STRENGTHENING ORGANIC ENFORCEMENT
Big changes in the national organic regulations became effective on March 20, 2023. Although certified operations have until March 19, 2024 to become compliant, now is the time to understand and begin to implement the USDA’s new Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) Rule.
In addition, many previously exempt operations are now required to obtain certification. Any operation involved in organic food should review the following list, and read the full SOE regulations.
Organic Operations Required to Obtain Certification:
Brokers, traders, importers, distributors, wholesalers, and co-packers purchasing or facilitating the sale of organic goods that are not labeled for retail sale are now required to obtain certification.
Brand owners purchasing ingredients in packaging not labeled for retail sale are now required to obtain certification to purchase those ingredients.
Operations that buy, sell, trade, or facilitate the sale or trade of packaging labeled for retail sale but not sealed in tamper-evident packaging or containers are now required to obtain certification. For these rules, “tamper-evident” means any attempt to break a seal, access contents, or reclose a package is visible. Storage facilities storing products not in sealed, tamper-evident packaging are now required to obtain certification
Importers into the United States and exporters into the United States are now required to obtain certification.
Retail operations that process organic product at a separate location from the point of sale location are now required to obtain certification. This includes retail operations with virtual sales only.
Transport companies that combine, split, or unload unpackaged organic product are now required to obtain certification. In addition, if a transporter or transloader is loading or unloading unpackaged products, the locations where products are loaded or unloaded are now required to obtain certification. Transporters can no longer load/unload unpackaged product at uncertified locations.
Organic Operations EXEMPT From Obtaining Certification:
Please do not assume you are exempt simply by reading this list. Review the full Strengthening Organic (SOE) Rule to determine your status.
Transporters and transloaders who do not otherwise handle organic products are exempt from certification.
Operations such as distributors or brand name owners that are buying, selling, or storing organic products that are in retail, tamper-evident packaging and remain in the same packaging and are not otherwise handled while in the operation’s control are not required to obtain certification.
Storage facilities that do not take ownership of product in sealed, tamper-evident packaging throughout the time the product is in their physical location are not required to obtain certification.
Customs brokers who do not import, trade, sell, or take ownership or physical possession of organic products are not required to be certified.
Logistics brokers who do not take ownership or physical possession of organic products are not required to obtain certification. Exempt logistic brokers may only arrange for the movement of organic product and may not buy, sell, trade, or import.
Transport companies that do not otherwise handle products are not required to be certified.
Operations that only process agricultural products containing less than 70% certified organic ingredients or products that only make organic claims in their ingredient panels are not required to obtain certification.
Retail establishments that do not process organic product and/or retail locations that process organic product at the location of final sale are not required to be certified. Businesses which sell to other businesses are not considered retail establishments.
Retail establishments must have a physical location for consumers to purchase goods, even if they also make virtual sales.
Containers not labeled for retail sale in which organic products are shipped and stored are now required to identify the product as organic and also to display the lot number or shipping identification to link the container to the audit trail documentation. Audit trail documentation for containers not labeled for retail must include the last certified operation that handled the organic product.
Operations will be required to develop monitoring practices to verify each supplier in the supply chain and the organic status of products received. These requirements are designed to prevent fraud.
NOP Import Certificates will be required for all organic products entering the United States, including product certified to USDA NOP standards. Importers are now required to obtain certification and NOP Import certificates must be maintained by importers.
This review does not cover all changes affecting certified operations.
Please review the following resources for thorough clarification: