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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.

SOE is HERE!

“The future doesn’t exist. The only thing that exists is now and our memory of what happened in the past. But because we invented the idea of a future, we’re the only animal that realized we can affect the future by what we do today.”  ~David Suzuki

HOT NEWS

Strengthening Organic Enforcement Final Rule Announced

Newly Published Enforcement Regulations Change How Organic Businesses Operate
Published today in the Federal Register, the ‘Strengthening Organic Enforcement ‘(SOE) regulations make significant changes to the US organic regulations to mitigate fraud in organic supply chains and mandate organic certification for a whole class of organic handlers, brokers, and traders. Full compliance will be required by March 2024.

For over two years, Wolf & Associates has been tracking these regulations intended to enhance the integrity of organic systems and improve the traceability of global organic supply chains. We participated in a webinar yesterday with the USDA and NOP, and will be doing a deep dive in the coming days and weeks to review how the final rule will impact our clients and the organic community.

Wolf & Associates can help jumpstart your compliance plans—reach out today.

Regulatory Updates

UNITED STATES

“USDA Organic” Seal is Now a Registered Trademark
Use of the “USDA Organic” seal is protected by regulation and now is also a registered trademark, which provides another enforcement tool against misuse of the seal. Along with enabling United States Department of Agriculture to seek additional civil remedies, the trademark status means Customs and Border Protection (CBP) can now detain, reject, or re-export imported products confirmed to be fraudulently using the USDA organic seal. Certified organic operations are not required to change their labels to include the registration mark ® of the seal, and certified organic products currently in the marketplace still meet the requirements of certification. Operations may choose either version of the seal and existing labels do not need to be revised or discarded.

California Aims for More Organic Farms
The California Air Resources Board’s 2022 SCOPING PLAN FOR ACHIEVING CARBON NEUTRALITY includes a goal of increasing organic agriculture to 20% of all cultivated acres by 2045, or approximately 65,000 acres annually. The board is charged with protecting the public from the harmful effects of air pollution and developing programs and actions to fight climate change.
 
Pennsylvania Expands Its Support For Organic Agriculture
Pennsylvania awarded over the next three years $750,000 to the Rodale Institute and $1,041,604 to Team Ag, in partnership with Pennsylvania Certified Organic and Kitchen Table Consultants, to assist the state’s farms and processors in transitioning to organic production. The effort expands the PA Preferred Organic initiative to foster market opportunities for Pennsylvania farmers. Sales of local, organic products are estimated as contributing over $1 billion to Pennsylvania’s economy.

WORLDWIDE

China Wants Farms to Use Less Pesticides and Fertilizers
To combat soil degradation and water pollution, China’s Ministry of Agriculture wants farmers to use less pesticides and fertilizers, and has set a target for 55% of planted agricultural land to shift to green methods by 2025. Fruit, vegetable, and tea producers will reduce pesticide use by a tenth, and rice, wheat and corn producers will cut pesticide use by 5%.
 
Updated Standards In Effect In Australia
Australia updated its National Standard for Organic and Bio-Dynamic Produce. Edition 3.8, in effect January 1, 2023, incorporates changes on:

  • Semen sexing in livestock intended for milk production
  • Sodium Hydroxide used as a pH adjuster for Cosmetics and Skincare
  • Wine Production (and applicable appendices).

Edition 3.8 also has edits relating to administration changes, Machinery of Government changes, and structure changes for readability and access purposes.

No More Plastic Produce Stickers For New Zealand
New Zealand will restrict sales of a wide range of plastic products, including non-compostable produce stickers. Beginning in 2023, produce stickers for fruit and vegetables produced in New Zealand must be compostable by 2023, while imported produce will need to have compostable stickers by mid-2025. More.
 
More Farms Go Organic in India
India’s Ministry of Agriculture reported that at the beginning of 2022, India had 30,934 clusters and 619,000 hectares of organic agriculture, which increased to 32,384 clusters and an area of 653,000 hectares throughout the year. Organic farming on both sides of the Ganges River are helping control water pollution and are boosting farmer income.

