Northwest Horticultural Council
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The Pacific Northwest is the national leader in the production of organic apples, pears, and cherries. Over 15.5 million boxes of organic apples are now harvested from nearly 29,000 acres in Washington state, amounting to over 90 percent of the fresh organic apple crop in the United States. There is also a significant volume of organic pears and cherries grown in our region, with more than 7,200 acres planted across the Pacific Northwest. Organic tree fruit production in the Pacific Northwest is increasing, with additional acreage transitioning to organic each year.
In many ways, the Pacific Northwest is the epicenter for organic pome fruit and cherry production in the United States. The total value of the organic tree fruit crop for the region topped $693 million in 2020, of which organic apples alone accounted for approximately $606 million. In fact, tree fruit accounted for 50 percent of farm gate sales for all Washington state organics that year.
Any operation, or portion of operation, that produces or handles crops, livestock, livestock products, or other agricultural products that are intended to be sold, labeled, or represented as “100 percent organic,” “organic,” or “made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s))” must be certified organic by a USDA-accredited certifying agent.
I. USDA AMS National Organic Program
The National Organic Program (NOP) develops the rules & regulations for the production, handling, labeling, and enforcement of all USDA organic products. This process, referred to as rulemaking, involves input from the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) (a Federal Advisory Committee made up of 15 volunteer members of the public) and the public. The NOP also maintains a Handbook that includes guidance, instructions, policy memos, and other information on the organic standards.
Spanish translations of various organic regulations and other information may be found here.
For those interested in learning about the National Organic Program, including the public comment process, inspections, enforcement, and audits, visit the NOP Organic Training webpage and create an account at the Organic Integrity Learning Center. Registration for the National Organic Program Microlearning course is free and each course can be covered in 10 to 15 minutes. Instructions may be accessed here.
A. National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) Meeting Information
The 15-member NOSB meets publicly twice annually (April and October) to consider new topics and make recommendations to USDA on a wide range of issues involving the production, handling, and processing of organic products. The NOSB accepts public input prior to the bi-annual meetings in the form of written and oral comments.
The NHC encourages organic industry members to submit comments on materials under review to voice the challenges faced by our organic farmers and stakeholders. Comments can be as simple as a few sentences expressing why these materials are important to Pacific Northwest organic tree fruit production. For an overview of the commenting process and tips for submitting comments, check out the NHC’s article “Commenting 101” in the Good Fruit Grower magazine.
During spring meetings, NOSB members discuss materials under sunset review on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (National List). The Board votes to continue listing or to de-list sunset materials at the fall meetings. A two-thirds vote (10 members) is needed to remove a currently listed material or to add a petitioned material to the National List.
Spring 2023 Meetings
The NOSB held its annual spring meetings April 25-27, 2023, in Atlanta, Georgia, with a virtual option for those unable to travel. Public comment virtual webinars took place the week prior on April 18 and 20.
The NOSB voted to approve a proposal regarding “Organic Is Climate-Smart Agriculture” by a vote of 12 Yes, 2 Abstain, 1 Absent. The NOSB also voted to approve a recommendation that the ion exchange resins used in the ion exchange filtration process are not required to be on the National List. The vote was 12 Yes, 1 No, 1 Abstain, 1 Absent.
Important materials under sunset review this year include:
- Elemental sulfur as an insecticide, plant disease control, and plant or soil amendment
- Lime sulfur as an insecticide and plant disease control
- Alcohols: Ethanol and Isopropanol as disinfectants / sanitizers
- Liquid fish byproducts as a plant or soil amendment
- Plastic mulch and covers as weed barriers (petroleum-based other than PVC)
- Phosphoric acid for the cleaning of food-contact surfaces and equipment
You can read the NHC’s submitted comments here. You can read all submitted comments at Regulations.gov (Docket: AMS-NOP-22-0071).
Additional information can be found on the NOSB’s April 2023 meetings webpage.
Fall 2022 Meetings
The NOSB held its annual fall meetings in person October 25-27, 2022, in Sacramento, California. Public comment virtual webinars took place the week prior October 18 and 20.
At the fall 2022 meetings, the Board discussed substances petitioned for addition to or deletion from the National List, substances due to sunset from the National List in 2024, and recommendations on organic policies, including USDA technical support for NOSB members, oversight improvements to deter fraud, and research priorities.
For the substances due to sunset from the National List, the Board voted to keep all of them on the list. No materials were de-listed. A two-thirds vote is needed to de-list a material.
The NHC submitted oral and written comments, which focused on substances under sunset review, packing line sanitizers, and the NOSB Technical Support Initiative. You can read the NHC’s written comments here.
The NOSB plans to hold its next fall meetings October 24-26, 2023, in Providence, Rhode Island. The locations of the 2024 meetings have not yet been announced.
All future NOSB meetings will likely include a virtual option for those unable to travel. It is also likely oral comment opportunities will continue as virtual testimonies held the week before the full NOSB meetings.
Additional information on the NOSB and its agendas, meetings, and work plans can be found at AMS.USDA.gov.
B. NHC Past Comments to NOSB
|NHC Past Comments:|
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|Spring 2021||Fall 2021|
|Spring 2020||Fall 2020|
|Spring 2019||Fall 2019|
|Spring 2018||Fall 2018|
|Spring 2017||Fall 2017|
C. The National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances
The USDA organic regulations allow most natural substances in organic farming while prohibiting most synthetic substances. The National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances – part of these regulations – lists the exceptions to this basic rule: Synthetic substances are prohibited unless specifically allowed. Natural substances are allowed unless specifically prohibited.
II. Pacific Northwest State Departments of Agriculture
A. Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) Organic Program
The WSDA is accredited as a certification agency by USDA. As a certification agent of the National Organic Program, the WSDA Organic Program’s role is to inspect and certify organic operations, verifying that they are meeting all of the USDA organic standards requirements.
B. Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) Organic Program
The ODA is a USDA-accredited certifying agent for organic crop production and organic handling/processing.
C. Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) Organic Program
The ISDA is an accredited certifying agent of the USDA’s National Organic Program. ISDA has been serving the state’s organic community since 1990 when the Idaho legislatures passed the Organic Food Products Law (Title 22, Chapter 11, Idaho Code). In 2002, ISDA became one of the nation’s first accredited certifying agencies.
NHC Science Advisory Committee, Organic Subcommittee Members
NOP International Trade Partners
Inadvertent Residues on Organic Fruit
|Recent Trends in Certified Organic Tree Fruit in Washington State:|
Click here for links to more information on international, federal, state, and private organics.
The Northwest Horticultural Council represents the deciduous tree fruit industry of Idaho, Oregon, and Washington on national and international policy issues affecting growers, packers, and shippers. For further information, contact Dan Langager, technical communications manager, at 509-453-3193.