By Trevor Findley, OFRF Senior Policy Associate

The Organic Farming Research Foundation’s (OFRF) Senior Policy Associate, Trevor Findley, participated in the Organic Trade Association’s (OTA) virtual fly-in, where organic supporters asked members of Congress to support a bill to increase accountability in organic standards. 

The National Organic Program is run by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service and includes a federal advisory committee that makes recommendations to improve and advance organic standards.  This committee, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), meets twice a year and accepts public input at its meetings. 

Since inception, the NOSB has made 20 consensus recommendations on a range of topics to improve organic standards, but USDA has not yet acted on any of the recommendations.  Many of the recommendations include topics of interest to consumers, including animal welfare standards, the production of personal care products, organic production in greenhouses, and aquaculture in organics.  In the absence of clear standards on these topics, the organizations that certify organic producers have inconsistently interpreted and applied existing standards. 

The bill proposed by OTA, HR 2918 – Continuous Improvement and Accountability in Organic Standards Act, would require USDA to do three things: (1) clear the backlog of recommendations from the NOSB that have not been implemented, (2) issue a final rule to implement all new recommendations within one year of the NOSB approving the recommendation, and (3) report to Congress on an annual basis whether certifiers have implemented the new rules and whether any inconsistencies exist.  The bill has bi-partisan support and is being championed by Rep. Peter Defazio (OR-4) and Rep. Rodney Davis (IL-13). 

To advocate for the bill, OTA and its members met with 29 different Congressional offices and sought additional co-sponsors for the bill.  While passage of the bill as a standalone measure is uncertain, there is hope that if the bill doesn’t pass on its own that it would wind up in larger legislation such as the 2023 Farm Bill.