NOP Notice Regarding Sodium Nitrate

(September 21, 2012) On October 21, 2012, there will be a change to the status of sodium nitrate used in organic production.  On September 12, 2012, the National Organic Program (NOP) issued a notice to the organic industry regarding the use of sodium nitrate (also known as Chilean nitrate) in organic crop production.  You may view the notice here:

http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5100372

The current notation for sodium nitrate is due to expire from the list of natural substances prohibited for use in organic crop production (Section 205.602(g)) on October 21, 2012.  The expiration of the current notation will effectively mean that sodium nitrate may be used in organic crop production without a specific restriction on the amount used: however, producers must continue to comply with all requirements of the soil fertility and crop nutrient management practice standard. Although the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) recommended that sodium nitrate become a completely prohibited nonsynthetic substance, the NOP has not issued rule-making to carry out this recommendation as of yet. 

According to the NOP notice, operators are to do as follows to ensure continued compliance with regard to the use of sodium nitrate:

Prior to October 21, 2012, operations must not:

  • Meet more than 20 percent of an organic crop's nitrogen requirement with sodium nitrate. Regulatory reference: 7CFR section 205.602(g)

Beginning October 21, 2012, operations using sodium nitrate must still:

  • Maintain or improve the natural resources of the operation, including soil and water quality. Regulatory reference: 7CFR section 205.200 
  • Comply with crop nutrient and soil fertility requirements. Regulatory reference: 7CFR section 205.203

OMRI policy for sodium nitrate in OMRI Listed products

In order to facilitate continuity in the organic industry, OMRI will continue to follow our current procedures and requirements for products containing sodium nitrate. OMRI will continue to require that sodium nitrate be declared on the product label so that end users are aware of it and can comply with any restrictions and international equivalency requirements.  OMRI will also re-issue certificates for products containing sodium nitrate with the following revised restriction:

Pending additional rule-making, the use of sodium nitrate shall follow these stipulations: Before October 21, 2012, operations shall not meet more than 20 percent of an organic crop's nitrogen requirement with sodium nitrate. Beginning October 21, 2012, operators using sodium nitrate shall use it in a manner that maintains or improves the natural resources of the operation, including soil and water quality, and comply with crop nutrient and soil fertility requirements. A proposed rule regarding the use of sodium nitrate is forthcoming. (NOP Notice 12-1)  

While this is a departure from typical restriction language used at OMRI, we feel it is important to communicate this unusual situation as clearly as possible to end users.  OMRI will be reissuing certificates to those suppliers of products containing sodium nitrate to reflect this language as soon as possible.

Please contact OMRI Program Director, Lindsay Fernandez-Salvador (lindsayfs@omri.org), or the National Organic Program (NOP) with any questions.