Organic Trade Association Weighs in With USDA on Top Enforcement Priorities

Mon. November 26th, 2018
- by Jessica Donnel     

WASHINGTON, DC - The Organic Trade Association (OTA) has collaborated with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on its top ten priorities to help increase the integrity of the organic market. As the USDA continues to shape its upcoming National Organic Program (NOP) rules for spring 2019, the OTA submitted its comments, feedback, and priorities, which included such topics as organic fraud and organic certification. NOP’s called these new rules “Strengthening Organic Enforcement,” and also said the finished product will be “one of the largest pieces of single rulemaking in the history of NOP.”

Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director, Organic Trade Association"The USDA, organic certifiers, and organic businesses all have a shared role in protecting the integrity of the Organic seal, and our members have stepped up to be a part of the solution," said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association. "Today's organic market is a global market, and fraud anywhere in the global chain impacts all of us. The integrity of organic is the lifeblood of the organic industry, and we are committed to preserving and strengthening the trust in organic held by consumers all over the world."

As the USDA continues to shape its upcoming National Organic Program (NOP) rules for spring 2019, the OTA submitted its comments, feedback, and priorities, which included such topics as organic fraud and organic certification

The OTA urged the NOP to take "timely action" on its list of ten priorities, saying that each issue is "extremely important" to increase organic integrity. According to a press release, OTA’s list of identified areas was created with input from a member task force formed earlier this year with the following goals:

  • Engaging early with the NOP
  • Answer a set of enforcement related questions that NOP distributed to the organic industry
  • Help craft a fair and effective final rule that will protect organic trade and the USDA Organic label

In total, OTA’s top ten enforcement priorities are as follows:

  1. Excluded Operations:

    Require certification of each producer, handler, and handling operation in the organic supply chain with very limited exceptions.

  2. Organic Integrity Database:

    Require at least annual reporting to the Organic Integrity Database from accredited organic certifiers on aggregate organic production area by crop and location.

  3. Complaint & Alert System:

    Upgrade the process to prioritize complaints, improve the National Organic Program complaint system, and develop a public alert system.

  4. Organic Identification:

    Boost organic identification requirements to include in documentation with certified products and with all non-retail containers and packaging containing organic.

  5. Testing:

    Update the NOP’s Guidance on Residue Testing and increase required use of testing for imports and other high-risk products and/or regions.

  6. Grower Groups:

    Formally respond to the National Organic Standards Board Recommendations and conduct rulemaking to ensure consistent oversight and enforcement of group operations.

  7. Inspector and Certifier Oversight (including Satellite Offices):

    Develop more robust auditing of Accredited Certifying Agencies including annual audits of satellite offices domestically as well as in foreign countries.

  8. Equivalency and Recognition Arrangements:

    Prioritize oversight and data transparency in arrangements, improve communications with the trade partner, and do appropriate follow-up.

  9. Inspectors (Qualifications, Training and Field Evaluations):

    Improve qualifications and training of inspectors to detect fraud, and set minimum requirements for qualifications/training.

  10. Import Certificates:

    Put in place a system that collects more data, including tracing the original product to its origin, and improve online access to electronic import certificate system.

In addition to its top ten priority areas, the OTA also provided guidance on five other key areas in organics where improvements are needed. To read the full comments, click here. And as more information on the USDA and NOP’s rules are released, AndNowUKnow will keep you updated.

Organic Trade Association