What You Need to Know About USDA’s SOE Organic Rule: 2 Key Impacts for Certified Producers

The end of the implementation period for the Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) Rule is fast approaching! Are you a crops, livestock, or wild harvest operation wondering what you need to implement before March 19, 2024, to stay in compliance? Read on!

Although much of the new rule is directed toward handling operations like brokers, traders, distributors, manufacturers, and importers, there are a couple big changes that producers (crop, wild crop, and livestock operations) need to prepare for. New questions have been added to OneCert’s Organic System Plans (OSPs) to gather information on how the following new requirements will be met:

  • §205.307 Labeling of Nonretail Containers. The regulations now require non-retail containers used to ship or store certified organic products to display the organic designation and the production lot number or other unique identifier that links the container to the audit trail documentation. Nonretail containers include storage bins and bulk transport vehicles (trailers, tanks, railcars, etc.). 
    • What does this mean? Certified operations will need to come up with a system for labeling bulk containers with lot numbers (or other unique identifiers) and the “organic” designation and describe these plans in their OSP. The NOP is encouraging operators to get creative and develop solutions that fit their unique operations. For example, producers may consider nonpermanent signage for transport units, such as magnets, temporary markings, tape, etc. Keep in mind that the label must include the required information and needs to remain affixed to the unit, so it is legible to farm staff, inspectors, and upon arrival at the next facility to take ownership.

  • §205.201(a)(3) Fraud Prevention. Each OSP is now required to include a description of the practices and procedures to verify suppliers in the supply chain and the organic status of agricultural products received, and to prevent organic fraud, as appropriate to the certified operation’s activities, scope, and complexity.
    • What does this mean? All certified operations are being asked to develop systems to monitor the organic status of suppliers of any incoming organic materials (e.g. organic seed, planting stock, inputs, etc.) used in their operation. They are also being asked to develop Fraud Prevention Plans (sometimes referred to by the NOP as “FPPs”). The NOP states the fraud prevention plans should be tailored to each operation. For example, “a producer who does not handle another operation’s organic products may develop a simple fraud prevention plan that verifies purchased inputs comply with organic regulations.” All entities are also asked to have awareness of how to report fraud to the NOP.

Make sure to describe your labeling and fraud prevention systems in the OSP and answer any new questions as you fill out your renewal paperwork. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

Read the full text, learn more about the SOE rulemaking process, and locate SOE training provided by the USDA here. Contact OneCert to request a printed copy of the final rule.