Strengthening Organic Enforcement

The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) published the Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) Final Rule on January 19, 2023. This rule is the single biggest update to the NOP regulations since their original publication, and it is an important step toward tackling fraud in organic supply chains by increasing market traceability and strengthening enforcement of regulations. We encourage you to review the regulations in full and contact the office with any questions. The end goals of SOE are to improve farmer and consumer confidence in the USDA organic seal and protect organic integrity.

Operations and certifying agents must comply with these new rules by March 19, 2024.

A Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) Compliance Assessment was sent to all current NOFA-NY Certified Organic, LLC operations on October 25th, 2023. If you are currently certified and did not receive an assessment, or you are interested in certification and wondering how SOE may affect your business, please contact the certification office! You can reach us at (607) 724-9851 or certifiedorganic@nofany.org.

Please be sure to contact the office as soon as possible if you are unclear how the rule change affects your operation. If any organic products or inputs are found to be handled in a noncompliant way and not able to be compliant by March 19, 2024, loss of organic status could occur. No exceptions can be given in most circumstances.

Overview

The SOE Rule amends the National Organic Standards to strengthen oversight and enforcement of the production, handling, and sale of organic agricultural products. One significant area is the removal of activities and producers that were previously considered exempt from certification. 

The SOE Ruling includes the following topics:

  • Applicability and exemptions from organic certification.
  • Imports to the United States.
  • Recordkeeping, product traceability and fraud prevention requirements.
  • Labeling of non-retail containers.
  • Standardized certificates of organic operations and data reporting.
  • On-site and unannounced inspections of certified operations.
  • Calculating organic content of multi-ingredient products.
  • Compliance and appeals. 
  • Certification of producer group operations in the United States.
  • Certifying agent personnel qualifications and training.
  • Foreign conformity assessment systems.

Details and additional resources for the rule can be found on the NOP website here.

NOFA-NY will make efforts to inform producers of the changes to the regulations, both on our website as well as other notices and publications ahead of the March 19, 2024, implementation date. You’ll see new questions in your 2024 Organic System Plan (OSP) materials and supplements, as well as new items that will be verified at inspections.

Resources

Register for free online training courses associated with SOE at the NOP’s Organic Integrity Learning Center. There are many helpful courses including:

  • Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) Final Rule Core Course
  • Organic Fraud and the Criminal Mind
  • Preventing the Organic Fraud Opportunity
  • Keeping it Organic When Handling and Processing

Are you currently using uncertified distributors, brokers, or importers? Are you importing organic product into the United States? Do you have questions if your labels and audit trail documents meet new requirements?