN US

NOSB Recommendations that have not advanced
yes
275
yes
100

Blue

Main color: 
#1eb9d2
Hover: 
#4edaf0
Active: 
#078fa5
Title: 
#ffffff
Title Hover: 
#ffffff
Title Active: 
#ffffff

STRENGTHEN ANIMAL WELFARE standards for organic livestock and poultry

NOSB recommends to further clarify and refine the requirements for mammalian and poultry living conditions, stocking rates, heath care, transportation, and slaughter. Several recommendations together support a comprehensive animal welfare program for organic livestock. These recommendations are reflected in the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Final Rule which has been withdrawn by USDA. The Organic Trade Association is in active litigation against USDA for failure to implement this regulation.

276
yes
100

Blue

Main color: 
#1eb9d2
Hover: 
#4edaf0
Active: 
#078fa5
Title: 
#ffffff
Title Hover: 
#ffffff
Title Active: 
#ffffff

CLARIFY the ORIGIN of ORGANIC DAIRY LIVESTOCK

NOSB recommends clarifying and narrowing the requirements for the transition of dairy animals (cows, goats, sheep) into organic milk production as a one-time event. Once a distinct herd has been converted to organic production through one year of organic management, all dairy animals must be under organic management from the last third of gestation. The practice of continuously transitioning and/or cycling dairy animals in and out of organic production would be explicitly prohibited. NOP published a proposed rule that would implement this policy in 2015, re-opened the comment period 2019, but has still has not implemented a final rule.

277
yes
100

Blue

Main color: 
#1eb9d2
Hover: 
#4edaf0
Active: 
#078fa5
Title: 
#ffffff
Title Hover: 
#ffffff
Title Active: 
#ffffff

PROHIBIT HYDROPONIC and AEROPONIC PRODUCTION and CREATE new standards for GREENHOUSE and CONTAINER PRODUCTION

NOSB recommends to prohibit hydroponic production of organic crops, with an exception for mushrooms, sprouts, and micro-greens. NOSB also recommends to prohibit production systems where terrestrial plants are suspended in the air and misted with nutrient rich water.

NOSB recommends to allow container and greenhouse production of organic crops under specific provisions that support natural and diverse soil ecology within the container, while prohibiting hydroponic production. This recommendation would minimize the wide variation currently used by applying the current crop production standards to these production systems. 

  • NOSB Recommendation Fall 2010: Production Standards for Terrestrial Plants in Containers and Enclosures
    Prohibit hydroponic production of organic crops, with an exception for mushrooms, sprouts, and micro-greens, and allows container production of organic crops under specific provisions that support natural and diverse soil ecology within the container.
     
  • NOSB Recommendation Fall 2017: Aeroponics
    Prohibits aeroponics systems where terrestrial plants are suspended in the air and misted with nutrient rich water.
279
yes
100

Blue

Main color: 
#1eb9d2
Hover: 
#4edaf0
Active: 
#078fa5
Title: 
#ffffff
Title Hover: 
#ffffff
Title Active: 
#ffffff

REQUIRE increased used of ORGANIC SEEDS

NOSB recommends to require certified crop producers to demonstrate improvement in sourcing and use of organic seed/planting stock every year. NOSB also recommends a series of improvements to the existing NOP Guidance 5029 Seeds, Annual Seedlings, and Planting Stock in Organic Crop Production that includes both incentives and practical language to aid producers and certifiers in overseeing and encouraging the use of organic seed.

  • NOSB Recommendation Fall 2018: Strengthening Organic Seed Usage
    Requires demonstrated improvement in sourcing and use of organic seed/planting stock every year.
     
