The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB)

It is important for consumers to know who is currently sitting on the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) because these people are their representatives to the Secretary of Agriculture. They are the most influential people with regard to the Organic Laws and how they are administered and implemented. It would be advisable for citizens, whether consumers or businesses, to get in touch with as many of these representatives as they can and let them know how they feel about the law and how it is being administered. You can bet that the big agribusinesses are doing just that. They are weighting in and so should you. There are links below to information about each current member of the NOSB.

Here is the back story on the NOSB

The NOSB was mandated in the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, the law that codified and made the words “certified organic” a legal term.

The mission of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is to assist the Secretary of Agriculture in developing standards for substances to be used in organic production and processing systems. What are these “substances” you might ask?  The “substances” are inputs needed to make plants grow, or to prevent weeds from growing, or protect a plant from bugs or disease. On a farm they would be fertilizers, like manures or compost, rock powders, like gypsum, phosphate, or greensand. In a manufacturing or food processing plant they would be all the ingredients that go into make the final product. For example, if you are making a juice beverage, it would be all the juices and hopefully nothing else. That would be what I call a “clean” product and one I might like to drink. All the juices would be the inputs and they must be on the National List of approved “substances” in order for the product to bear the USDA organic seal. Everything that goes into the bottle of juice or the box of cereal must be on an approved list called the National List and these “substances” must first be approved and recommended by the NOSB.

So the NOSB is a pretty important group of folks! The NOSB also advises the Secretary on other aspects of implementing the national organic program. We’ll go into greater detail about this in later posts on this site. For this article, the main take away is that the NOSB are people you want to get to know better if you want to influence the way organic food is grown, processed, packaged, labeled and delivered. Is this you? Read on…

The NOSB is appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture, based upon a public application process, and is comprised of four farmers/growers, two handlers/processors, one retailer, one scientist, three consumer/public interest advocates, three environmentalists, and one USDA accredited certifying agent who sit on various committees, and they come from all four U.S. regions.

The first NOSB was appointed by then Agriculture Secretary Edward Madigan in January 1992. The fifteen members of the initial board served staggered terms of 3, 4, or 5 years. All subsequent board appointees serve 5-year terms.

NOTE: Recommendations made by the NOSB are not official policy until they are approved and adopted by USDA.

Current NOSB Members – 2013

Farmers / Growers
Carmela Beck
Colehour J. Bondera
Wendy Fulwider
Nicholas Maravell

Environmentalists / Resource Conservationists
Tracy Favre
Jay Feldman
Barry R. Flamm

Consumer / Public Interest Advocates
Jean Richardson
Jennifer Taylor
C. Reuben Walker

Handlers / Processors
Harold Austin
John Foster

Joe Dickson

Scientist (Toxicology, Ecology, or Biochemistry)
Zea Sonnabend

USDA Accredited Certifying Agent
Robert (Mac) Stone