Time’s up! The Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) final rule is now being enforced. We’re here to help! Click here.

People Trust Organic | SOE Bring Changes | Canada to Update Standards

“Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love!”  ~Sitting Bull

President’s Message

Spring always brings new energy around here. Our team of Associates is hard at work helping lots of people and companies prepare for their first organic certification, implement fraud prevention plans, improve their system plans, streamline operations, meet legal requirements, garner materials listings, and more. And you’ll see in the news stories below that many of our associates are contributing to efforts to improve standards and protect the integrity and growth of the organic industry.

Speaking of the future, our ratio of US organic production to organic sales has got to increase dramatically. The United States now represents 46% of the world’s organic retail sales but only 2.1% of the world’s organic acreage! We’ve got a big opportunity to increase organic farming in the US—provided we can work together to overcome the obstacles farmers face. The new USDA Transition to Organic program is a start, but the barriers are fierce.

Plus, we’ve been out in the community, traveling and speaking. The Organic Panel I moderated at the Biological Products Industry Alliance meeting generated plenty of useful conversation. Organic farmers are being denied the best biological pest management tools because of the regulatory uncertainty about what inert ingredients will be allowed in pest control products—a topic coming up on the National Organic Standards Board agenda (again) in just a couple weeks. I’ll be there in person for the first time in several years, along with our COO John Foster, and some of our Associates, including Mark Lipson and Mark King. I’ll be asking the Board to reduce some of the domestic production obstacles by providing the tools that our farmers need to compete globally. I hope to see you there, and in the meantime, here’s a peek at our written comments

Bill Wolf
Wolf & Associates

NOP News

NOP Updates Handbook and Answers SOE Questions

With the Strengthening Organic Enforcement regulations now fully implemented, the National Organic Program has updated its Program Handbook to include the new requirements and other corrections. The changes are extensive, and worth a review.

NOP also provided some clarification in a new FAQ document. Businesses, customs brokers, certifiers, and others working in organic trade will find answers to 28 commonly asked questions including:

  • What operations or activities are exempt from organic certification under SOE?
  • How do I get an NOP Import Certificate?
  • How do I develop a fraud prevention plan?

Make Those Shelves Talk
A new kit from the National Organic Program offers a collection of graphics for retailers. The designs—for shelf tags, banners, freezer stickers, social media, and more—highlight how organic standards are protected by law, inspected by experts, traced from farm to table, and shaped by public input. Some of the designs use QR codes to direct consumers to more information about organic products.

Peer Review Report Identifies NOP Strengths
The annual peer review of the National Organic Program, conducted by the ANSI National Accreditation Body (ANAB), found that NOP is functioning in accordance with ISO/IEC 17011:2017 and US 7 CFR Part 205, National Organic Program requirements. The review team did not identify any opportunities for improvement. In addition, the report mentioned areas where the NOP is doing well, including teamwork, team leadership, responsiveness to public comment, and ongoing efforts to continue improving the timeline for mid-term and renewal assessments.

Still Time to Comment on Standards for Organic Mushrooms and Pet Foods
Proposed standards for mushroom production include composting requirements and sourcing organic substrate and spawn when commercially available. The pet food proposal covers labeling requirements and would add synthetic taurine (an amino acid) to the National List for use organic pet food. Comment on Docket Number AMS-NOP-22-0063 by May 10.

International News

Canada Begins Standards Updates

Canada’s AgriAssurance Program – National Industry Association Component, an initiative under the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership. has allotted $502,374 to the Organic Federation of Canada (OFC) to update the standards regulating the production and marketing of certified organic products. OFC will add new practices and permitted substances, revise the sections on animal welfare, and explore agriculture practices such as vertical agriculture and sunless crops. They are currently surveying stakeholders about physical alterations (e.g., castration, tail docking, etc.) in dairy cattle, beef cattle, sheep, goats and pigs, and beak trimming, breeds, perch access, and density in poultry.

The Canada Organic Trade Association and our Associates Kelly Monaghan and Janine Gibson continue to monitor these ongoing discussions. If you have questions about the current state of deliberations, reach out.

Petition Asks Canadian Government to Support Organic
The Canada Organic Trade Association is spearheading a signature drive.  If you are a Canadian citizen or resident of Canada, you can sign a petition by May 2 to encourage the government to:

  • Accelerate transition to a more resilient and sustainable food system
  • Make organic food more accessible, affordable and diversified
  • Support organic and recognize its environmental, economic, social and health benefits
  • Invest in foods Canadians want for them and their families
  • Update policies to incentivize organic production and farmers, and the expansion of organic markets

More Changes At OMRI

The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) will discontinue its Mexico Review Standard listings as of June 1. They will continue to review inputs produced in Mexico to NOP standards and the Canada Organic Regime standards for their other product lists.

