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Boost organic at USDA | Get ahead of new SOE enforcement requirements

“Associate yourself with people of good quality, for it is better to be alone than in bad company.”  ~Booker T. Washington

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How to Get Ahead of the Curve and Avoid Regulatory Speedbumps in the Strengthening Organic Enforcement Regulations

The final rules for the highly anticipated Strengthening Organic Enforcement regulations are expected within the coming weeks, and represent the most significant changes to the organic regulations in the past 20 years. Designed to protect organic integrity through the entire supply chain, the regulations will strengthen control systems, improve organic import oversight, clarify organic certification standards and enhance supply chain traceability. Wolf & Associates’ Chief Operating Officer John Foster brought together five panelists at the recent Organic Grower Summit to talk about those changes and what they mean for the organic sector. The discussion encompassed new requirements for import certificates for all imported organic products regardless of the country of origin, new organic certification requirements for handlers who may have been exempt previously, and the importance of working together to encourage trust in the organic label.

Panelists offered key advice to the organic community:
Emily Musgrave, Organic Program Manager, Driscoll’s: Look at the proposed rule and determine where your business fits in. Talk to your certifier now about import certificates, and begin budgeting time and money for them. There is strength in numbers, so communicate within your organization and reach out to consultants or other industry resources if you need help. Do not procrastinate.
Connie Karr, Certification Director, Oregon Tilth: Don’t panic. We’re keeping it organic. Organic is the only ecolabel that has regulatory and enforcement teeth and comes with civil penalties and jail time for fraudulent action.
Jake Evans, Owner and CEO, True Organic Products: We’re in this together as a community. We’ve got to protect our value by prioritizing the organic integrity of our farming supply chains. Learn about the tools available to ensure the highest quality crops and to confirm the integrity of your supply chains.
Robert Yang, Accreditation Division Director, USDA National Organic Program (Agricultural Marketing Service): USDA is using the all the enforcement powers that we have, and we are seeing real action happening. Our common goal is to ensure organic integrity, and bolster consumer confidence in the organic seal.
Tom Chapman, CEO and Executive Director, Organic Trade Association: Make the time to find the resources you need. Talk to certifiers, trade associations, and consultants, and use resources like the Organic Integrity Learning Center. Get prepared, and do not leave this to the last minute. It’s a Farm Bill year in 2023. If you believe the National Organic Program needs more teeth, let’s talk about it so we can take common action in DC.

Organic Regulatory Updates


Comment On Proposed Rulemaking For Inert Ingredients by December 31
Wolf & Associates is actively engaging in the Organic Trade Association’s Inerts Task Force to craft unified comments for the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Inert Ingredients in Pesticides. USDA National Organic Program seeks comments on five options for rectifying how to regulate ‘inert’ ingredients in pesticides allowed for use in organic production. The National List currently uses Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) inert ingredient lists, but these lists are no longer maintained by EPA and are out of date. Among the options are: allowing inert ingredients permitted by EPA in minimum risk pesticides; allowing specific inert ingredients permitted by EPA; Replace EPA List 3 with EPA-allowed inert ingredients of semiochemical dispensers; or listing inert ingredients individually on the national list. Comment on docket number AMS-NOP-21-0008 via by December 31.
Comment Opportunities Could Boost Organic Priorities

  • Tell National Resource Conservation Service how to best use the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Conservations Stewardship Program and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program to maximize climate change mitigation and climate-smart agriculture. Comment on docket number NRCS-2022-0015 by December 21. More.
  • USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service seeks comments on how its Commodity Procurement Program can bring new vendors on board, and the barriers small businesses, those owned by underserved businesses, and providers of organic, kosher, and halal agricultural products face in participating in the USDA Foods Program. Comment on docket number AMS-CP-22-0014 by December 27.

USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) seeks comments the information collected as part of the Organic Certification Cost Share Program applications, and if the process could be streamlined. Comment on docket number FSA-2022-0015 by February 17.



Europe Moves Closer To Deforestation-Free Supply Chains
The European Union has forged a political agreement on provisional anti-deforestation measures that, once formally adopted, would require key goods sold in or exported from Europe to come from supply chains that do not degrade forests in Europe or around the world. Products include palm oil, cattle, soy, coffee, cocoa, timber, and rubber, and products derived from them. The proposed regulations would include traceability requirements for operators and traders and have an 18-month implementation period.

