OTA has filed public comments on the following list of proposed requirements, policies, and guidance.
OTA comments to USDA on a national organic check-off program
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is received public comments to a proposal for a nationwide research and promotion check-off program for the organic industry. This action was a significant step that will advance the growing organic sector and have important and long-lasting benefits for organic farmers, businesses and consumers alike. The organic industry proposal estimates the organic check-off, referred to as GRO Organic (Generic Research and Promotion Order for Organic), could raise over $30 million a year to spend on research to make farmers successful, technical services to accelerate the adoption of organic practices, and consumer education and promotion of the organic brand. Thousands of organic stakeholders submitted comments in support of the proposal, including the Organic Trade Association.
Read OTA comments here. For more information, contact Kelley Poole.
OTA comments to NOP on a proposal to revise the National List
USDA's National Organic Program (NOP) extended the comment deadline by 30 days on a proposed rule that would address several recommendations the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) made to NOP pertaining to the 2017 Sunset Review of inputs allowed in organic farming and processing. View the 2017 Sunset Proposed Rule. Consistent with the NOSB recommendations that were made to NOP in 2015, the proposed rule would remove ELEVEN inputs from the National List for allowed use in organic production and handling. Upon removal, the prohibitions would take effect on the sunset date of June 27, 2017. The comment period now closes on April 19, 2017.
Read OTA comments here. For more information, contact Kelley Poole.
OTA comments to USDA on calculating organic percentages
In response to a request by OTA, the National Organic Program (NOP) extended the comment deadline from February 6, 2017 to April 7, 2017 on its draft guidance on Calculating the Percentage of Organic Ingredients in Multi-Ingredient Products. Although USDA organic regulations establish labeling categories for organic products based on the percentage of organic ingredients in the product, certifying agents have interpreted the requirements for calculating the percent of organic ingredients differently. The draft guidance clarifies the standards for calculating organic percentages for finished products, including products that contain multi-ingredients. The draft guidance is designed to help businesses and certifiers implement the USDA organic standards consistently.
Read OTA comments here. For more information, contact Kelley Poole.
OTA Comments to USDA on Strategies to Support Long Term Health and Viability of US Agriculture
On March 6, OTA submitted comments to the USDA Office of the Chief Scientist in response to an opportunity to offer suggestions for effective strategies to support the long-term health and viability of U.S. Agriculture, concurrently improving the economic, environmental, security, and health benefits to the U.S. through agriculture over the next 50 years. OTA underscored that a vibrant organic industry is integral to the longevity of US agricultural systems in the US, citing the almost 50 billion dollar-a-year bright spot in the US economy that is experiencing double-digit growth, creating jobs, and consumer demand that continues to outpace supply. OTA offered support for the comments provided by The Organic Center that provided specific input on how organic is an integral part of the solution for agricultural sustainability by supporting soil health, mitigating climate change, upholding pollinator health, and contributing to a successful economy.
OTA submits comments to FSIS on Documentation needed to Substantiate Animal Raising Label Claims
On December 5, OTA submitted comments to the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) on the agency’s guidance surrounding documentation to substantiate animal raising claims on packaged meat products. In its comments, OTA said it strongly believes that an organic certificate should be the only documentation required for animal raising claims verified through the organic certification process. Claims such as “raised without antibiotics,” “free range,” and “raised without growth promotants” are inherent attributes of organic products since they are also requirements of the organic regulations. As a result, organic producers should not need to submit additional documentation beyond their valid organic certificate.
Read our comments here. For additional information, contact OTA’s Farm Policy Director Nate Lewis.
OTA submits comments to FTC on the enforcement of misleading organic claims
On December 1, 2016, OTA submitted comments to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on a recent study that was conducted together with USDA on consumer perceptions of organic claims. The study was conducted to help the two agencies better understand how consumers perceive “organic” claims made on non-agricultural products such as personal care products and textiles. FTC held an informative roundtable that was open to the public, and welcomed written comments on the topic, including further evidence of consumer perceptions. In response, OTA attended and participated in the roundtable, conducted a study on consumer beliefs of organic claims and convened a task force to help shape comments to FTC on how to best address consumer deception and education. OTA's comments urge FTC and USDA to further define USDA’s scope of authority over “agricultural” products, clarify USDA and FTC’s roles and jurisdiction on enforcement, and revise the FTC Green Guides to help marketers ensure that the organic claims they are making on non-agricultural products are true and substantiated in order to avoid consumer deception.
