Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the actions it is taking to address a recent federal court ruling that invalidated the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) guidance titled Allowance of Green Waste in Organic Production Systems (NOP 5016).
In response to the court ruling, USDA Agriculture Marketing Service’s (AMS) NOP provided the following information regarding the review and approval of materials used by organic producers, including compost:
[Before USDA issues a final rule], accredited certifying agents must continue to review and approve all materials used by organic producers, including compost, as part of an operation's organic system plan. Certifying agents are responsible for ensuring that all materials used by organic producers comply with the USDA organic regulations. Certifying agents may request additional information deemed necessary to evaluate compliance with the regulations (§§ 205.201(a)(1) and 205.201(a)(6)). To determine whether a compost product may comply with the regulations, certifying agents may gather information from the compost supplier and/or from the organic producer, including the type and source of feedstocks used. Information may include results of bioassay testing or other quality assurance testing from the compost supplier or results of any on-farm bioassay testing. The information gathered must be sufficient to verify compliance with the USDA organic regulations. As always, testing is performed at the discretion of certifiers and state organic programs "when there is reason to believe that the agricultural input or product has come into contact with a prohibited substance or has been produced using excluded methods." 7 C.F.R. § 205.670(b).
The full announcement is available on the USDA AMS webpages.
What Does This Mean for Inputs and Compost You Use?
There will be no immediate changes for CCOF members. Based on the NOP announcement, CCOF Certification Services has not changed the status of approved composts. Until NOP issues a final rule, CCOF’s residue testing program will continue to focus primarily on pesticides and GMOs in finished crops/products and verification of compliance. If the status of a compost or other input is changed, then CCOF will notify affected members directly.
CCOF’s online materials search in MyCCOF contains the real-time approval status of all inputs CCOF is aware of.
CCOF members with questions regarding materials in current use may contact CCOF President of Certification Services Jake Lewin.
Proposed Rule under Development
USDA also announced that it is developing a proposed rule in response to the court ruling. The court invalidated the existing guidance on greenwaste in compost (NOP 5016) because it held that the NOP issued the guidance in violation of administrative procedure. In response, USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is developing a proposed rule on the issues previously addressed in the guidance. AMS will release the proposed rule for public notice and comment before issuing a final rule.
CCOF’s policy team is monitoring this situation closely and acting in support of the needs and interests of organic farmers. Members will be notified when the proposed rule is available for comment through the weekly CCOF newsletter. All members are encouraged to submit comments. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on the public comment process.