2011 21.1 WSDA Organic Program Update

Winter brings a change to the work we do at the WSDA Organic Program. While fields are resting with cover crops and trees have lost this season’s leaves, our inspectors are conducting organic processing and handling facility inspections and the Olympia office is preparing for the next crop year.

In December, we sent out over 750 producer renewal forms to our clients and in January we will send out another 400 handler and processor renewals.

Please contact our office with any additional questions you may have about organic certification or to obtain an application packet – we look forward to hearing from you!

Following is an update on some of the work being done in Washington State, as well as nationally, during these winter months.

National Organic Standards Board (NOSB)

The April 2011 NOSB meeting is scheduled for Seattle! See the NOSB at work for the first time in the Pacific Northwest April 26-29 at the Red Lion Hotel on Fifth Avenue in downtown Seattle. WSDA Organic Program is proud to partner with Tilth Producers to host activities and showcase Washington organic agriculture during this national event.

Consider making a public comment relating to certification issues that concern you, or attend to see how you can get involved in the process of developing organic standards.

For more information on this upcoming meeting, as well as past meetings, visit the NOSB web site

Organic Program Staff Changes

We ushered two of our colleagues into the next phases of their lives this fall. Marty Beagle joined us early this year as our new program manager, bringing his years of experience at The Evergreen State College managing the campus labs, art studios, and organic farm. Marty has decided to pursue connections within the Olympia community and beyond. We wish him luck.

Yakima Valley Field Inspector Mike Haskett retired this fall after nearly ten years as an inspector with the Organic Program and almost 26 years at the Department of Agriculture. It has been a joy to have Mike on our staff and we thank him for being part of the Organic Program team. We currently have an opening for this vacant position. To see a complete job description, and to apply, visit the full announcement on the Washington State careers web site – careers.wa.gov.

NOP Draft Guidance Documents

The National Organic Program (NOP) developed guidance documents for public comment and feedback. The guidance documents are intended to clarify regulations for certain aspects of the organic industry. When finalized, these documents are intended to provide a uniform method for operations to comply with, and for certifiers to verify compliance with, the NOP regulations.

This round of draft guidance addressed the following topics:

  • compost and vermicompost in organic crop production
  • wild crop harvesting
  • outdoor access for organic poultry
  • commingling and contamination prevention in organic production and handling
  • use of chlorine materials in organic production and handling

The comment period for the above guidance documents has now closed, however the WSDA Organic Program submitted comments on all five issues and our electronic newsletter alerted our certified operations of this opportunity.

When draft guidance documents are finalized, the public will be notified and the final guidance documents will be incorporated in the NOP Program Handbook. You’ll find draft guidance documents and the NOP Program Handbook on the NOP’s web site: www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/nop.

National Organic Certification Cost Share Program

The 2008 Farm Bill included a reauthorization of the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program. This program reimburses 75% of the costs of organic certification up to a maximum payment of $750.

Last year WSDA reimbursed over $475,000 in certification fees as a result of this program, and we have been approved to reimburse up to $565,000 this next year. Certified organic producers are reminded to submit their cost share applications with their 2011 certification renewals!

2011 Changes

Organic Straw
The Access to Pasture rule, published almost a year ago, established a minimum requirement of feed intake from pasture for ruminant animals. It also clarified that agricultural roughages (straw, hulls, middlings) used as bedding for all organic livestock must be certified organic as well.

All new organic livestock producers are required to comply with this new aspect immediately, while existing organic livestock producers have until June of 2011. Wood shavings do not need certification to be used as bedding.

OSP Update for Livestock Producers
Last year all livestock operations completed a full Organic System Plan to ensure the National Organic Program’s new pasture rule was adequately enforced. For 2011, these producers will be completing a shortened update that outlines feed rations, material inputs, and changes to their production practices.

Focus on Non-Organic Seeds and Planting Stock Disclosure
Organic producers are required to use organically certified seeds or planting stock in organic production, unless the seed is unavailable organically in the quantity, quality, or form (variety) needed.

In 2010, we heard from staff and our clients that the inclusion of a complete seed list in an operation’s Organic System Plan places an extra burden on mixed vegetable operations that typically use a majority of organic seeds.

The team took this feedback into consideration and reformatted the seed and planting stock section of the OSP Update to focus on the disclosure of non-organic seeds and planting stock only.

For 2011, we will only require that an operation submit a list of the nonorganic seeds planted. This refinement will continue to ensure we have data needed to evaluate compliance with the National Organic Standards around disclosure of inputs, prohibited treatments, and commercial availability searches prior to the use of nonorganic forms of seed or planting stock. All producers must continue to maintain organic and non-organic seed records and have these available at their annual inspection.

Tags: Chlorine, Compost, NOP, NOSB, Organic Production, Wild Crops, WSDA