Comments submitted on NOP's Interim Instruction on Material Review
On October 31, 2016, OTA submitted comments to the National Organic Program (NOP) on its Interim Instruction on Material Review for use by accredited certifying agents (ACAs). Entitled NOP 3012: Material Review, this instruction specifies the criteria and process that USDA accredited organic certifiers must follow when approving crop, livestock and handling inputs for use in organic production and handling. Consistent with OTA's longstanding position on Material Review Organizations (MROs), OTA urged NOP to establish formal accreditation for MROs under the structure of NOP accreditation that will provide uniform oversight and enforcement equally to both ACAs and MROs.
Comments submitted to NOP on Treated Lumber
On October 31, 2016, OTA submitted comments to the National Organic Program (NOP) in response to their draft guidance on treated lumber. NOP has announced the availability of a Draft Guidance document intended for use by accredited certifying agents and organic producers. The draft guidance document is entitled: Treated Lumber (NOP 5036). This draft guidance document is intended to inform the public of NOP's current thinking on this topic. OTA expressed concern that the structure of the guidance may establish an uneven playing field between currently certified producers bringing in new acreage and non-organic producers transitioning their acres for the first time. Given the amount of adjustment that may be needed to fully respond to this new guidance, OTA also requested at least a one-year implementation timeline once the guidance is finalized.
OTA submitted comments to NOSB on sunset materials and more
During the Fall 2016 meeting, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) will review the large majority of the fertilizers, pest control products, processing aids, and ingredients currently allowed for use by certified organic operations. These production and handling inputs will be reviewed and voted on by NOSB based on their Sunset timelines (2018), and may not be renewed if new information indicates these substances are incompatible with organic production. OTA's final comments are available.
Comments submitted to FSIS on GMO claims made on
Meat, Poultry, Egg Products
On October 24, 2016, OTA submitted comments to The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) on the Agency's compliance guidance on how companies can make label or labeling claims concerning the fact that bioengineered or genetically modified (GM) ingredients or animal feed were not used in the production of meat, poultry, or egg products. For purposes of this guidance document, these claims were referred to as “negative claims.” All organic products, including meat, poultry, and egg products, must demonstrate that they were not produced using “excluded methods” (7 CFR 205.2) which includes bioengineering or genetically modification. This revised guidance recognizes that a valid organic certificate, alone, will be sufficient documentation to substantiate a “non-GMO” claim on an FSIS inspected product. The organic industry appreciates FSIS’ new approach to this label claim and for granting a streamlined process for approving non-GMO label claims based on organic certification.
Comments submitted to USDA on Creeping Bentgrass
On September 2, 2016, OTA submitted final comments to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) Biotechnology Regulatory Services (BRS) regarding Scotts Co. and Monsanto Co.; Notice of Intent to Prepare and Environmental Impact Statement for Determination of Nonregulated Status of Glyphosate-Resistant Creeping Bentgrass. It is the Organic Trade Association's opinion that the deregulation of glyphosate-resistant creeping bentgrass (ASR368 or Roundup Ready® creeping bentgrass) would cause economic harm to organic producers as well as negative long-term consequences to organic agriculture.
Comments submitted to FDA on arsenic limits for baby cereal
On July 19, OTA submitted final comments to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on its proposal to enforce a limit on the amount of inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal. FDA is proposing a limit or action level of 100 parts per billion for inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal—similar to the level set by the European Commission for rice intended for producing food for infants and young children. FDA has released data showing 53 percent of 76 samples of rice cereal for infants at retail stores in 2014 did not meet this proposed action level. Learn more >>
OTA submits comments to FDA on Assessing the Risk of Raw Manure as Fertilizer
On July 19, OTA sumbitted final comments to the The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on its Federal Register notice requesting scientific data, information, and comments that would help the agency develop a risk assessment for produce grown in fields or other growing areas amended with untreated biological soil amendments of animal origin, including raw manure. The risk assessment will evaluate and, if feasible, quantify the risk of illness associated with consuming produce grown in fields amended with untreated manure. Read More >>
Learn more about OTA's work on Food Safety.
