16 Sep 2017
NOSB Fall Meeting Oct. 31-Nov 2 — The National Organic Standards Board will hold its fall meeting in Jacksonville, Florida, October 31 - November 2. The board intends to discuss organic imports, review sunsetting of accepted inputs for organic operations and new petitions, a proposal to eliminate the incentive to convert native ecosystems to organic crop production, and, for the third time, the question as to whether hydroponic/aquaponic operations should be allowed to be certified organic. The complete agenda is online at https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/Tentative2017OctNOSBAgenda.pdf.
MOFFA Chair John Biernbaum was a member of the NOSB Hydroponic Task Force and has reported in our newsletter on several occasions about the status of this question. He is planning to attend the fall NOSB meeting and to participate in a rally planned to protect the organic tradition and methods from the hydroponic producers and other efforts to reduce the meaning of organic agriculture.
The "Keep the Soil in Organic" movement is pulling together many of the voices of organic farming in one more effort to help the USDA remember or see just what organic farming is supposed to be about. To many, the significance goes beyond the narrow issue of whether this type of production can be considered "organic" to the broader question of whether the federal definition of "organic" will be watered down to a simple list of materials allowed in "organic" production, abandoning the intent of the initial legislation to define a holistic approach which encompasses a sustainable, regenerative approach to the production of our food. The Rodale Institute's answer to this trend of "watering down" is to propose a new certification, "Regenerative Organic Certified". It may be that this will untimately be the only alternative for those who believe in true organic agriculture, but the potential pitfalls in this course are many.
For those who would prefer to make the effort to return the national organic standard to its roots, there are opportunities for public comment in several formats. First, written public comment is being accepted now through midnight on October 11 at regulations.gov. Additionally, there will be two comment webinars, on October 24 and 26. Members of the public may register for a three-minute time slot to present comments at https://www.ams.usda.gov/event/oct-2017-national-organic-standards-board-nosb-meeting-registration-webinar; the deadline for registering for this opportunity is midnight on October 11th or when the maximum number of slots has been reached, whichever comes first. And finally, there will be opportunities to address the board in person at the meeting for those who make the trip to Jacksonville. Registration for this opportunity is at https://www.ams.usda.gov/event/oct-2017-national-organic-standards-board-nosb-meeting-registration-in-person.