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NOSB is expanding the opportunity for public comment

By Jean Richardson, National Organic
Standards Board Chair

Added July 20, 2015. My goal as Chair for the next 4 months is to continue to work to expand opportunities for a broader cross section of public comment in a diversity of ways, using modern technology where possible, reduce our carbon footprint where possible, and complete this cycle of Sunset Review. I believe that working together we can do this.

The NOP and NOSB have been working collaboratively to find ways to increase opportunities for greater participation by a broader range of people over a longer period of time, and by more pathways! A couple of ideas we want to run as a trial this fall is to have ‘Oral Public Comment by Webinar’ and concentrating public comment on the first day of the NOSB while members are still fresh even if we have to run a couple of hours longer on that day.

In April in La Jolla we blocked out time for 130 oral commenters, and 124 spoke. This took up almost 2 days (11 hours) of our 4 day meeting. The idea of the webinars is for those unable to travel to have an opportunity to voice their comments on the record within a five minute slot, two minutes more than the current allowance of 3 minutes in person. As you heard during our meeting presentations in April, the organic community already has a pretty good idea of where we are headed with our materials review so you can be writing your comment now and either send it in in writing when the public comment period opens, or sign up to make oral comment.

We hope as many members of the organic community will use this electronic meeting to share their thoughts, but especially hope that this makes it easier for farmers to participate as we value their perspective on the practicality of NOSB decisions on organic production. The comments made in the webinars will be placed on the record, recorded and available for NOSB members to review. Individuals can choose to give oral comment on either the webinars or sign up for an in-person slot as part of the in-person comment time on October 26.

As NOSB Chair I hope that you will use this opportunity to try out new ways of participation and give us feedback. We all realize the importanceof involving the whole organic community in decisions about the future of organic and institutionalize public participation at all levels of NOP and NOSB.

Meanwhile, the NOP is also exploring options for an open public comment process through the USDA Open Government Initiative, and following an idea from NOC the NOP is exploring ways to spread out the Sunset review of materials rather than do them all at one time every five years.

NOSB members are working hard to make the in-person meeting as productive as possible. We have doubled up our subcommittee conference calls as needed to work on Sunset Materials in Crops, Handling and Livestock, to make sure that we have all our Sunset Templates ready for NOP staff on August 26, so they can meet their September 8 Federal Register Posting date.

In terms of numbers to be voted on at the October meeting in Vermont: Livestock will be presenting 42 substances for Sunset 2017 Review; Crops 43; and Handling 105. There will be substances of interest to NODPA members in all of these subcommittees So, we would appreciate your comments on all these materials plus any comments of priorities for organic research related to livestock.

We all hope to make this October meeting a time for celebrating 25 years of organic agriculture.

Thank you very much, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Jean

If you have comments or questions, you can contact me at home: 802-425-3733; or by email: jeanrichardson43@comcast.net.