News Updates

August 2020

Strengthening Organic Enforcement Proposed Rule: Public Comment Period Opens
The USDA National Organic Program’s (NOP) Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on August 5, 2020. Read the proposed rule here.

This proposed rule significantly updates the USDA organic regulations to strengthen oversight and enforcement throughout the organic supply chain. It proposes changes that implement provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill and addresses recommendations from the National Organic Standards Board and the USDA Office of Inspector General.

NOP has published a six-part series that explains the proposed changes in a user-friendly format:

Public review and comment is encouraged! The deadline for public comment: October 5, 2020 at 11:59pm Eastern.

Visit the SOE Web Page for links to the Federal Register announcement and instructions on how to submit comments.

June 2020

Strengthening Organic Enforcement Proposed Rule: Public Comment Period Opens
The USDA National Organic Program’s (NOP) Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) proposed rule will publish in the Federal Register on August 5, 2020.

This proposed rule significantly updates the USDA organic regulations to strengthen oversight and enforcement throughout the organic supply chain. It proposes changes that implement provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill and addresses recommendations from the National Organic Standards Board and the USDA Office of Inspector General.

The NOP is publishing a six-part series that explains the proposed changes in a user-friendly format:

Public review and comment is encouraged! The deadline for public comment: October 5, 2020 at 11:59pm Eastern.

Visit the SOE Web Page for links to the Federal Register announcement and instructions on how to submit comments.

Date: June 22, 2020
To: Organic Producers & Handlers
From: NOFA-NY Certified Organic, LLC
RE: Changes to Equivalency Arrangements and National List

The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) recently announced changes to the U.S.-Canada Equivalency Arrangement, a new U.S.-Taiwan Equivalency Arrangement, and proposed changes to the National List of Allowed Materials.

U.S.-Canada Organic Equivalence Update/Removal of Self-Attestation:

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has revised their import policy for USDA certified organic products traded under the U.S.-Canada Organic Equivalence Arrangement (USCOEA).

As of April 30, 2020, all certified USDA organic products imported to Canada must be accompanied by an organic certificate that includes the following attestation statement: “Certified in accordance with the terms of the U.S. – Canada Organic Equivalency Arrangement.” This means that certifiers must verify compliance to the terms of the U.S.-Canada organic equivalence and include the attestation statement on organic certificates for USDA organic products exported to Canada.

New U.S.-Taiwan Organic Equivalence Arrangement:

USDA announced a new U.S.-Taiwan equivalence arrangement, effective May 30, 2020, that streamlines organic trade with Taiwan. The arrangement allows organic products certified in the United States or Taiwan to be sold as organic in either market.

Proposed Changes to National List:
The USDA published a proposed rule in the Federal Register to amend the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (National List).
This action proposes adding:

  • Oxalic acid dihydrate as a pesticide for organic apiculture.
  • Pullulan as an ingredient for products labeled, “Made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s)).”
  • Collagen gel casing as a nonorganic ingredient allowed when an organic form is not commercially available.

USDA welcomes comments on the proposed amendments. The 60-day comment period will close on August 7, 2020. You can submit comments here.

If you have any questions or concerns with any of these updates, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

Thank you!

IMPORTANT NOTICE
Date: June 10, 2020
To: NOFA-NY Certified Organic Farms and Operations
From: NOFA-NY Certified Organic, LLC
RE: UPDATE Status of Inspections during COVID-19 and On-Site Inspection Safety Plan

The temporary halt to physical on-site inspections is currently lifted in most areas. NOFA-NY is proceeding with on-site inspections following a NYS required safety plan to protect the health of our inspectors, certified operations, and communities while ensuring compliance with the USDA organic regulations. However, note that on-site inspections could at any time be halted again in the event of a second wave of COVID or as mandated. Alternative inspections such as virtual inspections and records audits will continued to be offered through the remainder of the 2020 season based on inspector/operation preferences as well as risk assessments. Please refer to previous notices for details. This notice is to inform you of new safety protocols required for on-site inspections.

On-Site Inspections
Inspections will minimize COVID-19 risk by following a required safety plan, limiting the on-site time, and may use virtual methods when possible for segments of the inspection (interview, Organic System Plan & recordkeeping review, audits, etc.). The inspector will work with you to determine approach and technology best suited for your operation. Please work with your inspector to limit on-site time to only what is essential, working virtually or remotely on elements of the inspection that do not require on-site presence. If the inspector is unable to verify essential compliance points during any inspection, a follow up inspection may be required.

