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July 2020 News & Policy Updates for the Organic Industry

If humanity does not opt for integrity we are through completely. It is absolutely touch and go. Each one of us could make the difference.”R. Buckminster Fuller


The biggest proposed changes to organic regulations since the National Organic Program was implemented twenty years ago are now published for review on the USDA website and will be posted for a 60-day comment period soon. These new rules have been under scrutiny at the Office of Management and Budget after two years of development by the National Organic Program, in collaboration with the organic community and the National Organic Standards Board. The new proposed rules strive to fill numerous gaps in the current regulations. In an industry that has grown from $1 billion 1990 to over $55 billion today and become increasingly complex, these much-needed new controls will help assure organic integrity.

These changes, driven in part to address incidents of fraud within the organic industry, will affect everyone – producers, handlers, retailers, and eaters. And especially certifiers, who will have a bigger workload as the implementation date approaches. Among other things, the regulations will require every business involved with organic transactions, including all warehouses and distributors, to be certified and will initiate closer scrutiny of imported products, with standardized certificates and coordination with other agencies.

Our entire team at Wolf & Associates has been following these developments—members of our team have participated in task forces and every National Organic Standards Board meeting for 20+ years.  We are well prepared to offer qualified suggestions to make these rules work for the organic community, and everyone who depends on organic products. We encourage you to offer public comments as well when the 60-day public comment period opens.

Bill Wolf


We deliver the strategic expertise to help organic, socially- and environmentally-responsible products and projects reach their full potential — and flourish.



New proposed rule makes extensive changes to organic regulation enforcement

The Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) Proposed Rule is now available for review in advance of its posting for public comment. The most extensive update to the National Organic Program since the program was implemented, the proposed rule is designed to strengthen oversight and enforcement throughout the organic supply chain by increasing the types of businesses that must be certified if they work with organic products, requiring electronic NOP import certificates for all organic products entering the United States, clarifying record keeping and fraud prevention procedures, and standardizing requirements for on-site inspection of organic operations.

The preview document includes a summary of the proposed rule and comparison to current regulation along with information on how to check the federal register when it is officially posted. In addition, the link will offer a recording of an overview presentation by Deputy Administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) National Organic Program Jennifer Tucker and Shannon Nally Yanessa, Assistant Director, USDA National Organic Program – Standards Division. Over 900 people attended the webinar held July 8.

Topics addressed in this proposed rule include:

  • applicability of the regulations and exemptions from organic certification;
  • import certificates;
  • recordkeeping and product traceability;
  • certifying agent personnel qualifications and training;
  • standardized certificates of organic operation;
  • unannounced on-site inspections of certified operations;
  • oversight of certification activities;
  • foreign conformity assessment systems;
  • certification of grower group operations;
  • labeling of nonretail containers;
  • annual update requirements for certified operations;
  • compliance and appeals processes;
  • and calculating organic content of multi-ingredient products.

The public comment period on the proposed rule, Docket number AMS-NOP-17-0065, is expected to be 60 days.

US House climate committee recommends more support for organic agriculture

As part of efforts to address climate change, the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis recommends additional support for organic agriculture in its action plan on solving the climate crisis. The plan includes recommendations for improving conservation programs and for additional support for organic agriculture, especially:

(1) a national organic agriculture transition program

(2) increased funding for the National Organic Program;

(3) a land-link program to connect retiring organic landowners with farmers who are seeking organic land

(4) expansion of NRCS, extension programs, and key partner technical assistance to increase climate-smart agricultural practices;

(5) increased cost-share payments and mandatory funding levels for Farm Service Agency’s National Organic Certification Cost Share Program,

(6) codification of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Production rule

(7) increased federal organic-to-institution procurement.

NOP clarifies California registration policy

The National Organic Program (NOP) recently updated Policy Memo 11-8 to clarify the added registration requirements under the California State Organic Program for organic producers, handlers, and processors operating in the state. Affected operations may now provide documentation to their certifiers verifying they registered with the California Department of Public Health. More.

New sunset dates listed for newly relisted materials

The National Organic Program updated sunset dates for materials that were renewed effective June 22, 2020. Materials on the list will no longer be allowed after the sunset date unless the National Organic Standards Board recommends extending the listing.


Updates to EU organic regulations moving ahead

New secondary regulations to complete the Organic Regulation (EU) 2018/848, expected to be implemented January 2021, have been published in the European Union’s Official Journal. Additional amendments are expected to move through the EU legislative process in the coming months to fill in the details of the Organic Regulation before it is implemented.

