The Age of Clarification and Transparency
Upon the hiring of McEvoy in October 2009, the first order of business for the
NOP was to finalize the long-awaited access to pasture rule for organic livestock
which mandates that all organic ruminant operations (cattle, sheep, goats) be
pasture-based systems in which animals actively graze on pasture during the grazing season. Previously, the rule had simply required that livestock must have access to the outdoors year round. The updated pasture rule requires ruminant
animals to obtain at least 30 percent dry matter intake from grazed pasture. While
most organic farmers may have already been meeting this requirement, the rule
defined the provisions of pasture grazing to avoid misinterpretations among those
that were not meeting the requirement.
Since the pasture rule became effective on June 17, 2010, the NOP has notified certifying agents they must evaluate their clients’ compliance with the pasture
rule by June 17, 2011.
“Certifiers are the eyes and ears on the farm and in the processing facilities—
an essential component of protecting organic
integrity,” McEvoy said. “We rely on them to
work with certified operations, answering their
specific questions to ensure they meet the pro-
visions come implementation time.”
In addition to the publication of the pasture
rule, the NOP issued a couple more final rules
in 2010, amending the organic standards to
enact several recommendations by the National
Organic Standards Board. These rules con-
cerned materials on the National List of Al-
lowed and Prohibited Substances, including
final rules on the use of tetracycline and sul-
furous acid in organic crop production and an
interim rule (with request for comments) ex-
tending the use of synthetic methionine in organic poultry production. The NOP
has also proposed amendments to the National List for several other materials.
For detailed information on these, and the other rules above see “Know the
Rules” on page 28.
While these recent rulemaking actions adopt some of the NOSB recommendations, several dozen outstanding recommendations remain for the NOP to consider. In the upcoming months and years, the NOP Standards Division will
address them, along with any new recommendations from the board. NOP responses to the recommendations and future intended action by the program are
available at www.ams.usda.gov/nop.
Refining and shaping the national organic standards presents a long-term project as the market evolves and the need to reexamine the regulations arises. On
the other hand, when already codified standards demonstrate need for greater
specificity or clarity, members of the organic community now have another resource to turn to: the NOP Program Handbook.
“The organic ommunity has had to navigate some complex issues, our goal is to provide clear guidance to ensure consistent implementation of the organic standards.”
The regulations published in 2000 can be a little confusing at times and have
led to varied interpretations—and many headaches—between certifying agents
and organic producers and handlers. The Program Handbook offers a reader-friendly approach, breaking down the most challenging parts of the regulation.
As the Program Handbook evolves, it will include information on everything
from production, handling, process-
ing, labeling and marketing of organic
food, to details on accreditation of cer-
tifiers, organic certification, the Na-
tional List, State Organic Programs,
fees and other policies. The first edi-
tion of the handbook, released in Sep.
2010, is now available directly at
Handbook, or in hard copy by request.