NOSB Holds Public Meeting in Vermont

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The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is holding its public meeting this week in Stowe, Vermont. The NOSB is an advisory committee of organic community and stakeholder representatives established by the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990. The board meeting provides a public forum for the organic community to weigh in on issues concerning organic production and processing.

During the meeting, the board will address several petitions pertaining to changes to the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances, including substances due to sunset in 2017 and 2018.

The first day of the meeting featured opening comments from Chuck Ross, Vermont Secretary of Agriculture and Miles McEvoy, AMS Deputy Administrator, and a presentation from Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, Director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

During his discussion on organic agriculture research and funding, Dr. Ramaswamy pointed out that only 20% of applicants to OREI and the organic transition program are funded. In particular, the funding rate is just 6% in the plant area of the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program.

The Critical Agriculture Research and Extension (CARE) program, which is part of the AFRI foundational funds, is focused on funding and sharing research and knowledge organic producers can apply in their day-to-day farming operations.

Dr. Ramaswamy suggested the organic community might look to the Food and Agricultural Research (FFAR) as a source of additional funding. He said it would be helpful for the organic industry to suggest areas where FFAR could provide additional funding to complement and supplement what the USDA is already doing.

OFRF outlined its organic research suggestions in a letter submitted to FFAR in June 2015. You can read it here.  

During the question and answer period, Dr. Ramaswamy said that language pertaining to organic research has been inserted in the Request for Opportunities. He wants to look at how organic language can be incorporated into the specialty crop initiative. The Biotechnology Risk Assessment Research Grant (BRAG) program will also reference organics.

Dr. Francis Thicke, NOSB board member asked about research on GMO contamination or the drift issue. Dr. Ramaswamy will speak with his staff on this issue.

Challenges outlined during this discussion included the need for more quality funding for organic projects, the need to share information and knowledge on organic farming, training for farmers and students, and expanding the knowledge of organic research in universities.