Keeping Organic Strong: Changes in organic regulations and farming practice


National Organic Standards Board Spring 2024 Meeting

View the issues before the Board for the Spring 2024 meeting HERE!

The NOSB Spring Meeting 2024 will be held in person on Monday, April 29 through Wednesday, May 1, 2024, in Milwaukee, WI. The meeting information for remote access will be posted in mid-April here.

A draft meeting agenda is available here.  A detailed agenda, along with the proposals, is available here.

Written comments are due by 11:59 pm EDT Wednesday, April 3, 2024 (click-and-submit!), as well as registration for oral comments. Oral comment sign-ups fill up fast! >> Sign up for oral comments here.

The meeting dates are:

  • Public Comment Webinar Day 1: Tuesday, April 23: from 11 am - 5:00 pm Eastern
  • Public Comment Webinar Day 2: Thursday, April 25: from 11 am - 5:00 pm Eastern
  • NOSB Public Meeting Day 1: Monday, April 29: from 9:00 am - 6:00 pm Central
  • NOSB Public Meeting Day 2: Tuesday, April 30: from 9:00 am - 6:00 pm Central
  • NOSB Public Meeting Day 3: Wednesday, May 1: from 9:00 am - 6:00 pm Central

Where? The NOSB Spring Meeting 2024 will be held in person in Milwaukee, WI.  The meeting access information links will be posted one week before the webinars and can be found here.

View issues that are before the board at the Spring 2024 meeting! (The issues will be posted here shortly)

Public Comment

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) invites the public to submit written comments and/or provide oral comments on the Spring 2024 meeting issues.

Written Comments
Written comments can be submitted via regulations.gov (or through our click-and-submit form here!) The deadline to submit written comments is Wednesday, April 3, 2024, at 11:59 pm EDT.

Oral Comments

Oral comment registration can be done here.

The Board will hear oral comments during the following times via zoom:

  • Webinars: Tuesday, April 23, and Thursday, April 25, 2024, from 11:00 am - 5:00 pm EDT
    Links to listen in to the virtual comment webinars and the public meeting will be posted on this webpage one week before the meetings in April.

Questions?  Email Michelle Arsenault, NOSB Advisory Committee Specialist or call 202-997-0115

About the Board

The 15-member board, consisting of four farmers, three environmentalists, three consumers, two food processors, one retailer, a scientist, and a certifying agent, votes to allow or prohibit substances and practices in certified organic food and farming. The NOSB acts as a lifeline from government to the organic community as it considers input from you, the public - the concerned citizens upon whom organic integrity depends. That is why your participation is vital to the development of organic standards. Rest assured, if you submit a public comment in person or online, the Board will consider your concerns. Remember that the NOSB can't take serious action to protect organic integrity without your input!

A Framework to Keep in Mind When Commenting to the NOSB:

According to the Organic Foods Production Act, a synthetic substance may only be allowed for use in organic production if it meets the following criteria [7 USC 6517(c)(1)(B)]:

  • It contains an active synthetic ingredient in the following categories: copper and sulfur compounds; toxins derived from bacteria; pheromones, soaps, horticultural oils, fish emulsions, treated seed, vitamins and minerals; livestock parasiticides and medicines and production aids including netting, tree wraps and seals, insect traps, sticky barriers, row covers, and equipment cleansers.

  • It contains synthetic inert ingredients that are not classified by the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency as inerts of toxicological concern.

Additionally, it must be fully established that the use of the substance [7 USC 6517(c)(1)(A)]

  • would not be harmful to human health or the environment;
  • is necessary to the production or handling of the final product because natural substitutes are not available; and
  • is consistent with organic farming and handling (see the NOSB’s Principles of Organic Production and Handling).

Structuring your comments on synthetic substances around these points and referencing the specific stipulations in the law will help the members of the NOSB to understand your argument and will make your input more effective.

View issues that are before the Board at the Spring 2024 meeting! (The issues will be posted here shortly)

Also see our NOSB archives pages to read about current and past opportunities for public involvement in the development of organic standards.

The organic regulatory process provides numerous opportunities for the public to weigh in on what is allowable in organic production. USDA maintains a National List, set by the NOSB, of the synthetic substances that may be used and the non-synthetic substances that may not be used in organic production and handling. OFPA and NOP regulations provide for the sunsetting of listed substances every five years and rely on public comment in evaluating their continuing uses. Sunset review, the process of reviewing substances on the National List every five years, is mandated by the Organic Foods Production Act.  To be added to the list of allowed synthetics, it must be shown that the use of such substances – (i) would not be harmful to human health or the environment; (ii) is necessary to the production or handling of the agricultural product because of the unavailability of wholly natural substitute products; and, (iii) is consistent with organic farming and handling. The public may also file a petition to amend the National List, either by removing a material currently on the list or adding a new one. In both cases, sunset and petition, the NOSB is authorized by OFPA to determine a substance’s status.

For more information on the history of organic agriculture and why it is the best choice for your health and the environment, please see Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Food Program Page.