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

Ready for SOE? | EU Promotes Organic | Organic Veg Exports Fall

The time is always right to do what is right.”  ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Featured Topic – SOE Readiness

It will come as no surprise to those paying attention to this newsletter: Our SOE deadline is right around the corner. Operations working with organic goods to be sold in the United States must meet the Strengthening Organic Enforcement regulations by March 19, 2024, and there are remarkably few exceptions to that mandate. The National Organic Program team has been clear that no one should expect a deadline extension.

If you need certification for the first time, the window of opportunity to get that done in time is rapidly closing. Reports from many certifiers are for 12+ week turnaround times for new applicants. The biggest challenge for new organic certification applicants is two-fold: Completing applications correctly the first time and inspection timing. Since all operations need an on-site inspection—even brokers and traders who have nothing to see but the screen of a laptop—scheduling a qualified inspector will be an increasingly substantial challenge. Although expedited service may be included in a certifier’s fee schedule, we’re hearing that some certification operations are past administrative capacity. Nevertheless, keep working toward compliance—there’s everything to be gained by getting in the certification queue as soon as possible, even if a certificate won’t get issued by March 19th.

For those already certified, we have put together an innovative advisory package to assess SOE readiness that includes a dive into audit traceability, supply chain strength, vulnerability assessments, risk mitigation development and more. W&A can get that going pronto so you are confident in SOE compliance before your next inspection. Holler if you’d like us to help.

I’ll be attending the Accredited Certifiers Association “SOE Rodeo” training at the end of January, and should be able to provide key updates for our clients afterwards. Until then, stay strong, and carry on with this good work.

John FosterJohn Foster, COO and Organic Instigator, brings deep and broad experience in the organic sector and especially relishes working with clients’ innovative ideas and long-term strategic initiatives that benefit their business and the planet.

NOP News

Comment on NOP Paperwork Burden by Jan. 22
Comment on potential revisions on the National Organic Program’s information collection tools. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service intends to revise the text on the Application for Accreditation (Form TM-10CG) to remove redundant language and clarify when information should be submitted. They are also seeking comment on the estimate of paperwork burdens for the Transition to Organic Partnership Program and the NOP Online Complaint Portal. Comment as well on ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and ways to minimize the burden of information collection. Comment on Docket Number AMS-NOP-23-0052 by January 22.

Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards Deadline Updated
The Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards (OLPS) will be effective January 12, 2024. All organic operations must comply with the OLPS final rule by January 2, 2025, except: Organic layer and broiler operations certified before January 2, 2025. Those poultry operations must meet the new rules concerning outdoor stocking density and soil and vegetation requirements by January 2, 2029. There was a change to the date the rules go into effect and a technical correction to the compliance deadline for broiler operations.

International News

European Union to Promote Organic Logo and Products
Focusing on sustainably produced and organic food, the European Union, as in 2023, will use €185.9 million (approximately $203.3 million) for promoting EU agri-food products in 2024. About  €85.1 million is dedicated to promotion outside the EU, with an emphasis on China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and North America. Overall, €62 million will be earmarked for sustainably produced agrifood products, including €42 million for organic products. Goals of organic promotion include raising awareness of the EU organic logo and increasing use of organic products in Europe. More
 
European Union Sets New Organic Pet Food Requirements
Under the European Union’s Regulation 2023/2419, pet food can be labeled as “organic” in the sales description and in the list of ingredients if:

  • At least 95 percent of the agricultural ingredients of the product by weight are organic and
  • It complies with detailed production rules set in Annex II of Regulation 2018/848 for processed feed.

Starting May 1, 2024, prepacked organic pet food will need to include the organic logo of the European Union on the packaging starting if at least 95 percent of the agricultural ingredients are organic. The new regulations were necessary because the European Union changed its labeling requirements for processed animal feed, which can be labeled as organic only if 100 percent of its agricultural ingredients and at least 95 percent of its dry ingredients are organic. More.

Organic Industry News & Notices

Organic Trade Association shifts to co-CEO leadership

Congratulations, Matt! On January 2, Matthew Dillon joined Tom Chapman as co-Chief Executive Officer of the Organic Trade Association. Dillon, a Nebraskan and founder of the Organic Seed Alliance, worked for over ten years at Clif Bar & Company in several roles including Vice President of Impact and Government Affairs. He most recently served as Chief Sustainability Officer for organic poultry producer Farmer Focus. As co-CEO for OTA, Dillon will oversee the organization’s public relations, policy agenda, member engagement and fundraising. Chapman will lead the association’s regulatory and technical affairs work, oversee the development of association programs and products and will be responsible for operations and financial management. The January 9 announcement of the change indicated that the shift will be budget neutral for the association. OTA will host an online meet and greet for Matt and Tom on Tuesday, February 1 at 2 p.m. EST.
 