OTA submits comments on proposed rule to amend organic livestock and poultry practices
On July 13, OTA submitted final comments to the National Organic Program on a proposed rule to clarify existing federal organic regulations related to animal welfare standards. The rule published to the federal register on April 13. This rulemaking is based on the 2011 NOSB Recommendation which sets standards for indoor and outdoor space requirements for organic poultry and livestock, and adds definitions to which practices are allowed and prohibited under organic regulations.
Read our comments here, and if you have any questions, please contact Gwendolyn Wyard.
Learn More about OTA's position.
OTA submits final comments on ‘Natural’
On May 10, OTA submitted final comments to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the use of the term "Natural" on labels of human food products. OTA's position was shaped by the work of its Natural Claims Task Force that met over the course of the past five months. The mandate of the task force was to analyze the potential implications of a formal definition of "natural" and develop comments that would protect and uphold the meaning of organic claims in the marketplace. The final comments that evolved out of the process are based on aggregated consumer data on the perception of "natural" vs. "organic," and the identification of actions that may undermine the meaning of the “organic” label and/or conflict with existing definitions within the organic regulations. The next steps are for FDA to read the over 4,800 comments received and decide the direction it will take. We thank the member volunteers of OTA’s Natural Claims Task Force and partnering organizations who helped develop our comments.
Learn more about OTA’s Position and the work of the Natural Claims Task Force!
OTA submits comments to APHIS on Field Testing of Regulated GE Wheat
Last week, OTA submitted comments to APHIS regarding its decision to require the authorization of field-testing of regulated genetically engineered wheat only under permit. OTA first requested an extension of the comment period in order to allow stakeholders, particularly organic growers, the opportunity to weigh in. OTA supports APHIS' proposal to require all future field trials of GE what be conducted under permit that includes requirements for stringent post-harvest monitoring. In particular, OTA believes that USDA should make public genetic material and testing protocols and location of field trial sites; USDA should make public all field trial violations and penalties; and USDA should have the appropriate tools in hand to test for regulated crops. The continued discovery of GE material despite a significant time lapse since trials were concluded demonstrates that USDA needs to reassess and overhaul its regulation of GE technology, because current oversight is not working.
OTA submits comments on Origin of Livestock Proposed Rule
The National Organic Program (NOP)’s proposed rule on the Origin of Livestock was open for public comment through July 27. Along with the rule, USDA issued a press release clarifying the requirements for transitioning dairy animals into organic production, along with a question and answer document.
OTA’s final comments, shaped by OTA’s Origin of Livestock Task Force, are now available to review. The proposed rulemaking aims to level the playing field for all organic livestock producers in how they bring new animals into their operations. OTA generally supports NOP’s intent, and offers a number of suggestions and comments to strengthen the proposed rule. Here is a summary of these comments:
- One-time transition should be tied to each individual “certified operation” (that meets the definition of a proposed new term: “dairy operation”) rather than “producer” because this term and approach are better understood by the entire organic supply chain and accomplish the same restrictions in how origin of livestock is regulated on organic dairy operations.
- Breeder stock used to produce organic offspring should not be allowed to rotate in and out of organic production, and the regulations should reflect the language contained in the Organic Foods Production Act. which allows the purchase of non-organic breeding stock from any source.
- Third-year transitional crops fed to transitioning dairy animals must be produced on the certified dairy operations and described in its Organic System Plan.
- A final rule should include an 18-month implementation period to allow adequate time for businesses to adjust their practices and for education and enforcement of the rule revisions.
- Disallowing a one-time transition for fiber-bearing animals puts U.S. livestock producers at a global disadvantage in accessing organic textile markets, and fiber animals should be allowed to be transitioned into organic production like dairy animals.
OTA previously convened a task force in 2011 to form the basis for our recommendations to NOP at that time. The white paper that the 2011 task force developed is attached to these draft comments as an appendix. Contact Nathaniel Lewis with questions.
OTA submits comments to APHIS on New Stakeholder Engagement on Biotechnology Regulation
APHIS sought input on the following questions:
- Should APHIS regulate based on the characteristics of biotechnology products and the potential risks they may pose, or by the process by which they were created? In either case, what criteria should be used to determine what APHIS regulates? Are there products and processes APHIS should not regulate?
- The Plant Protection Act gives APHIS the authority to protect plant health through regulatory programs. APHIS has implemented the plant pest authority as part of their biotechnology regulations. Should APHIS add noxious weed provisions to their to biotechnology regulations and if so, how? What protection goals should APHIS consider?
