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USDA Issues Responses to National Organic Standards Board Recommendations

On April 22, USDA issued responses to recommendations of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) on a number of issues. The NOSB recommendations along with the USDA responses are posted on the web at www.ams.usda.gov/nop/NOP/PolicyStatements/USDANOSBFeedback3_10_05.pdf.

Here is a brief summary:

> USDA agreed with the NOSB to allow fishmeal preserved with natural substances as a feed additive or supplement and agreed that synthetic preservatives added to fishmeal must first be added to the National Organic Program’s National List of approved synthetics through rulemaking. USDA noted that the issue of added synthetics is part of pending litigation in the federal case Harvey v.Veneman.
> USDA agreed with the NOSB that only approved, known inert materials should be used in pesticide formulations approved for use in organic production.
> As recommended by the NOSB, USDA upheld the prohibition on antibiotic use for organically produced livestock or their edible products.
> The NOSB recommended changes to the NOP regulation for the conversion of conventional dairy herds to organic. USDA responded that it must await the outcome of the Harvey litigation, which addresses statutory requirements for dairy herd conversion, before taking final regulatory action on the issue but that USDA will consider drafting an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to obtain public comments on the issue.
> USDA disapproved of the NOSB statement encouraging stakeholders to solicit information on whether legislation should be adopted for organic certification of personal care products, cosmetics, and dietary substances based on USDA’s position that the Organic Foods Production Act and the charter of the NOSB do not authorized the NOSB to solicit information from the public regarding legislative initiatives. USDA noted that currently these products cannot carry the NOP organic seal but that organic agricultural ingredients in the products can be represented as certified to NOP standards.
> As recommended by the NOSB, USDA is forming a task force with two working groups to consider organic standards for farm-raised and wild-caught fish and seafood.
> USDA is also initiating a task force to address organic labeling for pet food.
> USDA agreed with the NOSB to undertake additional rulemaking for organic standards for mushrooms, apiculture and honey, and greenhouse operations but to wait for a recommendation from the NOSB on hydroponic agriculture before proceeding with rulemaking on that topic.
> With regard to soil amendments, fertilizers, manures and related products, USDA concurred with the NOSB that labeling of those products is regulated by the states but noted that USDA has authority over the products to the extent that they may be agricultural products. The NOSB will be considering recommendations on these products after a review of labeling proposed by the Association of American Plant Food Control Officials (AAPFCO) which includes many state regulators as members. The Association’s existing definitions for the word "organic" have more to do with organic chemistry (presence of carbon) than with organic agriculture. Currently, AAPFCO allows the terms "organic fertilizer," "natural organic fertilizer," "natural fertilizer," and "organic base fertilizer" to be used on products not approved by the NOP. AAPFCO is drafting a label “for organic production” which the NOSB will review.

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