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Pingree Welcomes Long-Awaited USDA Action to Protect Integrity of the Certified Organic Label

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced the Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) final rule, which protects integrity in the organic supply chain and builds consumer and industry trust in the USDA organic label by strengthening organic control systems, improving farm to market traceability, and providing stronger enforcement of the USDA organic regulations.

“When rule-breakers cheat the system, it sows seeds of doubt about the organic label’s integrity and jeopardizes the future of the industry as a whole,” said Pingree. “As a longtime organic farmer, I know how expensive and time consuming it is to adhere to the required standards to earn a USDA certified organic label. It’s been a long wait, but I am pleased that the USDA and the Biden Administration are publishing a final rule that works to help consumers trust that the food they’re paying for was actually farmed in a way that supports soil health, minimizes synthetic material usage, and strengthens biodiversity, as the organic label suggests. Equally importantly, it is critical that farmers who comply with the rigorous certification standards are not losing sales to fraudulent growers, suppliers, or importers.”

“Protecting and growing the organic sector and the trusted USDA organic seal is a key part of the USDA Food Systems Transformation initiative,” said USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt. “The Strengthening Organic Enforcement rule is the biggest update to the organic regulations since the original Act in 1990, providing a significant increase in oversight and enforcement authority to reinforce the trust of consumers, farmers, and those transitioning to organic production. This success is another demonstration that USDA fully stands behind the organic brand.”

Key updates include:

  • Requiring certification of more of the businesses, like brokers and traders, at critical links in organic supply chains.
  • Requiring NOP Import Certificates for all organic imports.
  • Requiring organic identification on nonretail containers.
  • Increasing authority for more rigorous on-site inspections of certified operations.
  • Requiring uniform qualification and training standards for organic inspectors and certifying agent personnel.
  • Requires standardized certificates of organic operation.
  • Requires additional and more frequent reporting of data on certified operations.
  • Creates authority for more robust recordkeeping, traceability practices, and fraud prevention procedures.
  • Specify certification requirements for producer groups.

The SOE rule follows concerns about fraudulent organic claims, including those reported in a 2017 Washington Post article that highlighted the challenges of ensuring organic integrity throughout the import process. 

The SOE final rule implements 2018 Farm Bill mandates, responds to industry requests for updates to the USDA organic regulations, and addresses National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) recommendations.

Pingree, a long-time organic farmer, has served on the House Agriculture Committee and House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture.





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