May 2023 Policy Update

May 2023

By Lily Hawkins, Policy Director

National Organic Standards Board

The NOSB held their spring meeting over 2 weeks in April, starting with 2 days of virtual testimony and followed by an in person meeting in Atlanta, Georgia the following week. Some of the big topics the board discussed included: 

  • A proposal outlining why certified organic producers should automatically be considered climate-smart.
  • Discussion of the realities of crop insurance for organic farmers. 
  • Discussion of the possible use of geolocation technology to aid in deterring fraud.
  • A list of “sunset” materials that are up for their 5-year review to be allowed in organic production

The National Organic Coalition is holding a debrief on Key Outcomes from the Spring 2023 NOSB Meeting & NOC Pre-NOSB Meeting in Atlanta, GA on Wednesday, May 17 from 3:00 to 4:30 pm eastern. Register by Monday, May 15 to participate.

You can read OFA’s comments to the NOSB here

Origin of Livestock; New Information Collection

One year ago, USDA published the long awaited Origin of Livestock (OOL) final rule, creating clear standards for transitioning livestock to organic production and closing loopholes to create a level playing field for organic dairies. The rule allows organic dairy producers to transition non-organic animals to organic only one time. Any new animals are required to be managed organically from the last third of gestation, dairies may not source animals that have been transitioned elsewhere.

There is an allowance in the rule for variances to be requested by small operations under a limited circumstances: 

  • When the certified operation selling the transitioned animals is part of a bankruptcy proceeding or a forced sale 
  • When the certified operation has become insolvent, must liquidate its animals, and as a result has initiated a formal process to cease its operations 
  • If the certified operation wishes to conduct an intergenerational transfer of transitioned animals to an immediate family member 

This April, NOP put out a request for public comment on information collection required when requesting a variance under the above circumstances. They are seeking public comment on the following topics: 

  • Whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information will have practical utility
  • The accuracy of the agency’s estimate of the burden of the proposed collection of information, including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used
  • Ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected
  • Ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on those who are to respond, including the use of appropriate automated, electronic, mechanical, or other technological collection techniques or other forms of information technology.

For more details and to submit comments click this link. The 60-day comment period is scheduled to close on June 26, 2023.

NRCS Announces $75 Million to Assist Producers Transitioning to Organic

Last month NRCS announced that they would invest $75 million in conservation assistance for producers transitioning to organic as part of the Organic Transition Initiative (OTI). The majority of the funding will be used to provide direct assistance to farmers adopting the new EQUIP organic management standard

The remaining $5 million will be dedicated to partnering with technical experts to develop regional networks and support NRCS staff in providing organic training and expertise. USDA is accepting proposals for these partnerships until June 11, 2023. You can read more details on the funding opportunities here.