The NOSB’s next public meeting is October 26-29 in Vermont. Here are some resources to keep you up to date.

Melody Meyer, Vice President of Policy and Industry Relations

October 6, 2015

4 Min Read
Participate in the organic process this fall

As our green orb tilts and spins, the northern hemisphere performs its yearly autumnal dance. Light and leaves take on auburn, goldenrod and Anjou. Pumpkins, persimmons and purple corn grace our centerpieces. The height of summer has ripened into a season of change. Not so poetic, but equally profound, it is the seasonal waxing of the organic process. The National Organic Standards Board will meet October 26-29 in Stowe, Vt., and they need to hear from YOU.

Let’s review the process:

The National Organic Program is the department within the USDA that administrates and writes regulations and manages the organic process. They keep the standards alive and relevant, always seeking continuous improvement. This small but mighty department relies on the National Organic Standards Board to give them recommendations and advice.

The NOSB members are appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture. The board comprises various members of the organic community: Four producers, three environmentalists or resource conservationists, three consumer advocates, two handlers/processors, one retailer, one scientist and one USDA accredited certifying agent. The makeup of the board is meant to represent the organic community in a fair and balanced way.

The NOSB recommends whether substances should be allowed or prohibited in organic production or handling, and they assist in developing standards for materials to be used in organic production. Twice a year this board of industry representatives meets in a public venue to discuss the regulations and standards. They in turn rely on YOU, dear reader, to be involved, know what is on the agenda and send them your comments.

This meeting decides whether 168 materials may continue to be used in organic production.

The NOSB’s next public meeting will be in Stowe, Vt., from October 26-29. Not only will the leaves be changing, but big changes could come to farmers, handlers and processors if some of their tools are taken away. Just look at the tentative meeting agenda and the meeting materials (all proposals and discussion documents) (PDF) to see how much is at stake. The Organic Trade Association has provided an excellent resource listing all 2017 Sunset Review Materials. There is a lot going on at this meeting, and it’s important to study the documents to determine if you have a stake in or opinion on any of the items. Quite frankly, it’s your right and organic duty to make a comment.

The NOP has made it easier than ever to make a comment! You don’t have to travel to Vermont to make your voice heard. You can provide written comments, participate in a webinar or enjoy the autumn flavor in person in Vermont. Comments can be made from 1-4 p.m. ET on October 13 and from 1 – 4 p.m. ET on October 20 via webinar. You can also show up October 26-27 for the in-person meeting, which always provides a little theater. This is your link to sign up for the webinars or the in-person meeting. Written comments are sometimes more important, because the NOSB really gets a chance to review your details. To submit written comments go to (keyword: AMS-NOP-15-0037).

The deadline to register to make in-person comments or written comments is 11:59pm ET on October 5. The deadline to register to make oral comments is 11:59pm ET on October 8. Mark your calendar, get your reading glasses on and make your fingers nimble. Making comments is critical to the process! When big changes in organic production are debated and there is no community voice, the discussion falls apart. I have witnessed several meetings where large issues illicit very few comments to the board. They need to hear all sides of every agenda item!

Thanks to the OTA for providing some excellent tools to help you through the process!

I believe that organic is the gold standard of food, textiles and farming. There is no food system in the United States that provides as many benefits to the planet and the people. It is also the most transparent, vigorously discussed and rigorously evaluated food system we have!

If you make your living in organic food, or if you are an organic food and textile advocate, it is your organic moral obligation to be informed. Keep abreast, get involved, speak up and speak often. The transparency of this great label is only as good as the members of the community who participate in it. See you in Vermont?


This post originally appeared on the Organic Matters blog.

About the Author(s)

Melody Meyer

Vice President of Policy and Industry Relations, United Natural Foods Inc.

Melody Meyer is the vice president of policy and industry relations for United Natural Foods (UNFI). She is responsible for communicating and educating all stakeholders on critical industry issues and is active in advocating for fair and equitable funding for organic agriculture.

Melody’s career spans several decades in the organic and natural foods industry, including nine years of international trade and development. She began her career in 1976 working in an Iowa Natural Food Cooperative. Her early years in the retail segment of the burgeoning organic industry provided valuable experience buying from local farmers and providing fair returns in order to increase their organic acreage. This experience led to a lifelong dream of changing the way people eat and farm.

Melody founded her own business in 1995, Source Organic, which joined organic producers all over the country directly with national retailers and wholesalers. Source Organic was eventually acquired by Albert’s Organics (a division of United Natural Foods UNFI) in 2001 and it became the procurement department for all organic fresh produce purchased for the company. Her dream was being realized on a national scale!

In 2004 she began importing directly from small banana producers in Latin America. They were uniting and developing self-governed organizations enabling the small producers to export internationally for the first time. This international business provided a new level of prosperity, allowing the communities to increase much-needed social systems and infrastructure.

She has been deeply involved in introducing fair trade certification to growers in Latin America with Fair Trade USA and FLO.  The fair trade premiums are managed by self-governed worker groups to provide education, reforestation, access to clean water and health care.

Melody is proud to be the current executive director of the UNFI Foundation, which is dedicated to funding nonprofit organizations that promote organic and sustainable agriculture and healthy food systems. Priorities of the foundation include organic research, protecting biodiversity of seeds, promoting transparent labeling and educating consumers on healthy food choices.

She is serving her second term on the Board of Directors for the Organic Trade Association (OTA).  She also sits on the California Department of Food and Agriculture Organic Products Advisory Committee (COPAC).

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