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No Assessments on Importers of Organic Products

Friday, May 18, 2018
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service has terminated a rulemaking that would have established an industry-funded promotion, research, and information program for certified organic products.

The proposed program was designed to strengthen the position of certified organic products in the marketplace, support research to benefit the organic industry, and improve access to information and data across the organic sector. The organic market includes a range of agricultural commodities such as fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, poultry, breads, grains, snack foods, condiments, beverages, and packaged and prepared foods as well as non-food items such as fiber (linen and clothing), personal care products, pet food, and flowers. The program would have been funded by assessments of one-tenth of one percent of sales on importers and domestic producers and handlers.

However, AMS said the nearly 15,000 comments it received on its proposed rule revealed a split within the industry in terms of support. Opponents raised concerns such as how the de minimis level would eliminate a majority of organic farmers from the program, the disproportionate impact on high-value commodities, the financial burden on small entities to comply, and challenges to tracing imported organic products. Both those in support of and those in opposition to the proposed program requested changes to the method of assessment for imports and a reduction in the paperwork burden on covered entities. Other outstanding significant issues include the assessment of non-food products and products made with specified ingredients.

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