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National Organic Standards Board discusses enforcement, transition, and new regulations

On October 24-26, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) held its biannual public meeting in Providence, RI. The primary purpose of NOSB meetings is to provide an opportunity for organic stakeholders to give input on proposed NOSB recommendations and discussion items. The meetings also allow NOSB to receive updates from USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) on issues pertaining to organic agriculture. The meeting got underway with a call to order and opening remarks from Dr. Jennifer Tucker, the National Organic Program (NOP) Deputy Administrator. The welcome included an introduction of NOP staff, including the hiring of two NOSB support specialists, as well as the announcement of Andrew Malone as the new Assistant Deputy Director. Nate Powell-Palm, NOSB Chair, welcomed the audience, introduced Board members, and shared his personal story of being welcomed into the organic community. Dr. Tucker gave a presentation on program updates and then opened the floor for questions from NOSB members. A pre-recorded NOP update was made available in advance of the meeting.

Highlights of the in-person presentation included:

  • Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE): The program’s current focus is communicating the what and the why of the rule, which has helped certifiers and the trade better understand the requirements and how to meet them. During the board Q&A, Tucker again emphasized that it behooves everyone in a supply chain to get certified. Tucker noted the Organic Integrity Learning System is continually getting updated with courses, with a focus on content designed to educate on tools for enforcement and fraud detection, critical areas of the SOE rule.
  • Global Organic Control Systems: Dr. Tucker broke down components of the NOP’s global organic control system, focusing on oversight of imports. The NOP has launched the import certification module in the Organic INTEGRITY Database. Certifiers are already working with the system and are issuing certificates ahead of the March 19, 2024, SOE implementation date, which will require the use of the system for all organic imports entering the country. Tucker also noted agreements with the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) that allows for increased sampling of organic product at U.S. ports. In addition to the partnership with AMS, USDA is working with Customs and Border Protection, which can now hold a product under investigation at the importers’ expense or turn it away. Said Tucker, “Our goal is to take the profit out of fraud.”
  • Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP) Presentations: Regional leads and project partners from the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast regions shared updates and successes across the area. In the one year since the TOPP project commenced, there have been several events and activities touching thousands of producers across the country. For a closer look at resources and events, the TOPP website has a wealth of information.
  • Francie Kucera Tolle, USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA), Federal Crop Insurance Update: Director of RMA Product Administration & Standards Division, Kucera Tolle, provided an update on RMA’s options for organic and transitioning producers. RMA has held numerous listening sessions and is responding with expanded offerings for the organic sector. More information on RMA’s organic and transitional offerings can be found on RMA’s website.
  • Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards (OLPS) Announced: On Wednesday, the NOSB agenda was paused as the Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs appeared on screen to announce the publishing of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards final rule. A culmination of nearly twenty years of work, including the incorporation of a number of NOSB recommendations, the NOSB meeting was a fitting venue for the announcement. More information on the final rule can be found on OTA’s Organic Animal Welfare Standards page.

The Organic Trade Association's Fall 2023 NOSB Meeting Report includes an overview of all meeting outcomes, including considered proposals, discussion documents, and National List sunset reviews. Download the report to learn more. 

OTA's Fall 2023 NOSB Meeting Report

By Scott Rice, Director of Regulatory Affairs