Certification Policy Update
Certification Policy Update
By Jackie DeMinter, Certification Policy Manager
National Organic Program Updates
Origin of Livestock (OOL) Proposed Rule Comment period re-opened
Stakeholder appeals were heard! While it wasn’t the final rule we’d hoped for, on October 1, 2019, the National Organic Program (NOP) reopened the public comment period for the Origin of Livestock proposed rule originally published in 2015. The comment period was open for 60 days: October 1 - December 2, 2019. We did our best to engage stakeholders through a mailing several weeks ago, and via email and website notices and we hope you made your voice heard! Over 650 comments were received and will be evaluated along with the 1,580 comments received in 2015 in preparation of the final rule. Reopening the public comment period was an effort to give people who did not do so in 2015 a chance to submit comments, and for those that did comment, an opportunity to submit updated information, if needed, to inform USDA's development of a final rule. We are hopeful for the speedy release of a final rule with an immediate implementation date.
As a reminder, the proposed rule was published on April 28, 2015. As written, the proposed rule would:
- Allow a producer to transition nonorganic dairy animals to organic milk production one time. Multiple transitions would not be allowed.
- Require that transition be conducted over a single 12 month period. All animals, including dairy youngstock, must end transition at the same time. All animals must consume 3T or organic feed during transition.
- Continue to allow for the purchase/sale of transitioned animals between organic farms.
- Enable herd expansion during transition by allowing for the purchase of certified organic animals during transition.
- Require that a transition be conducted on a dairy farm. Operations must milk animals.
- Clarify that fiber bearing animals are required to be organic from the last third of gestation.
The action applies to you if you are engaged in the dairy industry. Potentially affected entities include but are not limited to:
- Individuals or business entities that are considering starting a new dairy farm and that plan to seek organic certification for that farm.
- Existing dairy farms that are currently certified organic under the USDA organic regulations.
- Existing conventional dairy farms that are considering converting their farm to certified organic production.
- Businesses engaged in raising heifers for sale to certified organic operations.
Summary of Provisions
This proposed rule would update the regulation by explicitly requiring that milk or milk products labeled, sold, or represented as organic be from dairy animals organically managed since at least the last third of gestation, with a one-time exception for transition. This exception would allow a producer, as defined by the regulations, to transition nonorganic dairy animals to organic milk production one time, under specific conditions.
This proposal would specify that a producer (e.g., an individual or corporation starting or operating a dairy farm) could transition nonorganic dairy animals to organic milk production one time over a single twelve-month period. The proposal would require that all transitioning animals complete the transition process at the same time. This twelve-month period is consistent with the Organic Food Production Act's (OFPA) requirement that there be a minimum period of one year of organic management before milk from dairy animals can be sold as organic (7 U.S.C. 6509(e)(2)).
This proposal would specify that, once the transition into organic production is complete, that a producer would not be allowed to conduct any additional transitions. After the transition, the producer would only be able to expand the number of dairy animals or replace culled dairy animals on any dairy farm in two ways: (1) Add dairy animals that had been under continuous organic management since the last third of gestation, or (2) add transitioned dairy animals that had already completed the transition on another dairy farm during that producer's one-time transition.
The proposal would define a dairy farm as “specific premises with a milking parlor where at least one lactating animal is milked.” For the purpose of this definition, a milking parlor should be considered a physical structure (e.g., barn, parlor) in which dairy animals are milked. Because the dairy farm definition, in part, drives the eligibility for a producer to transition animals to organic production, this action would mean that producers that only raise heifers for organic dairy farms would not be eligible to transition conventional animals to organic. Such producers do not milk animals and, therefore, would not be considered eligible for the one-time transition exception. However, such producers could continue raising heifers for organic dairy farms as long as the animals were under continuous organic management from the last third of gestation.
