cows in field

National Organic Standards Board Meeting and Comment Webinars

Notes and remarks that relate to organic dairy from the Fall NOSB meeting courtesy of the National Organic Coalition

On October 19th, Dr. Jennifer Tucker, NOP Deputy Administrator, AMS, called the NOSB meeting to order and acknowledged the Board members who were attending their last meeting – Steve Ela, Sue Baird, and Asa Bradman. She then introduced Karen Ross, Secretary for California Department of Food & Agriculture, who gave welcoming remarks. The California Secretary was followed by newly appointed USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, Jenny Lester Moffitt. She started her presentation by giving a short history of being an organic farmer and knowing how important organic is. One of the first conversations she had with Secretary Vilsack was regarding organic production. “This is about growing all markets in the US, especially our food markets, and organic production is a key part of that.”

She stressed how essential and key organic agriculture is to a climate change solution and is looking to solicit ideas and opinions on how to use the power of government, in partnership with industry and private investors, to advance the necessary changes. She said the goal within the USDA Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) is to build programs that are climate smart, resilient, and bring more equity to the food and market system. In the administration’s Build Back Better initiative, there is $200M for organic transition, and feedback from the industry is that market development is key. Equity is also important and making sure we have systems in place to shepherd throughout that process.

Ms. Lester Moffitt announced the appointment of a Senior Advisor for Organic Markets – Marni Karlin. She will be working across the government agencies so that there is a holistic approach. She stressed how important it is that all of the areas in USDA are working to best serve organic processors, consumers, and standards. Marni Karlin joins USDA with two decades of experience in policy and the organic and emerging agricultural markets space – including consulting with stakeholders across the organic sector from producers to certifiers; service as Vice President of Government Affairs and General Counsel of the Organic Trade Association; and served as the founding Executive Director of the Controlled Environment Agriculture Food Safety Coalition. Karlin has several years of government experience, including time as Counsel to Senator Herb Kohl and Counsel for the Antitrust Modernization Commission.

The Under Secretary finished her presentation with information on the Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) and Origin of Livestock (OOL) final rules which have been written and are moving through the review process with expected publication in the spring of 2022. Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) rule has been written and is based on the 2017 final rule and has started the review process.

Jenny Tucker gave the National Organic Program update which can be found at:

On enforcement for organic dairy, she laid out the process that is being used to increase accountability and level the playing field. There were no details of enforcement actions or the criteria being used to target high risk operations.

Key NOSB Decisions: The Board voted on many critically important topics at this fall meeting. Here are a few of the most significant votes:

a. Ammonia extract – in a win for organic integrity, the NOSB voted 13-1 to prohibit these high nitrogen fertilizers in organic crop production. This decision affirms organic as a “feed the soil, not the plant”, systems-based approach that relies on soil-building practices.

b. Kasugamycin – an antibiotic petitioned to be used for plant disease control; in a unanimous vote, the NOSB once again affirmed that antibiotics have no place in organic crop production.

c. Carrageenan – NOC was deeply disappointed to see the NOSB reverse the 2016 decision to remove Carrageenan from the National List. The Board voted 9 yes, 5 no to remove carrageenan. It needed 10 yes votes to delist. In the absence of compelling new evidence, NOC believes the NOSB should have upheld the Board's previous decision even though USDA has failed to implement the 2016 decision to delist carrageenan.

Livestock Subcommittee (LS)

The following are scheduled to be considered for removal from the national list under the Sunset Review process. The National Organic Standards Board must review every substance on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances every five years to confirm that it continues to meet all required criteria. Comments on the substance are extracts of reports from NOSB members.

Activated charcoal: Sunset Date: 1/28/2024

Activated charcoal is used to treat poisoning of animals, and is the treatment of choice for that. Only small amount is used. There was a little bit of a question of disposal of it in manure but is neutral at worse, and might be beneficial in binding up toxins. It is used infrequently in relatively small amounts and has little environmental impact. Furthermore, its use can reduce or prevent livestock distress and death.

Motion to remove from the National List failed.

Calcium borogluconate: Sunset Date: 1/28/2024

High level of support to re-list this substance. It may be redundant with electrolytes, but that’s not a concern of most commenters. One stakeholder put some pressure on whether or not withdrawal times might be important. A commercially available concern because it might be derived from a GMO organism at some point.

