Spring 2024 OFA Oral Comments to NOSB

Click here for OFA Submitted Written Comments: Spring 2024

Below: OFA Oral Comments to the NOSB: Spring 2024

Lily Hawkins, Policy Director

Spring 2024 NOSB Oral Comment

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.  My name is Lily Hawkins, I am the Policy Director of the Organic Farmers Association. Today I’ll be speaking on a few big-picture issues and suggested agenda items that have been raised by our farmer-members.


OFA is grateful for the board’s efforts to address racial equity within organic.  We encourage the board to keep thinking about how the USDA Equity Commission’s report findings can become part of the NOSB and NOP’s processes, possibly by making this a work agenda item. Institutionalizing equity through strategic outreach, board trainings, and a racial equity lens incorporated into all committee work is necessary for organic to move forward.


Organic is a global movement, and organic farmers deserve to be operating in an equitable marketplace under the organic label. OFA supports the idea of testing imports to verify organic integrity – covered in depth by other speakers today. Furthermore, as the U.S. organic regulatory system benefits from consistency of interpretation and application, the international organic movement benefits from increased consistency across national organic programs. There are a few materials in which there is a lack of consistent practice in the U.S. system, which conflicts with our trade partners, organic neighbors, IFOAM interpretations, and CODEX regulations. 

We appreciate the Board’s attention to this matter when reviewing each material, and OFA agrees that we should bring our standards into greater alignment with the global organic movement.  


OFA is very grateful for the effort it took to bring the SOE rule to the point of implementation.  At the same time, we have concerns about low-risk organic operations being burdened by the increased scrutiny and oversight, and certifiers implementing the rule inconsistently across the nation. Our NOSB workgroup noted that the paperwork for feedstock for livestock, and for mixed vegetables were more burdensome this year.  In some cases, we have heard of the OSP length doubling from 2023 to 2024.  

We understand that the intention of the SOE was not to increase the paperwork burden for low-risk organic operations, and we request that the NOP, during their certifier accreditation audits, review the changes made to the OSP, with a critical eye to the enhanced paperwork and activities required of low-risk, small and mid-scale short supply chain operations.  We want SOE to focus where it was intended.

We also encourage the NOP to support dialogue amongst certifiers to define low-risk and high-risk, and provide guidance so that certifiers can administer the standards with the security of NOP alignment on risk assessment.  And put the increased scrutiny where it is most needed and reducing burden on low-risk operations. 


In OFA’s annual policy survey, farmers noted the need for NOSB to review the 90/120 day rule as it applies to agroforestry production systems in which livestock graze under fruit and nut trees. Please consider creating an agenda item to address this request.

OFA In-Person Oral Comments

NOSB Meeting in Milwaukee, WI

April 29, 2024

Harriet Behar, Farmer Services Consultant, Organic Farmers Association

My name is Harriet Behar and I am the Farmer Services Consultant with the Organic Farmers Association.  My vegetable, herb and poultry farm has been certified organic since 1989.

SOE & Import Fraud– During the public comment webinars, farmers, buyers, and processors all spoke to the dire situation for domestic organic grain producers.  Jenny’s extensive overview of SOE was very encouraging, with a robust roll-out and a strong commitment.  U.S. farmers need oversight before the imported ships leave their ports, and at our own ports of entry, including overland shipments from Canada and Mexico. OFA asks the NOSB to show support for our domestic producers with a resolution to the NOP, asking for a speedy expansion of the residue testing pilot program to a much larger program.  We are playing a game of whack a mole, when we stop one source of fraudulent grain, a different one appears.   We need stronger enforcement to lessen this overwhelming flow of questionable organic products.  A special imported grain hot-line should be implemented and promoted by the NOP, offering a place for fraud concerns, broker activities denying entry and for those finding issues once they receive product, to report their findings.

Inerts– The National Organic Coalition has a workable proposal for dealing with this long unsolved issue.  With the changes coming to the NOSB next year, it is imperative this board come forward with a final proposal that addresses both the mandate that the board review all synthetics used in organic production, and provide a way forward to allow for future innovation in formulations, and provide certainty for those using current inerts. 

Use of organic seeds– In the EU, each country has developed a list of specific seed varieties that are available as organic.  If an organic grower does not use these organic varieties, they cannot sell that crop as organic.  OFA asks the NOSB to work with the NOP, to have either the NOP do the research or fund an outside organization to develop a list of equivalent varieties, so we can require organic seed use when available.  The stagnant nature of organic seed purchases in the U.S., affects the availability of organic seed, seed breeders will not continue to innovate and produce organic seed varieties when there are warehouses full of unsold organic seed.  The lack of transparency for gene-edited seed, makes the use of organic seed even more important.

Compost– The current definition produces high quality compost without the risk of unwanted and dangerous synthetics.  High nitrogen compost is immature compost, since nitrogen tends to leach easily. There is no reason to change our current definition.