Please see the attached PDF for complete guidelines on safety protocols for on-site inspections. For us to continue to serve you and the follow requirements per NYS, all operations must be fully cooperative with these safety precautions during the on-site portion of inspections during the COVID-19 pandemic: 6.10.20 Inspection Update and Safety Plan

May 2020

IMPORTANT NOTICE

Date: May 21, 2020
To: NOFA-NY Certified Organic Farms and Operations
From: NOFA-NY Certified Organic, LLC
RE: Status of Inspections during COVID-19: Phased Reopening and On-Site Inspection Safety Plan

Due to phased reopening of NYS economy, select on-site inspections will begin occurring alongside virtual inspections for eligible operations. On-site inspections may only be performed following the NOFA-NY On-Site Inspection Safety Plan. Please contact the certification office with any questions about how this affects your operation.

NOFA-NY On-site Inspection Safety Plan

Overview

New York State has announced a phased reopening of the economy. Regions as identified per NY Forward website that have met all 7 metrics may have an on-site inspection as long as a plan is in place following NY and CDC guidelines for reopening. NY Regional Breakdown Map – check to see which counties fall under the regional councils.

NOFA-NY has received confirmation from the NYS Assembly, NYS Ag & Markets and Broome County Executive office that it is eligible to reopen and considered Support Activities for Crop and Animal Production under the category of Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, Hunting, as part of the Phase 1 Reopening plan. The NOFA-NY Office will remain working from home at this time, however with the following precautions will resume its on-site inspection program. Inspectors must have this safety plan with them during each on-site inspection.

Safety Plan

NOFA-NY On-site Inspection Safety Plan must be provided to operator and be readily available by the inspector. Virtual Inspections will continue to be offered through the end of 2020 based on operator/inspector comfort level, operation risk in terms of meeting safety protocols below, and whether the operation in the region has met NYS metrics for reopening. Inspections in regions where metrics have NOT been met should remain virtual or be put on hold.

If an on-site inspection will occur, the inspector will complete the On-Site Inspection Safety Checklist and obtain approval from operator to conduct on-site inspection. All production areas including indoors must be verified. If an inspector or operator is not comfortable entering an indoor production area, then a virtual inspection of those areas should be performed.

  • Materials needed to safely conduct on-site inspections:
    • Face masks (required to be worn by both inspector and operator)
    • Gloves
    • Hand sanitizer
    • Sanitizing wipes to clean surfaces
    • Extra sanitized pens
    • Shoe coverings (optional)
  • Precautions to consider before going on inspection: 
    • Inspector and operator should discuss all necessary precautions and considerations prior to the on-site inspection per the On-Site Inspection Safety Checklist.
    • Scheduling:
      • If inspection will include indoor production areas, it should be conducted when the fewest employees are present if possible, with one person guiding following all safety and distance protocols.
    • It is strongly recommended that inspectors get tested for COVID-19 on a regular basis. Check local county health department for information on free testing sites. Results should be provided to NOFA-NY. If an inspector tests positive for COVID-19, on-site inspections must not be conducted by inspector until at least two weeks after testing and NOFA-NY must notify state and local health officials. 
    • If operator or their employees have tested positive for COVID-19, inspector should be notified, and the on-site inspection should be considered for virtual inspection if possible. For those who do not have the capabilities to do a virtual inspection, inspection may be rescheduled once operator/employee(s) are healthy and confirmed tested negative for COVID-19.
    • Avoid using public transportation where possible.
    • Refrain from visiting if inspector or operator has travelled to a COVID-19 hotspot (domestic or international).
    • The inspector and operator should check their temperature the morning of inspection to confirm they do not have a fever.
    • If inspector or operator have any COVID-19 or flu-like symptoms, refrain from conducting on-site inspection.
    • Wash hands and sanitize phones and other personal equipment before commencing inspection.
  • During Inspection
    • Inspector and operator required to wear face mask/covering for duration of inspection.
    • Physical Distancing
      • Inspector and operator should be a minimum of 6 feet apart for duration of inspection.
      • When driving to fields, operators should follow in separate vehicle if possible.
    • Carry hand sanitizer and/or hand wipes during the inspection and use as needed.
    • Records audit during the inspection should be conducted outside if possible. Records may be required to be submitted ahead of time.
    • Limit the sharing of objects and discourage touching of shared surfaces; or, when in contact with shared objects or frequently touched areas, wear gloves or sanitize or wash hands before and after contact. Common objects that are shared include:
      • Pens
      • Paperwork
      • Animal/crop inputs and materials
      • Restrooms

April 2020

IMPORTANT NOTICE

Date: April 23, 2020
To: NOFA-NY Certified Organic Farms and Operations
From: NOFA-NY Certified Organic, LLC
RE: Status of Inspections during COVID-19 (coronavirus) and Virtual Inspection Info

Physical on-site inspections have been temporarily halted to follow local, state and national mandates and to reduce the spread of disease we are currently experiencing with COVID-19. During this time, virtual inspections will be performed for some operations. Please use the following as guidelines in understanding and preparing for a virtual inspection. If selected, you will be contacted with more details and to determine eligibility.

What is a Virtual Inspection?

