Certification Policy Update
Certification Policy Update
By Jackie DeMinter, Certification Policy Manager
Reminder: Variance options for drought conditions
Drought conditions in many of our certification areas have concerned farmers contacting us to see what options they may have to maintain compliance for ruminant livestock. Standards require that ruminants receive at a minimum 30% dry matter intake from grazed pasture. A temporary variance may be granted by the National Organic Program for operations unable to meet this requirement. Temporary variances are addressed in National Organic Standards section 205.290 and National Organic Program Handbook Instruction 2601 provides more detail regarding temporary variances. That document is found here: https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/2606.pdf
Variances may only be granted for the production and handling requirements at §§ 205.203 - 205.207, 205.236 - 205.240, and 205.270 - 205.272, and must be granted during the season, not after the season has ended. Reasons for requesting a variance may include natural disasters, damage caused by extreme weather or other business interruption, or research practices. A temporary variance may not be granted for any practice, material or procedure prohibited under §205.105, for feeding nonorganic feed to organic livestock, or for any regulation not included in the sections listed above. Similarly, variances are possible under the OPT Grass-Fed program. Contact MOSA for more information regarding variances.
National Organic Program: Strengthening Organic Enforcement
On January 19, 2023 the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) published the Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) final rule. The rule was effective March 20, 2023 and all affected entities must be in compliance by March 19, 2024. More information about the new regulation can be found on the MOSA website here: https://mosaorganic.org/news-commentary/strengthening-organic-enforcement-soe-client-summary
All affected parties - the NOP, certifiers, and certified operations - are actively making changes to implement the new regulations. At MOSA, we have updated our Organic System Plans, including introduction of the new Fraud Prevention Plan, launched our Non-Processing Handler Organic System Plan, streamlined certification processes, and are updating our internal processes and policies to align with the new and revised regulations. We are gearing up to begin generating and maintaining certificates and more robust operation information in the NOP’s INTEGRITY database: https://organic.ams.usda.gov/integrity/. We will continue to work toward full compliance by March 19, 2024. Continue to watch for MOSA communication about your operation’s compliance.
As another important step toward full implementation, the National Organic Program launched the Organic INTEGRITY Database Trade Partner Module. Trade partners and their certifiers are required to be included in the INTEGRITY database so as to further implement Import Certificate requirements. The Program plans a fall release of the Import Certificate Module.
Origin of Livestock: Information Collection Notice
The Origin of Livestock (OOL) final rule for organic dairy was effective June 6th, 2022 and required all operations to be in full compliance by April 5th, 2023. One of the provisions of this new regulation prohibits organic dairies from sourcing any animals that have been transitioned from nonorganic to organic status. Once a dairy is certified organic, new animals must be managed as organic from the last third of gestation. Variances from this part of the regulation may be requested by small businesses for the following specific scenarios.
The certified operation selling the transitioned animals is part of a bankruptcy proceeding or a forced sale (§ 205.236(d)(1)(i)); or
The certified operation has become insolvent, must liquidate its animals, and as a result has initiated a formal process to cease its operations (§ 205.236(d)(1)(ii)); or
The certified operation wishes to conduct an intergenerational transfer of transitioned animals to an immediate family member § 205.236(d)(1)(iii)).
The National Organic Program is seeking public comment on the burdens, costs, and other effects of the information collection required by the added process under which operations may request a variance, or exception, from the livestock sourcing requirements. Comments were due June 26, 2023. More detailed information about the Origin of Livestock: Information Collection Notice can be found here: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2023/04/26/2023-06885/origin-of-livestock-new-information-collection
MOSA has not received any requests to purchase transitioned animals under the new variance options.
National Organic Program National List Updates
The 2023-2024 Sunset Review Notice renewing one substance until 2027, 42 substances until 2028 and 33 substances until 2029 can be found in this Federal Register Notice published 4/14/2023 and applicable 5/29/2023: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2023/04/14/2023-07886/national-organic-program-2023-and-2024-sunset-review-and-substance-renewals
As a reminder, the NOSB is required to review every substance on the National List every five years to confirm that it continues to meet all criteria required to remain on the list. This review is called “sunset review.” Sunset materials are discussed at National Organic Standards Board meetings twice a year. The National Organic Standards Board Fall Meeting 2023 will take place on 10/24 - 10/26 in Providence, Rhode Island and will continue to be webcast live. Written public comments are due 9/28 and the verbal comment webinars will be held 10/17 & 19. More information can be found on the NOSB Meetings page: https://www.ams.usda.gov/event/national-organic-standards-board-nosb-meeting-providence-ri