Public Comment Period Opens on Updates to Organic Standards

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–April 10, 2012.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has opened the public comment period on proposals from the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) prior to the board’s spring meeting on May 22-25, 2012 in Albuquerque, NM. The proposals will be open for public input until 11:59pm Thursday, May 3, 2012. The documents on these issues can be found on the NOSB website along with further information on the meeting as well as where and how to register for in-person comments or to submit written comments.

See Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong webpage for more information on the upcoming issues and how to submit comments. We will be updating this webpage with our perspectives on the issues, so be sure to check back as new information is added.

Public participation is vital to the development of organic standards, as we are all stakeholders in ensuring a safe and sustainable food supply. The public comment process represents the best opportunity for consumers, as well as farmers and processors, to have a voice as these standards are debated and adopted by the NOSB. To read all of the recommendations from the various NOSB committees, go to this page and select each committee from the drop down menu. The proposed recommendations are then sorted by date. You can also view the tentative agenda for the full spring 2012 meeting.

TAKE ACTION: Making Your Voice Heard
The organic regulatory process provides numerous opportunities for the public to weigh in on what is allowable in organic production. USDA maintains a National List, set by the NOSB, of the synthetic substances that may be used and the non-synthetic substances that may not be used in organic production and handling. The Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) and NOP regulations provide for the sunsetting of listed substances every five years and rely on public comment in evaluating their continuing uses. The public may also file a petition to amend the National List. In both cases, sunset and petition, the NOSB is authorized by OFPA to determine a substance’s status.

Submit your comments using this form before Thursday, May 3. This will bring you to a form in which to fill out your personal information and type your comment. When filling out your personal information, you only need to fill in the fields with a blue asterisk next to the label. Other fields, such as Submitter’s Representative and Government Agency should be left blank. Under Organization Name, enter the name of the group you are representing or “None” or “Private Citizen” if you are representing only yourself. You may then type your comment or upload it as a separate file. Finish by clicking the orange Submit button.

You may also register if you would like to present a statement to the board in person at the meeting in Albuquerque. View the full docket to see other comments already submitted. It should be noted that the NOSB meeting structure has been changed from how it was previously organized. The NOSB will now complete all activities (listen to public comments, then discuss/vote on agenda items in light of those comments) on a given committee before moving onto the next. To help the NOSB use your comments, please use your written comments to address multiple topics and focus your oral comments on one committee’s agenda items. If you choose to address multiple committees’ topics in your oral comments, the National Organic Program (NOP) asks that you be very clear about which topics you wish to address so they can schedule your comments before the NOSB votes on those agenda items.

We recommend using these guidelines and referring back to the organic law in order to organize your thoughts in your comments. This will help to clearly and succinctly lay out your points and make it easier for NOSB members to follow your reasoning.

Issues Before the NOSB for Spring 2012
A wide range of issues will be considered at the spring 2012 meeting. Beyond Pesticides will be updating our website here in the coming weeks with our own comments that we will be submitting to the board on specific issues, as well with guidance that you may use in your own comments. All these issues and use of substances have direct bearing on organic integrity, so it is critical to have public input into the NOSB decision making process. As you write your comments, you may want to refer to the Principles of Organic Production and Handling adopted by the NOSB. Submit your comments before May 3.

About the NOSB
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service oversees NOP and the NOSB. The NOSB includes four producers, two handlers, one retailer, three environmentalists, three consumers, one scientist and one certifying agent. The board is authorized by the Organic Foods Production Act and makes recommendations to the Secretary of Agriculture regarding the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances for organic operations. The NOSB also may provide advice on other aspects of the organic program. For more information on the history of organic agriculture and why it is the best choice for your health and the environment, please see Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Food Program Page.