  • An inspection that flows exactly as a physical on-site inspection, just through a camera lens.
  • All aspects of the Organic System Plan are verified and each production unit, facility, and site (including fields) should be viewed, unless inaccessible. The same records will be reviewed.
  • Inspection will confirm land, facilities, and activities demonstrate the operation’s compliance.
  • If all aspects are not verifiable during a virtual inspection, or if adding significant new production, a physical on-site inspection may be required later in the season. This will be determined by the certification office. Inspection fees may apply.
  • FOR NEW APPLICANTS: Since an on-site inspection is required to grant certification, your inspection may be delayed until travel restrictions lift, timeframe unknown at this time. However, if urgent, a virtual inspection combined with a brief on-site visit following safety protocols can be performed to grant certification, provided there is a full on-site inspection when travel restrictions lift. Regular inspection fees may apply.

Preparing for Virtual Inspection

  • Technology requirements include a mobile smart device with video capability, such as phone or tablet. Inspection will occur with visual software such as Zoom, GoToMeeting, or Whatsapp. Instructions will be provided.
  • Geographic location should have satellite signal/internet access outside of Wifi range for viewing of facilities, farmstead, fields, barns, etc.
  • Audit trail documents will be requested by inspector prior to date of virtual inspection. See list of potential records to be submitted below. These will be reviewed during the virtual inspection as well.

During the Virtual Inspection

  • Virtual inspection should be performed with authorized representative of the operation (Main or Other Contact listed in the OSP).
  • Inspector will guide the flow of inspection. Be prepared to visit all organic production areas for virtual viewing. At any time the inspector may request where the camera should point in order to ensure their views are not obstructed and to verify full compliance.
  • If certain areas are inaccessible/unable to be viewed, date stamped photos/video may be submitted for consideration.
  • Recordkeeping audit will be performed during the virtual inspection. All records (including those submitted to inspector ahead of time) should be on hand for review during the virtual inspection.
  • Exit interview will be reviewed during the virtual inspection then emailed to be signed and returned to inspector within 24 hours of inspection.

If you are marked for hard copy correspondence, but are interested in/capable of a virtual inspection, please call or email the office to let us know!

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the certification office. Thank you for your patience during this time!

Documentation That May Be Requested Prior To Inspection

Send as legible photos/PDFs by email or text, as applicable

  • Farms
    • Soil Tests
    • Receipts for Seeds, Planting Stock, Transplants/Seedlings, Potting mixes, Inputs
    • Organic Certificates for Transplants/Seedlings
    • Seed Tags
    • Seed Search documentation for seeds/planting stock
    • Applied Amendment/Spray Record
    • Harvest Log
    • Organic Certificates and Receipts for Feed and Bedding
    • Purchased Feed Log
    • Livestock Purchase Records and Organic Certificates
    • Feed Ration/DMI Forms
    • Grazing Records – Dates and Fields
    • Health Care Receipts
    • Vet Receipts
    • Livestock Medication/Health Care Record
    • Organic Slaughter Sales Records
    • Boarding Documents
    • Temporary Confinement Records
  • Handling Facilities
    • Pest Control Logs & List of Approved Products by Pest Control Company
    • SSOPs
    • Current Master Supplier List
    • Current Organic Certificates
    • Latest Process Flow
    • Latest SOPs (Tracking, Organic, Storage, etc.)
    • Last Mock Recall (To Assist In Mass Balance and Traceback During Actual Audit)
    • Import/Export Documents

March 2020

As cases of COVID-19 increase in New York State, we at NOFA-NY want to share the steps we’re taking to care for our community:

  • We are still open for business. All staff are working from home until further notice. We’re a small team, so please be patient if we respond more slowly than usual.
  • NOFA-NY Certified Organic, LLC staff will continue responding to calls and emails, and processing certification applications. Calls will be returned within 24 hours.
  • On site Inspections have been halted until further notice. We are currently working with other certification agencies, inspection agencies, and the USDA to establish protocols for virtual inspections. We are continuing to accept new applications, but exact timeframe for certification approval is unknown at this time. We will have further details in the coming week as we finalize our policies. Feel free to call with questions.
  • We are still able to collect mail via US postal service at this time. Note however that mail processing is slower than normal.
  • Please refrain from sending packages to our Binghamton office via UPS or Fedex until further notice. Emailing our office is strongly encouraged if you have this capability. We are still sending and receiving faxes.

If you have questions about organic certification, please contact the certification office at 607.724.9851. If you have any questions about NOFA-NY Inc operations or programming, please contact Emma Ertinger at 315.988.4000 x512.

Thank you for your continued support. Challenges like this remind us of how grateful we are for our community.

Sincerely,

Jessica Terry, Co-Director, NOFA-NY Certified Organic, LLC
Lauren Tonti, Co-Director, NOFA-NY Certified Organic, LLC
Bethany Wallis, Director, NOFA-NY Inc.