Public Testimony to NOSB – Oct 2020

RE: General Comments to the NOSB via Webinar Testimony

October 20, 2020
Patty Lovera, Policy Director

My name is Patty Lovera and I am the policy director for the Organic Farmers Association. Today I am going to talk about several topics impacting organic farmers that the NOP is considering and on Thursday, OFA’s director will comment on several specific issues on the NOSB’s agenda.

Organic Certification Cost Share

OFA members are upset about the decision by the Farm Services Agency to cut 2020 reimbursement levels for the organic certification cost share program. We understand that the NOP and AMS no longer administer this program. But we urge the NOP to reach out to FSA to try to better understand how this happened and how to prevent it in the future.


We were disappointed that the NOP did not meet the deadline set by Congress for finalizing a rule on origin of organic livestock. We urge the NOP to work quickly to address this longstanding gap in the organic standards and level the playing field for organic dairy farms.  And we hope to hear an update on the status of the rulemaking at the meeting next week.

Container and Greenhouse Operations

OFA continues to be concerned about inconsistent enforcement of the three-year transition after the use of a prohibited substance. The memo from the NOP in 2019 left many questions unanswered.

This summer, OFA, the National Organic Coalition and the Accredited Certifiers Association conducted a survey of USDA-accredited certification agencies to assess how certifiers interpret the standards for transition within greenhouse, hoop house, hydroponic and indoor operations. Thirty-four certification agencies responded, and their responses indicate a wide range of interpretations about how long these operations must wait after the application of a prohibited substance.

We are encouraged that the ACA working group is focused on this issue, and we urge the NOP to work collaboratively with the ACA and provide clarity on this question as soon as possible.

Strengthening Organic Enforcement – Grower Groups

OFA is aware that there are successful and well-run grower group networks around the world that provide a viable way for small producers to participate in the organic market. But we believe this issue deserves a more thorough conversation among the entire organic community on how to strike the proper balance between allowing this unique system and reducing the potential for violations of the organic standards or unfair economic conditions for growers. The best place to have this discussion is the NOSB. Therefore, we suggest taking the grower group section out of the proposed rule so this consideration can happen without delaying the rest of the proposed rule, which needs to be implemented as soon as possible.


RE: General Comments to the NOSB via Webinar Testimony

October 22, 2020
Kate Mendenhall, Director

Thank you, members of the NOSB for the opportunity to speak before you today.  My name is Kate Mendenhall, I am the director of the Organic Farmers Association and am also an Iowa organic farmer.  OFA was created to be a strong voice and advocate for certified organic farmers.  We are led and controlled by domestic certified organic farmers and only certified organic farmers determine our policies.

Organic integrity continues to be the top priority of U.S. certified organic farmers.  The NOSB in partnership with the NOP plays a crucial role in ensuring that the national standards uphold high organic integrity.  My comments today focus on four areas on your agenda:

Paper Pots

OFA has testified numerous times on the importance of this resource to small organic growers.  We support the NOSB process and agree with the Crop Subcommittee’s assessment and support for paper-pots as an allowable synthetic and defined planting aid.  The pandemic has made clear that communities need more small to mid-size organic farmers.   Paper pots help organic farmers and are in line with already-approved inputs.  Thank you to the subcommittee for your work on this and to the NOP for allowing the necessary continued discussion.

Biodegradable Mulch

OFA received a proposal in our 2020 annual policy development process last winter to take a position on biodegradable mulch, but the proposal did not receive any farmer support to take it forward to a vote.  With that knowledge, to answer your question: Is the availability of biodegradable mulch a make-or-break situation for the viability of farmers’ organic systems? We would answer no, as it was NOT a farmer priority.  We recommend continuing with the current annotation with no change and adding it as a research priority–focusing NOSB time on more pressing organic policy priorities. Biodegradable mulch seems like an urgent issue for a few large growers, but this priority is not shared by the nations’ 19,000 organic farmers.

Whey Protein

We support the subcommittee’s vote to remove whey protein concentrate from §205.606 of the National List.  It is always exciting when the organic community can fulfill our own organic demand.  Go dairy!


OFA opposes the subcommittee motion to amend the listing for fenbendazole. We are concerned this amendment would allow prophylactic use of a parasiticide that is a synthetic band-aid on an animal management problem.  There is no national need for fenbendazole, rather the requests are coming from a handful of large chicken houses.  The problem should be addressed “organically” with the health of the birds and eggs as the focus.   This amendment would also allow a synthetic residue in an organic food product, which would reduce the integrity of the organic label and consumer trust.  Why would we put more burden on that already fragile organic problem?  Fenbendazole should be left alone.

I appreciate all of your dedication to working for the full organic community, for hearing public comment this week, and for the farmers on the board especially, those who have carved out time during a busy harvest to represent organic farmers’ interest in a strong organic label.  Thank you to the outgoing NOSB farmer members Emily and  Jessie for your five years of service.