OFA Oral Comments to NOSB

National Organic Standards Board
Oral Testimony:   April 19, 2022
Patty Lovera, Policy Director

My name is Patty Lovera, and I am the policy director for the Organic Farmers Association.
Discussion Document: Oversight improvements to deter fraud: Modernization of organic traceability infrastructure

Dealing with fraud has been a top priority for OFA members since the organization’s founding.

  1. OFA supports including acreage per crop on the organic certificate.

But we will need flexibility in how this data is collected to avoid creating a burden for farmers. For example, producers who grow many varieties every year on small parcels of land need a streamlined way to estimate acreage. We also heard concerns about farms that use succession planting and how they would calculate acres per crop per year in a way that is useful for the traceability function of this reporting.

  1. OFA supports including acres per crop on the organic certificate as well as making that information public-facing in the Organic Integrity Database.

Many farmers work with certifiers who already put this information on their certificate, and see the benefit in making this a standardized requirement for all certifiers.

We learned that some large food processors require farmers to sign non-disclosure agreements that forbid them from disclosing this type of information. It would be useful for this disclosure to be a uniform practice across the industry because the NOP requires it, then buyers would have to drop these non-disclosure agreements.

  1. Universal Bill of Lading – During OFA discussions, ideas that generated enthusiasm from grain producers caused anxiety for other types of producers whose markets are very different, like leafy green producers. It may be necessary to create common forms for different sectors of products – grains that are shipped in bulk, livestock, milk, fruits and vegetables, etc.

We also urge the Board and NOP to consider the potential to provide sample or common forms in multiple languages. Making forms more accessible to non-English speakers could remove one of the obstacles for more diverse producers who are considering organic certification.

Proposal: Excluded Methods Spring 2022

OFA supports the NOSB proposal to recommend that the NOP develop a formal Guidance document to include the Definitions,  Criteria, Excluded and Allowed Methods tables as developed by previous Board Proposals in 2016.

We agree with the addition of cell fusion and protoplast fusion as outlined, but suggest that “recombinant DNA” be changed to “in vitro nucleic acid technologies” to provide a more comprehensive definition. Because it is not only DNA that can be manipulated, but also RNA and other materials, we find this definition to be more comprehensive and it aligns with global standards used by Codex.

And with the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard now in effect, it is important to help consumers understand how “bioengineered” relates to methods that are excluded from organic. The USDA’s definition of “bioengineered” for the new rule is much narrower than what we would consider as bioengineered within the organic standards, so it is important to show that the organic standards are stronger and make clear to consumers what is and is not allowed in organic.

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National Organic Standards Board
Oral Testimony:   April 19, 2022
Kate Mendenhall, Executive Director

RE: General Comments to the NOSB via Webinar Testimony
Thank you, NOSB members, for the opportunity to speak before you today.  Welcome new members.  My name is Kate Mendenhall, I am the Executive Director of the Organic Farmers Association.  OFA was created to be a strong national voice and advocate for domestic certified organic farmers.

Today I will be addressing Highly Soluble Fertilizers, Human Capital, and Climate Smart Agriculture.

Crops Subcommittee: Highly Soluble Nitrogen Fertilizers
OFA strongly supports the concept of feeding the soil, not the plant.  We support limiting the use of highly soluble nutrients for use in organic production because such use is incompatible with OFPA and good soil health practices.  Our farmers have voted to prohibit Ammonia Extract and Sodium Nitrate.

Discussion Document: Human Capital Management: Supporting the Work of the NOSB

OFA strongly supports human capital management efforts to better support the work of the board and its members. It is vital the NOSB be fully representative of the organic community.  Farmers and other members of the organic community who are self-employed, often have large out of pocket expenses to cover their time spent fulfilling NOSB responsibilities.  We support the NOP hiring research assistants to support board-member-driven research needs restricted to summarizing literature reviews, technical reports and summaries of public comments.  Managing conflict of interest and confidentiality commitments, and ensuring these assistants have organic knowledge is essential.

We also encourage the NOP to consider expanding the allowable expenses for board members to cover on-farm replacement labor, childcare, etc. so that the self-employed are not facing economic hardship by volunteering their expertise to the NOSB.

NOSB Memo on Climate Smart Agriculture

In response to the NOP memo on February 23rd requesting the NOSB facilitate public discussion and “explore how organic can advance in tandem with climate-smart agriculture to support our planet and our farmers,” I would like to emphasize the contradiction that allowing certified organic hydroponic production poses to this effort.  The NOP asks the NOSB to “help reinforce and capture the connections between climate-smart agriculture and what many certified organic farmers are already doing.”  We support this and highlight that organic soil farming sequesters carbon and hydroponic farming does not, yet all the questions NOP asks around climate smart farming and organic assume soil-based production systems.

Avoiding the issue of organic hydro is creating a huge mess in the marketplace that contradicts the value of organic.  Organic hydroponic production is undefined, lacks standards, and is growing at a rapid pace.  The NOSB recommendations on greenhouse production are now a decade outdated as technology in this industry has changed dramatically.  The NOSB has tools to restore organic’s place as a climate-smart leader and it must use its authority to do so by addressing greenhouse production and hydroponics.