cows in field

US Office of Management and Budget (OMB) publishes its unified agenda for Fall 2014

Busy time for NOP and AMS

The Agriculture Department's National Organic Program is going to be one of the busiest food or agriculture agencies in the year ahead, based on the schedule published in the Unified Agenda. Besides the origin of livestock rules (see abstract below), the NOP plans to release aquaculture standards in February, pet food standards by the end of April and apiculture standards in July.

USDA NOP Origin of Livestock with a proposed rule projected to be published in December 2014 with final action in May 2016:

Proposed Rule Abstract: The current regulations provide two tracks for replacing dairy animals which are tied to how dairy farmers transition to organic production. Farmers who transition an entire distinct herd must thereafter replace dairy animals with livestock that has been under organic management from the last third of gestation. Farmers who do not transition an entire distinct herd may perpetually obtain replacement animals that have been managed organically for 12 months prior to marketing milk or milk products as organic. The proposed action would eliminate the two-track system and require that upon transition, all existing and replacement dairy animals from which milk or milk products are intended to be sold, labeled, or represented as organic must be managed organically from the last third of gestation. Continuation of the two-track system jeopardizes the viability of the market for organic heifers. A potential risk associated with the rulemaking would be a temporary supply shortage of dairy replacement animals due to the increased demand.

As mandated by the 2014 Farm Bill the USDA AMS is aiming to publish a proposed rule to change the commodity promotion law to exempt all organic certificate holders from paying into any commodity check-offs (see abstract below). The proposed rule is already late (missing its legal deadline of 11/30/14) and final action is not projected until next fall. The Organic Trade Association is set to send a proposal to USDA AMS for a mandatory federal organic check-off which means producers may be able to get their money back in time to lose it again when their exemption is taken away with an organic check-off.

Exemption of Producers and Handlers of Organic Products From Assessment Under a Commodity Promotion Law. USDA AMS Marketing Order Administration Branch projected that the proposed rule would be published in November 2014 and final action is projected for July 2015.

Proposed Rule Abstract: As a result of this action, certified "organic" commodities (those comprising at least 95 percent organic components) would no longer be subject to assessment for promotion activities conducted under marketing order or research and promotion programs. In addition, certified organic commodities that are produced, handled, marketed, or imported by operations that also deal in conventional products would be eligible for exemptions. Currently, only products that are certified "100 percent organic" and that are produced and handled by entities that deal exclusively with organic products are exempt from assessments. This action is expected to reduce the assessment obligation for organic industry operators by as much as $13.7 million. Conversely, the impact on the marketing programs will be a loss of approximately $13.7 million in funds for generic commodity promotions.