Certification Policy Update
National Organic Program Updates - Part of our work at MOSA is providing comments on documents that are open for public comment. Most recently, we commented on two documents from the National Organic Program (NOP) for publication in their Program Handbook. The Program Handbook was published to provide assistance to the regulated industry by clarifying requirements that have been imposed by the National Organic Standards. Documents are used to explain how the industry may comply with the regulatory requirements. Documents provide standard operating procedures and specific review and enforcement approaches to help ensure that all parties implement the NOP’s mandate in an effective, fair, and consistent manner. In preparation for making our comments, we assess the document for completeness, clarity, and enforceability, and practicality. We often reach out to our clients to gather feedback to inform our comments. Comments we submit are available on our website (News & Commentary).
Of the recent NOP documents, one was an interim instruction -NOP 3012: Material Review. This instruction was aimed at providing certifiers and material review organizations with additional clarification regarding sharing of information or accepting other organizations’ materials review decisions and gave directions to follow when a dispute occurs. The NOP notice stated: “This interim instruction specifies the criteria and process that accredited certifying agents (certifiers) must follow when approving substances for use in organic production and handling. This instruction is directed at certifiers, who must meet certain terms and conditions as part of their accreditation (see 7 CFR 205.501(a)(21)). The instruction defines the term Material Review Organization (MRO) and materials, and describes the USDA organic regulations as they relate to materials reviews. The instruction describes the policy that all certifiers must review all materials used by organic producers and handlers for compliance with the USDA organic regulations, and outlines options that certifiers have for determining whether materials may be used in organic production or handling under the USDA organic regulations. The instruction also outlines certifier requirements for maintaining documentation, making synthetic vs. nonsynthetic or agricultural vs. nonagricultural determinations; demonstrating appropriate education, training, and experience levels for personnel conducting material reviews; and creating clear written protocols and procedures related to materials reviews. This instruction also outlines the process that occurs when different certifying agents and MROs reach different conclusions on whether a product complies with the USDA organic regulations.” MOSA’s comments gave appreciation for the additional guidance on materials review, but encouraged that even more guidance be developed. We encouraged the NOP to develop a scope of accreditation for materials review and to specific review criteria necessary for consistency.
We focused our comments on the questions we have about the draft regarding the acceptability of third party decisions, including what documentation is necessary for decisions accepted. MOSA currently accepts OMRI, California Department of Food and Agriculture (MROs) decisions, the EPA (products labeled for organic use), and Washington State Department of Agriculture, a certifier recognized for having a high profile review program. While we do consult with other certifiers about their review decisions, we do not currently accept the decisions of other certifiers. The policies in the document seem to indicate that we would need to be even more in tune with the decision making process for decisions accepted from third parties. We asked the NOP to clarify specifically the documentation certifiers need to do to accept decisions from MROs (OMRI and CDFA), the EPA, and other certifiers, including WSDA. We believe active listing with OMRI, CDFA and WSDA, or for EPA approved products, compliant product labeling, is sufficient verification. Our policy is to approve all inputs for use in context with an operation’s individual organic system plan. We verify the products approved by other organizations are being used in a compliant way and that any restrictions for use are followed. We’ll look forward to further clarification in this area.
The second NOP document was a draft guidance - NOP 5036 Treated Lumber. The NOP notice stated: “The draft guidance document announced through this document was developed to clarify the requirements and limitations of the prohibition on treated lumber in organic production. USDA organic regulations (7 CFR part 205) prohibit use of lumber treated with arsenate or other non-allowed synthetic substances in contact with soil and livestock (7 CFR 205.206). Non-allowed synthetic substances include all synthetic substances that are not specifically included on the “National List” at 7 CFR 205.601 through 205-606. The document provides guidance for certifying agents, organic producers, and other interested parties on compliance with 7 CFR 205.206(f), including:
- How lumber treated with prohibited substances affects a producer's timeline for obtaining certification;
- Where lumber treated with prohibited substances can and cannot be placed on organic farms, for new installations or replacement of existing lumber;
- How organic producers can prevent crops and livestock from contacting lumber treated with prohibited substances.”
This document created confusion among certifiers and a lack of continuity and consistency with current practices and the current rule. Our comments focused on unclear areas that seemed to unintentionally create conflict with existing regulations. While there are always areas in new documents that elicit questions, this document also included several clarifications that reinforced MOSA policy and procedures.
