Effective October 30, 2014, the NOP has added biodegradable bio-based mulch as an allowed substance for use on organic farms. This is a great example of the NOP responding to the needs of organic farmers. Farmers and supporters, including VOF, have long been advocating for its allowed use, as benefits include reduced plastic landfill waste, reduced labor costs, and reduced removal and disposal costs.
However, desipite being “bio-based,” the mulch is still considered a synthetic, and so it had to go through a rigorous review by the National Organic Standards Board before its use could be considered acceptable on organic farms. Approved synthetic mulches must meet strict criteria on compostability, biodegradability, and biobased content. In addition, it must be produced without organisms or feedstock derived from GMOs.
Only generic materials are added to the list of approved substances, therefore currently there is no brand name biodegradable biobased mulch approved for use. Clarity regarding which specific products will be allowed will be forthcoming. VOF-certified producers can only use brand name products that have been reviewed and approved for use in organic production by OMRI, WSDA or VOF. Don’t buy any biodegradable mulch unless and until it is on one of the above “approved” lists. We will keep our farmers updated on this issue as it evolves!
[by Nicole Dehne, VOF Certification Program Administrator]