Organic Trade Association, a membership-based association representing over 1,600 businesses of all sizes throughout North America, is pleased with Congress’ decision to restore and strengthen the national organic program. Congress’ action now authorizes the USDA, through its citizen’s advisory board and public comment, to address issues of concern with the organic rule and to refine and improve standards that cover the areas of livestock and synthetic substances.
Thanks to this legislative action, which overturned a court ruling from earlier this year, the majority of processed, multi-ingredient organic products currently in the marketplace can continue to carry the “USDA Organic” seal provided they meet or exceed those stringent federal standards. Consumers will continue to find the “USDA Organic” products they have come to rely on, and farmers will continue to have outlets for their organic crops. This issue is not about large versus small businesses, but that organic businesses of all sizes can continue to provide their products to consumers.
Like organic standards used throughout the world, the U.S. organic standards have always allowed specific stringently reviewed synthetic materials that are essential to making numerous organic processed products. This is a list of 38 non-agricultural materials, including items such as baking powder, which are necessary in certain production and processing practices and have been used in producing foods for decades. All were previously reviewed and accepted by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), a citizen’s advisory board.
No new synthetic substances, including ingredients, may be allowed in organic production without the review and approval of the NOSB, and no loophole was created by Congress’ decision. The process is exactly the way it has always been. An emergency decree was not mandated, but a process could be developed by the USDA if deemed necessary somewhere down the line. Possible reasons for the emergency decree could include a major loss of crops due to storms or other disasters.
Claims about livestock standards have surfaced that are unrelated to the lawsuit and Congress’ action. The NOSB is working on a recommendation on these livestock issues, and OTA looks forward to working on it through the public rulemaking process. Meanwhile, here’s what you need to know: U.S. organic standards for dairy are the strictest in the world. Since the national organic standards were implemented in 2002, dairy cows must be raised organically for at least 12 months before their milk enters the marketplace under the organic label. This means those dairy cows cannot receive genetically modified food, antibiotics or growth hormones for at least 12 months before their milk is sold as organic.
With Congress’ decision, large and small organic farmers and manufacturers can continue to sell their organic crops and thrive in this growing business community. More farms using organic practices means more environmental and public health benefits for everyone. This is a win-win situation for organic businesses, farmers and consumers across the country.
See the following resources for more information:
>> Background information about how non-organic materials are reviewed for inclusion in products containing less than 100% organic ingredients
>> Overview of what the labels on organic products mean
>> Background on Congress’s action