  • NOSB Recommendation Spring 2019: Strengthening Organic Seed Guidance
    Clarifies the requirements of the regulatory provision for using organically grown seeds, seedlings and planting stock. The recommendation includes both incentives and practical language to aid producers and certifiers in overseeing and encouraging the use of organic seed.
280
yes
100

Blue

Main color: 
#1eb9d2
Hover: 
#4edaf0
Active: 
#078fa5
Title: 
#ffffff
Title Hover: 
#ffffff
Title Active: 
#ffffff

CREATE new standards for organic AQUACULTURE PRODUCTION

Between 2007 and 2009, NOSB passed a series of recommendation to create new standards for organic aquaculture standards. Together the recommendations would authorize organic certification of aquatic plants and animals including finfish and molluscan shellfish, and establish specific standards for feed, health care, facilities, and living conditions for this unique type of livestock. Aquatic animals are currently excluded from the organic regulations; therefore, this series of recommendations would create a new certification scope and market for organic aquaculture products. Aquaculture was previously listed on the Unified Agenda and NOP had completed writing of a proposed rule although it was never published. Aquaculture was removed from the Unified Agenda in 2017.

281
yes
100

Blue

Main color: 
#1eb9d2
Hover: 
#4edaf0
Active: 
#078fa5
Title: 
#ffffff
Title Hover: 
#ffffff
Title Active: 
#ffffff

CREATE new standards for organic APICULTURE PRODUCTION

NOSB recommends to establish specific production standards for organic apiculture (honeybee) production. This recommendation would minimize the wide variation currently used by applying the current crop production standards to these production systems.

  • NOSB Recommendation Fall 2010: Apiculture
    Establishes specific production standards for organic apiculture (honeybee) production.
282
yes
100

Blue

Main color: 
#1eb9d2
Hover: 
#4edaf0
Active: 
#078fa5
Title: 
#ffffff
Title Hover: 
#ffffff
Title Active: 
#ffffff

CREATE new standards for organic PET FOOD products

NOSB recommends to recognize pet food under the scope of National Organic Program enforcement. This recommendation will ensure that USDA can police organic claims on pet food and require compliance with organic standards specific to organic pet food composition, handlings, and labeling.

  • NOSB Recommendation Fall 2008: Pet Food
    Recognizes pet food under the scope of National Organic Program enforcement. This recommendation will ensure that USDA can police organic claims on pet food and require compliance with organic standards specific to organic pet food composition, handlings, and labeling.
283
yes
100

Blue

Main color: 
#1eb9d2
Hover: 
#4edaf0
Active: 
#078fa5
Title: 
#ffffff
Title Hover: 
#ffffff
Title Active: 
#ffffff

CREATE new standards for organic PERSONAL CARE products

NOSB recommends to recognize personal care products (cosmetics, body care) under the scope of National Organic Program enforcement. This recommendation will ensure that USDA can police organic claims on personal care products and require compliance with organic standards.

  • NOSB Recommendation Fall 2009: Personal Care
    Recognizes personal care products (cosmetics, body care) under the scope of National Organic Program enforcement. This recommendation will ensure that USDA can police organic claims on personal care products and require compliance with organic standards.
284
yes
100

Blue

Main color: 
#1eb9d2
Hover: 
#4edaf0
Active: 
#078fa5
Title: 
#ffffff
Title Hover: 
#ffffff
Title Active: 
#ffffff

DEVELOP guidance for determining which new technologies are considered EXCLUDED METHODS

NOSB recommends to establish guidance for interpreting the excluded methods provision of the organic regulations. The recommendation includes definitions, principles, criteria that help address the increased diversity in types of genetic manipulations performed on seed, livestock and other inputs used in agriculture. Several recommendations together lists specific technologies and whether they are prohibited under the existing regulatory definition of excluded methods.

  • NOSB Recommendation Fall 2016: Excluded Methods Terminology
    Establishes guidance for interpreting the excluded methods provision of the organic regulations. The recommendation includes definitions, principles, criteria that help address the increased diversity in types of genetic manipulations performed on seed, livestock and other inputs used in agriculture. The recommendation lists specific technologies and whether they are prohibited under the existing regulatory definition of excluded methods. Prohibited methods include: Targeted genetic modification including CRISPR; Gene silencing; Accelerated plant breeding techniques; Synthetic biology; Cloned animals and offspring; Plastid Formation. Allowed methods include: Marker assisted selection; Transduction.
     