Julia Barton, OFA

Spring 2024 NOSB Oral Comments

12:15 on 4/23/24

Good afternoon, my name is Julia Barton with the Organic Farmers Association. I’d like to share comments today on 3 topics.  

First: Farmer Participation in NOSB

Thank you for including both virtual and in-person comments in this meeting.  You have already heard from some OFA farmer members and you will continue to hear from more.  This way of handling comments offers an opportunity for various types of interactions, stakeholder input, and community building.  OFA farmers are very clear that we need both types of commenting.  More opportunities for communication are better.  Thank you for holding time and space for this important part of the public process.

I also wanted to note that Linda Halley, long-time organic farmer was going to be with you to comment in Milwaukee on Monday.  Linda was the most active member of our NOSB workgroup.  She has had some health issues come up that will prevent her from being with you that day, but we will get her comments to Michelle via email and will be sharing them on OFA social media, so please follow OFA to hear from Linda, organic farmer of over 30 years.  This will be her first comment to the board.

Next: Hydroponics and Containers

OFA is part of a working group of certification, education, and policy organizations who agree that soil is the foundation of organic agriculture.

OFA farmer members are very clear that hydroponics is not settled issue.  We urge the board to call for a moratorium on the certification of new hydroponic operations, and crops grown to maturity in containers until we can utilize our existing NOSB and rulemaking process to move forward with greater consistency.  Please activate the latent agenda item “Field and Greenhouse Container Production.”

Finally: Crop Insurance 

OFA appreciates the board’s work on this important topic. OFA farmer-members have a wide range of experiences with crop insurance and are eager to make crop insurance more fair, functional, and informed for organic farmers and all farmers.  You’ve heard from two of our working group’s very active members and you’ll meet Noah Wendt, if you don’t already know him, in Milwaukee.  If you have any specific items our group can workshop, we’d be happy to help in that way, and we’d also be happy to respond to any questions you have on our comments.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment, for your time, and for your service.

April 29, 2024

Kate Mendenhall, Executive Director

RE: General Comments to the NOSB via In-Person Testimony

Thank you, NOSB members, for the opportunity to speak before you today.  My name is Kate Mendenhall, I am the Executive Director of the Organic Farmers Association.

OFA was created by farmers, for farmers.  They are the backbone of the organic movement and we owe today’s strong market to their hard work and continued innovation.  Making sure that organic farmers have an equitable playing field has always been a top priority of OFA.  In fact in the 7 years we have been established, stopping import fraud has been a consistent #1 priority of organic farmers.  SOE has provided many new tools to certifiers and authorities to the NOP–together they must implement risk-based and sound & sensible decision making that will curb fraud in the marketplace. 

  1. Having continued guidance from NOP around high-risk protocols that would support targeted increased scrutiny is incredibly important.  It’s important so low-risk operations are not overburdened with paperwork and processes and so that operations that present higher-risk to the market bear the appropriate enforcement and documentation to prove integrity is solid. Continued clarity and support from NOP is important so certifiers implement risk consistently and appropriately.  We appreciate NOP’s leadership on this and know this is an ongoing need for attention.
  2. Hearing import grain fraud back at the top of the farmer testimony breaks my heart.  U.S. farmers do a great job, organic farming is hard, and they deserve an equitable market.  We also cannot encourage farmers to transition to organic if the market is not secure and stablized. The NOP has the authority to require testing of high-risk imports now, we are excited to hear about the pilot with Federal Grain Inspection Service and innovations like this should expand to secure organic integrity in the marketplace.  We all know it’s a problem-we need work together to fix it quickly. 

USDA programs play an important role in supporting farmer success and improvement. NRCS 823 has a lot of potential and rollout has been discouraging.  OFA encourages the NOSB to pass a resolution calling on the Secretary to fix the national roll-out of NRCS 823 so it is consistent among states and transparent in its process, so that the farmers who want it can easily apply and keep farming.  OFA will be starting a farmer work group on this topic in the fall- any farmers interested in working to improve 823 should get in contact with us.

Farmers need adequate safety nets so that they can survive to farm another season when they are consistently placed in the nexus of consolidation and climate change.  Dairy farmers continue to struggle, crop insurance continues to need significant improvements, and consolidation threatens to break fragile supply chains and infrastructure.  While the draft farm bill may offer some improvements, this is a moving target we need to stay on top of.  OFA has farmer-work groups on this topic as well and we’re always looking for more farmer experts.  

Diversity is a central tenet of organic and prioritizing equity at NOSB & NOP provides collective improvement for all farmers. OFA urges the NOP and NOSB to apply the USDA’s 2023 Equity Commission recommendations, and embed racial equity in NOSB processes, discussion documents, and public meetings. 

Thank you so much for the opportunity to speak before you today.