WASHINGTON – Public comment is being invited by the US Department of Agriculture on draft guidance issued by the National Organic Program (NOP). Topics addressed include: compost and vermicompost in organic crop production; wild crop harvesting; outdoor access for organic poultry; commingling and contamination prevention in organic production and handling; and use of chlorine materials in organic production and handling.

Guidance documents, available on the NOP Web site (www.ams.usda.gov/NOPDraftGuidance) in draft form, are intended to assist those who own, manage or certify organic operations in carrying out their responsibilities by providing a uniform method for complying with the national organic standards and conducting audits and inspections. The topics covered in these documents also address recommendations issued by the USDA Office of Inspector General in a March 2010 audit report of the NOP.

All comments submitted by Dec. 1, will be considered by the NOP before issuing final guidance for inclusion in the Program Handbook. The public can view the documents and provide comments through the preferred method at http://www.regulations.gov (document number AMS-NOP-10-0048) or by mail to Toni Strother, Agricultural Marketing Specialist, National Organic Program, USDA–AMS–NOP, 1400 Independence Ave., SW., Room 2646 So., Ag Stop 0268, Washington, DC 20250–0268.

Once finalized, the guidance documents will be incorporated into the Program Handbook: Guidance and Instructions for Accredited Certifying Agents and Certified Operations, which serves as a central reference for clarification about NOP standards and best program practices. The current edition of the Program Handbook is available online at http://www.ams.usda.gov/NOPProgramHandbook or in print upon request.

The NOP will announce a notice of availability of final guidance when available. For further information, contact the NOP at (202) 720-3252 or NOP.guidance@ams.usda.gov, or visit their website at www.ams.usda.gov/nop.

“The organic community has had to navigate some complex issues,” said Miles McEvoy, deputy administrator of the NOP. “Our goal is to provide clear guidance to ensure consistent implementation of the organic standards.”