June 26, 2006 | General

What Goes On In The Market For Compost?

BioCycle June 2006, Vol. 47, No. 6, p. 41
Commercial composters need to understand how state agriculture departments can affect how they do business – from tonnage fees to minimum (or maximum) product standards.
Ron Alexander

Many BioCycle readers have already been introduced to AAPFCO by past articles which described the American Association of Plant Food Control Officials (AAPFCO) as a volunteer organization of state Department of Agriculture (DOA) officials. More specifically, the organization represents the state Control Officials who regulate the distribution and sale of fertilizer, soil amendments and liming agents in each U.S. state, its territories, as well as Canada. The organization creates model laws and regulation in order to assist interstate commerce and consumer protection, by requiring “truth in labeling,” and promoting uniform regulation from state to state. It should be noted, however, that their model laws, regulations and Statements of Uniform Interpretation and Policy (SUIP) are created to provide guidance to states – they are not forced upon them. Composters should understand that state DOAs (AAPFCO members) can greatly impact the way they do business – from requiring them to pay tonnage and other registration fees, to creating minimum product standards, to changing the way we label our products.
Over the past 10 years, working through the Market Development Committee of the U.S. Compost Council (USCC) and my own company, great headway has been made in certain compost related initiatives. With this said, the following is an update of AAPFCO committee activities, following the winter 2005-06 meeting.
Uniform Bills Committee
The Uniform Bills Committee met to discuss a variety of subjects, with the most relevant to composters being the “Rules and Regulations for Bulk Compost.” First, it should be noted that a tentative version of this document text has been published in the AAPFCO Publication 59 (which is available for purchase through AAPFCO – ). The “Rules and Regulations for Bulk Compost” will be model regulation, under the Uniform State Fertilizer Bill, which will allow for the more accurate regulation of compost when nutrient claims are made. The “tentative” version of the ‘Rules and Regulations for Bulk Compost’ is in the sidebar. (Please note that this sidebar is not included in electronic format below — go to page42 in a June 2006 issue of BioCycle in reference to this sidebar.)
The goal of the Committee meeting was to make final modifications to the document so that it could be forwarded to the AAPFCO Board for review and approval (so that the updated version could be placed into “tentative status” again). Certain modifications to the document were required for clarity and overall improvement, while another was necessary in order to add the final list of Compost Claims to the document. After adding a definition for the term “feedstocks” to the document, the USCC was asked to develop a list of common compost feedstocks and related definitions. By completing the document at this meeting, and gaining Committee and Board approval, the document could be voted on by the AAPFCO member states at the August (2006) meeting in Oklahoma City (OK). This, in turn, if no additional changes to the document are made, will allow the document to go into official status in 2007. On Tuesday, February 21st the AAPFCO Board approved the document as “tentative.” We will now wait for member approval in August.
Soil Amendment Subcommittee
It was decided over a year ago that a subcommittee should be formed to consider a rewrite of the current Uniform Soil Amendment Bill. The model bill is not considered strong enough or inclusive of many of the products now registered as soil amendments. Furthermore, it does not contain any draft rules and regulations (only the legislative language). It was decided that within a new model bill, soil amendments should be categorized by their intended benefits (intended use) to the soil: 1. Microbial (e.g., microbes); 2. Chemical (e.g., wetting agents, moisture gels); or 3. Physical (e.g., compost, peat) – and maybe, 4. Other category.
Further, it was proposed that the definition of “soil amendments” be modified to include the “chemical, physical and biological improvement of the soil.” The model Bill currently states that soil amendments are “products that provide (only) physical improvement to the soil.” The USCC (represented by my firm) was asked to continue assisting in the process of rewriting the bill, and in developing some additional definitions for use within it. This overall process is very good for the long-term regulation and marketing of compost. We will work to have the list of Compost Claims (now within the draft Uniform Fertilizer Bill Rules and Regulations language (see sidebar) added to the updated Uniform Soil Amendment Bill.
Environmental Affairs Subcommittee
The By-Products and Recycled Materials Subcommittee (within the Environmental Affairs Committee) once again met to discuss several issues, most of which were not relevant to composters. However, it was noted at the meeting that the full list of Compost Claims (developed by the USCC, through this Subcommittee) was provided to the AAPFCO Board to add to the “Rules and Regulations for Bulk Compost.” Although this action has actually delayed the approval process of that document, it has allowed for a better overall document to be developed.
Although many state regulations for the distribution and sale of compost are firmly in place, composters must be aware that other government bodies are involved in this process, and that the issue is constantly “in play.” Now, in the composting industry for over 22 years, many of us who have been around for a while are afraid that the industry has become complacent – thinking that all of the regulatory and related battles have been fought. This is untrue. The composting industry must understand that there are still situations occurring which can/will negatively impact the production and sale of compost, as well as our competitiveness as a waste management option. As our industry continues to grow, we must stay vigilant – staying involved and engaged, and supporting such efforts.
Ron Alexander is President of R. Alexander Associates, Inc. in Apex, NC 919-367-8350, R. Alexander Associates, Inc. specializes in product and market research and development for organic recycled products. He currently serves as an Industry Liaison to AAPFCO representing the US Composting Council. Aside from his voluntary efforts on behalf of the composting industry, the US Composting Council partially funds his work with AAPFCO. Further, certain composters (most recently, Kellogg Garden Products, Carson California) have sent representatives to AAPFCO meetings to assist in ongoing efforts.

Sign up