Strengthening Organic Enforcement

Lots of new rules affecting organic throughout the WORLD!

The Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) final rule reduces fraud in the organic marketplace; strengthens oversight of organic producers, handlers, and certifiers; and improves USDA’s enforcement mechanisms. USDA used public comments to refine this final rule and maximize benefit to the organic industry.

Okay, that is the introductory paragraph to this publication which is pretty good – SOE Publication. What do these changes mean for the regular producer? Probably you won’t notice any change but the rest of the world that interacts with ORGANIC will notice a change.

First, it has strengthened traceability from the farm to the end user. Basically, all supply chains in agriculture are becoming more transparent but organic is trying to be even more transparent so that the consumer feels like they know you and what you do. It is like you are becoming the farmer around the corner from them and so they trust you.

Another important point is that the authority that USDA Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) has to both oversee and enforce organic trade in the US and abroad has been strengthened. Basically, they have both the rules and the ability to enforce those rules against organic violators.

There are more aspects of SOE but another one I think is important – they have significantly reduced the number of uncertified entities in the organic supply chain. Specifically, they are requiring both importers and exporters to be certified and that they maintain traceability.

Lastly, these are things an individual organic producer needs to be aware of and be ready for starting this year.

  • Unannounced inspections. Your certifier will be required to do unannounced inspections on 5% of the operations it certifies – that could be you! If you say, “there is no way they can do an unannounced inspection on my farm!” Well, you won’t be certified any more….
  • Mass-balances, in that quantities of organic product and ingredients produced or purchased account for organic product and ingredients used, stored, sold, or transported; and that organic products and ingredients are traceable by the operation from the time of purchase or acquisition through production to sale or transport; and that the certifying agent can verify compliance back to the last certified operation… Example: you plant 100 lbs. of seed per acre on 100 acres then you should have receipts for 10,000 lbs. of seed.

If you want to read more then I recommend this “Side by Side” publication that shows what was and what has changed. Strengthening Organic Enforcement: Comparison of Old and New Regulatory Text

Educator Achievement Award

I know it is a pretty rough looking crowd in the picture above, but I will have to say I am very proud of the honor!

Keith McIlvain (left) and Jim Farley (right), Texas Ag Industries Association (TAIA) Board members are shown presenting me (Bob Whitney – in the middle) the 2023 TAIA “Professionals for Texas Agriculture”, Educator Achievement Award in Recognition of Outstanding Contributions to TAIA Educational Programs.

The Texas Ag Industries Association represents the hundreds of agriculture companies in Texas that work closely with all aspects of commercial agriculture.  Members meet on a regular basis to decide on issues that affect agriculture companies in Texas and to learn about new and innovative ideas within agriculture that can benefit TAIA member’s customers and clients.

I know and work with many of the members and have worked with the organization over many years. They are a great group of folks, and I am indebted to them for this recognition. Thank you!

LockDown Organic Herbicide for Northern Jointvetch and maybe Hemp Sesbania control in rice!

In meetings with organic rice producers there is a common theme – we need to increase organic nitrogen fertility and control weeds in rice!  The two most often mentioned weeds in rice (outside weedy or red rice) is Hemp Sesbania and Northern Jointvetch. 

These weeds are very similar in appearance, at least as very young plants and both are problems throughout the semi-tropical areas of Texas to Mississippi.  Hemp sesbania can grow to be so bad that you can’t get the combine through, and those portions of the field are just abandoned.

In doing a little research I found that the fungus Colletotrichum gloeosporioides f. sp. Aeschynomene packaged and labeled as LockDown Bioherbicide, is very effective on Northern Jointvetch and has been effectively used in Arkansas rice fields for many years.  Now Arkansas rice farmers don’t have a real problem with Hemp Sesbania but in researching the fungus I have found several research reports that show this fungus can also be very effective against Hemp Sesbania (download report below) if used with Silwet L-77 Super Spreader (or equivalent OMRI Approved spreader/sticker).

The company that formulates LockDown herbicide is small and orders for the bio-herbicide fungus have to be made in advance so that it can be “brewed” and ready to apply.  Cost is less than $15 an acre. It is a bioherbicide with nothing but fungal material in the product. Certified organic operations would need to get approval from their certifier before using. (LockDown label below)

If any organic rice farmer is interested in applying LockDown Herbicide to control Northern Jointvetch and/or experimenting on Hemp Sesbania control, please let me know.  We will be getting an order ready and picking up the Lockdown Bio-Herbicide for growers later this spring.

Organic “Get Together” in the South Plains, February 21

The Organic “Get Together” will be held on Tuesday, February 21, at The Armory on 101 Webb Street in Brownfield, Texas.  Registration starts at 1 pm and program starts at 1:30 pm.

This “Get Together” will be a chance to hear all about organic cotton, peanuts, markets, crop problems and solutions, organic programs and more.  Speakers will include Dr. Justin Tuggle on organic crop updates, Dr. Carol Kelly with a cotton variety development update, Dr. Dylan Wann to discuss IPG peanut development, Dr. Emi Kimura with a crop overview, Dr. John Cason with an update on interesting developments in peanut drought tolerance, Dr. Holly Davis with a discussion on management and use of organic pest products, Brandi Chandler with an update on organic certification and Bob Whitney with organic program updates. 

Organic product companies will be introduced and give a short update.  These companies include Certis, Pro Farmer, APF, TPPB, Texas Earth, Green Dirt, Kunafin, IPG, Golden, Dragon Line, Nature Safe, and All-Star Peanut.

The “Get Together” will start with registration at 1 pm at The Armory and the program begins at 1:30 pm and lasts till 4 pm. No meal, just a snack break is planned! 

Texas TOPP (Transition to Organic Partnership Program)

Texas TOPP is a five-year partnership program designed to effectively recruit, train, mentor and continually advise farmers who want to transition to organic production.  Its overall goals are to build up successful Organic Farmer to Farmer Mentorships that are a part of a larger Organic Community Building program.  Within this community will be developed organic resources available to both transition and certified growers, mentors, allied industry, and agencies that provide the needed help and support to a growing Texas organic movement.  This Technical Assistance and Training will benefit both certified organic and transition organic while strengthening the overall organic program. Outside of this effort and yet integral to long term success is a Workforce Training and Development effort that focuses on how best to train future organic industry professionals.

Texas TOPP as a partnership program will be led by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and the overall AgriLife Organic Program but with special partnerships that include Texas’ higher education institutions, USDA agencies, nonprofit organizations, and farm associations.  Efforts of all participants will interact and impact conventional farmers, transitional organic and certified organic farmers and the many allied industry supporters of organic in Texas

Texas TOPP will emphasize and solidify a commitment to organic agriculture by Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension and help ensure the future of organic within Texas agriculture for generations to come. More information will be coming but Texas Topp has already begun!

Common mallow (Malva neglecta) – An increasing weed problem with compost use?

As compost and manure use is more common because of the high cost of chemical fertilizers we are seeing some of the weeds that are associated with cattle feeding starting to appear in our fields. This is one of the culprits Common Mallow and it is one you can easily recognize – it gets everywhere!

This past spring, I bought some compost to use in my yard and garden areas and it has been a great product to use. Of course, we have not had a lot of rain or cooler weather since late spring, and I never noticed any real weed seeds from the compost. I was very hopeful I had escaped the problem until fall! When we got some rains, and some cooler weather here comes the mallow with a vengeance.

The fortunate solution came at Christmas time when 8-degree weather killed it to the ground and no more has come up since. Does that mean my invasion of mallow is over – far from it! It will be back in spring and with a vengeance but a hoe or even an organic weed control product will take it if I start very early.