Treated lumber is something we see regularly. Common treatments include alkaline copper quaternary (ACQ), copper azole or micronized copper azole (AC2). MOSA’s policy is to evaluate lumber that was previously installed for contamination potential. Action by the far is farmer is only required if a potential is observed or reported. As required in the current rule, new and replacement lumber must be untreated, and any treated lumber used must not contact organic crops or livestock. Barriers or buffers may be used to separate organic product from the treated wood. In our comments we asked if paint would be an acceptable barrier. We do not currently allow paint as a barrier, since paint is a synthetic material not on the National List, but we do recognize that it could be a practical barrier allowed if maintained appropriately. Our comments also encouraged consideration of treatments that would be acceptable for addition to the National List. The policies MOSA follows will remain unchanged until final guidance is published. We will keep our clients informed via this newsletter and through certification review of your file.
GMO disclosure and Labeling- Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) or Genetically Engineered (GE) are terms we refer to regularly at MOSA and often we hear news from beyond the organic industry that impacts the organic industry. Recently, The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) posted a Policy Memorandum stating how the AMS will establish and maintain consistency between the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard and regulations to implement the standard and the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 and the National Organic Standards. “With a legal requirement to complete rulemaking within the next two years [July 29, 2018], AMS is in the initial planning stages of the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard. During the rulemaking process, when proposing standards for a national bioengineered food disclosure program, AMS' policy to ensure consistency between the two programs will be as follows:
- No certified organic products will require disclosure as bioengineered; and
- No proposed rules for bioengineered food disclosure will require that modifications be made to the USDA organic regulations.
Throughout the rulemaking process for the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, AMS aims to create a transparent process with multiple opportunities for public participation, including providing comment periods and public meetings. To view the policy memorandum, please go to www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/gmo.”
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Updates- Please be aware that if you use nonorganic seeds or planting stock and you use varieties that could be genetically modified, your work is increasing, and it seems we can be sure that it will continue to increase. APHIS has recently deregulated additional varieties of corn, potatoes and apples. The corn varieties are resistant to the herbicides dicamba and glufosinate, apples are engineered for enzymatic browning resistance and potatoes are resistant to late blight, have low acrylamide potential, and lowered reducing sugars. APHIS is now considering a petition for deregulation of creeping bentgrass genetically engineered for resistance to the herbicide glyphosphate. The good news is that the bentgrass is designed only for golf course use, but the bad news is that reports are unclear about the potential for spread of the gene through pollination. In other news, wheat recently caused a scare in Washington state, where 22 genetically engineered for glyphosphate resistance plants were found growing in an unplanted field. Since there are no genetically engineered wheat varieties for sale or in commercial production in the US at this time, APHIS immediately reacted, containing the wheat and ensuring that no GE wheat entered the marketplace. In recent years, the USDA has increased oversight of regulated GE field trials, and as of January 1, 2016 developers are required to apply for a permit for field trials. Since detection of these wheat plants, the FDA has concluded, based on the small number of affected plants and the information about the varieties being tested, “that it is unlikely that the wheat would present any safety concerns if present in the food supply as a result of this incident.” More information about decision making can be found on the APHIS news and information page.
Dairy Promotion Update -- If you haven’t heard the news, The National Dairy Promotion and Research Board (NDPRB) regulations have changed. As of February 29th, 2016 an operation is eligible for exemption regardless or whether the person requesting the exemption also produces, handles, markets, processes, manufactures, feeds, or imports conventional or nonorganic products. You now only need to provide a copy of your organic certificate.
Not only has the regulation changed, the process to receive your exemption application has also. We want to remind you of the changes made by the Department of Agriculture for the exemption of organic products from assessment under a Commodity Program Law.
- The exemption period for Organic Exemption Certificates with the NDPRB is now July 1st through June 30th the following year.
- Annual renewal reminders will no longer be sent.
- Applications can be obtained online at: https://www.ams.usda.gov/resources/rp-organic-exemption
- Or by mail: National Dairy Promotion and Research Board, 10255 West Higgins Road, Suite 900, Rosemont, IL 60018-5616
- Return your packet by May 31st annually to ensure continuity of the exempt status beginning July 1st to the following June 30th.
- If you have any questions, contact the NDPRB at 847-803-9794.
Parasiticide use - Is it Ivomec or ivermectin? In the case of an emergency, and with MOSA’s approval, livestock producers can use parasiticides on the National List of acceptable synthetics. Allowed active ingredients include moxidectin, fenbendazole, and ivermectin. We can’t emphasize enough that products must be approved by us prior to use. A mistake clients could make is purchasing an Ivomec brand product, assuming it is the same as the products with ivermectin active ingredient that we can allow the use of. They are not always the same. The Ivomec brand is applied to other products, like Eprinex, with an active ingredient that is not ivermectin. The active ingredient will be in parenthesis by the product name and it is essential you verify that it is one of the three currently on the National List. This mistake may be a thing of the past in the near future. Ivermectin is recommended for removal from the National List. The NOSB, at their meeting in November, will cast their votes and determine the outcome of the listing. If the NOSB votes it off the list, the NOP will take action to remove it, and if/when this happens, we will notify you of the change.