A proposed rule from the U.S. Department of Agriculture aims to bolster the National Organic Program’s oversight and enforcement of the production, handling and sale of organic products.
The rule will be published in the Federal Register Aug. 5 but is available for viewing online. The USDA is inviting comments on the proposal through Oct. 5.
“Organic agriculture is one of the fastest growing sectors in the food market,” Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach said in a news release. “As the organic market has grown, organic supply chains have become more complex. Stronger market oversight is needed to protect farmers and consumers who choose the organic option.”
Calling the proposed rule a “game-changer,” Jennifer Tucker, administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program welcomed industry input.
“Some of the key parts of the rule that the (organic) community will want to comment is that the proposed rule is going to increase the types of businesses that need to be certified,” she said. In addition, the proposed rule will require electronic import certificates, and will tighten up other parts of organic enforcement to prevent fraud.
“Ultimately, fraud is unacceptable, and this rule is going to make it a lot harder to cheat the system,” Tucker said.
The USDA said the proposed rule, when finalized, will:
- Reduce the number of uncertified businesses in the organic supply chain;
- Standardize organic certificates;
- Require the use of import certificates for all imported organic products;
- Increase the minimum number of unannounced inspections;
- Increase inspector qualifications;
- Strengthen fraud prevention procedures; and
- Increase data reporting requirements to make it easier to identify and focus enforcement resources on higher-risk locations, activities and commodities.
Over a 15-year period, the USDA estimates the rule’s cost will be between $65.6 million to $87.8 million, and total benefits ranging between from $765 million to $1.04 billion.
The proposed regulation, according to the agency, implements oversight authority provided in the 2018 Farm Bill and includes recommendations from the National Organic Standards Board and the Office of Inspector General.
More information about the proposed rule is available on the USDA website.