Organic Milestones

Biodiversity conservation was initially ignored in the National Organic Program (NOP) regulations when they were first published back in 2002. We've changed that.

2021

WFA Submits Draft Native Ecosystem Guidance to NOP, and Publishes Native Ecosystem Toolkit and Positive Organic Indicators and Red Flags

To jumpstart the National Organic Program’s (NOP) process of implementing the National Organic Standard Board’s (NOSB) native ecosystem recommended rule, WFA submits Draft Native Ecosystem Guidance for them to consider adopting into their Handbook when the rule comes out.

We created a complementary Organic Native Ecosystem Application and Verification Toolkit that gives examples of how to use online and hard-copy tools to determine if a native ecosystem is present or not, and we also created a set of short videos to show how to use many of the tools.

On a related topic, WFA created Positive Organic Indicators and Red Flags for organic certifiers. While most certifiers now mention biodiversity conservation in their Organic System Plans, many do a poor job of verifying that during the inspection process. This document teaches the inspector what to look and report.

2018

NOSB Recommends Rule that Protects Native Ecosystems

NOSB protects native ecosystems!

WFA and partners successfully encouraged the NOSB to recommend to the NOP to create a new rule that protects Native Ecosystems at their April 2018 meeting:

Recommended Addition to §205.2 Definitions

Native Ecosystems: Native ecosystems can be recognized in the field as retaining both dominant and characteristic plant species as described by established classifications of natural vegetation. These will tend to be on lands that have not been previously cultivated, cleared, drained or otherwise irrevocably altered. However, they could include areas that have recovered expected plant species composition and structure.

Recommended Addition to §205.200 General

  • A site supporting a native ecosystem cannot be certified for organic production as provided for under this regulation for a period of 10 years from the date of conversion.

Prior to the NOSB recommendation, we worked closely with NatureServe, an NGO built by The Nature Conservancy that provides the scientific information and tools needed for effective conservation action. Because many of the larger organic advocacy organizations looked to us for messaging and advice, we published two Issue Briefs describing our concerns, arguments and actions supporters could take to move this issue forward. We and our partners generated more than 500 public comments for the April 2018 meeting, and submitted our own written comments with 33 endorsing organizations. 

We continued to assist organic certifiers with updating their organic system plans. We assisted certifiers who collectively inspect more than 75% (20,000) US organic farmers. 

2017

WFA Assists Certifiers with Updating Their OSPs and Publishes OSP Assessment Report

We assisted organic US-based certifiers who inspect over half of the organic farms in the country with updating their Organic System Plans (OSPs), in order to help them comply with the NOP Natural Resources and Biodiversity Conservation Guidance. We also conducted 5 organic inspector trainings on biodiversity guidance. In order to understand the current status of compliance with the NOP Guidance, we assessed these certifiers' Organic System Plans (farm questionnaires). Click here to download the OSP report and read our recommendations. 

WFA works to eliminate the incentive to convert Native Ecosystems/High Conservation Value Areas to organic production. We encouraged the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to publish a Discussion Document on this subject for their April 2017 meeting. Over 450 public comments weighed in on this issue, with WFA in the lead.  The NOSB released a proposed rule change using the term "Native Ecosystems." WFA and our partners submitted 350 comments on how to improve the language by defining native ecosystems and fixing a loophole. 

2016

NOP Releases Final Natural Resources/Biodiversity Guidance/ WFA Publishes 2nd Edition of Organic Biodiversity Guide, and Biodiversity Continuum

The NOP publishes the Guidance!

Click here to read the final NOP 5020 Natural Resources and Biodiversity Conservation Guidance. 

The NOP explained its thinking about the final Guidance by also publishing its Responses to Comments regarding the draft Guidance. One of the most important sections states: "Several commenters pointed out that this guidance needs to be very clear about NOP’s expectations for producers to implement conservation practices above those that are required by the other sections of the standards, notably §205.203(b), requiring crop rotations, cover crops, and the application of plant and animal materials, and §205.203(c), requiring producers to maintain or improve soil organic matter content without causing contamination of crops, soil or water. Some comments suggested the guidance should clarify that in order to maintain or improve all the natural resources as defined under §205.2, including soil, water, wetlands, woodlands, and wildlife, and conserve biodiversity, a comprehensive approach to natural resource management is necessary and goes beyond maintaining soil or water quality. In response, we updated this section of the guidance to include reference to § 205.2, the definition of Natural Resources of the Operation. Certified operations are required to implement measures that support natural resource conservation and biodiversity in addition to maintaining soil or water quality."  

WFA publishes How to Conserve Biodiversity on the Farm: Actions to Take on a Continuum from Simple to Complex, a publication for all farmers and for certifiers.

WFA publishes the second edition of Biodiversity Conservation: An Organic Farmer’s and Certifier’s Guide.

The NOP also updated their Organic System Plan for crops, with NCAT's help, to be streamlined. See pages 4-5 for the Natural Resources of the Operation and Biodiversity Conservation Management section. Read the new plan here: NOP Streamlined OSP for Crop Production.

2015

NOP Releases Draft Natural Resources Guidance

After many years of hard work, WFA had another success. In 2015, the NOP released a draft of the Natural Resources Conservation Guidance. While we were happy it was out, we submitted suggested improvements.

Click here to see the NOP's Draft of the Natural Resources Conservation Guidance. 

Click here to read WFA's and partner's comments submitted a to further strengthen this draft.

2014

WFA & IOIA Survey Organic Inspector on Biodiversity Knowledge

Wild Farm Alliance and International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA) collaborated on surveys and interviews of over 50 inspectors and certification reviewers, as part of a joint project to integrate biodiversity and natural resources conservation as a fundamental principle in organic inspections.

According to those who responded, an average of only about 60% of organic farmers understand biodiversity conservation as part of compliance for their certification. While 79% of those who responded said biodiversity conservation is integrated into the organic inspection and/or certification review process, only 55% integrate it as foundational principle of organic agriculture. All respondents reported a basic understanding of biodiversity conservation, and 40% of those rated themselves as having a deep understanding. 94% would like more about non-compliances and how NRCS and other conservation programs work.

Read more about the Surveys and interviews of over 50 inspectors and certification reviewers.

2012

WFA Submits Draft Biodiversity Guidance for NOP’s Consideration/ NOP Adds Natural Resources Standard to Their Accreditation Checklist

WFA and partners submitted Draft Biodiversity Conservation Guidance for consideration of the National Organic Program (NOP) to adopt into their Handbook.

Another breakthrough occurs--The NOP includes the natural resources §205.200 in several of their Accreditation Checklists they use to accredit organic certifiers. Many organic certifiers who were denying this was in the regulations have now changed their stance to supporting it!

Read WFA's Draft Biodiversity Conservation Guidance. 

2009

NOSB Recommends Comprehensive Biodiversity Actions

The ice starts melting this year. Once the NOSB saw WFA's above compliance document, they took a fervent stance recommending that the National Organic Program (NOP) comprehensively address biodiversity conservation, from farmers and certifiers to the NOP itself.

Read the NOSB Comprehensive Biodiversity Recommendation to the NOP.

2008

WFA Creates Biodiversity Compliance Assessment

In order to help organic farmers include biodiversity into their Organic System Plans and to assist certifiers in addressing verification, we created a compliance assessment document.

A quick one-page overview examines the most problematic biodiversity issues, while the rest of the document provides a slate of beneficial practices that comply with the rule.

Download WFA's Biodiversity Compliance Assessment in Organic Agricultural Systems.

2005

NOSB Adopts Model Farm Plan/WFA Publishes Organic Biodiversity Guides

WFA brings attention to the organic world that biodiversity conservation is part of the National Organic Program (NOP) regulations.

We began by working with a broad base of organic experts across the country to create a set of biodiversity inspection questions that the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) then adopted into their model farm plan.

We also published Biodiversity Conservation guides for organic farmers and certifiers. The guides lay out a range of farm management possibilities for a variety of situations that maintain and enhance biodiversity at the farm level and contribute to biodiversity conservation outside of farm borders at the regional or watershed level. 

Learn more about the first biodiversity conservation additions into the NOSB's Organic System Plan Template.