Motion to remove from National List failed.

Calcium propionate: Sunset Date: 1/28/2024

It is a synthetic material. It is an electrolyte. Treats milk fever. If you don’t treat it, you’re usually going to lose your cow. Motion to remove from National List failed.

Chlorine materials – Calcium hypochlorite, chlorine dioxide, Hypochlorous acid generated from electrolyzed water, sodium hypochlorite

Sunset Date: 1/28/2024 (hypochlorous acid); 10/30/2024 (Calcium hypochlorite, chlorine dioxide, sodium hypochlorite)

Comments were consistent that these were needed materials, as part of sanitization systems. A well-rounded sanitation system is needed in the organic system and most comments supported keeping these on the list.

Motions to remove Calcium hypochlorite; chlorine dioxide; Hypochlorous acid generated from electrolyzed water; and sodium hypochlorite from the National List all failed.

Kaolin pectin: Sunset Date: 1/28/2024

Another tool for producers as a gut protectant. Another way we can combat acute issues. Comments were overwhelmingly in support of relisting. To note, both kaolin and pectin are both on the NL on their own. The only alternatives that were listed on the TR were mostly listed as preventative care as feed additives, and other products that are on the NL. Motion to remove from the National List failed.

Mineral oil: Sunset Date: 1/28/2024

Mineral oil is used as an internal lubricant in the case of impaction. When the cow is eating a lot of grasses and becomes impacted; also used for bloat and again that occurs when animals are actively grazing lush spring pasture. Veterinarian commented: Mineral oil has the property of not being absorbed by the gut (unlike other oils where there is possible re-absorption). Quickly reverses digestive upset (according to vet). Motion to remove from the National List failed.

Nutritive supplements – injectable trace minerals, vitamins, and electrolytes

Sunset Date: 1/28/2024

This falls into the limited number of tools that producers have for maintain animal health. Very consistent comments from the community – critical to the toolbox, and no one is looking for them to go away. With injectable nutritive supplements, they are a last-ditch effort to help an animal when they are refusing feed. Motion to remove from the National List failed.

Propylene glycol: Sunset Date: 1/28/2024

Stakeholders see this as essential; there was good discussion on prevention through proper nutrition. Alternatives methods for ketosis recovery are not always effective. Motion to remove from the National List failed.

Sodium chlorite, acidified (ASC)

Sodium chlorite, acidified - allowed for use on organic livestock as a teat dip treatment only; and

Sodium chlorite, acidified - allowed for use on organic livestock as a teat dip treatment only.

Sunset Date: 1/28/2024

One is as a pre-dip and the other is as a post-dip. One from an infection standpoint, and one as a sanitation standpoint. The solutions have superior antimicrobial activity against E Coli and mastitis. Environmentally friendly – breaks down in water. Motion to remove from the National List failed.

Zinc sulfate: Sunset Date: 1/28/2024

A more problematic substance than activated charcoal, because its manufacture creates more toxic byproducts. Zinc is a micronutrient, but it can build up in the soil. Of the 11 comments: none were for de-listing, but there were a couple comments that it should be used in rotation, that soil should be monitored for zinc levels after use (similar for copper sulfate which is used for the same purpose). One commenter said it should be used only after all alternatives had failed. Plusses are it’s less toxic/has less impact than copper sulfate, which is the number one product in use for foot rot in ruminants, so it’s probably a more positive alternative. Formaldehyde is also used but not allowed in organic. There are a few possible alternatives in organic, but none of them have come out strongly as a good treatment. Positive material that should be re-listed again and, in the future, we should think about annotations for monitoring soil zinc levels. Motion to remove from the National List failed.

NODPA would like to thank Steve Ela for his leadership as NOSB chair. During Steve’s tenure as Chair, we have been pleased to see excellent and transparent dialogue at NOSB meetings – this is the public, transparent, deliberative, science-based process that is so foundational to organic integrity. The Board also elected new officers – in 2022, Nate Powell-Palm will serve as Chair, Mindee Jeffrey will serve as Vice-Chair, and Kyla Smith will serve as Secretary. Thank you to all NOSB members – your work is invaluable as we seek to advance organic integrity.