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What is the Sunset Review Process?

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic regulations allow most natural inputs in organic farming, and prohibit most synthetic inputs. The National List, part of these regulations, lists the exceptions to this basic rule. Once an input has been added to the National List, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) must review the input every five years.

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During the “sunset review” process, the NOSB reviews the substance, public comments, and any new information concerning the substance. This could include reviewing any new information about the substance’s impact to human health or the environment, any new proven, natural alternatives, or other criteria under the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). Through this process, NOSB can remove inputs from the National List based on adverse impact on human health or the environment, or the availability of a natural or organic alternative. After NOSB completes its Sunset review and provides a recommendation, USDA either renews or removes the input to complete the Sunset process.

If the NOSB confirms the substance continues to meet required criteria, then the NOSB’s review of that substance is complete. USDA may then publish a Federal Register notice announcing the listing will remain active for five years.

If the NOSB determines the substance no longer meets required criteria, it can take a vote to remove the substance. If two thirds of the NOSB agree with the new data, then the NOSB may recommend the substance’s removal from the National List. If USDA accepts the NOSB’s recommendation, then USDA may initiate rulemaking to remove the substance from the National List. This process includes an additional opportunity for public comments.
AlertActing on extensive feedback and input from its members, OTA filed two petitions with the National Organic Program on Nov. 6 to amend the National List of substances that can be used in organic production and processing – in one case strengthening the requirement for organic ingredients and in the other, removing a non-organic substance from the list. 

Learn More 

Q & A about the Sunset process              Federal Register Notice on the Sunset process               National List Sunset Review Timeline

Vice President of Regulatory and Technical Affairs  
(503) 798-3294
Johanna Mirenda
Farm Policy Director
(202) 812-7704