Strengthening Organic Enforcement

Lots of new rules affecting organic throughout the WORLD!

The Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) final rule reduces fraud in the organic marketplace; strengthens oversight of organic producers, handlers, and certifiers; and improves USDA’s enforcement mechanisms. USDA used public comments to refine this final rule and maximize benefit to the organic industry.

Okay, that is the introductory paragraph to this publication which is pretty good – SOE Publication. What do these changes mean for the regular producer? Probably you won’t notice any change but the rest of the world that interacts with ORGANIC will notice a change.

First, it has strengthened traceability from the farm to the end user. Basically, all supply chains in agriculture are becoming more transparent but organic is trying to be even more transparent so that the consumer feels like they know you and what you do. It is like you are becoming the farmer around the corner from them and so they trust you.

Another important point is that the authority that USDA Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) has to both oversee and enforce organic trade in the US and abroad has been strengthened. Basically, they have both the rules and the ability to enforce those rules against organic violators.

There are more aspects of SOE but another one I think is important – they have significantly reduced the number of uncertified entities in the organic supply chain. Specifically, they are requiring both importers and exporters to be certified and that they maintain traceability.

Lastly, these are things an individual organic producer needs to be aware of and be ready for starting this year.

  • Unannounced inspections. Your certifier will be required to do unannounced inspections on 5% of the operations it certifies – that could be you! If you say, “there is no way they can do an unannounced inspection on my farm!” Well, you won’t be certified any more….
  • Mass-balances, in that quantities of organic product and ingredients produced or purchased account for organic product and ingredients used, stored, sold, or transported; and that organic products and ingredients are traceable by the operation from the time of purchase or acquisition through production to sale or transport; and that the certifying agent can verify compliance back to the last certified operation… Example: you plant 100 lbs. of seed per acre on 100 acres then you should have receipts for 10,000 lbs. of seed.

If you want to read more then I recommend this “Side by Side” publication that shows what was and what has changed. Strengthening Organic Enforcement: Comparison of Old and New Regulatory Text

Author: Bob Whitney, Regents Fellow & Extension Organic Specialist

Agriculturalist, extension educator and researcher, organic agriculture enthusiast and promoter, international program developer, Christian, husband, father and friend.

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