Overview of the Emergency Procedures Provision - Organic Trade Association
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Overview of the Emergency Procedures Provision


The emergency procedures language in the amendment to the Organic Foods Production Act passed in the 2005 agricultural appropriations bill is (emphasis added):


(6) Expedited Petitions for Commercially Unavailable Organic Agricultural Products Constituting Less Than 5 Percent of an Organic Processed Product. The Secretary may develop emergency procedures for designating agricultural products that are commercially unavailable in organic form for placement on the National List for a period of time not to exceed 12 months.


This means that USDA may undertake a notice-and-comment rulemaking process to develop procedures to define “commercial availability” and “emergency.” This will be done under the public comment process, posted for everyone to comment on the exact wording and procedures that are drafted by the USDA.


This emergency provision only applies to organic crops, and does not apply to synthetic materials. It is limited to minor ingredients (less than 5%) within a product, and is not intended to be a provision for major ingredients. Non-organic products may never be substituted for commercially available organic products, a provision OTA fought for and still fully supports.  Also, a manufacturer cannot use more than 5% of non-organic ingredients in the finished product, and the non-organic ingredients accepted under the emergency decree will be placed on the National List for no more than 12 months.


This is truly a disaster-type provision that would only be used in times of crop failure or other extreme market disrupting events. One example is that organic vanilla is a crop largely grown in Madagascar, and the vanilla crops in that country are historically wiped out by major storms every three-four years. A major crop failure would preclude organic vanilla from being available for a year or more. Vanilla is used widely in processed organic products, but is always considered a minor ingredient.
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