June 23, 2016

Organic Compost Court Ruling Leaves Farmers in Limbo

This past Monday, a federal district court issued a decision in the Center for Environmental Health v. Vilsack case striking down a five-year-old federal Guidance document allowing the use of composted municipal green waste on organic farms in California. 

Western Growers previously weighed in on the case having filed an amicus brief that laid out the argument that the sudden withdrawal of the Guidance would harm organic agriculture, composting operations and consumers in California.

Monday’s decision vacated the National Organic Program’s (NOP) Guidance 5016: The Allowance of Green Waste in Organic Production Systems. The Guidance already prohibited use of compost that was shown to contaminate soil, crops or water, but plaintiffs argued that this was not strict enough under the pre-2011 organic rules. While the court stopped short of agreeing with plaintiffs, the court found that USDA did not gather sufficient comment on the 2011 legal guidance and ordered them back to the drawing board. USDA now has 60 days to issue new Guidance and get comment before the August 22 deadline.

Following the ruling, Western Growers issued a statement expressing disappointment in the decision.