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The National Organic Standards Board Key to Organic Integrity

The National Organic Standards Board Key to Organic Integrity

Thanks to Abby Youngblood, executive director, National Organic Coalition, for this guest blog. On Sunday, January 21 at our NOFA-NY Winter Conference, don't miss Abby and Kevin Engelbert's presentation: State of the Organic Program. Register here for the conference!

The National Organic Coalition (NOC) is a national alliance devoted to protecting the integrity of the USDA organic seal and to building bridges across the many stakeholders within the organic community. NOC is a leading voice on the hill with Members of Congress, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and with the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), the independent stakeholder board that advises the USDA on organic standards. NOFA is a long-standing member of our coalition through the NOFA Interstate Council, and helps provide grassroots input from farmers and consumers into the policy process. 



For those of us who want to make sure the USDA organic seal stays strong, the NOSB is key. This past month, 14 representatives from the National Organic Coalition journeyed to Jacksonville, Florida, where the NOSB fall meeting took place. Our group included two folks from NOFA-land: Maddie Monty Kempner of NOFA-VT and Dan Bensonoff from NOFA-MA.


NOC gave oral testimony to the board, as well as supplying the board with more than 40 pages of written testimony on a plethora of topics. Pictured here is NOC member Julia Barton giving testimony in Jacksonville. Some of the hot button topics we took up included: prohibitions against new genetic techniques like CRISPR and synthetic biology, whether or not hydroponic systems should be allowed under the organic label, recommendations to protect the organic marketplace from fraudulent imports, and input into decisions about materials used in organic, such as the use of copper in crop production to control diseases such as tomato blight. 

NOC and NOC member organizations devote considerable resources to participate in NOSB meetings, which take place twice each year and are open to the public. Our commitment to this work stems from the belief that the NOSB is foundational to the integrity of the organic seal.

When the organic law was passed in 1990, there was a great deal of apprehension about turning the keys to the grassroots organic movement over to the federal government, for fear it would lose its connection to farmers and consumers. The compromise was the creation of a citizen stakeholder advisory committee, the National Organic Standards Board, to allow for a formalized process for grassroots input into organic standards and decision-making processes at USDA. Special interests cannot unduly sway the outcomes of the NOSB decision-making process because of the carefully constructed balance of stakeholders on the board and the 2/3 majority requirement to pass proposals.

For the most part, the Board has completed its original work of establishing a National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances and assisting to create regulations to govern the USDA organic seal. But the work of the NOSB is far from over. The NOSB has entered the stage of refining the program so that it remains consistent with organic values as organic production grows.

Some of this new work has arisen with the maturing of organic into a nearly 50-billion-dollar enterprise.  Importantly, the NOSB must make sure that adequate oversight of the program is in place to guarantee consistent certification and enforcement of the law to protect organic producers and consumers.

NOC urges you to get more involved in to protect the integrity of the organic seal. Here’s how:

  1. Sign up to get regular action alerts and updates from NOC.
  2. Speak out against any attack on the NOSB or organic integrity. Here’s more information about why we think organic integrity could be under attack in the next farm bill.
  3. Join us for the next NOSB meeting in Tucson, Arizona on April 25-27, 2018. The NOC Pre-NOSB meeting will take place on Tuesday, April 24 in Tucson.
  4. Consider putting your name forward to fill one of the slots on the NOSB. Learn more or let us know of your interest: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
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