The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting held in Tucson, AZ, last week had a distinctly different tone than many before it. In the past, the purists and farmers and economists squared off with passionate disagreement on topics like synthetics, hydroponics or gums.
While the meeting was much less contentious than previous NOSB gatherings, there was an uncertain dynamic given the role the USDA is exerting over the organic process.
NOSB members at the annual meeting 2018
Greg Ibach, under-secretary USDA marketing and regulatory, announced the appointments of two new NOSB members: Dr. James Greenwood fills the environmental seat as an organic avocado farmer & handler. Eric Schwartz was seated in the handler seat and is the CEO for United Vegetable Growers Cooperative. Both are from California and represent the fresh organic produce industry- representation that was lacking on the past board.
Greg Ibach, under-secretary USDA marketing and regulatory
Ibach also stressed the need to protect the integrity of the USDA seal especially in businesses around the world with a focus on imports.
Much of the meeting focused on stemming fraudulent activity that continues to plague the organic industry. Jennifer Tucker, National Organic Program (NOP) associate deputy administrator, outlined some of their organization’s goals specific to fraud. Specifically, she discussed the directive to increase inspections and enforcement in Eastern Europe, and develop greater collaboration with US Custom and Border Patrol and USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (AHPIS) to investigate and block fraudulent imports.
Jennifer Tucker, National Organic Program (NOP) associate deputy administrator
The USDA also intends to embrace innovation in technology tools and production practices, Tucker said. Priority should be given, she said, in enabling farm-to-market traceability in the worldwide supply chain, which requires robust enforcement to identify shipments and fumigation on imports.
A plethora of public comments on topics such as the native ecosystem proposal, pesticide and genetic drift, ensuring the genetic integrity of organic seeds, reporting of acreage in data base and re-listing various gums were also discussed.
Farmers indicated sulfur is an essential tool for their crops and liquid fish products are a good source of nutrition despite the concern that some wild fish are harvested solely for the purpose of fertilizer.
While there weren’t a lot of decisions made at the meeting, as final comments on sunset materials will occur in the fall, the board did approve the recommended rule change that will protect native ecosystems from conversion to organic production.
The Fall meeting will be held in St. Paul, MN. on October 24, through October 26, 2018.