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12.02.2019
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All Things Organic — Your Quarterly Industry Update #1

Early 2019 is a really interesting time for the organic community worldwide. The US government is finally back at work and are starting to work on a large piece of standards making to improve enforcement and tracking of organic trade. The US National Organic Program (NOP) has a mandate created in the 2018 Farm Bill under the Organic Farmer and Consumer Protection Act to improve organic standards. In addition, the mandate is time bound and forces immediate work. USDA for years has published enforcement updates and plans:

However, now, they are getting serious as the US is increasingly interested in global data and acreage reporting. The NOP is both encouraging certifiers and working on standards that will mandate such reporting. Tremendous effort is being placed on improving enforcement in the US. Part of this will come into play with a major proposed set of standards aimed at addressing reporting, certificate use and formats, and to bring operations that are currently not required to be certified into the certification chain.

Technology

One of the biggest factors will be the NOP’s work technology. A Technology Needs Assessment was published in August 2018 and has important goals. They include facilitating full organic supply chain traceability, allow governing entities to access and approval to verify that organic certificates and transaction are valid. Finally, to support implementation of organic oversight control systems that are secure.

Hemp

Interestingly, the US has allowed the legal cultivation of industrial hemp as part of the 2018 farm bill. Unfortunately, there are written policies in place that prohibit organic certifiers from certifying hemp as organic. US organic certifiers are watching this closely but its very likely that organic hemp production will increase dramatically in the coming years.

Normal Standards Update

At a more mundane but important level, the USDA also published a final standards change on December 27, 2018, that updated allowed inputs and materials. This rule implements recommendations of the National Organic Standards Board such as the removal of Ivermectin as an allowed parasiticide and modification of the allowance for micronutrients to be more sensible. It also adds things like “squid byproducts” because the US rules are specific that only fish fertilizers are allowed and apparently for this purpose Squid is not a fish. At the processing level, this rule requires the use of organic flavors before non-organic versions are used.

Equivalency Discussions

At the same time a variety of international organic standards equivalency agreements are under renewed discussion. The European Union has been updating standards to include more risk-based inspection models and to require more testing, as is required under the US National Organic Program.

Because of required processes both the US/EU and the Canada/US equivalency agreements will reviewed and possibly renegotiated in the near future. It is likely that in each case the parties will have different needs and push each other on difference.

From my perspective, I believe the NOP is ahead of other governmental systems in terms of mandated testing and a public listing of certified entities and acreage. However, there are specific standards differences elsewhere.

Conclusion

The organic community worldwide is larger and more important than it has ever been. Now, we are in a critical period where standards are evolving, governments are asking more from each other, and technology is playing a greater role than it ever has. Stay tuned.

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