  • NOSB Recommendation Fall 2017: Excluded Methods Determinations
    Prohibits cisgenesis, intragenesis, and agro-infiltration under the regulatory definition of excluded methods.
     
  • NOSB Recommendation Fall 2018: Excluded Methods Determinations
    Allows embryo rescue in plants (not prohibited under the regulatory definition of excluded methods).
     
  • NOSB Recommendation Spring 2019: Excluded Methods Determinations
    Prohibit transposons developed via use of in-vitro nucleic acid techniques under the regulatory definition of excluded methods. Clarifies definitions of cisgenesis and intragenesis.
     
  • NOSB Recommendation Fall 2019: Excluded Methods Determinations
    Prohibits induced mutagenesis under the regulatory definition of excluded methods. Allows embryo transfer in livestock (not prohibited under the regulatory definition of excluded methods.
285
yes
100

Blue

Main color: 
#1eb9d2
Hover: 
#4edaf0
Active: 
#078fa5
Title: 
#ffffff
Title Hover: 
#ffffff
Title Active: 
#ffffff

DEVELOP guidance for RETAILERS about organic compliance

NOSB recommends to provide education and guidance on organic compliance to the retail sector, and clarify several specific sections of the regulations as it applies to retail. These recommendations will also improve consistency and integrity in merchandising, handling and marketing of organic products in retail establishments, and improve consumer understanding of the distinction between “organic” and “certified organic” retailers.

  • NOSB Recommendation Spring 2014: Retail Compliance and Certification
    Provides education and guidance on organic compliance to the retail sector, and clarify several specific sections of the Rule as it applies to retail. Will improve organic integrity in merchandising, handling and marketing in retail establishments.
     
  • NOSB Recommendation Fall 2009: Clarification of Voluntary Retail Certification
    Identifies key areas that need clarification, as well as define the role of NOP, ACAs and retailers in improving the marketing and implementation of USDA organic retailer certification. This recommendation strives to improve consumer understanding of the distinction between “organic” and “certified organic” retailers.
286
yes
100

Blue

Main color: 
#1eb9d2
Hover: 
#4edaf0
Active: 
#078fa5
Title: 
#ffffff
Title Hover: 
#ffffff
Title Active: 
#ffffff

RESTRICT the use of livestock VACCINES made from excluded methods

NOSB recommends to limit the use of livestock vaccines made from excluded methods only when an equivalent alternative not made from excluded methods is not commercially available to prevent a specific disease.

287
yes
100

Blue

Main color: 
#1eb9d2
Hover: 
#4edaf0
Active: 
#078fa5
Title: 
#ffffff
Title Hover: 
#ffffff
Title Active: 
#ffffff

RESTRICT conversion of NATIVE ECOSYSTEMS to organic production

NOSB recommends to require a ten-year waiting period between conversion of land supporting native ecosystems and subsequent organic certification.

288
yes
100

Blue

Main color: 
#1eb9d2
Hover: 
#4edaf0
Active: 
#078fa5
Title: 
#ffffff
Title Hover: 
#ffffff
Title Active: 
#ffffff

DEVELOP guidance on GMO CONTAMINATION PREVENTION strategies

NOSB recommends to identify best management practices for organic operations to prevent of unintended GMO presence in seed and crop production, livestock production, and handling. NOSB also recommends to instruct certifiers to inform certified producers that information on possible genetic contamination of seeds with GMO equivalents could be obtained from their seed suppliers to improve transparency of genetic integrity of seed grown on organic land.