EU’s Anti-Greenwashing Initiatives Use Wrong Methodology, Says IFOAM
IFOAM-Organics International is urging the European Union to use the Planet-Score methodology to evaluate the environmental claims on food, natural fiber textiles, and other agricultural products in Europe’s anti-greenwashing initiatives. The Product Environmental Footprint, which uses lifecycle analysis to assess environmental impact, is better suited for manufactured products and doesn’t take into account the complexities of agri-food systems, says IFOAM. The EU’s Green New Deal and other initiatives seek to address the need for reliable comparable and verifiable environmental claims so consumers, companies and investors can make more sustainable choices. More.
Japan’s MAFF Updates Requirements For Organic Imports
In newly updated regulations from Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), companies importing products to Japan must now assign a well-trained and knowledgeable person to ensure the receipt, storage and packing of organic products maintains all organic requirements. In addition, the Organic Japanese Agriculture Standards (JAS) label on products must now meet specified size parameters and be attached on a conspicuous location on every organic product. More.
Japan Offers Guidelines To Avoid Misleading ’No Food Additives’ Labeling
Japan’s Consumer Affairs Agency offers a guideline with examples to assist importers, manufacturers and retailers with meeting the country’s food labeling requirements for ’No Additive’ labeling. The guideline provides 10 categories of improper food additive labeling or advertisement. More.

Hong Kong To Ban CBD Products
Effective February 1, 2023, Hong Kong will ban cannabidiol (CBD) products. The newly amended Dangerous Drugs Ordinance (DDO) will prohibit the manufacture, import, export, supply, sale, possession and transshipment of any products containing CBD in the city, regardless of quantity. However, licensing for transshipment will be provided on a case-by-case basis. Traders and the public possessing CBD products must dispose of these products before February 1, 2023, or they will be in violation of the new regulation. More.
Ukraine’s Organic Sector Continues, Despite War
Ukraine’s organic sector increased exports to the European Union, thanks in part to elimination of tariffs. In addition, the organic sector, with typically smaller shipments, was able to use a wide range of transport options to circumvent seaport blockages and other logistical difficulties. More.

GMO News

Mexico Considers Extending Deadline For GMO Corn Ban
Mexico is working on extending the deadline for its proposed ban on GMO corn until 2025, and clarifying that the ban focuses on corn for human consumption, reports Reuters.  This would keep the door open for imports of GMO yellow corn for animal feed. More.

Inside the Beltway

Comment Period Extended To Feb. 16 For What Counts As ‘Healthy’ On Food Labels
The US Food and Drug Administration has proposed changes to what counts as ‘healthy’ when the term is used on food labels. The proposal requires that food products contain a certain amount of food from at least one of the food groups or subgroups recommended by the Dietary Guidelines, 2020-2025 and limits certain nutrients, including saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars. Comment on the proposal until February 16, 2022.

FDA Publishes Final Rule For FSMA’s Food Traceability Requirements As part of the Food Safety Modernization Act, some foods will have additional traceability requirements to facilitate faster identification and removal of potentially contaminated food from the market, resulting in fewer foodborne illnesses. Those traceability requirements have been finalized, and everyone subject to the requirements must be in compliance by January 20, 2026. A recording of a December 7 webinar on the traceability requirements is available online.

Organic Industry News

Global Organic Textile Standards Is Recognized As Part Of State Department MOU
A newly signed Memorandum of Understanding between the US Department of State’s Office of Global Partnerships and the International Trade Center on initiatives to connect climate entrepreneurs with third-party organizations such as the Global Organic Textile Standard, which was specifically named in the announcement, to meet compliance with environmental standards. More.

Report Offers Policy Advice Based On Organic Farming’s Benefits
NRDC’s new report, Grow Organic: The Climate, Health, and Economic Case for Expanding Organic Agriculture, published in partnership with the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems at Arizona State University and Californians for Pesticide Reform, distills the latest scientific research on the wide-reaching benefits of organic farming systems. The free report includes information on how organic reduces emissions, protects and promotes health, and contributes to economic vitality. It also explains the pitfalls of our current agricultural system and provides concrete policy recommendations on how to maximize the benefits of organic. 
Tuskegee University Receives $2 Million In Organic Research Endowments
Clif Bar & Company made a $1 million endowment to Tuskegee University to support the advancement of organic agriculture and farming practices through the University’s College of Agriculture, Environment and Nutrition Sciences. Tuskegee University is the first Historically Black College and University to receive a Clif Bar endowment. In addition, the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research, a non-profit organization that builds public-private partnerships to fund research addressing challenges in food and agriculture, matched the donation, doubling the total gift to Tuskegee University to $2 million.

The Survey Says…

New Survey Looks At Organic Produce Trends
Cranberries, papaya, Asian pears, sprouts, artichokes and kale are among the commodities shoppers say they purchase exclusively as organic, according to The Packer’s Organic Fresh Trends 2023 survey of 1000 shoppers. One in ten consumers reported that more than 75% of their annual produce purchases were organic, compared to 7% of shoppers in last year’s survey. Of those shoppers who purchased organic at least periodically, 70% preferred to shop for them in a section dedicated to organic produce, rather than having the organic products merchandised next to the non-organic ones.