FEATURED TOPIC

Buying Trends and the Environment
by Katrina Heinze, W&A Associate

My mom and I have long disagreed on which organic products to buy. My mom is motivated by the health benefits of organic and avoiding certain ingredients and pesticides while I am motivated by the environmental benefits of organic farming. Together, we represent the diversity of organic consumers with Mom representing more mainstream buyers while I represent more leading edge consumers. The Hartman Group’s Organic 2022: Then, Now, Next shows that while health is still the top reason to buy organic, environmental and other social benefits of organic are a growing motivation among younger generations. With more consumers shopping with the environment in mind, we will see a shift in the products they want–creating both opportunity and challenge in the organic sector.
 
Thirty-seven percent of consumers say they buy organic because “(organic) is safer for me and my family.” This is still the top reason cited by consumers for buying organic joined by avoiding products that “rely on pesticides or other chemicals (34%), rely on antibiotics or growth hormones (32%), or GMOs (30%).” These are reasons cited more often by members of the Boomer generation. The good news is that organic products, and regulations, consistently meet these expectations, though some caution is warranted around National List 605 or 606 materials (nonagricultural substances and nonorganic agricultural substances allowed in organic products).
 
While health is still the leading reason to buy organic, the well-being of farmers, pets, the environment and animals is a growing focus. The top six attributes sought by the most engaged organic consumers are: USDA Organic, supports regenerative agriculture, gut healthy, nutrient dense, sustainable and Fair Trade/socially responsible.  Twenty-two percent of consumers say they buy organic to “support sustainable agriculture,” up from 16% in 2020. Younger generations and the most engaged organic buyers disproportionally cite reasons related to the wellbeing of farmers, pets, the environment and animals as purchase motivators. This trend is a watch-out signal, since most of these attributes are not currently required in the National Organic Program regulations. 
 
As a parallel trend, reservations about the USDA Organic Seal are growing. Seventy-nine percent of consumers somewhat or complete agree that they want USDA standards to have more stringent animal welfare requirements, 76% want to see practices that improve soil health and biodiversity more explicitly included and a growing number want stricter standards for better worker conditions (+4% since 2020). Although consumers may lack specific knowledge about regenerative farming they are learning quickly–67% of consumers already use or are interested in regenerative agriculture–and seek brands that improve soil health, water management and the climate. An increasing number of consumers wonder whether organic’s higher prices are justified because organic regulations do not address the fundamental issues of industrial agriculture. As a call for organic sector engagement in the evolution of the National Organic Program standards, this trend is also a market opportunity for individual companies to enhance supply chains and address these needs for consumers. 
 
Organic 2022: Then, Now, Next is an update on The Hartman Group’s 15 year study of organic consumer buying and use behavior. While the report is only available for a fee, a webinar summarizing the report is available for free. Watch to glean your own insights!

Katrina HeinzeKatrina Heinze brings more than a decade of experience in organic public policy, strategy, and regulatory compliance to W&A. Previously the organic subject matter expert for a large consumer products company, Katrina has also served on the National Organic Standards Board in a designated scientist seat. Today, Katrina serves on several non- and for-profit boards focusing on the intersection of growth and inspiring people to good in the world. Her strategic planning expertise encompasses quality management, food safety, sustainability, marketing, regulatory compliance and government relations. With a deep understanding of business needs and organic production from farm to fork, Katrina helps W&A’s clients clear a strategic path through thorny problems.

Inside the Beltway

Comment on Green Guides for Environmental Claims
The Federal Trade Commission seeks comments on its Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims (Green Guides). The Guides help marketers avoid environmental claims that are unfair or deceptive. Comment on the need for additional guidance for claims such as “organic” and “sustainable,” and energy use claims, among other topics. Comment on docket number FTC-2022-0077 by February 21.

