National Organic Standards Board
The National Organic Standards Board is an advisory board that makes recommendations to the United States Secretary of Agriculture on organic food and products. Members are appointed by the Secretary and these make recommendations, one of the most important of which is to review and develop the National List of Approved and Prohibited Substances.
In accordance with the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 within the 1990 Farm Bill, the United States Secretary of Agriculture set up a 15-member board to make recommendations on policies regulating the production and distribution of organic food and products. Currently, the members serving on the National Organic Standards Board represent a broad spectrum of sectors involved with the regulation and enforcement of organic standards. Subcommittees include: Crops; Livestock; Handling; Compliance, Accreditation, and Certification; and Policy Development. Members can serve on multiple committees at the same time and the full chart of assignments can be found at USDA National Organic Program website. The first members of the board were appointed by USDA Secretary Edward Madigan in January 1992. Board members serve five year terms.
- Jay Feldman; Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides/National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides and member on the Organic Consumers Association Policy and Advisory Board.
- Joe Dickson; Food, Organic and Environmental Quality Standards Coordinator for Whole Foods Market.
- Annette Riherd of Aunt Nettie’s Herbs and local and organic food advocate. Subsequently resigned.
- Dr. Wendy Fulwider, Animal Husbandry Specialist for Organic Valley Family of Farms.
- John Foster, Senior Manager of Quality, Food Safety & Organic Integrity for Earthbound Farm.
Past members include Campbell Soup Company executive and organic expert Mr. Steven DeMuri.
Duties of the Board
The duties of the NOSB board members are outlined in the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA). The six duties listed in the National Organic Standards Board Policy and Procedures Manual relate to general responsibilities that the Board has in order to ensure regulations are enforced in the organic farming community as well as specific aids that the Board swears to provide in case of an agricultural emergency. The Board is trusted to provide the Secretary of Agriculture with legitimate recommendations which implement the policies outlined in the OFPA. One of their most important duties is the review and development of the National List of Approved and Prohibited Substances. Before the official National List is recognized, the Board must have the knowledge of any and all “botanical pesticides” utilized and decide whether they should be included on the list of prohibited substances. Members advise the Secretary, but are not responsible for overseeing the testing of “organically produced agricultural products”, which could lead to “unavoidable” environmental contamination or health hazards. Their last duty is concerned with allowing exemptions to regulations in the case of an outbreak of harmful pest or disease that might qualify as an agricultural emergency and require more extreme pesticide use or disease control.
In fulfillment of all of the above duties, the Board is held to a code of Care, Loyalty, and Obedience. These each oblige that members be well-informed of the necessary information required to advise the Secretary and recommend appropriate policy implementation. The members assume that information is provided by both the National Organic Program as well as outside sources when appropriate. Members must always make decisions in the interest of the general public and neither a separate entity nor an individual. As outlined in their duties, loyalty to the organic community further guarantees responsible decision making and quality recommendations. In cases where corporate and private financial interests are present, members must discuss all details of the transaction in order to ensure fairness. Obedience to “the laws and regulations governing organic production, processing, and marketing” with regards to both state and federal entities is the last general duty of the Board and inarguably significant to their objectivity in policies pertaining to the highest level of public interest.
It is apparent in the history of final recommendations that extensive research is done on every case and that outside knowledge is often sought in order to ensure the most comprehensive management scheme is created. General standards the Board must adhere to when reviewing policies are listed below: 
“USDA National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) definition, April 1995 “Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony.
“‘Organic’ is a labeling term that denotes products produced under the authority of the Organic Foods Production Act. The principal guidelines for organic production are to use materials and practices that enhance the ecological balance of natural systems and that integrate the parts of the farming system into an ecological whole.
“Organic agriculture practices cannot ensure that products are completely free of residues; however, methods are used to minimize pollution from air, soil and water.
“Organic food handlers, processors and retailers adhere to standards that maintain the integrity of organic agricultural products. The primary goal of organic agriculture is to optimize the health and productivity of interdependent communities of soil life, plants, animals and people.”