2011 21.3 WSDA Organic Program Update

The busy spring season is underway for organic growers and handlers and certification work is in full swing for the WSDA Organic Program inspection and certification staff. Certified operations renew their organic certifications on an annual basis (February 1 – producers, March 1 – handlers). We are pleased to share that over 1,100 operations are seeking organic certification services with WSDA Organic Program; equal to the number of operations certified in 2010.

NOSB Spring Meeting

On April 26 through 29, Seattle hosted the spring meeting of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), attracting supporters of organic agriculture with a wide range of perspective from around the country. The WSDA Organic Program was proud to be part of the event, which offered the chance to showcase the strong organic industry of our state. WSDA offers heartfelt thanks to Tilth Producers of Washington, PCC Natural Markets, and Theo Chocolate for their warm and generous receptions for the Board and community during the week of meetings. Following are some highlights and key decisions from the meeting.

Public Comment

A key part of every NOSB meeting is the opportunity for the public to comment on issues before the Board. WSDA was pleased to see so many from our WA organic community in attendance, offering their input on issues that directly affect their organic operations.

Tetracycline and Streptomycin

Tetracycline and streptomycin were among the many materials considered by the Board at their spring meeting. On tetracycline, the Board addressed a petition to remove the annotation that causes its allowance for use to expire in 2012. On streptomycin, the Board addressed its sunset removal from the National List, a move that would also end the allowance for use of this material.

Following discussion regarding consumer concern for the continued use of antibiotics in organic production, as well as concern for growers’ limited alternatives to antibiotics, the Board voted on a compromise. Tetracycline and streptomycin will continue to be allowed until October 2014. In the interim, the Board requested that a task force be formed to explore alternatives to these two materials in advance of their removal from the National List. The National Organic Program also indicated that it would help to facilitate work in this area.

Sodium Nitrate

The allowance to use sodium nitrate for 20% of a crop’s nitrogen need is scheduled to sunset in 2012. Despite the public comment in support of its continued use, the Board voted to prohibit the use of this material in organic production.

Recommendations made by the NOSB are not considered part of the organic standards until rulemaking is done by USDA and the recommendation is added to the federal regulation.

new Organic Advisory Board Members

WSDA’s Organic Advisory Board (OAB) was established in 1987 to advise WSDA concerning the implementation of the WSDA Organic Food Program. The OAB consists of organic farmers, processors, handlers and other interested parties that meet 3-4 times a year to discuss the Organic Food Program and recommend policy to the WSDA Organic Food Program.

WSDA is pleased to announce the newest members of the Board:

  • Dean Wesen – Wesen Organic Dairy
  • Andy Ross – Skagit Flats Farm
  • Peter Aleman – Bio-Gro, Inc.

OAB meetings are open to all. Please contact Brenda Book prior to the meeting if you are interested in attending. bbook@agr.wa.gov or 360-902-2090. The next OAB meeting is scheduled for November 10, 2011 in Yakima, WA in conjunction with Tilth Producers of WA Annual Conference.

WSDA Sampling Program

The Organic Foods Production Act (OF PA), the precursor to the federal National Organic Standards, mandates the testing of organic products for prohibited substances. While OF PA mandated this as part of the standard, this portion of the law has only just begun to be enforced by the National Organic Program.

Since 1988, WSDA Organic Food Program has collected samples and analyzed them for pesticide residues or other prohibited substances. Since 1988, samples have been taken annually and used as part of the certification evaluation. Currently, annual routine samples are collected at 5-10% of WSDA certified operations in addition to samples taken when there are reasons to believe prohibited material applications have taken place. All samples are sent to a State laboratory for chemical residue analysis. Certified operations are not charged an additional fee for the screening of organic crops or products.

WSDA collects and tests these samples to ensure that buffers are adequate and that sufficient measures are in place to prevent contamination from-and commingling with-conventional products and prohibited materials. This year, each of our eight inspectors will be collecting routine samples throughout the season. Operators will receive a receipt for each sample taken. Once samples are tested and we have evaluated the results, WSDA will issue a letter sharing these results with the certified operation. In the event that samples detect residues in excess of 5% of EPA tolerance levels, the agricultural product cannot be sold, labeled, or represented as organically produced. Please feel free to contact our program with any questions you may have regarding our routine or risk-based testing program.

Tags: Antibiotics, EPA, Meeting, Nitrogen, NOP, NOSB, OAB, Organic Advisory Board, Organic Food Program, Organic Program, Sampling program, Sodium Nitrate, Streptomycin, Summer 2011, Tetracycline, Update, USDA, WSDA

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