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Case Study:

Providing Rulemaking Support for the USDA National Organic Program

Nexight Group has worked with the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) for more than five years to publish high-priority updates to the USDA organic regulations. We provide support throughout the entire rulemaking process to help develop stronger, clearer regulations that support the needs of the growing organic market.

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The Challenge

Technical Subject Matter, Complex Timelines, High Priorities

The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) develops and enforces national standards for the production and handling of organic food. Through a process called rulemaking, NOP regularly updates the organic standards to keep pace with the growing and changing organic market. Rulemaking is a complex process that can take years to complete, and the organic regulations are both highly technical and very broad in scope. NOP often needs to publish multiple rules addressing high-priority issues within a short window of opportunity—recently including two rules that were among the largest, most significant, and most-anticipated rules in NOP’s history. They needed a partner who could navigate the complex rulemaking process, expertly analyze technical material, write and communicate clearly, and ultimately ensure that these critical regulatory updates were published on time.

Our Solution

Comprehensive, Flexible Support Throughout All Stages of Rulemaking

Nexight Group has supported the full cycle of NOP rule development and publication—including early policy research and analysis, proposed rule drafting, clearance through the USDA and the Office of Management and Budget, public comment analysis, final rule drafting, and public outreach and communication. We provide full-spectrum rulemaking support to keep rules on track, ease management of rulemaking challenges, elevate clarity and accuracy, and help NOP solve their toughest policy challenges.

Project Management and Strategy

  • Nexight devises and executes a project management strategy for each rule, helping manage the process, keeping rules on track, and identifying risks at all times—from early stages of proposed rule drafting through publication of the final rule.
  • We coordinate policy research, analysis, writing, review, and revision among dozens of authors and reviewers; monitor, track, and report the rule’s progress to NOP leadership; and assess and mitigate potential risks and roadblocks.

Writing and Editing

  • Nexight’s expert team of writers and editors are involved from the start, continuously reviewing and refining both proposed and final rules and supplemental analyses such as economic impact analyses. To maximize clarity and comprehension, we focus on plain language, consistent use of language and style across all documents, and application of federal rule writing and style guidelines.
  • Our analysts research policy options, guidance, regulation, legislation, technical documents, industry practice, and more to support development of policy options and decision making.
  • Nexight’s skilled regulatory writers also develop first drafts of rule and preamble language to help keep projects on track under tight timelines and fill gaps in coverage.

Public Comment Analysis

  • Analysis of public comment is a critical part of the rulemaking process. Nexight designs processes that fit the uniqueness of each NOP rule, which can generate high volumes of long and complex comments that require a commanding understanding of organic policy.
  • Nexight has analyzed more than 45,000 public comments across multiple rules. We:
    • Organize the public’s feedback into comment databases
    • Summarize comments
    • Analyze trends around dozens of distinct issues draft issue papers that identify potential policy options
    • Write responses to comments for use in final rules

Communication and Outreach

  • Using our expert knowledge of NOP and its audiences, Nexight develops communication and outreach strategies for NOP rules, including timetables, stakeholder analyses, and plans for developing specific types of content to reach each of NOP’s unique audiences.
  • To effectively communicate with organic farmers, ranchers, certifiers, trade associations, retailers, and consumers, we develop unique outreach content for NOP rules, including:
    • Fact sheets
    • Webinars
    • Social media content
    • Educational content for online learning tools
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Nexight’s continuous and comprehensive support has helped NOP publish multiple significant rules, including two landmark rules in 2023:

  • The Strengthening Organic Enforcement rule is the largest and most significant update to the organic regulations in the NOP’s 20-plus year history. The rule bolsters the USDA’s ability to enforce the organic standards and protects farmers and consumers from fraud.
  • The Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards rule is one of the most highly anticipated and highest-priority organic rules. The rule will ensure that organic farmers consistently follow practices that support the health and well-being of organic livestock.

Our rulemaking support has helped ensure that NOP publishes timely, accurate, clear, and easy-to-understand rules that effectively meet USDA’s goals of supporting American farms and businesses, elevating the organic label’s trusted reputation, and supporting continued growth of the organic market.

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