2012 22.1 WSDA Organic Program Update

Greetings and Happy Winter from the WSDA Organic Program. The following are items affecting growers and opportunities for Tilth members to connect with the USDA Organic Program in the coming year. As always, the program welcomes input and feedback.

Harold Austin Appointed to National Organic Standards Board

WSDA is pleased to announce that Harold Austin of Zirkle Fruit Company has been appointed as the Handler Representative to the National Organic Standards Board. Austin currently serves on the WSDA Organic Advisory Board and brings a wealth of northwest organic tree fruit industry experience to his new role.

Tetracycline

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) recommended and voted to accept extending the allowance for the use of tetracycline to control fire blight in apples and pears until October 21, 2014. The process that finalizes this as the accepted date was open to public comments through the first week of January and a decision will be finalized in early 2012.

In the pages of the last Tilth Producers quarterly, David Granatstein of WSU’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources (CSANR) shared updates on the allowance of tetracycline for control of fire blight in apples and pears in organic production. The NOSB recommendation also stated that the Board expects the industry to make progress in the development of alternatives for fire blight control.

The first step toward this goal was the convening of a Tree Fruit Working Group with a national scope to determine research undertaken, efficacy of alternatives, and an effort to coordinate further exploration of alternatives to antibiotic use. In May, Granatstein issued a letter to growers, companies, researchers, and consultants, soliciting information on research and field trials of alternatives to antibiotics. Granatstein presented the working group’s initial findings at the recent Fall NOSB meeting in Savannah, GA. The group shared that while some research is underway, effective alternatives to antibiotics for the control of fire blight are not yet available. The group continues to seek input from interested stakeholders and can be contacted via Granatstein at granats@wsu.edu.

Floods and Organic Farms

With winter now here, the potential of flooding returns as a concern to producers. Earlier this year, WSDA issued a letter concerning the questions around organic certification and flooded farmland. (This letter is available on the WSDA OP homepage here http://agr.wa.gov/foodanimal/organic/.) The most common question regarding organic sites is whether inundation of a farm with floodwaters jeopardizes an operation’s certification. Inundation of farmland with floodwaters will not inherently jeopardize the operation’s certification. However, the WSDA Organic Program may sample organic crops following a flood event. If these sample results indicate that there are prohibited material residues above FDA action levels or above 5% of the EPA tolerance, the crop must be diverted from the organic marketplace and the operation must develop and implement a plan to prevent future contamination. For more information on how WSDA has responded with sampling and monitoring in the past, please visit the link above.

Organic Advisory Board Meetings Set for 2012

The WSDA 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. The 2012 meeting dates and locations have been set and details will be released in the weeks prior to the event. The public is welcome at all 2012 meetings. See below for dates.

Tags: Farm, Flood, Harold Austin, NOSB, Organic, Tetracycline, Update, WSDA, WSDA Organic Advisory Board, WSDA Organic Program

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