Just about every public comment at the hearings of the National Organic Standards Board begins with a thank you to the panelists. For their hard work. For all the time they put in on complicated issues. For the members who do this in their spare time. For sifting through issues and then making recommendations to the USDA on organic regulations.
Then the speakers, who have five minutes (and amazingly try to do power point presentations in that time) invariably turn to the USDA's National Organic Program staff who sit at a side table at the meeting. They thank them too. Because you are understaffed. Because we understand why it takes so long to get things done.
And then they make their comments.
One issue, though, has taken a particularly long time to get completed, trying the patience of even the most patient petitioners. Two years ago, perhaps a hundred or more dairy farmers descended on an NOSB meeting in Washington, DC, and asked that the regulations on pasture be refined so that all cows meet a minimum hurdle on grazing (preventing feedlot organic farms). This followed recommendations made since at least 2000 for the same regulation.
Two years ago, the NOSB sent its most recent recommendation on the issue to the National Organic Program: That cows graze for at least 120 days a year and obtain 30 percent of their nutrition from fresh grass.
Then the farmers waited ... and waited.
They were told last year that the regulation would be completed soon. Now, the National Organic Program said at this week's NOSB meeting that the pasture regulation should be complete by the end of the year.
To which one cynic whispered to me: "Which year?"