289
yes
100

Blue

Main color: 
#1eb9d2
Hover: 
#4edaf0
Active: 
#078fa5
Title: 
#ffffff
Title Hover: 
#ffffff
Title Active: 
#ffffff

CLARIFY procedure for calculating ORGANIC INGREDIENT COMPOSITION

NOSB recommends to clarify the requirements for determining the percentage of organic ingredients in multi-ingredient products. The recommendation would make calculations based on "all ingredients", not "finished product", which is consistent with OFPA and NOP. The recommendation would standardize practices for developing self-calculating forms, excluding salt, excluding water, processed-single ingredient calculations, multi-ingredient product calculations, and organic labeling versus organic content.

  • NOSB Recommendation Spring 2013: Calculating Percentage Organic in Multi-Ingredient Products
    Clarifies the requirements for determining the percentage of organic ingredients in multi-ingredient products. The recommendation would make calculations based on "all ingredients", not "finished product", which is consistent with OFPA and NOP. The recommendation would standardize practices for developing self-calculating forms, excluding salt, excluding water, processed-single ingredient calculations, multi-ingredient product calculations, and organic labeling versus organic content. The recommendation also would ensure that the organic community with easily accessible, web based, detailed Guidance on these topics.
519
yes
100

Blue

Main color: 
#1eb9d2
Hover: 
#4edaf0
Active: 
#078fa5
Title: 
#ffffff
Title Hover: 
#ffffff
Title Active: 
#ffffff

MUSHROOM PRODUCTION

In 2001 NOSB passed a recommendation to establish specific production standards for organic mushroom production. This recommendation would minimize variation among certifies applying the current crop production standards to these production systems. NOP was previously working on developing a proposed rule although it was never published. There has been no formal action on rulemaking for practice standards although some inputs specific for mushroom production have been added to the National List.

520
yes
100

Blue

Main color: 
#1eb9d2
Hover: 
#4edaf0
Active: 
#078fa5
Title: 
#ffffff
Title Hover: 
#ffffff
Title Active: 
#ffffff

GROWER GROUPS

Between 2002 and 2008 the NOSB passed recommendations to establish specific requirements for certification of operations with multiple production units, sites or facilities-- including operations consisting of legally-constituted groups--based on their organic system plan, their internal control systems and other oversight provided by certifying agents. The NOP published a Policy Memo in 2011 to instruct certifiers to use these recommendations until implementation was finalized. The 2020 Proposed Rule on Strengthening Organic Enforcement included a section on grower group certification.

521
yes
100

Blue

Main color: 
#1eb9d2
Hover: 
#4edaf0
Active: 
#078fa5
Title: 
#ffffff
Title Hover: 
#ffffff
Title Active: 
#ffffff

BIODEGRADABLE MULCH (Rulemaking)

Biodegradable biobased mulch film (BBMF) is currently listed on the National List of allowed materials for crop production as a weed barrier. The final rule to add BBMF to the National List was published September 30, 2014 in response to an NOSB Recommendation in fall 2012. The preamble to the final regulations adding BBMF to the National List require that BBMFs must not contain any non-biobased content (further explained in a 2019 NOP Memo). Because of the 100% biobased requirements, the final rule was not effective to allow use of the petitioned material intended to be allowed. Commercially available BBMFs contain around 20% biobased content, therefore there are no products on the market that meet the terms of the NOP allowance. An effective regulatory solution has not yet been identified. This is a current NOSB work agenda item.

522
yes
100

Blue

Main color: 
#1eb9d2
Hover: 
#4edaf0
Active: 
#078fa5
Title: 
#ffffff
Title Hover: 
#ffffff
Title Active: 
#ffffff

COMMERCIAL AVAILABILITY CRITERIA FOR NON-ORGANIC AGRICULTURAL INGREDIENTS (Guidance)

In 2007, NOSB passed a recommendation to establish standardized criteria to be used by NOSB, ACAs, and the organic industry when making commercial availability determinations for agricultural ingredients that are listed on §205.606. NOP accepted the NOSB Recommendation but has not taken action to implement the guidance.

