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Regulatory Round-up, April 2022

Over the last week, a flurry of regulatory activity has taken place across organic agriculture. In addition to the formal publication of the Origin of Livestock Final Rule in the federal register, which was previously announced during Organic Week by USDA Under Secretary of Agriculture for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) has submitted 63 pages of recommendations across four unique comment opportunities in the past week. These regulatory comments represent over a decade of work by OTA to safeguard organic and firmly entrench it as the gold standard for agricultural products. This work reflects OTA and the organic industry's commitment to continuous improvement, modernization, and climate-smart agriculture.

Prioritizing NOP Rulemaking on Organic Standards

The National Organic Program (NOP) recently opened a comment period to gather feedback on how to prioritize the backlog of National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) recommendations for organic practice standards (e.g., greenhouse/container production, mushroom production, strengthening organic seed usage). OTA’s comments urged NOP to prioritize capacity-building for ongoing development and implementation of standards, and to devote additional resources and staffing exclusively to standards writing and development. OTA also presented NOP with a multi-stage action plan (developed by OTA’s ​Continuous Improvement and Accountability in Organic Standards Task Force) to advance all outstanding recommendations over a reasonable timeframe. The Association's action plan streamlines the workload by grouping multiple NOSB recommendations together into a single action, which will help to ensure efficient and resourceful rulemaking.

Upcoming Issues for Spring 2022 NOSB Meeting

OTA has submitted comments on multiple topics to help inform the Spring 2022 NOSB Meeting. The Association's comments address a variety of issues, including: restricting the use of highly soluble nitrogen fertilizers in crop production, clarifying the use of cell and protoplast fusion in seeds used in organic agriculture, and strengthening NOP risk mitigation when accrediting certifiers. OTA will also provide oral comments next week. The public NOSB Meeting will take place on April 28-30 via online webinar.

Allowing Paper-based Planting Aids (Paper Pots and Tapes)

NOP recently proposed an amendment to their regulations that would formalize and clarify the allowance of paper-based crop planting aids (including paper pots, seed tape, and collars) under a new definition that sets minimum composition requirements for biobased and cellulose content. OTA’s comments supported the NOP proposal and NOSB and NOP conclusions that the use of these materials are consistent with organic farming principles and necessary for use on organic operations. Allowance of paper pots and tapes is critical to the success of organic operations at all scales due to the absence of natural alternative products and management practices that would achieve the equivalent level of efficiency, crop quality, and waste reduction.

Ensuring Food Safety, Requirements for Agricultural Water on Produce

In response to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) proposed amendment to the Produce Safety Rule under Food Safety Modernization Act concerning requirements for pre-harvest agricultural water for produce (other than sprouts), OTA submitted comments verifying that the amendment did not conflict or duplicate the requirements of USDA organic certification. The trade association raised concern in its comments, however, that the rule’s ambiguity may present challenges to producers. OTA called for FDA to dedicate resources, tools, and technical assistance to help organic operations understand and comply with this final rule.

Origin of Livestock Webinar Announced, April 20

On Wednesday, April 20, 2022, from 1:00pm-1:30pm Eastern, NOP will hold an informational webinar to provide an overview of the changes this rule makes to the USDA organic regulations and how they may impact organic farms and businesses. USDA has also released this helpful infographic to explain how the new rule works.

Webinar details: