Organic growers and producers have been given extensions to comment on two rules that could impact their business.
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The first, a proposed rule to remove 11 substances from the National List in the Sunset 2017 Amendments, is extended to April 19 from January 18. The second, draft guidance for calculating the percentage of organic ingredients in multi-ingredient products, was extended to April 7 from February 6.
The 60-day extensions are normal when a new administration takes office, says Miles McEvoy, deputy administrator of the National Organic Program of the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service in Washington, D.C.
“It’s part of a normal process every five years as we review the list,” McEvoy says. “In this proposed rule there will be minimal to no impact to growers and processors.” As of March 1, no comments were recorded on the regulations.gov website for this change.
The draft guidance garnered more comments, with 28. It clarifies a rule that’s more than 10 years old, McEvoy says.
“Calculating the percent of organic ingredients is primarily a recognition that some organic ingredients are
‘themselves composed of multiple ingredients,’” says Dave Colson, director of agricultural services for Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Unity, Maine. “This rule clarifies the categories of organic labeling and how certifiers should handle those calculations.”
To be labeled organic, food needs to have 95 percent organic ingredients. That’s easy to determine when a product has a single ingredient, McEvoy says, but becomes murkier with multi-ingredient products and water-based or reconstituted ingredients.
“One example is chocolate chip cookies,” he says. “Some chips aren’t total organic. How do you calculate the percentage of organic within the chocolate chips? It’s a highly technical way for how to calculate the percentage of organic ingredients.”
For those producing or processing organic foods, whether their percentage comes out to 94.5 percent versus 95 percent makes the difference between an organic and a non-organic product. McEvoy says there has been a lack of clarity in the decade-old regulations, which the new guidance aims to address.
Ultimately, the 450 U.S. organic certifiers will have to assure the percentages are correct.