 
 
 
 
Mixed Bag for Organic Vegetable Imports, as Organic Exports Fall in 2023
USDA’s “Vegetable and Pulses Outlook: December 2023” reported that export volume for several organic vegetables from January–October 2023 fell for many commodities including broccoli, cauliflower, celery, romaine lettuce, spinach, and peppers. While many FOB prices for organic vegetables like crown cut broccoli, kale, and romaine lettuce are down in October–November from last year, organic carrot prices have mirrored the conventional market with prices trending upward in the late fall of 2023.

Meanwhile, organic carrot exports increased 7.6 percent; and since 2017 annual organic fresh carrot exports accounted for 31 percent of total carrot export value and 25 percent of volume. Organic mushrooms were 13.2 percent of the US mushroom production from July 2022-June 2023, and reached a record high of 88.1 million pounds.
 
FoodChain ID Adds An Organic Certifier to its Team
Organic Certifiers Inc. is now part of FoodChain ID, which acquired the family-run California-based certifier in late 2023. FoodChain ID, the founding technical administrator for the Non-GMO Project, is now one of the largest USDA Organic certifiers based on total number of operations.
 
Handbook Updates Encourage Conservation Practices
An update to the USDA’s Good Farming Practices Handbook affirms the use of conservation practices as good farming practices for the Federal crop insurance program. The change removes a barrier to adopting more climate-friendly practices, as the condition to maintain yields has been removed. All conservation practices offered by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service are now recognized in the handbook, and appropriate uses of those practices will not impact crop insurance coverage.
 
OMRI Hits 10,000 Listings
The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) has passed a major milestone, reaching 10,000 OMRI Listed® products reviewed and verified for organic use. Created by organic stakeholders (including our own Bill Wolf), OMRI is the only independent organization that specializes solely in input review. Congratulations, OMRI!

Inside the Beltway

USDA Updates List of Bioengineered Foods
Following a period of public comment, the United States Department of Agriculture updated the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard’s List of Bioengineered Foods. ‘‘Sugarcane (Bt insect-resistant varieties)’’ joins the list and ‘‘squash (summer)’’ was changed to ‘‘squash (summer, coat protein-mediated virus-resistant varieties)”. Foods on the list are presumed to be bioengineered, and therefore subject to disclosure according to the requirements of the Standard. Organic certification is one way of meeting the Standard’s record-keeping requirements to show a listed food is not bioengineered. Food manufacturers, importers and certain retailers must comply with the changes by July 21, 2025.

The Survey Says…

Adults are Choosing Organic More Often
Ongoing data-tracking from Civic Science shows that more U.S. adults report purchasing organic food regularly. Twelve percent say they buy organic food “every chance I get” compared with 10% in the first quarter of 2021. Those who choose organic when it’s convenient have also increased. Correspondingly, the number of adults who say they do not often shop for organic food has consistently declined in 2023.
 
‘Lettuce’ Predict the Growth of the Organic Vegetable Market
The global market for organic vegetables is expected to reach $9.12 billion in 2024, and hit $11.11 billion in 2028, according to ResearchAndMarkets.com. The anticipated growth is driven by a focus on climate change resilience and adoption of sustainable agriculture practices, as well as an increasing preference for organic food and growth in restaurants and food service.

Organic Community

OMRI Adds Board Member and Seeks Member Applicants
Keith Jones, Executive Director of the Biological Products Industry Alliance, has joined the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) Board of Directors. OMRI also has an opening for a Public Interest representative on the board, and interested members of nonprofit and academic institutions are encouraged to apply.

Eco-Farm Conference Celebrates Community Leaders
Congratulations to Brian Baker and all award recipients at the upcoming Eco-Farm Conference:

Steward of Sustainable Agriculture (The Sustie Award): for those who have demonstrated their long term, significant contributions to the well-being of agriculture and the planet.

  • Brian Baker—One of the founders of the Organic Materials Review Institute, former Director of Sustainability at State University of New York (SUNY), the first president of IFOAM North America, researcher and farmer.
  • Bob Cannard—Farmer and teacher of sustainable farming

Advocates for Social Justice (The Justie Award): to honor those who have been active advocates for social justice as a critical aspect of ecologically-sustainable agriculture and food systems.

  • Manuel & Olga Jimenez—Developed their 14-acre Woodlake Botanical Garden encompassing a youth leadership program, funded by a large sweetcorn patch.
  • Food Chain Workers Alliance—A bi-national coalition of 33 worker-based organizations whose members plant, harvest, process, pack, transport, prepare, serve, and sell food, organizing to improve wages and conditions for all workers along the food chain.

Fresh Roots Award: Celebrates the spirit of innovation and audacity embodied by emerging organic and sustainable farmers.

  • Ujamaa Farmer Collective—They create space for historically marginalized black farmers and serve existing farmers of color who struggle with land security for their businesses.

 
Our Condolences
Dr. Stanley Rhodes, the founder and CEO of SCS Global Services, passed away unexpectedly on November 2. An accomplished chemist, he pioneered testing initiatives for detection pesticide residues in food. Stan dedicated his life to protecting the environment and improving the lives of people around the globe. Our condolences to his family and friends; he will be missed.