EPA Nixes 12 PFAS Chemicals From Inerts List
To better protect human health and the environment from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) removed 12 chemicals from the current list of non-food inert ingredients approved for use in pesticide products. More.
 
Spending Bill May Yield Aid For Beleaguered Organic Dairies, And More
The organic dairy sector, plagued with severe drought, insufficient domestic organic feed supply coupled with turmoil internationally, and soaring feed prices, might get some relief soon. After an organic sector coalition spearheaded by the Organic Trade Association sent a letter to Congress requesting aid, the 2023 Omnibus Appropriations Bill directed the USDA to report on available funding sources within 30 days. The bill also increased funding for the National Organic Program from $20 million to $22 million, provides $7.5 million for research through the Organic Transitions Program, requests a report on the feasibility of collection and publication of organic fluid milk data, urges the National Institute of Food and Agriculture to consider National Organic Standards Board priorities, and encourages Economic Research Service to expand organic data analysis. President Biden signed the bill December 29, 2022.

The Survey Says…

Check Out the NASS Organic Survey
According the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service 2021 Certified Organic Survey of all known certified organic farms in the US, 2021 organic sales hit $11.2 billion, up $1.28 billion or 13% from 2019. The number of certified organic farms increased 5% from 2019 to reach 17,445. Twenty-eight percent of farms plan to increase their level of organic production. California continued to lead the nation in certified organic sales with $3.55 billion, which is 32% of the U.S. total. It also led all states with 3,061 certified farms and 813,710 certified acres. Washington ($1.14 billion), Pennsylvania ($1.09 billion), Texas ($572 million), and Oregon ($386 million) round out the top five states for value of organic sales.

Italian Study To Assess Biodiversity Between Organic And Non-Organic Management
The World Wildlife Fund Italy, Rainforest Connection and Huawei Italy will continue a research project to compare the biodiversity of organically managed areas with neighboring conventionally managed areas. So far, the bioacoustic surveys have identified 49 species of birds and mammals and generated 2000 real-time alerts of potentially illegal activities, such as poaching, dirt bikes and logging. More

Global Organic Wine Market Expected to Expand
The global organic wine market is expected to grow from US$8.6 billion in 2021 to US$21.1 billion by 2030, at a compound annual growth rate of 10.5% during the forecast period 2022-2030, according to a report from The Brainy Insights. Red organic wine represented about 55% of the market with a market value of around US$4.45 billion in 2021. With a market share of around 30.6% in 2021, Europe was the largest global organic wine market.

Organic Community

Gone, But Not Forgotten
Beyond the business challenges we have all faced the past year, we’ve also faced the loss of many people who have made the world a better place through their actions. Let’s take a moment to recall and honor those who have done so much for our community.
 
Margaret Clark, worked with the Washington State Organic Program and USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, and Oregon Tilth and served on the first National Organic Standards Board. She was instrumental in developing the standards for organic certification for the entire country. She died July 17, 2022. Donations in her memory may be made to the National Tropical Botanical Gardens.
 
Will Raap, founder of Gardeners Supply and the Intervale Center, died unexpectedly December 12, 2022. To further Will’s work, contributions can go to the Raap Family Fund at the Vermont Community Foundation.

Organic Valley Names New CEO
Jeff Frank will join Organic Valley as Chief Executive Officer of the cooperative, effective Jan. 23. Outgoing CEO Bob Kirchoff will be retiring at the end of January. Frank joins from a 25-year career at Hormel Foods, where he held various senior roles in product and brand management. Congratulations, Jeff!

Organic Trade Association Names Wolf & Associates as a Trusted Advisor
Wolf and Associates is now a Trusted Advisor for the Organic Trade Association’s Organic Fraud Prevention Solutions program. Trusted Advisors are professionals who are qualified to advise and assist companies enrolled in Organic Fraud Prevention Solutions and are experts in organic compliance and VACCP (Vulnerability Assessment Critical Control Points).

Let us know if you need develop an Organic Fraud Prevention Plan—we can help.