This January, the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) has published the Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) final rule. This is an update to the USDA organic regulations, which intensifies supervision and enforcement of the production, handling, and sale of organic products.
This final rule seeks to protect the organic integrity by supporting strong organic control systems, improving farm-to-market traceability, increasing import oversight authority, and providing enforcement of the organic regulations. This would all lead to an increase in consumer confidence in the USDA organic seal.
Key provisions of the final rule include requiring:
- Certification of more of the businesses at critical links in organic supply chains
- NOP Import Certificates for all organic imports
- Organic identification on non-retail containers
- Uniform qualification and training standards for organic inspectors and certifying agent personnel
- Standardized certificates of organic operation
- Additional, more frequent reporting of data on certified operations
Furthermore, the rule specifies certification requirements for producer groups, increases the USDA’s authority for more rigorous on-site inspections of certified operations, and requires more robust recordkeeping, traceability practices, and fraud prevention procedures.
According to Pro Food World, “The rule may affect USDA-accredited certifying agents, organic inspectors, certified organic operations, operations considering organic certification, businesses that import or trade organic products, and retailers that sell organic products. Organic operations, certifying agents, and other organic stakeholders affected by the rule will have one year from the effective date of the rule to comply with the changes”.
“The Strengthening Organic Enforcement rule is the biggest update to the organic regulations since the original Act in 1990, providing a significant increase in oversight and enforcement authority to reinforce the trust of consumers, farmers, and those transitioning to organic production,” says Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt.