NOP Import Certificate requirements for US organic sales grace period ends September 19, 2024. Are you ready? Click here.

SOE ASAP | Inerts Get Active | USDA’s 21 Years of Organic

“I am not bound for any public place, but for ground of my own where I have planted vines and orchard trees, and in the heat of the day climbed up into the healing shadow of the woods.”  ~Wendell Berry

HOT TOPIC: Strengthening Organic Enforcement

Enforcement of the National Organic Program’ (NOP) Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) will be upon us in 251 days, but don’t count on the extra day in February to be enough to catch up. Now is the time to dive in. Priority areas we have focused on in the last few months are:

  • Enhancing standard operating procedures relative to organic production and handling
  • Verifying supply chain integrity and audit traceability capabilities
  • Preparing Organic System Plans for inspection by certifying agents
  • Facilitating the application and certification of operators previously exempt from certification. 

If you or your supply chain partners have a need for additional support in getting ready, let us know. Need a quick refresher on the basics of the SOE regulations? We’ve posted a webinar for anyone on your team who could benefit, so feel free to send that along. 
We’ll be addressing additional SOE needs in future newsletters and on LinkedIn. Sign up and follow us for the latest updates.

Regulatory Updates


More Strengthening Organic Enforcement Resources Are Now Available
The National Organic Program published a new Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) reference primer and guide on how SOE has changed the organic regulations.
Learn about:

  • Who Needs to Be Certified?
  • Improving Traceability and Preventing Organic Fraud
  • Import Certificates
  • Certificates of Organic Operation and the Organic Integrity Database
  • On-Site Inspections, and Continuation of Certification
  • Nonretail Labeling and Calculating Percent Organic
  • Personnel Training and Qualifications
  • Compliance, Mediation, and Appeals
  • Producer Groups, Satellite Offices, and Equivalency

Inerts Get Active Again
In a June 23 memo, the National Organic Program asked the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to continue work on the topic of inert ingredients in organic production, and to make a recommendation for replacing the current approach no later than the NOSB’s October 2024 meeting. Inert ingredients are ingredients other than the active pesticide ingredients in a pesticide product. The memo summarized the comments from the September 2022 Advanced Notice of Public Rulemaking and listed potential alternatives for replacing references to EPA Lists 3 and 4, which are no longer being maintained.
USDA’s Organic Integrity Learning Center Expands Offerings
Learn About Traceability and Mass Balance Techniques: Intended for experienced inspectors and certifiers, Advanced Traceability and Mass Balance Techniques covers effective practices for using audit tools to verify compliance and prevent fraud.
Growing the Organic Workforce: Newly added topics in this course include Organic Education Curriculum Resources, Introduction to Organic Sector Careers, and Organic Inspector Career Snapshot.
Courses in the Organic Integrity Learning Center are free and open to all.
Nonorganic Whey Powder Removed From the National List
Use of nonorganic whey protein concentrate in organic products is prohibited after March 15, 2024. On February 28, 2022, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) published a rule removing sixteen substances from the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (National List). That document accidentally omitted nonorganic whey protein concentrate from the amendatory instructions, so it was corrected in a Federal Register notice.



Soil Association Updates Standards for Great Britain and Northern Ireland
The Soil Association published revisions to organic standards for Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Thanks to Brexit, standards for the two countries now differ, as Northern Ireland must comply with European Union standards. The Soil Association’s Sourcing Organic Ingredients Annex has also been updated to version 1.7.

Inside the Beltway

Was It Really Raised Without Antibiotics? USDA Plans to Check
The Washington Post reported that the USDA intends to reduce fraudulent claims about the treatment of meat animals. Facing pressure to increase oversight of label claims, USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service will begin a sampling program to check for antibiotic residues in animals that are in the “raised without antibiotics” market. Results of the sampling program may lead to requirements for laboratory testing or verification.
Plant Biostimulant Bill Garners Bipartisan Support
The Biological Products Industry Alliance is calling for support for the Plant Biostimulant Act, which would create a federal definition of “plant biostimulant” thereby fostering innovation and market growth. Introduced in the US House of Representatives by Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) and Rep. James Baird (R-IN), the bill has garnered bipartisan support with seven additional cosponsors in the House. Senators Mike Braun (R-IN) and Alex Padilla (D-CA) introduced a similar bill in the Senate. Contact your legislator if you’d like them to support this bill as well.
USDA Food Distribution Program Empowers Indigenous Communities
Three-year demonstration projects for the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations are underway to change the way indigenous communities procure food. Rather than accept a package of food provided by USDA, demonstration project participants are able to choose foods that better resonate with the community’s needs and support tribal agriculture.
EPA to Address New Uses of PFAS
The Environmental Protection Agency will use a new framework to address new and new uses of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Before these chemicals are allowed to enter into commerce, EPA will undertake an extensive evaluation to ensure they pose no harm to human health and the environment. The framework distinguishes between PFAS uses that could result in environmental releases and those uses with expected worker, community, or consumer exposure, as well as requiring upfront testing for many PFAS. When potential risks are identified, EPA must take action to mitigate those risks before the chemical can enter commerce.
FDA Continues Reorganization of Human Foods Program
The US Food and Drug Administration continues to reorganize its Human Foods Program (HFP) with a new model for the Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA). Among other changes, FDA proposes:

  • Merging compliance functions currently managed within ORA into the HFP
  • Establishing ORA’s core mission as conducting investigations, inspections and imports for all FDA-regulated products
  • Realigning the eight Human and Animal Food laboratories that are currently managed by ORA into the HFP.
  • Transitioning certain functions under the Office of Security and Emergency Management, currently in the Office of Operations, to ORA.

Unifying state and local food safety partnership functions and certain aspects of international food safety partnerships into an Office of Integrated Food Safety System Partnerships in the HFP.

International News

Healthier Soil Might Soon Be the Law in Europe
A new European Commission proposal would revive damaged soil by 2050 and mitigate global warming. Under the proposal’s requirements, member states would monitor soil health, erosion, and fertilizer use, but no specific targets for improvement are included. Over 60% of European soil is degraded.
Northern Ireland Tests Farm Soil
Northern Ireland will analyze soil for nutrient content on all of its 700,000 fields over the next four years. Farmers will receive reports on their fields, and can use the information to reduce erosion and customize fertilizer use, thereby saving money and limiting environmental damage. Funded by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, the tests will be a condition of eligibility for farm sustainability payments that start in 2026.
European Commission Proposal Combats Greenwashing
The European Commission approved a proposal that would require third party confirmation of environmental claims and labels and creates clear criteria on how companies should prove their environmental claims. The proposed Directive on Green Claims aims to protect consumers from greenwashing and to make environmental claims reliable, comparable and verifiable across the European Union. The proposal covers explicit claims from businesses that are made on a voluntary basis, cover environmental impacts, aspects or performance of a product or the business itself and are not currently covered by other EU rules.
Comments on the proposal are open until July 21, 2023.

The Survey Says…

USDA Report Looks at 21 Years of US Organic Agriculture
The USDA Economic Research Service’s free 115-page report U.S. Organic Production, Markets, Consumers, and Policy, 2000–21 provides an overview of how the US Organic sector has changed. At 1% of US farmland in 2019, the organic sector represented 3% of the US farm receipts. Although organic farms had higher production costs, they also had higher average total sales and higher net cash income. The report describes US organic policy initiatives since 2000 and examines the importance of investment in research on organic practices. It also investigates key components of organic supply chains—including production, certification, farm-level costs and returns, wholesale markets, and industry structure—along with the evolving characteristics of organic food consumers and retail markets.
PGS or ICS? New IFOAM Report Spells Out The Options for Smallholders
A new report from IFOAM-Organics International with the support of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations’ Mountain Partnership Secretariat compares and contrasts Participant Guarantee Systems and Internal Control Systems in organic agriculture on smallholder farms. Small farms of less than two hectares represent 84% of the world’s farms and produce 35% of the world’s food on only 12% of global agricultural land. The report includes case studies and recommendations for farmers.
Wallace Center Reviews A New USDA Program
A new report from the Wallace Center examines the impact of the USDA’s Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative Agreement Program. Designed to improve domestic agriculture supply chain resiliency, the program is operated through non-competitive cooperative agreements with state agencies, and territory and tribal governments. The agreements create economic opportunity for local producers and socially disadvantaged farmers, strengthen local food systems, and address food insecurity with fresh culturally relevant food to communities in need. Overall, the program invested $691 million in local economies, with an estimated economic impact of $1.53 billion.
Consumers’ Environmental Concerns Shift
Concern about water shortages is increasing while concern about plastic pollution is down from 36% in 2021 to 32% in 2023, said Mintel in an article in Food Navigator. Globally, 51% of consumers believe their country is suffering from climate change, up from 44% in 2021. In the United States, 43% of consumers believe that America is contributing to climate change, which is 8 point above the average. In addition, 40% of U.S. consumers would prefer that packaged goods companies would reduce carbon emissions rather than relying on carbon offsets.

GMO News

European Commission Proposes Removing Some GMO Restrictions
The European Commission proposed two categories of plants created from new genomic techniques, such as CRISPR. Those plants that could also occur naturally or through conventional breeding and those with fewer than 20 genetic modifications would be exempt from GMO legislation and labeling. All others would be considered GMOs, and subject to risk assessments and authorization. The proposal would need to be approved by the European Parliament and EU governments. More.
Young Consumers More Open to Genetically Modified Food
Young consumers in Europe are more open to genetically modified foods, especially if those foods provide a boost in nutrition, reports Food Navigator. Research from Mintel found that about 23% of Germans aged 16-24, compared to 13% overall, would choose a product with GMO ingredients if it were more nutritious. Likewise, 40% of Brits aged 16-44 would buy genetically modified produce if it were more nutritious.

Organic Industry News & Notices

California Works to Define Regenerative Agriculture
In a process that will take many months, the state of California has initiated discussions to craft a common definition for regenerative agriculture. The California Department Of Food And Agriculture (CDFA)’s Environmental Farming Act Science Advisory Panel determined that any definition should:

  • Be relevant and useful in California.
  • Lead to positive environmental, social, human health and economic impacts.
  • Provide measurable and verifiable outcomes.
  • Allow for context-specific outcomes (in terms of scale, geographic location, diverse and/or innovative agricultural systems, goals, etc.).
  • Build soil health

Not surprisingly, public opinion varies on whether or not organic practices should be the foundation for the regenerative designation. Look for opportunities for public discussions on the definition through the end of the year.
Some European Markets See Declining Organic Sales in 2022
Sales of organic food declined in three key European markets in 2022, in part due to inflation and poor economic conditions for consumers. In Denmark, organic food sales dropped 3%, with meat sales particularly hard-hit. Organic food sales in Germany dropped 4.1% during January to October 2022, although annual sales were expected to reach €15 billion, €2.7 billion more than in 2019. In 2022, sales of organic food in France declined of 6.3%.
OMRI Updates Its Standards Manuals
The Organic Materials Review Institute revised manuals for Mexico and Canada, and the OMRI Generic Materials List to incorporate changes to regulations. Revisions were effective June 7, 2023.
GrubMarket to Encourage Organic Transition
In a multi-year partnership with California Certified Organic Farmers, San Francisco-based food technology company GrubMarket will provide financial and technical assistance to support socially disadvantaged farmers in California that would like to obtain organic certification. Part of GrubMarket’s Sustainable California project, the initiative will encourage farmers in underserved communities to adopt organic farming practices.
Organic Agriculture Benefits At-A-Glance
IFOAM-Organics Europe developed an infographic that highlights some of the many benefits of organic agriculture. Common practices of organic agriculture, including crop rotation and use of organic fertilizer, as well as refraining from using most synthetic pesticides and fertilizers leads to:

  • An average climate protection performance of 1082 kg CO2 equivalent per hectare per year  
  • Additional sequestration of 450 kilograms Carbon per hectare per year  
  • 28-39% less nitrate leaching 
  • 30% more species and pollinators 
  • Soil erosion is reduced by 22% and soil loss by 26% 

40% less nitrogen oxide emissions per hectare

Organic Community

OTA and Rodale to Lead in USDA’s Transition to Organic Partnership Program
Organic Trade Association will be a national partner for the U.S. Agriculture Department’s (USDA) Transition to Organic Partnership Program as Lead Cooperator. Working with Rodale Institute as a core partner, OTA will manage and oversee activities throughout the country that support market development for organic products, facilitate the matching of organic producers and suppliers and educate handlers in effective ways of dealing with organic products.
OMRI Needs a Few Good Folks
Technical Research Analyst: Responsible for providing expert support to the Organic Materials Review Institute’s Technical Department, Technical Research Analysts need a background in science, strong technical writing and oral presentation skills, familiarity with organic or other federal regulations, and an interest in working as part of a dynamic and collaborative team.
Board Members: The Organic Materials Review Institute seeks candidates for its Board of Directors. Board members advise the Executive Director, help develop strategic plans, approve the organization’s budget and more.