The Organic Trade Assn. (OTA) welcomed the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s efforts to boost the integrity of the global organic market through its Strengthening Organic Enforcement proposed rule, which is soon to be published in the Federal Register.
The agency proposed amending the USDA organic regulations to strengthen oversight and enforcement of the production, handling and sale of organic agricultural products. The proposed amendments are intended to protect integrity in the organic supply chain and build consumer and industry trust in the USDA organic label by strengthening organic control systems, improving farm-to-market traceability and providing robust enforcement of the USDA organic regulations.
OTA said the Strengthening Organic Enforcement proposed rule is the largest single piece of rule-making since implementation of the National Organic Program regulations and will fundamentally transform the oversight and enforcement of organic production worldwide.
OTA, on behalf of its members, said it has been in the driver’s seat with Congress in the 2018 farm bill debate leading up to this historic rule-making, as several proposed requirements are the outcome of OTA’s priorities and successful legislative work in the 2018 farm bill, such as closing the loophole on uncertified handlers by requiring certification and mandating electronic certificates for all imports. In addition to its advocacy for the farm bill provisions, in November 2018, OTA submitted comments to USDA regarding its top priorities for boosting the integrity of the global organic market, identifying 15 areas where improvements are needed to strengthen the global organic control system.
The trade group said it supports strong public- and private-sector measures to protect against fraud, deepen transparency across the organic supply chain and ensure consumer confidence in the organic seal. Alongside updates to the regulation, OTA recently launched a member-driven, industry-wide Fraud Prevention Solutions Program in which organic businesses can enroll to deter and eliminate organic fraud.
However, in an otherwise comprehensive rule that seeks to boost consumer confidence and support continued growth of the $55 billion organic sector, the intent of USDA’s consideration of user fees and the proposed amendment to revise accreditation fees is “unclear and inadequately explained,” OTA said, adding that it looks forward to engaging further with the department for a clearer understanding.