EU Updates Nickel Limits In Food
The European Union has proposed amendments to regulations for maximum levels of nickel in certain foods. Brassicas, tree nuts, vegetables, seaweed, pulses, oilseeds, cereals, cocoa and chocolate products, food for infants and young children, fruit and vegetable juices all fall under the new proposal

Can Solar Panels Benefit Agriculture?
As a way to protect farmland for agriculture and not just energy production, solar projects on farmland in France must provide some service to agriculture. According to the journal Nature, landowners can bring in 10 to 100 times more renting the land to an energy company than they can from farming, which puts agriculture at risk. Energy companies want to cover 40% of farm plots with solar panels—a move agronomists say threatens farm production. Approximately half of the land in France is agricultural.

Inside the Beltway

Farm Bill Appropriations Set Until September
Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2024 (CAA, P.L.118-42), approved on March 8, funds the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) through September 30, 2024. Due constraints in the deal to raise the federal debt ceiling, the bill has some unfortunate funding cuts for sustainable agriculture initiatives. Although the Organic Transitions Program is level-funded—a bright spot—several research and outreach programs have budget cuts, including the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (down $22 million), Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (cut $2 million),  Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (down $9.8 million) and the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (or ATTRA).

EPA Offers Pesticide Safety Programs
The Environmental Protection Agency is highlighting pesticide safety education projects to celebrate National Farmworker Awareness Week.  Among the initiatives are health and safety training for agricultural workers, and $2.5 million for training healthcare providers to recognize and treat pesticide-related injuries.

Fewer, Larger Farms in the United States in 2022
Data from the 2022 Census of Agriculture is now available. Although there has been an 11% increase in the number of beginning farmers since the last census in 2017, the number of farms with less than $1 million in sales decreased by nearly 9%, according to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. Farms with more than $1 million in sales increased by 36%, marking a shift toward fewer, larger farms.

More Market Development Projects Receive Grants
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service announced 60 more projects funded by the Organic Market Development Grants. For the $40.5 million allocated to projects across the country, AMS prioritized projects for organic grains and livestock feed, organic dairy, organic fibers, organic legumes and other rotational crops, and organic ingredients currently unavailable in organic form. One more set of grant recipients will be released in coming months.

Find a Crop Insurance Agent
Specialty crop and small-scale farmers and ranchers have a new tool to find crop insurance agents familiar with the Whole-Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) and Micro Farm policies, thanks to the Risk Management Agency’s new searchable directory.

The Survey Says…

Consumers Trust Organic Seal, Says OTA Survey
The Organic Trade Association partnered with Euromonitor International to survey US consumers about the organic label.

Compared to a dozen claims and certifications that can be found on various products in today’s grocery aisles, almost 90 percent of consumers are familiar with organic claim, according to a new survey from the Organic Trade Association. They also found 70% of consumers trust the USDA Organic seal—the most trusted agricultural label, and the second-most trusted food label behind the American Heart Association’s checkmark. Gen Z and Millennials are more likely than older generations to purchase organic, and over 70% report that the USDA Organic seal is an important consideration when choosing their food.

The more consumers understand the attributes of organic agriculture and products, the more likely they are to consider the higher price of organic products as warranted. According to the survey, most consumers associate organic products with less toxic synthetic pesticides or synthetic hormones, and no GMOs, but are often unaware of other attributes like sustainable animal welfare practices or that certified organic agriculture is regulated.

Organic Produce Sales Inched Up in 2023
Organic produce sales in the United States reached $9.6 billion in 2023, up 1.6% according to the Organic Produce Network’s State of Organic Produce 2023. Organic produce comprised 12% of all retail produce sales and accounted for 7% of total produce volume last year. By volume, bananas were the top category, followed by berries, carrots, apples, and packaged salads.

Consumer Trends Gaining Momentum
Alcoholic beverage brand-builder Diageo’s new report identifies five trends that cut across regions and industries:

  • Neo-Hedonism—Seeking pleasure in novel ways
  • Betterment Brands—A path to purposeful consumption
  • Conscious Wellbeing—Nurturing holistic wellness
  • Expanding Reality—Redefining how we experience the world
  • Collective Belonging—Connecting in a fragmented world

The report includes regional data and suggestions brands can use to harness the trend.