523
yes
100

Blue

Main color: 
#1eb9d2
Hover: 
#4edaf0
Active: 
#078fa5
Title: 
#ffffff
Title Hover: 
#ffffff
Title Active: 
#ffffff

INERT INGREDIENTS (Recommendation to Change the EPA List 4 Annotation)

PA List 3 and 4 are no longer in use and the EPA requested that these references be removed from the NOP Regulations in 2010. In 2015, NOSB passed a recommendation that would revise the listing for inert ingredients at §205.601(m) and §205.603(e) to remove the outdated and obsolete references to EPA Lists 3 and 4, and replace with EPA’s current mechanism for approving the least-toxic inert ingredients. In NOP’s response to the 2015 NOSB Recommendation, NOP stated “The NOP has reviewed the NOSB’s recommendation and plans to collaborate further with EPA’s Safer Choice Program to develop a program for inert ingredient review, and to initiate notice and comment rulemaking to revise the annotations for inert ingredients at §205.601(m) and §205.603(e).” For a short time after the 2015 NOSB Recommendation was passed, NOP made some effort to provide verbal updates at NOSB meetings to the organic community on its progress of implementing the recommendation, although this has not occurred since 2016.  At the Fall 2020 NOSB Meeting, the Board voted unanimously in favor a resolution calling for NOP action to resolve this regulatory interagency conflict and modernize the system for reviewing inert ingredients. NOP's response to the Fall 2020 resolution indicates it intends to publish an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

524
yes
100

Blue

Main color: 
#1eb9d2
Hover: 
#4edaf0
Active: 
#078fa5
Title: 
#ffffff
Title Hover: 
#ffffff
Title Active: 
#ffffff

UNCERTIFIED HANDLERS (Rulemaking)

In 2017 NOSB passed a recommendation to clarify which operations are excluded from certification through updates to language and additional examples in Guidance NOP 5031 Certification Requirements for Handling Unpackaged Organic Products. Also included are recommendations for additional training of USDA-accredited certifiers and certified handlers, as well as a recommendation to USDA to include in its audits of certifiers a verification that adequate audit procedures are in place. The 2020 Strengthening Organic Enforcement Rule implements this recommendation.

525
yes
100

Blue

Main color: 
#1eb9d2
Hover: 
#4edaf0
Active: 
#078fa5
Title: 
#ffffff
Title Hover: 
#ffffff
Title Active: 
#ffffff

PARASITICIDES IN LIVESTOCK (Clarifying “Emergency” Use of Synthetic Parasiticides in Organic Livestock Production) (Rulemaking)

In 2018 NOSB passed a recommendation to add definition of “emergency use” to §205.2 (Definitions) and amend §205.238(b) to providing clear protocols that need to be in place before the use of approved synthetic parasiticides are used on organic livestock. The goal of the recommendation is to promote consistent implementation when certifiers allow the use of the National List approved synthetic parasiticides, as well as providing clear direction to certified organic operators so they can plan their animal health strategies which first promote animal health through a wide variety of practices. Following the NOSB Recommendation, NOP Responded that it was reviewing the recommendation. NOP has not proceeded with rulemaking action on this recommendation, but NOP has implemented other National List revisions relevant to parasiticides.

526
yes
100

Blue

Main color: 
#1eb9d2
Hover: 
#4edaf0
Active: 
#078fa5
Title: 
#ffffff
Title Hover: 
#ffffff
Title Active: 
#ffffff

CERTIFIER OVERSIGHT AND INSPECTOR QUALIFICATIONS AND TRAINING (Rulemaking and Guidance):

NOSB has passed a series of recommendations for the establishment of guidance to strengthen the training and qualification requirements for inspectors who perform on-site reviews of organic operations, and certification review personnel who assess the organic system plans of organic operations and the inspection reports of these operations. NOSB also passed a recommendation to develop criteria for risk-based accreditation and oversight of certifiers. Portions of the SOE Proposed Rule 2020 address these issues.

survey
no
column-1
30px
Contact

Megan DeBates
Vice President of Government Affairs
(202) 403-8643