August 18, 2016

Organic Compost Purchase Deadline Set for August 22

Western Growers urges organic producers that rely on composted green waste in whole or in part to consider purchasing or contracting to purchase compost from their suppliers before August 22, 2016.

On June 20, 2016, the federal 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. The Court vacated the National Organic Program’s Guidance 5016: The Allowance of Green Waste in Organic Production Systems.

The vacatur is effective as of August 22, 2016. Any green waste compost purchased or used between 2010 and August 22, 2016, is grandfathered in and not subject to this Order. The August 22 deadline is quickly approaching and members who are concerned should purchase the compost as soon as possible. This will ensure such compost meets the federal court’s deadline for being treated by a certifier under the old Guidance 5016. The compost does not need to be used prior to August 22, but the purchase contracts must be effective prior to that deadline. Western Growers recommends consulting with your certifier and attorney prior to purchasing or contracting.

After August 22, certifying agents must gather information from the compost supplier and/or from the organic producer to ensure that compost is compliant. Information may include types and source of feedstocks, results of bioassay testing or other quality assurance testing from the compost supplier or results of any on-farm bioassay testing. The information gathered must be sufficient to verify compliance with the USDA organic regulations. Any compost with residues of prohibited substances will likely be deemed non-compliant and could jeopardize organic status.

Western Growers previously weighed in on the case having filed an amicus brief to show that the sudden withdrawal of the Guidance would harm organic agriculture, composting operations and consumer. For questions, contact Hank Giclas at (949) 885-2205 or Dennis Nuxoll at (202) 296-0191.