Today, the Produce Marketing Association (PMA), Western Growers Association and United Fresh Produce Association jointly submitted comments on USDA’s proposed Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) Rule. The intent of the rule, which is the most significant update since the National Organic Program was established in 2002, will strengthen oversight and enforcement of the production, handling, and sale of organic agricultural products. The rule is expected to yield greater integrity and reliability in the organic supply chain and will continue to build consumer and industry confidence in the USDA organic label.
The comments focused on four areas:
Imports to the United States – Noting the unique perishability of organic fruits and vegetables coming across the border, the comments proposed quick turnaround on approval and issuance of the import certificate. Longer term, the groups recommended a risk-based approach to certificate issuance and more close integration with the CBP’s Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) electronic collection and reporting system.
Certificate exemptions – Submitted comments noting that the proposed regulations define the types of handling operations that are exempt, but needs to more clearly define requirements for handlers that are not exempt. The three groups proposed descriptions and definitions for handlers.
Supply chain traceability – Requested more clarity on how a variance in product quantity, or mass-balancing, will be handled across the supply chain.
Labeling of non-retail containers – Comments noted that the proposed regulations needed to more clearly differentiate between the different uses of non-retail containers, especially on-farm, and the information required on the respective labels. The submitted comments included a sample PTI label incorporating the requirements of the proposed regulations.
The comments were developed by a Task Force of industry stakeholders with extensive operations and experience across the organic supply chain.
The rule will become effective one year after publication of the final rule by USDA.
Organic labeling changes coming soon, to affect fresh produce supply chain
January 30, 2020
PMA has been selected to receive an early update on the impending proposed rule change on “Strengthening Organic Enforcement.” The proposed rule – to promote consumer confidence and traceability – will require more businesses along the supply chain to be certified USDA organic, and aims to clarify record-keeping requirements.
We will continue to closely monitor the process and will update you when the proposed rule is published, which is expected in early 2020. At that time, the 60-day public comment period opens, and we will seek feedback to submit comments on behalf of our members.
Download more details from USDA