The USDA’s Game-Changing Proposed Rule: Open for Comments

On August 5, 2020 the USDA released their “Strengthening Organic Enforcement” proposed rule, opening a 60 day public comment period. The changes are meant to improve organic oversight and to protect integrity in the organic supply chain. The proposal includes:

  • Reduced exemptions from certification requiring more operations to be certified
  • Requirements for import certificates for all imported organic products
  • Clarified recordkeeping, traceability, and fraud prevention requirements
  • Qualificaitons and training for certification staff and inspectors
  • Updated requirements for labeling of nonretail containers
  • Clarified method for calculating organic content of multi-ingredient products

Because the proposed changes are likely to have significant impacts on your certified operation and your organic supply chain, we encourage you to review the proposal and submit comments. OneCert also welcomes your thoughts and concerns as we compile our own observations for submission. To share ideas with OneCert, please mail or email us with the subject “SOE Comments.”

Comments will be accepted by the USDA through October 5, 2020.

Vist the USDA’s Strengthening Organic Enforcement Proposed Rule page to:

  • Read the USDA summary of the proposed changes
  • Obtain a copy of the full-text proposed rule (57 pages), or a side-by side comparison to the current rule (26 pages)
  • Locate contact information and instructions for submitting comments
  • View Infographics covering: Retail exemptions (below), Organic supply chains, and How to write an effective comment
  • Read the Ecomomic Impact Analysis
  • Watch a recorded informational webinar

One major update in the USDA’s proposed rule is a requirement which will result in fewer exemptions from certification. Some retailers will remain exempt, but others involved in trade activities will be required to become certified. The USDA’s “Notice to Trade Community” Info Sheet (July 2020 – V3) indicates that certification to the USDA organic regulations may be required if an operation:

  • Imports or exports organic goods;
  • Assists others in meeting Federal import/export rules (U.S.);
  • Buys or sells organic products (non-retail transactions);
  • Negotiates sales between buyers and sellers, even if no physical custody or ownership;
  • Is a company that loads or unloads organic products from transport vehicles.

Businesses may not be affected if they:

  • Are a retailer only;
  • Are a carrier that only transports products; or
  • Only provide storage of products.

Above is the USDA’s flow chart infographic for determining if organic certificaiton is required under the new proposed rule.

The National Organic Program’s Organic Insider email newsletter has been posting an excellent series giving an overview of portions of the SOE (Strengthening Organic Enforcement) proposal in six parts.

View the SOE Series in the Organic Insider Archives.

If you are not already, we encourage you to subscribe to the Organic Insider to stay informed on important updates from the National Organic Program. Subscribe to the Organic Insider.