This proposed rule reiterates that breeder stock may be brought from a nonorganic operation onto an organic operation at any time. While the regulations prohibit organic livestock from being removed and managed on a nonorganic operation and subsequently returned to an organic operation (e.g., cycling in and out of organic production), this provision does not extend to nonorganic breeder stock that are themselves not certified or eligible for slaughter, sale, or labeling as organic. Further, OFPA specifically allows breeder stock to be purchased from any source if the stock is not in its last third of gestation. Consistent with OFPA and USDA organic regulations, a producer has flexibility in its sourcing and its management of nonorganic breeder stock after its organic offspring is weaned and before it begins the last third of gestation for the next offspring. However, a producer must continue to prevent commingling of organic and nonorganic products and prevent contact of any organic production or products with prohibited substances (7 CFR 205.201(a)(5)). AMS is proposing additional provisions for organic management of breeder stock during the time when the breeder stock is directly contributing to the nourishment of organic offspring, from the last third of gestation through the end of the nursing period.
The AMS requested comments on the following topics.
1. The cost and benefit analysis presented, including assumptions and estimates, of limiting dairy transition to a one-time exception for a given producer;
2. Procedures that certifying agents would use under this proposal to determine whether a producer is eligible for the one-time transition; and
3. The proposed implementation approach for this rule.
- Producers who are certified as of the effective date for any final action would be allowed to complete any transition that was already approved under their organic system plan by a certifying agent. However, as of the effective date, producers who are certified would be required to source or raise any new animals from the last third of gestation or source animals already transitioned under another producer’s one-time exception.
- As of the effective date, producers who are new applicants for organic certification (i.e., startup organic dairies or nonorganic dairies transitioning to organic production) would be allowed to use the transition exception once when first applying for organic certification.
Organic Dairy Compliance Course Now Available
The NOP notice below explains the new Organic Dairy Compliance course and gives additional information for Organic Integrity Learning Center account set up. MOSA staff and inspectors are incorporating the new courses into our training programs. Courses are geared for a variety of audiences and are an insight into NOP requirements on specific topics. We encourage you to take courses applicable to your operation.
If you have a dairy operation or are otherwise interested in organic dairy herd compliance requirements, this course offers an excellent training on the “pasture” regulation and NOP expectations for compliance. The NOP presentation clearly states that the minimum grazing season required is 120 days, no less. Approved temporary confinement days may not reduce the grazing season below 120 days. All animals must be grazed on pasture for the grazing season for the geographic region, but animals must be grazed for, at minimum, 120 days. Certifiers are encouraged to work with regional specialists to establish true grazing seasons for areas certification services are offered because, though 120 days is the minimum, certifiers are expected to enforce the actual grazing season for the region.
“A new course on Organic Dairy Compliance is now available in the free, online Organic Integrity Learning Center. The course provides an overview of the USDA organic livestock standards with a special focus on dairy operations. Target audiences include certifiers, inspectors and reviewers who assess organic dairies for compliance with the USDA organic regulations, as well organic livestock and dairy operations interested in gaining a better understanding of the federal requirements.
Course lessons include:
- Livestock Requirements Refresher
- Defining the Grazing Season
- Discontinuous Grazing and Confinement
- Best Practices for Inspecting Dairy Operations
Access the New Course
- People with an Account: Access the Learning Center at http://usda.blackboard.com/.
- People without an Account: Review “Getting Started” information and sign up for an account at https://www.ams.usda.gov/servi....
- For questions about the Organic Integrity Learning Center, contact USDA-NOP@apvit.com.
About the Organic Integrity Learning Center
The online training, available 24/7 through the Organic Integrity Learning Center, is designed to continually reinforce consistent application of the federal regulations by accredited certifiers. The Learning Center supports professional development and continuing education for organic professionals working around the world to ensure producer and consumer confidence in the integrity of USDA organic certification.
NOP Publishes Letter on Organic Crop Container Systems
On June 3, 2019, the National Organic Program (NOP) published a letter to certifiers titled, “Certification of Organic Crop Container Systems.” This memo summarizes the rules that certifiers must follow when determining the eligibility and compliance of land used in organic crop container systems. The letter clarifies the three-year transition period applies to all container systems built and maintained on land. The letter intended to clarify that an operation could not spray land with a prohibited substance, cover the sprayed land in plastic (forming a barrier between the containers and the land), and then use the site for organic container production. However, the letter has also sparked some debate and discussion as to whether or not the three year requirement should apply to greenhouse operations which do not use land in their production - transplant operations were used as an example. MOSA will continue to only apply the three year transition requirement to an operation using land in production.
