May 8, 2018 – At the end of April, the organic community descended on Tucson, Arizona for the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) spring public meeting. These meetings allow organic stakeholders from across the sector to give input on the shape and direction of organics.  OFRF’s Policy Associate attended to engage in discussions around organic research needs, as well as ensure that OFRF stays plugged in to the continuous development and discussions of organic policy.

The day before the official meeting, National Organic Coalition hosted their regular pre-NOSB meeting. This meeting is an in-depth round table discussion about a variety of issues facing the organic community, including the Farm Bill. With OFRF’s strong leadership on organic research issues in the Farm Bill, we were able to provide some concrete updates to the organic community on the state of organic research. Additionally, with a large number of farmers in attendance, OFRF provided information and guidebooks on USDA’s National Organic Certification Cost Share Program and Non-Insured Disaster Assistance Program. Overall, this was a great opportunity to showcase the variety of research and farmer-focused work that OFRF is doing.

The formal NOSB meeting provided an opportunity for the organic community to receive updates from USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP). Greg Ibach (the Undersecretary of USDA’s Marketing and Regulatory Programs) attended the meeting and participated in discussions on the state of the organic sector. Undersecretary Ibach discussed the importance of protecting the integrity of USDA organics and the organic seal. Associate Deputy Administrator Jenny Tucker provided an update on the activity of the NOP. The report focused largely on USDA’s efforts to respond to complaints and curb the import of fraudulent organic products.

In addition to hearing from the NOP, members of the NOSB also heard from two expert panels on the topic of enforcement and integrity. Following all of this input, NOSB discussed some immediate steps it can take to advise USDA on addressing fraud in organics, as well as taking additional actions to strengthen enforcement of the organic standards across the globe.NOSB will continue to develop proposals on organic integrity for discussion at future NOSB meetings.

This meeting also included a discussion on eliminating incentives to convert native ecosystems to organic farms. While there was broad support for the NOSB to stop incentives for conversion of native ecosystems to organic production, some concerns were raised about the impact it could have on small farmers expanding on their lands. NOSB members discussed the overall concern that the proposal addressed, and specific concerns raised by public commenters. At the end of the discussion, NOSB made minor changes and voted to pass the proposal.

Overall, it was a very productive meeting. The NOSB members, NOP staff, expert panelists, and public commenters were very engaged, thoughtful, and collegial. The NOSB process allows for robust discussion and engagement from across the organic sector, and OFRF is proud to contribute to the growth and advancement of organic agriculture.