Organic Imports Expanded With the Market
From 2011 to 2023, the value of organic imports nearly tripled from $667 million to about $2 billion, reports Farm Progress. Exports also increased, from $412 million in 2011 to $582 million in 2023. The leading imports have shifted since 2011, when coffee and tea accounted for 84% of organic imports. In 2023, fruit accounted for half of the organic imports, with coffee and tea comprising 34%. Fruits and vegetables are 90% of US organic exports

GMO News

Australian Scientists Develop GM Banana
Scientists in Queensland Australia have been given the go-ahead to release a genetically modified version of the Cavendish banana using genes from a wild banana variety. The GMO Cavendish is considered a back up option if the Panama Tropical Race 4 (TR4) fungal disease eludes current biosecurity measures on the continent. The scientists will also begin work on a gene-edited version of the Cavendish banana to fight additional diseases.
European Union Approves Two GMO Crops for Imports
The European Union has approved genetically modified corn and renewed rapeseed for food and animal feed. the authorization and renewal decisions apply to food and feed for import and processing, but do not cover cultivation and are valid for 10 years.

Organic Industry News & Notices

California to Define Regenerative Agriculture; OTA Jumps In
The Organic Trade Association formed a California Regenerative Agriculture Task Force to participate in California’s process to develop a definition for “regenerative agriculture” with a final recommendation slated for June or July. Unlike organic, regenerative is not regulated. OTA is advocating for a strong definition of “regenerative” in order to minimize negative impacts on organic agriculture and to foster clarity for consumers.

California is holding listening sessions, with the next scheduled for May 29 at 4:30 p.m. PDT. Recordings of previous listening sessions and work group meetings are available.

Our Associate Mark Lipson is participating in the discussions in California.

SOE Leads to Changes in OMRI’s Review Policies
Due to an issue with agricultural inputs used in further processing of organic products and the Strengthening Organic Enforcement requirements, the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) has changed how it deals with agricultural ingredients and processing aids. Certified organic input products used in processing/handling are now out of OMRI’s scope of review, since this is a certification agency’s responsibility. This means:

  • OMRI no longer reviews or lists any final products that are certified organic in any use class in the processing/handling scope.
  • OMRI no longer permits label claims indicating that an agricultural ingredient in the formulation is organic, even when these ingredients were sourced or purchased from a certified organic operation.
  • Ingredients sourced or purchased from certified organic operations are no longer organic when handled by an uncertified OMRI Listed manufacturer. Those ingredients will be reviewed as nonorganic ingredients.
  • Several OMRI Listed products, such as fruit coatings, that formulate with agricultural ingredients will require delisting or a change in listing category and restriction for use in “made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s))” only.

Contact us to connect with us about how these changes will impact your business.

Updated Guidance for Supplement Makers
The Organic Trade Association (OTA), American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) and Quality Assurance International  have updated their “Guidance on Formulation and Marketing of Dietary Supplements Under the National Organic Program” to incorporate changes due to the Strengthening Organic Enforcement regulations. The document includes:

  • Information about which supplements are eligible for organic certification under the NOP.
  • Details on the various NOP labeling categories.
  • An overview of the regulatory obligations across the supply chain.

OTA, IFOAM and Others Support Grower Group Certification in Court Case
The Organic Trade Association, International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM)—Organics International and several other organic stakeholders filed an amicus brief to support organic “grower group” certification in a case against the US Department of Agriculture that questions the ways grower groups are handled under the Strengthening Organic Enforcement rules. The suit, brought by hazelnut grower Pratum Farm and backed by OrganicEye, claims that the new regulations ignore the requirement to inspect every operation annually. Participants in the amicus brief support group certification, and share the view that the Organic Foods Production Act “unambiguously supports the inclusion of grower groups.”

Bridge Collapse May Have Limited Impact On Organic Imports
Argus Media reports that the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore will likely have a limited short-term impact on organic agriculture imports due to seasonal trends and the location of key import infrastructure. April typically has the smallest volume of organic imports through Baltimore’s port. Container shipments of organic soybeans and soybean meal from African countries and India, and organic sunflower products from Argentina are most likely to be curtailed. Bulk shipments typically use a section of the port that remains open.

No Sales Tax on Compost for Farmers in North Carolina
Farmers in North Carolina no longer have to pay sales tax on compost, which joins commercial fertilizer, lime and potting soil as tax exempt. Eligible farmers can apply to the Secretary of Agriculture and Consumer Services for and exemption certificate number.

Sustainable Food Award Entries Due May 25
The Sustainable Food Awards, organized by Ecovia Intelligence, recognize operators building a sustainable food industry. Award categories include:

  • New Sustainable Product
  • Sustainable Ingredient
  • Sustainable Packaging
  • Sustainability Pioneer
  • Sustainability Leadership

Entries are due May 25, and the awards reception will be July 4 at the Sustainable Foods Summit in Amsterdam.

Organic Community

Organic Seed Alliance Appoints New Executive Director
Dr. Laura R. Lewis has taken on the Organic Seed Alliances Executive Director position. As a professor at Washington State University (WSU), she spearheaded the WSU Food Systems Program, seamlessly navigating academic, research, and extension roles. With a Ph.D. in Geography and a degree in Agriculture, her expertise spans agrobiodiversity utilization, leadership, and development. Welcome!