National List Final Rules
--On October 23rd, a final rule was published to amend the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (National List) based on public input and the April 2018 recommendations from the National Organic Standards Board. The final rule is effective November 22, 2019.
This final rule:
- Allows elemental sulfur to be used as a slug or snail bait to reduce crop losses.
- Allows polyoxin D zinc salt for plant disease control.
- Reclassifies magnesium chloride from a synthetic to a non-synthetic substance.
On October 8th, a final rule was published relisting 26 substances based on the recommendation from the National Organic Standards Board as a result of each material’s sunset review.
This final rule relists the following materials for use, with applicable annotations as listed on §205.601, in organic crop production. Chlorine materials: calcium hypochlorite, chlorine dioxide, sodium hypochlorite; Herbicides, soap-based; Mulches: Biodegradable biobased mulch film; Boric acid; Sticky traps/barriers; Coppers, fixed; Copper sulfate; Humic acids; and Vitamins C and E (B1 is recommended for removal from the National List).
Lead salts and Tobacco dust (nicotine sulfate) will remain listed on §205.602 as materials prohibited in organic crop production.
Materials that will remain listed on §205.603 for use in organic livestock production include: Chlorine materials: calcium hypochlorite, chlorine dioxide, sodium hypochlorite; Glucose; Tolazoline (CAS# 59-98-3); and Copper Sulfate. Current annotations apply.
Oxytocin and Procaine are recommended for removal from §205.603 and would no longer be allowed for use in organic livestock production if removed from the list.
Materials to be relisted on §205.605 for use as ingredients in or on processed products in the “organic” or “made with organic” categories include: Attapulgite, Bentonite, Diatomaceous earth, Nitrogen, Sodium carbonate, Acidified sodium chlorite, Carbon dioxide, Magnesium chloride, and Sodium phosphates.
Casings and Pectin will be relisted on §205.606, nonorganically produced agricultural products allowed as ingredients in or on processed organic products. Konjac flour is proposed for removal from §205.606.
Please remember that any removals from the National List would be addressed in a separate notice and comment rulemaking. AMS plans to take action on these substances before their sunset date of March 15, 2022. While NOSB has recommended four materials for removal from the National List, the NOP will evaluate each of the materials and propose regulation with a request for public comments. Public comments received could redirect the decision, as happened with a few other materials recently -- inulin-oligofructose enriched, Turkish bay leaves, and whey protein concentrate -- which were recommended for removal in 2017, yet during the Sunset Review Final Rule making process the materials were kept on the National List as a result of public comments received. We encourage you to comment when materials are necessary for your organic operation.
As a reminder, the following amendments concerning the following materials will be implemented on December 27, 2019. (as published in the December 27th, 2018 National Organic Program final rule)
- Ivermectin (now prohibited)
- Flavors (organic flavors required when commercially available) Beginning December 27, 2019 manufacturers using nonsynthetic natural flavors will be required to verify that they have searched for equivalent organic flavors before being approved to use the nonsynthetic flavors.
- Cellulose ( only powdered cellulose as an anti-caking agent (non-chlorine bleached) and filtering aid. Microcrystalline cellulose is prohibited.)
- Reclassified as agricultural and added to §205.606, which will now require organic commercial availability searching in order to be approved to use any nonorganic glycerin.
- Annotation updated to require verification that nonorganic glycerin was produced from an agricultural source and processed using biological or mechanical/physical methods.
- Carnauba wax (reclassified as agricultural and added to §205.606, and will now require organic commercial availability searching)
MOSA’s Organic Search-Handlers form should be used to document your annual commercial availability searches for flavors and reclassified materials.
National List Proposed Rule
On October 18, 2019, a proposed rule was published to amend the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (National List) based on public input and the October 2018 recommendations from the National Organic Standards Board. The 60-day comment period closed on December 17, 2019.
This proposed rule would:
- Allow blood meal made with sodium citrate to be used as a soil amendment. (This addition begs the question: Are certifiers required to review all anticoagulants in blood meal or similar products? We currently consider slaughter facility processing activities as necessary, and the use of anticoagulants a standard part of the composition of blood meal.)
- Prohibit the use of natamycin in organic crop production.
- Allow tamarind seed gum to be used as a nonorganic ingredient in organic handling when an organic form is not commercially available.