  • The first published update (Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2020/427) offers amendments concerning sprouted seeds, bee colony feeding, and aquaculture.
  • The second (Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/464) covers several topics, including animal production and stocking densities for livestock and aquaculture animals, processed food and feed, documents needed for retroactive recognition of the conversion period, and availability of organic and transitional plant reproductive material, animals and aquaculture juveniles.
  • The third (Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/479) relates to Commission Regulation (EC) No 1235/2008 on import of organic products from third countries, and corrects Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/25.


India requires Certificate of Inspection for exports to US

India requires organic products exported to the United States to have a Certificate of Inspection issued by a government-accredited certification agent through India’s TraceNet system. The NOP considers these Certificate of Inspection an essential record to demonstrate good control processes, and operations must maintain these certificates as part of their records for inspection. More.

Changes to the organic program in the Philippines will allow participant guarantee systems

In addition to providing training and financial support for organic farmers, amendments to Philippines Organic Agriculture Act will allow for a Participatory Guarantee System (PGS). The system will allow small farmers, farm associations and cooperatives to verify organic production practices based on active participation of the stakeholders. Organic products that result from Philippines’ PGS certification will only be sold locally. More.

Korea extends environmentally-friendly food program during pandemic

A program that provides environmentally-friendly food to pregnant women in Korea will expand to reach 80,000 people, up from 45,000. The result of a popular vote on proposals submitted from the public, the Pregnant Women Food Scheme began January 1, 2020, and delivers a box of local environmentally-friendly food to expectant and new mothers twice a month. The South Korean organic movement and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs participated in the project.

GOTS latest standards raise the bar for organic textiles

Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) version 6.0, effective in March 2021, will require stricter social and ecological criteria. Among the changes, specific new requirements for tampons and food contact textiles have been added. Certified entities will have to calculate the gap between a living wage and actual wages, and encouraged to close that gap.


Comment on GMO potato deregulation

A potato variety, Snowden Z6 which is genetically engineered for late blight protection, lowered reducing sugars, low acrylamide potential and reduced black spot bruising, has been put forward for deregulation on request from J.R. Simplot Company. U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is especially interested in comments on the potential environmental and interrelated economic impacts of deregulation of the potato variety. Comment on Docket number APHIS-2020-0048 by July 27, 2020.


CDC offers COVID-19 checklist for agriculture businesses

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed a checklist for creating a COVID-19 control plan for agricultural employers. Having a written plan in place will reassure employees, and could be used to defend the employer’s actions. The five sections of the checklist cover assessment, a control plan, and considerations for shared housing, shared transportation, and children.

Black and Latinx shoppers more likely to try meal kits

COVID-19 and concerns about the virus are changing shopping habits in America. Based on data from The Hartman Group and The Food Industry Association, the New Hope Network reports that more than half of Latinx shoppers have lost wages or employment due to the pandemic. In addition, 24 percent of Latinx and Black grocery shoppers have tried online ordering, with a preference for delivery over curbside pick-up. Black and Latinx shoppers are twice as likely shoppers overall to have tried an online meal-kit service in the last month.

Insect populations and diversity declining due to pesticide use, says new report

The 2020 Insect Atlas from Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung and Friends of the Earth Europe shows that in a world where 75 percent of the most important food crops depend on insect pollination:

  • 41% of insect species are in decline, and one-third of all inspect species are threatened with extinction
  • Pollinators, which contribute directly to around one-third of global food production, are under threat: at least one in ten bee and butterfly species in Europe is threatened with extinction
  • Pesticide use has risen five-fold since 1950, with over 4 million tonnes sprayed on fields worldwide every year.
  • The explosion in factory farming has led to insect-dense areas of land in Argentina and Brazil being cleared for pesticide-heavy soybean plantations.

The report lauds organic agriculture methods and makes several recommendations to protect insect populations, including reducing synthetic pesticides in agriculture by 80 percent by 2030, phasing out farming methods which increase pesticide use, such as GMO crops, and shifting agriculture away from meat and other animal products.

Microscopic plastic particles rain down on the American west, says new report

A new report on “Plastic rain in protected areas of the United States” published in the journal Science shows that an estimated 1000 metric tons or more of microplastic particles falls on protected areas—including National Parks and wilderness—of the south and central western United States. That’s equivalent to 120 million plastic water bottles. Most of these plastic particles are synthetic microfibers used for making clothing, and are transported via wind and rain.

EcoFarm conference to move online for 2021

The Ecological Farming Association’s 41st annual EcoFarm Conference will be held online January 20-23, 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Plans include keynotes, educational workshops, skill-building pre-conferences, networking, and even a virtual trade show.


Right at the end of your phone line or via video call. We’re here for you.

January 20-23, 2021: Ecological Farming Association’s EcoFarm Conference online. W&A staff to attend.

April 26-28, 2021: Organic Trade Association’s Organic Week, Washington, DC. W&A staff to attend.