- Are there legal authorities given to USDA outside the Plant Protection Act that APHIS should examine to regulate or oversee the products of biotechnology? What are they, and how would they be used?
- What non-regulatory solutions or policy alternatives could or should be considered to complement APHIS’s regulatory program?
OTA and GOTS submited comments to CPSC
OTA together with the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) Advisory Council submitted comments in support of regulations that do not require natural or organic cotton fabrics used in mattresses to be treated with toxic flame retardant chemicals. The comments were submitted to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in response to an open comment period asking whether the current standard for the flammability of mattress sets should be modified to minimize impact on small businesses. OTA's comments explain that treatment of organic fiber with flame-retardant chemicals conflicts with the requirements of GOTS, and accordingly, negatively impacts the organic fiber marketplace. Furthermore, the standards create an unnecessary burden on organic fiber businesses because natural and organic fibers do not burn well and largely meet flame testing without the need for toxic chemicals. To learn more, read OTA's complete comments.
OTA submits comments to USDA on agricultural coexistence
OTA submitted detailed comments on new proposed USDA activities offered during the agency’s March invitation-only stakeholder workshop on agricultural coexistence for producers of organic, conventional, genetically engineered and identity-preserved crops. In its comment letter, OTA pointed out that much of the tone and tenor overshadowing the stakeholder workshop detracted from any efforts for substance and solutions. As a result, OTA encouraged USDA to keep open a continued comment period to allow ongoing robust dialog.
OTA submitted comments on dietary guidelines
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has submitted recommendations to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell and USDA’s Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. The recommendations focus on linking health, dietary guidance and the environment to promote human health and the sustainability of natural resources. The Organic Center has been involved in the process to-date, submitting comments supporting the science showing the sustainability of organic production methods. Read OTA's comments.
OTA submitted comments to USDA on coexistence
OTA encourages USDA to keep open a continued comment period. This is an important public-private conversation, not tied to a specific rule-making deadline, and will benefit from an ongoing robust dialog. Read OTA's complete comments.
OTA submitted comments to NOSB on sunset materials and more
Over the course of the 2015 meetings, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) will review the large majority of the fertilizers, pest control products, processing aids, and ingredients currently allowed for use by certified organic operations. These production and handling inputs will be reviewed and voted on by NOSB based on their Sunset timelines (October 2016 or 2017), and may not be renewed if new information indicates these substances are incompatible with organic production. OTA's final comments are available.
OTA submitted comments on biodiversity conservation guidance
The National Organic Program’s new draft guidance on biodiversity clarifies how certified organic operations and their certifiers demonstrate organic production practices comply with a federal law requiring improvement to natural resources, including soil and water quality. The document comes in response to a 2009 request from the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) concerning what organic operations and accredited certification agents need to do to comply with the general natural resources and biodiversity conservation requirement of federal organic regulations. Read OTA’s final comments.
OTA submitted comments on proposed rule for check-off exemption
The U.S. Department of Agriculture published its proposed rule to exempt more organic farmers from paying into conventional commodity check-off programs in the Dec. 16 Federal Register. OTA reached out to stakeholders to review the details of the proposed rule and to shape comments for submission. Contact Marni Karlin, OTA’s Vice President of Government Affairs and Laura Batcha, OTA's CEO and Executive Director, for more information. Read OTA's final comments on the exemption.
OTA submitted final comments to FDA on revised FSMA proposals
On behalf of its members, OTA submitted final comments to FDA on the supplemental proposed Produce Safety and Preventive Controls for Human Food Rules. OTA’s comments were guided by three critical factors: 1) FDA’s mandate to establish science-based and risk-based minimum standards that will minimize the risk of serious adverse health consequences or death; 2) FDA’s mandate to develop rules that do not duplicate or conflict with existing organic regulations; and 3) FDA’s intention to create a flexible regulation that will accommodate future changes in science and technology and the particularities of local growing conditions and commodities. The next step is for FDA to review all comments and make final changes to meet the 2015 court mandated deadlines. We thank the member volunteers of OTA’s Food Safety Task Force and partnering organizations who helped develop our comments. Direct any questions on our comments to Gwendolyn Wyard, OTA’s Regulatory Director of Organic Standards and Food Safety.