cows in field

Highlights of the NOSB Meeting

St. Louis, MO - November 16 to 18, 2016

Compiled by Ed Maltby from reports by National Organic Coalition
and the Accredited Certifiers Association

The USDA National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) met for its Fall Meeting Nov 16 -18th, 2016 in St. Louis, MO. The Agenda was packed full with many presentations including the: NOP Update, National List Materials Update, National Organic Program Peer Review Report and NOP Response, and the State of Organic Seed Report. The above reports can be found on the NOSB Website page at:

Highlights of the NOP Update included:

  • Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Final Rule is in Inter-agency review at Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
  • Organic Aquaculture Proposed Rule is in Inter-agency review at Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA)
  • Origin of Livestock is under development, but not for 2016
  • The following Proposed Rules are completed and awaiting space in the Regulatory Process: Apiculture, Pet Food & Import Certificates
  • Classification of Materials Final Guidance and Materials for Use in Crop Production (recently published)
  • The following Draft Guidance Documents are in process: Grower Groups, Calculation of Ingredients (recently published), Import Requirements, Materials Used in Livestock Production

The November NOSB Meeting was the last meeting for the following Board Members.

  • Harold Austin, Handler Representative
  • Carmela Beck, Producer Representative
  • Tracy Favre, Environmentalist Representative
  • Jean Richardson, Consumer Representative
  • Zea Sonnabend, Scientist Representative

The following officers were elected for the 2017 Board:

Tom Chapman, Chair; Ashley Swaffar, Vice-Chair; Jesse Buie, Secretary.

Miles McEvoy, NOP Deputy Administrator, announced that the following new NOSB Members would begin work in January 2017:

  • Ms. Joelle Mosso, Fresno, CA :
    Product Line Manager at Olam International
    Master’s in Food Science & Microbiology
    Organic Handler seat
  • Ms. Sue Baird, Bunceton, Missouri:
    Executive Director of the Missouri Organic Association, dba Mid-America Organic Association, inspector, reviewer, and consultant
    Consumer Interest seat
  • Dr. Asa Bradman, Berkeley, CA :
    School of Public Health, University of CA Berkeley, Associate Director of the Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health
    Environmental Protection and Resource Conservation Seat
  • Dr. David Mortensen, State College, PA:
    Professor of Weed and Applied Plant Ecology at PSU
    PhD in crop science and soil
    Scientist seat
  • Mr. Steve Ela, Hotchkiss, Colorado: Silver Spruce Partners, dba Ela Family Farm
    Master’s in soil science
    Organic Farmer seat

    Ela Family Farm is a fourth generation organic fruit farm located on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains outside of Hotchkiss, Colorado. The ninety-nine acre organic fruit farm is dedicated to growing peaches, apples, pears and cherries. All their products are certified organic and are only made from fruit grown on the family farm. They don’t add any sugar or other flavorings to their apple sauces, fruit butters, and cider. For their jams, they use a reduced sugar recipe. Fruit gift packs are shipped throughout the country, sold directly at farmers markets on the Front Range, and sold wholesale to specialty food stores and gourmet restaurants throughout Colorado.

Livestock Committee

Ivermectin (CAS # 70288-86-7) was removed from the National List as an emergency treatment so can no longer be used by organic livestock producers. Producers can still use Moxidectin and Fenbenzadole when synthetic parasiticides are the only answer to broad infestation. What is still lacking is a definition for a ‘livestock emergency’ which is interpreted very differently by many certifiers, especially when we are looking at goats and sheep. For dairy cows there should be no reason for synthetic parasiticides use and the only exception may be for young breeding stock that are grazing infected pastures.

NODPA has suggested the following definition of livestock emergency in its comments to NOSB and USDA.

Definition of livestock emergency:

An urgent, non-routine situation in which the organic system plan’s preventive measures and veterinary biologics are proven, by laboratory analysis and visual inspection, to be inadequate to prevent illness or to alleviate pain and suffering, a producer must administer the emergency treatment (§205.238(c)(7)). Organic certification will be retained provided, that, such treatments are allowed under § 205.603 and the organic system plan is changed to prevent a similar livestock emergency in individual animals or the whole herd/flock in future years as required under §205.238(a).

Livestock Committee votes

The National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances identifies the synthetic substances that may be used and the nonsynthetic (natural) substances that may not be used in organic crop and livestock production.

§ 205.603 is the section that defines synthetic substances allowed for use in organic livestock production with restrictions as specified.


The arguments go on about whether the NOP will prohibit hydroponics in organic certification despite the massive protest from producers across the country that it should be banned. In their discussions about a vote by the NOSB on the issue, NOSB members got bogged down in the technicalities of the NOSB process and the subsequent regulatory requirements of what NOP have called a significant rulemaking that would go to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Common sense failed to assert itself and the issue was returned to the crops subcommittee. Once again, as with pasture, organic poultry and tree fruit, the NOP is allowing its certifiers to interpret OFPA to suit their own preference and industry pressure while blaming the inadequacies of the Federal regulatory system for tying their hands. Hydroponic imports are decimating the produce market for soil based organic producers.

Because several members of the Board with strong views on the issue are leaving the Board, the NOSB voted on and passed the following statement:

Statement by the NOSB on Bioponics (including hydroponics, aeroponics or aquaponics)
The NOSB respects the efforts of the former NOSB that led to their 2010 recommendation on terrestrial plants in greenhouses

The NOSB recognizes that the foundation of organic agriculture is based upon a systems approach to producing food in the natural environment, which respects the complex dynamic interaction between soil, water, air, sunlight, plants and animals needed to produce a thriving agro-ecosystem.

At the heart of the organic philosophy is the belief that our responsibilities of good stewardship go beyond production of healthy foods and include protection of natural resources, biodiversity and the ecosystem services upon which we all depend.

We encourage future NOSB to consider this wider perspective as the board undertakes the challenges of assessing and defining innovations in agriculture that may or may not be compatible in a system of organic production.

In the case of the hydroponic/bioponic/aquaponic issue, the majority of the current members of the NOSB prefer to prohibit hydroponic systems that have an entirely water-based substrate. Although that was the original intent of the proposal before us today, the current proposal, as structured, does not achieve this objective. While the NOSB does not believe that the liquid substrate systems should be sold under the USDA organic label, these growers deserve the chance to promote their very commendable qualities and objectives in their own right.