The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) recently previewed the Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) final rule. This update to the USDA organic regulations strengthens oversight and enforcement of the production, handling, and sale of organic products. This final rule implements 2018 Farm Bill mandates, responds to industry requests for updates to the USDA organic regulations, and addresses National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) recommendations.
"Protecting and growing the organic sector and the trusted USDA organic seal is a key part of the USDA Food Systems Transformation initiative," said Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt. "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. This success is another demonstration that USDA fully stands behind the organic brand."
What does the rule do?
SOE protects organic integrity and bolsters farmer and consumer confidence in the USDA organic seal by supporting strong organic control systems, improving farm-to-market traceability, increasing import oversight authority, and providing robust enforcement of the organic regulations. Key updates include:
- Requiring certification of more of the businesses, like brokers and traders, at critical links in organic supply chains.
- Requiring NOP Import Certificates for all organic imports.
- Requiring organic identification on nonretail containers.
- Increasing authority for more rigorous on-site inspections of certified operations.
- Requiring uniform qualification and training standards for organic inspectors and certifying agent personnel.
- Requires standardized certificates of organic operation.
- Requires additional and more frequent reporting of data on certified operations.
- Creates authority for more robust recordkeeping, traceability practices, and fraud prevention procedures.
- Specify certification requirements for producer groups.
"The Strengthening Organic Enforcement rule is the biggest update to the organic regulations since the original Act in 1990," said Jaydee Hanson, Policy Director at the Center for Food Safety. Today's updated rule, he added, "significantly increases the oversight and enforcement authority of the agency over the organic brand. This will help regain the trust of consumers, organic farmers, and those transitioning their operations to organic production."
"USDA is undertaking this highly anticipated rule under the Organic Foods Production Act to more effectively regulate and protect the organic sector," said Emily Griep, VP of Regulatory Compliance & Global Food Safety Standards at IFPA. "Organic fresh produce is highly valued by many consumers, and we hope this new rule allows for the continued growth of the organic fresh produce industry while maintaining consumer trust in the USDA organic seal. IFPA is committed to working with the USDA NOP to help our members understand and comply with the requirements of the final rule, particularly organic produce importers who will be most impacted by the rule."
The rule becomes effective two months after it is published in the Federal Registry on March 20, 2023. USDA has established an implementation date of March 19, 2024. USDA NOP has also released a fact sheet on the SOE final rule.