[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 248 (Monday, December 29, 2014)]
[Pages 78025-78026]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-30303]

                                                Federal Register

This section of the FEDERAL REGISTER contains documents other than rules 
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delegations of authority, filing of petitions and applications and agency 
statements of organization and functions are examples of documents 
appearing in this section.


Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 248 / Monday, December 29, 2014 / 

[[Page 78025]]


Agricultural Marketing Service

[Doc. No. AMS-NOP-14-0062; NOP-14-01]

National Organic Program: Notice of Draft Guidance for Accredited 
Certifying Agents, Certified Operations and Applicants for Organic 

AGENCY: Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice of availability of draft guidance with request for 


SUMMARY: The National Organic Program (NOP) is announcing the 
availability of a draft guidance document intended for use by 
accredited certifying agents and certified operations. The draft 
guidance document is entitled as follows: Natural Resources and 
Biodiversity Conservation for Certified Organic Operations (NOP 5020). 
This draft guidance document is intended to inform the public of NOP's 
current thinking on this topic. The Agricultural Marketing Service 
(AMS) invites organic producers, handlers, certifying agents, material 
evaluation programs, consumers and other interested parties to submit 
comments about these guidance provisions.
    A notice of availability of final guidance on this topic will be 
issued upon its final approval. Once finalized, this guidance document 
will be available from the NOP through, ``The Program Handbook: 
Guidance and Instructions for Accredited Certifying Agents (ACAs) and 
Certified Operations.'' This Handbook provides those who own, manage, 
or certify organic operations with guidance and instructions that can 
assist them in complying with the USDA organic regulations. The current 
addition of the Program Handbook is available online at: http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop or in print upon request.

DATES: Comments must be submitted on or before February 27, 2015.

ADDRESSES: Submit written requests for hard copies of this draft 
guidance document to Stacy Jones King, Agricultural Marketing 
Specialist, National Organic Program, USDA-AMS-NOP, 1400 Independence 
Ave. SW., Room 2646--So., Ag Stop 0268, Washington, DC 20250-0268. See 
the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section for electronic access to the 
draft guidance documents.
    Interested persons may submit comments on this draft guidance 
document using the following procedures:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. 
Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
     Mail: Stacy Jones King, Agricultural Marketing Specialist, 
National Organic Program, USDA-AMS-NOP, 1400 Independence Ave. SW., 
Room 2646--So., Ag Stop 0268, Washington, DC 20250-0268.
    Written comments responding to this request should be identified 
with the document number AMS-NOP-14-0062; NOP-14-01. You should clearly 
indicate your position and the reasons supporting your position. If you 
are suggesting changes to the draft guidance document, you should 
include recommended language changes, as appropriate, along with any 
relevant supporting documentation.
    USDA intends to make available all comments, including names and 
addresses when provided, regardless of submission procedure used, on 
www.regulations.gov and at USDA, AMS, NOP, Room 2646--South building, 
1400 Independence Ave. SW., Washington, DC, from 9 a.m. to noon and 
from 1 to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday (except official Federal 
holidays). Persons wanting to visit the USDA South building to view 
comments from the public to this notice are requested to make an 
appointment by calling (202) 720-3252.

Director, Standards Division, National Organic Program (NOP), USDA-AMS-
NOP, 1400 Independence Ave. SW., Room 2646--So., Ag Stop 0268, 
Washington, DC 20250-0268, Telephone: (202) 720-3252, Email: 
NOP.Guidance@ams.usda.gov, or visit the NOP Web site at: 


I. Background

    The draft guidance document announced through this notice was 
developed in response to a May 2009 request from the National Organic 
Standards Board (NOSB) that AMS clarify the requirements and 
limitations of the general natural resources and biodiversity 
conservation requirement of the USDA organic regulations (7 CFR part 
205). 7 CFR. 205.200 requires operations to ``maintain or improve the 
natural resources of the operation, including soil and water quality.'' 
Section 205.2 of the USDA organic regulations defines ``natural 
resources of the operation'' as the ``physical, hydrological, and 
biological features of a production operation, including soil, water, 
wetlands, woodlands, and wildlife.''
    This draft guidance provides examples of production practices that 
support these conservation principles and demonstrate compliance with 7 
CFR. 205.200. This guidance also clarifies: (1) The certified organic 
operator's responsibility to select, carry out, and record production 
practices that ``maintain or improve the natural resources of the 
operation;'' (2) the accredited certifying agent's responsibility to 
verify operator compliance with this requirement; and (3) how domestic 
organic operations that participate in a USDA Natural Resources 
Conservation Service (NRCS) program and the NOP can reduce their 
paperwork burdens.

II. Significance of Guidance

    This draft guidance document is being issued in accordance with the 
Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Bulletin on Agency Good Guidance 
Practices (GGPs) (January 25, 2007, 72 FR 3432-3440).
    The purpose of GGPs is to ensure that program guidance documents 
are developed with adequate public participation, are readily available 
to the public, and are not applied as binding requirements. The draft 
guidance, when finalized, will represent the NOP's current thinking on 
these topics. It does not create or confer any rights for, or on, any 
person and does not operate to bind the NOP or the public. Guidance

[[Page 78026]]

documents are intended to provide a uniform method for operations to 
comply that can reduce the burden of developing their own methods and 
simplify audits and inspections. Alternative approaches that can 
demonstrate compliance with the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA), as 
amended (7 U.S.C. 6501-6522), and its implementing regulations are also 
acceptable. The NOP strongly encourages industry to discuss alternative 
approaches with the NOP before implementing them to avoid unnecessary 
or wasteful expenditures of resources and to ensure the proposed 
alternative approach complies with the Act and its implementing 

III. Electronic Access

    Persons with access to Internet may obtain the draft guidance at 
either NOP's Web site at http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop or http://www.regulations.gov.
    Requests for hard copies of the draft guidance documents can be 
obtained by submitting a written request to the person listed in the 
ADDRESSES section of this Notice.

    Authority:  7 U.S.C. 6501-6522.

    Dated: December 22, 2014.
Rex A. Barnes,
Associate Administrator, Agricultural Marketing Service.
[FR Doc. 2014-30303 Filed 12-24-14; 8:45 am]