After years of work, and receiving and reviewing thousands of pages of public comment, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) published the long-awaited Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) final rule on 19 January, 2023. This behemoth of a rule – 282 pages in length – is the biggest change to the US organic regulations since the creation of the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) by statute in 1990. The rule closes gaps in current regulations and clarifies or defines consistent practices to detect and prevent fraud, improve the transparency and traceability of organic products across the supply chain, and protect organic integrity. Organic stakeholders and supply chain participants must comply with the new requirements by 19 March, 2024. This includes operations that are not currently required to be certified, but will be required to become certified as a result of this rule.
Overview of the SOE:
What does the SOE rule do? It clarifies and creates regulations intended to reduce fraud in the organic marketplace; strengthens the oversight of organic producers, handlers and certifiers; and improves the USDA’s enforcement mechanisms. Its goal is to boost the integrity of the global organic market, bolster consumer confidence in the USDA organic seal, and transform the oversight and enforcement of organic production worldwide. NOP officials have stated that this rule is needed because organic supply chains have become increasingly complex, reducing transparency in the market and leading to documented cases of organic fraud and gaps in oversight.
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