Checking the headlines on April 29 and wondering when the federal government will cash my check to the IRS...

 The meeting of the National Organic Standards Board in Texas is drawing notice, with the Cornucopia Institute and Consumer Reports weighing in on the deliberations. Cornucopia suggests following the fireworks of the meeting at #NOSB.

 From Consumer Reports, a news release describes a poll  where consumers were asked about antibiotic use on apples and pears and frames other issues.

Excerpts from the release:

While federal law prohibits synthetic substances in organic agriculture and food processing, including synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics, growth hormones and artificial food ingredients, the law also allows exempted materials to be used for five years. The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is the 15-member expert citizen panel charged by Congress with the important task of determining which synthetic substances can be listed as exempt.

This week’s NOSB meeting in San Antonio will include deliberations on several material exemptions, including the antibiotic streptomycin’s use on apples and pears, synthetic materials for aquaculture (before standards for organic fish have been defined), artificial ingredients (methionine) in poultry feed, and how these exemptions are handled after the five-year permitted-use period has ended.

The organization has long opposed the proliferation of exemptions and their renewed listing given this does not represent what consumers expect from the organic label. The recent survey from the Consumer Reports National Research Center underscores this point with 7 out of 10 Americans expressing they wanted as few artificial ingredients as possible.

“Despite the fact that the public does not want a host of artificial ingredients in their organic food, some national advisers and decision-makers in the National Organic Program have overtly expressed a desire to grow the exemption list in order to grow the organic market. We believe this violates the public’s trust of what organic means,” says Dr. Urvashi Rangan, Executive Director of Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability Center.

Other highlights from the Consumer Reports National Research Center’s national representative survey include:

• Organic Produce. The majority of consumers think organic produce should not have pesticides (91% of consumers) or antibiotics (86%). The NOSB will vote on ending the exemption for streptomycin on apples and pears, which has been re-listed many times.

• Sunset Process. An overwhelming percentage of consumers (84%) think the use of artificial ingredients in organic products should be discontinued, if not reviewed, after 5 years; few consumers (15%) endorse continued use of the artificial ingredient without review.

In September 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program changed the review process. Under the new policy, an exempt material could be permitted indefinitely unless a two-thirds majority of the NOSB votes to remove an exempted (synthetic) substance from the list. The new policy allows USDA to relist exemptions for synthetic materials without the recommendation of the independent board and outside of public view, which used to be required.

The original authors of the organic law, Senator Patrick Leahy and Representative Peter DeFazio, have urged the USDA to reverse this policy change, saying that it “turns the sunset policy of the Organic Foods Production Act on its head” and is “in conflict with both the letter and the intent of the statute.”

The issue of sunset will be raised as part of the public comment portion of the NOSB meeting.


In other news, Census Bureau issues report on home ownership and rental vacancies. Home ownership is down slightly overall, to just less than 65%.

The European Union’s ban on Indian mangoes and other items continues to draw press notice

We instinctively knew that hope in immigration reform is fool’s gold, didn’t we? At least seasoned observers of the inability of Congress to push through immigration reform shouldn’t be surprised by the growing frustration with the state of play for legislative action this year. Veteran Washington ag report Chuck Abbott quoted Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on the urgent need for the House to act and also quoted Virginia apple grower Phil Glaize about labor shortages at harvest time during the past three years that have limited his farm’s profitability.

My food blogger email this morning consists of this pitch to promote The Wine Enthusiast Music Issue. “Is it any surprise that the worlds of wine and music mix?" Get excited for celebrity pairings of wine and music...


Comment to the FDA from the Consumer Federation of America over the Foreign Supplier Verification proposed rule.

From that comment, an excerpt that makes it clear importers would be even more burdened if CFA has its way:

CFA generally supports FDA’s proposed Foreign Supplier Verification Program. The following four points highlight key issues raised in CFA’s comments on the proposed rule. However, CFA provides comments on numerous other provisions in the proposal where changes should be made to better protect consumers.

1. CFA strongly supports Option 1 which would require importers to conduct onsite audits of foreign suppliers for hazards for which there is a reasonable probability of serious adverse health consequence or death to humans or animals. This will provide the greatest protection for consumers from contaminated food. 

2. FDA should not exempt importers from FSVP requirements even if they import food from a country with an officially recognized food safety system. Regardless of the source of the food, the importer should have to implement and maintain a FSVP to assure the safety of the supply chain.

3. Importers should consider hazards that may be intentionally introduced, particularly for foods or regions in which it is generally known that economic adulteration occurs. 

 4. FDA should delete the definitions of very small importer and very small foreign supplier. Congress did not provide for exemptions for these entities in the import provisions of FSMA and they are likely duplicative with other provisions in the law.

Fresh Del Monte first quarter results


Argentina lemon imports coming soon? Perhaps not, but the USDA has issued a draft pest risk assessment for Argentina lemon imports. That means that imports of Argentina lemons are closer, at least.