May 14, 2018
USDA pauses plans for new organic marketing board

The USDA has ended a proposed rule to establish a national research and promotion program for certified organic products. The decision also terminates the proposed rule on referendum procedures.

USDA based the termination on lack of consensus within the industry in support for the proposed program and diverse views on how to resolve issues in implementing the proposed program. Termination of the rulemaking process removes communication restrictions and allows USDA to engage fully with all interested parties to discuss and consider the future needs of the industry.

A proposed rule was published in the Federal Register (FR) on Jan. 18, 2017, with a 60-day comment period that ended March 20, 2017. On Feb. 27, 2017, a notice was published in the FR that extended the comment period until April 19, 2017. In response to the rule, USDA received and reviewed more than 14,700 comments filed by producers and other stakeholders.

On May 15, 2015, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) submitted a proposal to USDA for a national research and promotion program for certified organic products.

A proposed rule, consisting of OTA’s proposal, was published in the Federal Register (FR) on Jan. 18, 2017, with a 60-day comment period that ended March 20, 2017. On Feb. 27, 2017, a notice was published in the FR that extended the comment period until April 19, 2017. In response to the rule, USDA received and reviewed more than 14,700 comments filed by producers and other stakeholders.

OTA proposed a program that would be financed by an assessment on certified organic products and administered by a board of industry members selected by the Secretary of Agriculture. The purpose of the program would be to strengthen the position of certified organic products in the marketplace, support research to benefit the organic industry, and improve access to information and data across the organic sector.

Some of the concerns USDA took into consideration were the impact of de minimis (lacking significance) level exemptions and high-value commodities on the program, how organic promotion would affect other agricultural commodities, the voting methodology that would be used, the financial burden on small entities and the challenges of tracing imported organic products. Additional concerns were the method of assessment for imports, the assessment of non-food products and products “made with (specified ingredients)” and the paperwork burden on covered entities.

Notice of the termination appeared in the Federal Register May 11.


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